The blues seeps into the very soul of North Texas. From the days of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lead Belly to the heart-stopping melodies of Leon Bridges, the blues undeniably sings Dallas-Fort Worth’s original tune.
Now the blues seems to be tucked away into Dallas' small corners, but there are still many jamming, swinging, howling, soul-burning places to hear the sweet sound that originally put our city on the music map.
This list of the top 10 blues venues in DFW guides music lovers, both young and old, to the best places to hear the original sound of Texas. From open jam nights for local talent to big stage gigs for blues greats, this list will have blues fans rattling and humming all over town.
7248 Gaston Ave., Dallas
The Goat serves as Dallas’ friendly neighborhood hot spot to hear local blues music. Originally named Lota’s Goat, this Gaston Avenue dive bar offers live music seven days a week, including Monday and Thursday blues jam nights and karaoke Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Goat, a stone’s throw away from White Rock Lake, also has a special Delta blues night hosted by bouncing bluesman Aaron Burton. The Goat offers music aficionados a taste of some of Dallas’ best guitar blues, including soulful performances from local living legends Texas Slim and Jackie Don Loe.
3524 Greenville Ave., Dallas
There is no doubt Granada Theater is one of Greenville Avenue’s icons. The Granada regularly hosts a variety of music acts, including a good variety of performances steeped in the blues. With an excellent sound quality and classic ambiance, the Granada Theater is a great place to hear the blues inside a true Dallas landmark.
2736 W. Sixth St., Fort Worth
Once home to Fort Worth’s most notorious rock 'n' roll getaway The Wreck Room, Lola’s Saloon now fills the humble establishment with some of the best up-and-coming blues acts in North Texas. This howling dive bar was voted Fort Worth Weekly’s best music venue 10 years in a row and now sits as a champion of live music on Fort Worth’s Sixth Street. Lola’s regularly features popular local blues acts such as Gary Clark Jr. and former The Voice contestant Matt Tedder. Lola’s has also hosted radio station KNON’s annual Fort Worth Blues Fest since its debut in 2007. The place flows with sweet Texas charm and remains one of the best places for some ole-fashioned singing and swinging.
5677 Westcreek Drive, Fort Worth
Keys Lounge hosts some of Fort Worth’s longest-running live music nights, including the Thursday Night Blues Jam. This bouncing blues bar is an absolute must for music lovers. Although it opens a few slots for rock and jazz artists, Keys Lounge focuses on fiery blues gigs like the Jerry Clark Sunday Blues Jam, which occurs every Sunday night. The place has been up and jamming for more than 30 years and proudly nourishes a musician-friendly environment. Danny Ross, bar owner and a bona fide bluesman, regularly hosts shows and welcomes all local and touring blues artists.
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R.L.’s Blues Palace II (pictured at top)
3100 Grand Ave., Dallas
If there is an Iron Throne for the blues kings of Dallas, it would be on the stage at R.L.’s Blues Palace II. Texas blues legend R.L. Griffin rules the king’s court while he hosts some of the area’s most popular blues acts. Griffin opened his first blues club, Blues Alley, across Grand Avenue in the mid-1980s, and he’s been at the center of the city’s blues scene ever since. Griffin is always ready to start howling with his house group, the R.L.’s Blues Palace Show Band. And when the tunes are rattling, he usually has patrons doing the club’s famous “Hen” dance. Although it's open only a few hours a week, the sculptural rhythms pouring from R.L.’s Blues Palace II can be heard ringing from the street curb on Grand Avenue.
House of Blues
2200 N. Lamar St., Dallas
Of course, this list would not be complete without the House of Blues. The name says it all. Although it hosts a smorgasbord of live performances spanning all genres, this well-known establishment’s Dallas chapter always has time to host and boast a bite of some blues. Numerous blues legends, such as Buddy Guy and the late and great B.B. King, have filled the House of Blues with heart-aching and gut-wrenching music. The venue hosts free blues nights every Thursday in the restaurant and bar.
517 University Drive, Fort Worth
The Grotto is one of Fort Worth’s favorite neighborhood dive bars and go-to spots for local music. The club hosts a variety of music nights, but with its red-bricked walls, dim lighting and pool table, the place is the perfect spot for a night of blues. Always a home for soulful sensations like Leon Bridges, The Grotto remains a vibrant club that packs the house with tasteful music deep in the heart of Cowtown.
Stumpy’s Blues Bar
2811 W. Division St., Arlington
The blues has found a cozy spot in the old neighborhoods of Arlington. Stumpy’s Blues Bar has been one of Arlington’s best spots to hear live music for nearly 20 years. The bar hosts performances covering several genres but prides itself on booking some of the liveliest local blues acts in town. It has the quintessential blues atmosphere with its multicolored lights surrounding the stage and a slick billiard and pool hall in the back. Stumpy’s brings the boogie-woogie aura every weekend during its live shows.
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The Kessler Theater
1230 W. Davis St., Dallas
Once owned by actor and War World II hero Gene Autry, the Kessler Theater rests in Oak Cliff as a monument to both classic cinema and Texas blues heritage. The theater has seen a lot over its 75-plus years. After the decline of the movie-house era, the place shut down and was rebirthed as a revivalist church. In the late 1950s, the theater was hit by a tornado, and a fire almost destroyed it a few years later. The Kessler was without entertainment for many decades until it reopened as a music venue in the 2010s. Now, the theater mightily stands in the same neighborhood of legendary blues guitarists T. Bone Walker and Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughn and hosts some of the area’s most popular blues acts, as well as noteworthy touring acts.
The Free Man
2626 Commerce St., Dallas
In the heart of the original Dallas blues scene, Deep Ellum, The Free Man is a legendary club that is still making history. Its atmosphere is an ode to the haunting and exciting vibes of the New Orleans blues era, and this Cajun-style venue holds a saucer of music tradition in one hand and a plate of crawdads in the other. John Jay Meyers, club owner, leads his band, The Free Loaders, every week and shares the club’s stage with some of Dallas’ most promising blues and jazz artists. Along with regular blues jam nights, The Free Man also hosts live zydeco, Cajun and Dixieland music. The Mardi Gras celebration never ends at The Free Man; one can hear the place roaring and sizzling all week on Commerce Street.