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What’s got you scratching your head about Milwaukee and the region? Bubbler Talk is a series that puts your curiosity front and center.

Live from Milwaukee! 5 albums recorded in the Cream City

CJ Foeckler
Rufus Wainwright recorded his 2007 performance at the Pabst Theater, resulting in the live album "Milwaukee At Last!!!"

Do you love going to concerts? Or seek out live albums from your favorite bands or artists?

If you're anything like Zack Biernat, you really dig live shows.

"I love listening to live music and I love going to see shows. I found there's a lot of live albums available now on Spotify or YouTube, so I've been listening to a lot of my favorite bands, and I always enjoy that," he explains. 

But Zack also wants to know what live albums were recorded in Milwaukee. So, he reached out to Bubbler Talk:

I’m curious if there’s any albums that have been recorded in Milwaukee from big name acts that I haven't heard.

After some digging, we discovered there are actually quite a few live records recorded in Milwaukee. Here are five of them, starting with the oldest:

1. Nat King Cole Trio - Live at the Circle Room
When: Sept. 20, 1946
Where: The Circle Room at Hotel La Salle

The Nat King Cole Trio — piano, bass and guitar — opened with "Oh, But I Do." 

Later on in the 1950s and '60s Cole became a huge pop star. Around the time he was at the Circle Room in 1940s, he was the main vocals and played piano as part of a jazz trio.

Credit Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
An ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for the Sept. 20, 1946, King Cole Trio performance in Milwaukee.

"I don't know what the crowd would have been like, obviously I wasn't there, but it was probably a relaxed atmosphere. It was in a restaurant, the Circle Room served food. So it was kind of a 'for your dining and dancing pleasure' type of place," says Dewey Gill, a DJ for WMSE 91.7 FM.

While no longer Hotel La Salle, the building still stands and is owned by Marquette University.

2. Magic Sam - Live at the Avant Garde
When: June 22, 1968
Where: Avant Garde

"Magic Sam was a young, sort of new generation blues guy out of Chicago," says Jim Charne. He's the guy who recorded Sam's 1968 concert at the Avant Garde in Milwaukee. 

The Avant Garde was a coffee shop and blues club in the 1960s. A place that Jim describes as a gathering place for young people and members of Milwaukee's counter-culture.

"They did not have a liquor license. There was no bar. So, it really was university, I’d say UWM, Marquette University and high school students because there was no age restriction," Jim explains. The venue eventually shut down in 1968.

READ: The Ledge-Sit That Brought The Who To Milwaukee in 1982

As for Magic Sam, he died young. Though, some still call him the king of west side blues — a sub-genre of Chicago blues.

Zack, our Bubbler Talk question asker, says he's "likin' Magic Sam. It sounds like a coffee shop or something for sure, small venue."

Bubbler Talk: What have you always wanted to know about the Milwaukee area that you'd like WUWM to explore?

3. Marshall Tucker Band - Where We All Belong
When: September 1974
Where: Marcus Performing Arts Center

The Marshall Tucker Band performed one of the last rock shows at Milwaukee's downtown Marcus Performing Arts Center. The two-disc record Where We All Belong was recorded live in 1974.

Dewey, the DJ for WMSE 91.7 FM, describes the band as southern rock, with root in country and blues. And he was at the Milwaukee show when the group recorded the live record.

"They put on a somewhat short, but energy-packed show," Dewey explains.

Zack really digs the song "Ramblin."

4. The Replacements - Dead Man's Pop
When: June 2, 1989
Where: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The Replacements are a 1980s Minneapolis underground punk-rock band. They released a new box set called Dead Man's Pop this September.

The last two discs include a live recording of the band's 1989 show at UW-Milwaukee's Union Ballroom.

Guitarist Bob Stinson dealt with drug and mental health issues, and the band was known for drinking on stage. 

Rolling Stone magazine recently published a piece stating that this box set is a "revelatory new mix" of the original LP Don't Tell a Soul. The opinion piece also asserts that the UWM concert in specific consisted of "rock 'n' roll more than worth not wandering off to get a beer to."

5. Rufus Wainwright - Milwaukee At Last!!!
When: Aug. 27, 2007
Where: Pabst Theater

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright performed at the Pabst Theater in 2007. His show became the live album Milwaukee At Last!!!

Rufus says the title for the album is a little tongue in cheek because people don't necessarily think about Milwaukee when they think about the final destination of a tour. But he says, "I love Milwaukee and playing [the Pabst] Theater."

At the end of "Release The Stars," the crowd was cheering uproariously as Rufus said: "Wow, I was not expecting that! Thank you! Thank you so much, my god!"

Rufus says of his response, "I was sincerely surprised myself. The audience succeeded in shocking me. I'm not sure why, but I guess they loved the performance."

A warm reception, indeed.

So, if you're a band looking for a place make a live record, Zack has a pitch.

"We got so many cool venues here — like Cactus Club and Shank Hall and Turner Hall have great sound. It's a phenomenal live experience," Zack says. "So, hey, come and take your band and record an album there!"

Editor's note: This story was originally published October 4, 2019.
Have a question you'd like WUWM to answer? Submit your query below.


Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.
Lauren Sigfusson
Lauren became WUWM's digital producer in July 2018.
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