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Chicago Blues Festival 2008


Blues great Koko Taylor

Blues great Koko Taylor

Photo by Marc Norberg, courtesy Koko Taylor

The 25th annual Chicago Blues Festival will fill the city's Grant Park with glorious blues music from Thursday, June 5th through Sunday, June 8th, 2008. Sponsored by the Mayor's Office of Special Events along with various commercial supporters, the Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free admission blues festival in the world. This year's event will feature more than 100 performances on 7 stages, including a celebration of the centennials of bluesmen Louis Jordan, Tommy McLennan, and Blind John Davis.

Daily Festival Headliners

Blues guitarist Johnny Winter, with legendary harmonica player James Cotton, will headline the opening night of the Chicago Blues Festival. Guitarist Duke Robillard will also perform Thursday night, presenting his tribute to Louis Jordan, featuring Plas Johnson and Red Holloway.

The legendary Koko Taylor and Her Blues Machine top Friday night, along with Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater and friends. Clearwater will be performing songs from his recent Alligator Records release West Side Strut along with his band and friends like Billy Branch, Otis Clay, Jimmy Johnson, and Lonnie Brooks.

Saturday night will feature some Cajun flavor with headliner Buckwheat Zydeco, along with some classic Chicago blues courtesy of Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials. Sunday, the festival's final night, offers headliners Karen Carroll with Charlie Love, performing with special guest Lurrie Bell, Little Willie Littlefield, and blues legend B.B. King. Other blues artists appearing during the Chicago Blues Festival include:

  • David "Honeyboy" Edwards & friends
  • Pinetop Perkins & friends
  • Louisiana Red
  • Little Arthur Duncan
  • Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band
  • Jimmy Johnson
  • John Hammond
  • T-Model Ford
  • Guitar Red
  • Otis Taylor
  • Tony Joe White

Tributes & Discussions

There will also be a number of tributes and discussions taking place during the four-day festival. Thursday will feature "A Tribute to Muddy Waters," with Marva Morganfield, Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records, Jim O'Neal, and Bill Gilmore. Friday afternoon will feature "Louis Jordan: Hitmaker of Blues Jazz and R&B," a discussion hosted by Howard Mandel, Bill Milkowski, Lonnie Brooks, Bob Porter, and Ernest Dawkins.

Saturday will offer "The Black Banjo Project Discussion" with musicians Otis Taylor, Don Vappie, and Guy Davis, moderated by Dick Weissman. Sunday afternoon will close with "The Future of the Blues," a discussion between Jim O'Neal, Larry Hoffman, and Nate Lawrence.

A Tradition Of Excellence

The Chicago Blues Festival launched in 1984, less than a year after the legendary bluesman Muddy Waters' death, and the inaugural festival paid tribute to the blues icon. The 1984 festival took place on a single stage and attracted 165,000 music lovers over the three-day event. Over the years, the festival has grown to the point where the 2007 event, held over four days, featured six days and brought in over 800,000 attendees.

The festival has also celebrated many blues landmarks throughout its history, including what would have been the 80th birthdays of Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker, and the 100th birthdays of Big Bill Broonzy, Skip James, and Bessie Smith. This year's Chicago Blues Festival will honor the centennial birthdays of Louis Jordan, Tommy McLennan, and Blind John Davis.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Etta James, Lonnie Brooks, Otis Rush, Chuck Berry, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, the Neville Brothers, Buddy Guy, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Taj Mahal, and Hubert Sumlin are among the hundreds of artists that have performed at the Chicago Blues Festival throughout the event's 25-year history.

Check with the Chicago Blues Festival website for performance schedules and other information.

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