By Todd Beebe
This year marks the 29th anniversary of the Chicago Blues Festival, running June 8, 9 & 10 in Grant Park. To help celebrate- let’s take a look back at the history of the Blues Fest.
In 1983 the world lost the great McKinley Morganfield a.k.a. Muddy Waters. After the loss of his friend, Willie Dixon approached the City of Chicago with the idea of an annual event that would showcase and honor the Blues. Dixon’s efforts were soon paired up with the enthusiasm of Lois Weisberg, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City Of Chicago, and in 1984 the first official Chicago Blues Festival was launched.
Billed as “the largest free Blues Festival in the world”, Chicago’s Blues Fest is just that, spanning 3 days on 5 stages. Pulling in more than 500,000 Blues fans annually, it is also the largest of all of Chicago’s festivals. Since 1984, many legendary names have appeared including B.B. King, Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Luther Allison and our own Buddy Guy.
Continuing the tradition of a theme, this year’s festival will have a tribute to Lightning Hopkins, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in 2012. The legendary Mavis Staples is scheduled to headline the festivals final day on June 10th, with an all female tribute to Koko Taylor. Staples will be joined by Nora Jean Brusco, Melvia “Chick” Rodgers, Deitra Farr and Jackie Scott. The list of this year’s headline acts includes Eddie C. Campbell, Texas Johnny Brown, Floyd Taylor, Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues, Bob Margolin, Joe Louis Walker, and the great Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang.
Numerous tributes are planned to many legends who passed away in the last year including Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, and David “Honeyboy” Edwards.
The Chicago Blues Festival also offers some great programs for drawing attention to the young, and has previously teamed up Blues Icons like Honeyboy Edwards with students from the Blues in the Schools Programs.
Since its birth, Blues Fest has grown to become a Chicago Institution, having brought the music to literally millions and millions of fans; some who maybe weren’t even hip to the Blues. They may have just taken a stroll downtown on their lunch break, and discovered a music they have now bonded with for life. On June 8, 9, & 10 of 2012, grab a friend and bring them down to the largest and greatest Festival in the World!