Illiana Jazz Club Celebrates Fifty Years of Hot Jazz in Chicago

There was a roadhouse built in the late 1940s located just on the Illinois side of the state line near the little town of Dyer, Indiana. Eventually called the Inn Place, owner Harry Glover wanted to present first-class entertainment to attract jazz fans to the restaurant, so he hired clarinetist Jerry Fuller, giving him somewhat of a free hand to select musicians to accompany him. Fuller had a solid background of playing with many fine bands, the two most notable being the Jack Teagarden band of the mid-1950s and the Dukes of Dixieland.

In early 1970 Inn Place began to feature jazz music four or five nights each week with varied size groups ranging from a trio up to an eight-piece band. A regular clientele of jazz-interested persons was soon built up, and the Inn Place became the Mecca of jazz in the Chicagoland South suburbs. Three regulars of the Inn Place, Glenn Kay of Knox, Indiana, Eddy Banjura of Munster, Indiana, and Sam Cardaras of Riverdale, Illinois, became certain that this area of Illinois and Indiana should have a jazz club. A meeting of jazz fans in fall of 1973 officially formed the Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Then everyone called it the Illiana Jazz Club. The objective was to offer a common meeting ground for lovers of not only Traditional Hot Jazz but also “straight ahead” jazz featuring outstanding jazz musicians from around the country. With these live performances and special programming, the club was able to bring its members both enjoyment and education. Our musicians were walking encyclopedias concerning who played on traditional jazz recordings. They often sounded as good as their musical idols! Musicians were happy to play for us because we were so appreciative. After a tune was played, a fan might go up to a musician to comment on what they had just heard. Our members had often played jazz when they were young, so it was not only an appreciative audience but also a knowledgeable group of jazz fans.

For many years we had a membership of 1200 and about 300 attended the monthly live jazz concerts. At the time of the club’s founding, there was a large contingent of Germans who had enjoyed jazz before emigrating and then couldn’t find the kind of jazz they loved until they found our club. Some of our members began attending our concerts in their teens and are still loyal members. Many friendships have also endured for years thanks to the shared love of jazz.

Large numbers of club members could always be expected at Midwest jazz festivals. The dance floor could be very crowded at the Glendora Ballroom, our longtime venue which closed in 2022. With that closure, we have had difficulty finding a regular venue, so have resorted to having live jazz concerts every other month in 2023. Also, our membership numbers have dipped due to people passing away or moving away. There is a group of swing dancers who have found us and occasionally attend.

UpBeat Records

We advertise through the local jazz radio station, our website and through our monthly newsletters. The newsletter had been written by Eddie Banjura for years and then in 2006, Debbie Heer (the writer of this article) began to do both the website and the newsletter. I had joined the club at the time of their 15th anniversary although I lived much further north. Eventually, we had a membership evenly divided among the north, south and west sides of Chicago.

As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary, we want to highlight the outstanding variety of exciting jazz musicians who have performed for us over the years: Marty Grosz, Vince Giordano, Butch Miles, Bob Schulz, Chuck Hedges, Bobby Lewis, Eric Schneider, Franz Jackson, Barrett Deems, Truck Parham, Don DeMichael, Peter Appleyard, Doc Cheatham, Original Salty Dogs, Red Rose Ragtime JB.

Illiana board members Joe Todaro, Herta Erdmann, and Evelyn Basile cheerfully greet concert attendees. (photo courtesy Debbie Heer)

The Illiana Jazz Club’s 50th Anniversary Celebration takes place Sunday, October 22, 2023, from 12 until 5 pm at Garden Chalet, 11000 S Ridgeland, Worth, IL. The afternoon features our Anniversary Dinner and Concert with a cash bar, with music provided by The Chicago Cellar Boys’ ten-piece Orchestra. Advance reservations are $55. Call Joe Urbancik at 773-848-3710 or email him at

[email protected]. Or mail checks (made out to ICOTJ) to Joe Urbancik, 2557 W. 116th St., Chicago, IL 60655. For more information, please visit

Debbie Heer is Newsletter Editor for the Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz.

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