Chicago Blues Festival

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Chicago Blues Festival
The Blues Festival stage at the Petrillo Music Shell before nightfall
Datesearly June
Location(s)Millennium Park
City of Chicago
Years active1984–2019, 2021–present

The Chicago Blues Festival is an annual event held in June,[1] that features three days of performances by top-tier blues musicians, both old favorites and the up-and-coming. It is hosted by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (formerly the Mayor's Office of Special Events), and always occurs in early June. Until 2017, the event always took place at and around Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park, adjacent to the Lake Michigan waterfront east of the Loop in Chicago. In 2017, the festival was moved to the nearby Millennium Park.[2]

History of the festival[edit]

The Blues Festival is among the most important annual public festivities in the city.

Chicago has a storied history with blues that goes back generations stemming from the Great Migration from the South and particularly the Mississippi Delta region in pursuit of advancement and better career possibilities for musicians.[3][4] Created by Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg, the festival began in 1984,[4] a year after the death of McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, who is generally considered "the father of Chicago blues".[5] Each year the organizers choose a theme, generally to honor a recently departed blues musician.[6] Obviously, Chicago blues acts are common. In 2015, the festival celebrated the centenary of the births of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. The Centennial Tribute featured several musicians who had played with Muddy Waters as well as his sons Mud Morganfield and Big Bill Morganfield, with Alex Dixon playing bass. Also, in keeping with the blues' influence on other musical genres, there are some soul, jazz blues and blues-rock acts.

There was no festival in 2020.

Since those early beginnings the festival has risen to a status that the City of Chicago has billed as the world's largest free concert of its kind, and the largest of the city's music festivals.[7] For many years through 2016, the festival's "Route 66 Roadhouse" side stage was located a few yards north of historic old U.S. Route 66 (Jackson Boulevard, with traffic closed off for the festival), and a block west of Route 66's former eastern terminus at US 41 Lake Shore Drive.[8]

Notable performers[edit]

A Blues Festival performer plays jazz

Albert King, The Aces, B. B. King, Bill Doggett, Golden "Big" Wheeler, Billy Branch, Bo Diddley, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Bobby Rush, Buckwheat Zydeco, Buddy Guy, Calvin Jones, Carey Bell, Carl Perkins, Barrelhouse Chuck, Chuck Berry, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Dave Myers, Dion Payton, Dr. John, Eddie Boyd, Eddie C. Campbell, Eddie Vinson, Eddy Clearwater, Etta James, Fenton Robinson, Floyd Jones, Fontella Bass, Hank Ballard, Henry Townsend, Homesick James, Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, Jerry Portnoy, Jimmy Johnson, Jimmy Rogers, Jimmie Lee Robinson, Jody Williams, John Lee Hooker, Johnnie Taylor, John Brim, Johnny Shines, Johnny Winter, Junior Wells, Keith Richards, Koko Taylor, Little Milton, Little Willie Littlefield, Lonnie Brooks, Lowell Fulson, Louisiana Red, Luther Allison, Eddie Cusic, Lurrie Bell, Magic Slim, Matt Murphy, Memphis Slim, George "Mojo" Buford, Mick Taylor, The Neville Brothers, Otis Rush, Pee Wee Crayton, Ike Turner,[9] Pinetop Perkins,[9] Ray Charles, Robert Cray Band, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Sam Lay, Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers, Snooky Pryor, Son Seals, Lacy Gibson, Staple Singers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sugar Blue, Sunnyland Slim, Grady Champion, Johnny Dollar,[10] Taj Mahal, Willie Dixon, Yank Rachell, Lil' Ed Williams and the Blues Imperials, Johnny B. Moore, Terry "Harmonica" Bean,[11] Harmonica Hinds,[12] Linsey Alexander, Toronzo Cannon, Liz Mandeville, Nora Jean Bruso, Holle Thee Maxwell, Eddie Taylor Jr.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 218. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  2. ^ Matthews, David (March 28, 2017). "Chicago Blues Festival 2017 Lineup, New Location Revealed". DNAinfo. Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  3. ^ Runice, Jacky (2007). "Chicago Blues Festival". AOL, LLC. Retrieved May 4, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b Green, Adam (2005). "Blues". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved May 4, 2007.
  5. ^ "City of Chicago :: Chicago Blues Festival to Celebrate Legacy of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon". Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  6. ^ Whiteis, David (2003). "Chicago Reader: Chicago Blues Festival". Chicago Reader. Retrieved May 4, 2007.
  7. ^ "GoTo - Chicago Blues Festival 2007". Retrieved May 3, 2007.
  8. ^ Whiteis, David; Bill Dahl (May 29, 2003). "20th Annual Chicago Blues Festival: The Reader's Guide". Chicago Reader. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Kening, Dan (June 8, 2001). "Chicago Blues Fest turns 18". Chicago Tribune.
  10. ^ "American Blues musician Johnny Dollar performs during the Chicago..." Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  11. ^ "TERRY 'HARMONICA' BEAN – CATFISH BLUES". Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  12. ^ "Chicago Blues Festival - Performer Bios". The City of Chicago's Official Site. City of Chicago. 2014. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  13. ^ "Eddie Taylor Jr. : Keeps The Flame Alive". Retrieved March 8, 2019.

External links[edit]