Chicago Blues Festival

The Chicago Blues Festival was Created by Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg after a chance meeting with Bruce Iglauer, founder of Alligator Records. Bruce was tasked with putting together a committee of Blues business professionals to put together a festival celebrating the music that has made Chicago known as the “Home of the Blues.” Among them were: Jim O’Neal (Founder of Living Blues Magazine), Theresa Needham (Owner of Theresa’s), noted blues historian Dick Shurman and musicians Gene Barge and Billy Branch. The festival took place on one stage- the Petrillo Bandshell The first year was 1984, a year after the death of McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, who is generally considered “the father of Chicago blues”.

Since those beginning the festival has risen to a status that the City of Chicago has billed as the world’s largest free festival, and the largest of the city’s music festivals.

Following is a collection of photographs from each of the festivals, along with some information about who played that year. We sent out an email to a large group of photograhers, and got some great responses. Photographers responding so far are:

Michal Drozd (Poland)

Alan Frohlichstein (Illinois)

Howard Greenblatt (Illinois)

Lorena Jastreb  (Argentina)

Andrzej Matysik founder of Twój Blues (Poland)

Ewa Matysik, Editor of Twój Blues (Poland)

Paul Natkin (Illinois)

Chris Szafraniec (Poland)

Janet Mami Takayama (Illinois)

Jack Vartoogian (New York)

Linda Vartoogian (New York

Kirstine Walton (Illinois)

Chicago Blues Fest through the years

Chicago Blues Fest 2019

The festival kicked off with a Mayoral proclamation declaring June 7th Jimmy Johnson Day in Chicago, celebrating Jimmy’s 90th birthday. Other artists playing this year

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Chicago Blues Fest 2015

June 12-14, 2015 This year’s festival included a centennial Tribute to Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, which included performances by many alumni from Muddy’s and

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Chicago Blues Fest 2011

June 10-12, 2011 In 2011, the festival celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Alligator Records. Artists included Holle Thee Maxwell, Nora Jean Bruso, Eddie Cotton, David

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Chicago Blues Fest 2010

June 11–13, 2010 In 2010, artists included Jimmy Dawkins w/Taildragger, Grady Champion, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, James Cotton Blues Band, Zora Young, Andre Williams, Sonny Rhodes,

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Chicago Blues Fest 2009

June 12–14, 2009 In 2009, artists included The Charlie Musselwhite Band, Herman Moody Thomas and the Lee’s Unleaded Revue, East of the Edens Soul Express, Holle

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Chicago Blues Fest 2008

June 5–8, 2008 In 2008, the Chicago Blues Festival celebrated its 25th year. Artists included Little Willie Littlefield, Bobby Parker and Karen Carroll with Charlie

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Chicago Blues Fest 2007

June 8–11, 2007 In 2007, artists included Carl “Sonny” Leyland and Lila Ammons, John Primer, Willie Clayton, Jimmy Dawkins, Koko Taylor & the Blues Machine,

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Chicago Blues Fest 2006

June 8-11, 2006 In 2006, artists included Super Chikan, Saffire: the Uppity Blues Women, Thornetta Davis, Barrelhouse Chuck, Artie “Blues Boy” White, Bettye LaVette, Smokey

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Chicago Blues Fest 2005

June 9–12, 2005 In 2005, artists included Roosevelt Purifoy, Roland Tchakounte,  Nick Moss & the Flip Tops, Tommy McCracken & the Force of Habit Band, Grana’

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Chicago Blues Fest 2002

May 31-June 2, 2002 In 2002, artists included (among others) Bettye Lavette, Big Bill Morganfield, Bo Diddley, Carey Bell, Detroit Jr., Jody Williams, Lee “Shot”

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Chicago Blues Fest 2000

June 8–11, 2000 In 2000, the Festival expanded to four-day event. Artists included Little Milton, Deborah Coleman, Warren Haynes, Arthur Adams, Detroit Junior, Henry Gray,

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Chicago Blues Fest 1998

June 5-7, 1998 In 1998, artists included, among others Otis Rush, Homesick James, Henry Townshend, Honeyboy Edwards, Carey Bell, Olu Dara, Ruth Brown, Shemika Copeland,

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Chicago Blues Fest 1995

June 2–4, 1995 In 1995, artists included David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Detroit Junior, Fenton Robinson, Bobby Rush, Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, Eddie C. Campbell,

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Chicago Blues Fest 1993

June 5–7, 1993 In 1993, artists included Mighty Joe Young, Junior Wells and Robert Jr. Lockwood, Yank Rachell, Jimmie Dawkins, Junior Wells, William Clark, Curtis

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Chicago Blues Fest 1992

June 7-9, 1992 The 1985 Festival included performances by the following, among others: John Hammond Jr., Koko Taylor and Her Blues Machine, Luther “Guitar Junior”

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Chicago Blues Fest 1991

June 14–16, 1991 In 1991 artists included Magic Slim, R.L. Burnside, Henry Butler, Champion Jack Dupree, Joe Louis Walker, Larry McCray, Betty Everett, Taj Mahal,

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Chicago Blues Fest 1986

June 7–9, 1986 The 1986 festival included many legendary performances, including Willie Dixon, Albert King, Bo Diddley, Robert Cray, Chuck Berry and a pre-show meeting

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