By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Fridays with Jim Korkis: House of Blues in Disney Springs

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

House of Blues is an American chain of live music concert halls and restaurants. It was founded by Isaac Tigrett (also a co-founder of the Hard Rock Café), who grew up with blues, gospel, rhythm and blues and jazz and wanted a place to share that kind of music with others. He partnered with Dan Aykroyd and Judy Belushi, the widow of John Belushi–Aykroyd and Belushi were the original Blues Brothers performing duo.

Aykroyd stated that the original House of Blues was created in 1992 in Massachusetts in an effort to “build the best jukejoint the nation has ever seen. We wanted to honor the spirit of the rural venues that were popular in the South for blues musicians. Build concert halls in a manner that hadn’t been done since the Forties or Fifties.”

The Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) West Side Walt Disney World House of Blues was the sixth location of the restaurant chain when it opened in September 1997 as a “celebration of diversity,” with a 2,000 seat music hall and a restaurant with a 400 person seating capacity. An additional hundred guests could be seated outside at the Voodoo Garden overlooking the Village Lake.

(c) Disney

In addition to musical entertainment, the restaurant focused on authentic Mississippi Delta inspired cooking, and a special Sunday Gospel Brunch buffet with live gospel performers.

“In Blues We Trust” declares the entrance to the colorful, eclectic building built to resemble a rustic general store in the Louisiana hills.

Outside is the distinctive hundred-foot tall water tower that was found by Tigrett in the mid-West on one of his many travels where he often purchased one-of-a-kind art and other unique memorabilia that caught his eye, like the outdoor fountain that he purchased at a mansion in England.

Originally three sections tall, only two of the Water Tower sections were approved for the property. Blade signs, light cans and artistic flames were added, giving the structure its current look. Though the patio area has changed over the years, the Water Tower has remained the same.

At the Orlando location, guests can see more than 600 pieces of authentic American folk art that represent more than 100 different artists. The entire House of Blues chain features over 7,000 examples of folk art that it describes as “Visual Blues”.

The bas-relief portraits of blues musicians on ceiling panels in the restaurant are a signature design of House of Blues venues. The tiles of the faces of musical greats like Fats Domino and James Brown were made from sculpted molds created by artist Andrew Wood.

Tigrett bought a light fixture from a church sale in England thought to be from the 1800s. Holly Mandot, the lead scenic painter at House of Blues, painted the fixture and designed the paint and circular shoe background with her paint crew.

In the back of the restaurant, Mr. Imagination’s Archway, from artist Gregory Warmack, is carved from sandstone and discarded objects collected from Downtown Disney Cast Members and guests. It is meant to symbolize a sense of community and collaboration.

The House of Blues stage curtains are handmade quilts to honor African Americans who made similar ones during the days of slavery. The restaurant also keeps a metal box of mud from the Mississippi Delta underneath its stage.

In 2014, the restaurant opened Smokehouse, a quick-service window where guests can grab a smoked beef brisket sandwich, pulled pork or chicken sandwich, smoked turkey leg, St. Louis half-rack of ribs or an all-beef hot dog.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Off to Never Land: 70 Years of Disney’s Peter Pan and Final Secret Stories of Walt Disney World!

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