June 2007

The 24th Annual Chicago Blues Festival
June 7 – 10, 2007 Grant Park Chicago
Chicago Continues to Deliver Great Blues
by Gloria Ellis
Blues, R&B, soul, gospel, and a dash of zydeco ignited the passion in the attendees at the 2007, 24th Annual Chicago Blues Festival — June seventh through June tenth. This year’s theme “Boogie Woogie Stomp” celebrates the centennials of Sunnyland Slim and Albert Ammons, two legends behind the blues era.
The warm summer month once again brought a record number of music lovers to Grant Park to enjoy plenty of deeply rooted music from the Delta. Food and drinks were plentiful as were the trees to shade the large crowds from the ninety degree dry heat. There were six stages set up to accommodate the huge crowds and diverse genres of music throughout the park. The Chicago Blues Festival started early on one of the smaller stages, the U.S. Cellular Front Porch, with great music from pianist Erwin Helfer and beside him was the incredible vocalist Katherine Davis. Guitarist Phil Guy, not just Buddy Guy’s younger brother but leader of his own band, the Chicago Machine, gave a rousing set. Aaron Moore, pianist and vocalist, gave a wonderful set that delighted his fans.

As time went on guitarist and vocalist Fruteland Jackson performed gracefully as the crowd listened with great intensity so as not to miss a note. The blues and soulful sound of vocalist Wanda Johnson excited the fans to the point of hand clapping and toe tapping as well as frequent shouting. She was great. Harmonica Project Part II featuring Little Arthur Duncan, along with Charlie Love, Big D, Jeffery Taylor, Reginald Cooper, and Mervyn “Harmonica” Hinds was a fine display of artistry and great vocals.

A blend of gospel and blues was welcomed by fans from vocalist Melvia Chick Rogers and her Gospel Harmonizers. Cephas and Wiggins were a fantastic duo with awesome guitar picking from Cephas, amazing harmonica playing from Wiggins and great vocals from both musicians.

While the fans waited patiently for James Cotton to come on stage his Blues Band entertained the fans for forty-five minutes. When Cotton finally hit the stage he gave a thrilling exhibition of harmonica blowing that sent the audience into a frenzy of pure excitement. Cotton, a member of the late Muddy Waters’ band, didn’t disappoint the audience.

Guitarist Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ subtle but rich style of blues from his guitar playing to his vocals was pleasing to the crowd—his artistic flow was so easy and care free. Holmes was followed by guitarist and vocalist John Primer whose stimulating display of ripping guitar chords moved his fans favorably. Giving his all, multi-instrumentalist Drink Small’s down home guitar plucking and piano playing country blues set well with blues enthusiasts. Not to be outdone by any means, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, ninety-two years young, gave a moving performance on guitar as he performed with agile fingers and keen wit. Edwards’ vocals were not as strong as they once were, but he was still able to come through clear and firm with plenty of fire.

Each day as the sun begins to set the premiere stage known as the Petrillo Music Shell comes alive with great music from legendary artists known throughout the world. Queen of the blues Koko Taylor highlighted the first day of the festival on the Petrillo Music Shell with standing room only. As the show started to roll, Taylor commanded the crowd with her booming voice and amazing stage presence. Taylor sung hit after hit as her adoring fans sang along, clapped, cheered, and danced in the aisles.

Another crowd favored eighty-six-year-old Johnnie Mae Dunson. Although in a wheelchair, she still delivered a moving performance that had her fans deeply involved. A show stopper and one of Chicago’s own by way of Mississippi, vocalist Nellie “Tiger” Travis is without a doubt one of the best blues entertainers, one who won’t be forgotten. She’s exciting, energetic, and very passionate. New Orleans native Irma Thomas gave the Chicago crowd a great performance with her Louisiana style of rhythm and blues.

Katherine Davis

James Cotton

Koko Taylor

Bobby Rush
The closing performance was certainly a treat, blues man Bobby Rush thrilled his fans to no end and if you weren’t a fan when you came to the festival you surely were when you left. Rush’s performance was filled with great music, antics, and plenty of good humor. He left his fans with tapping toes, finger snapping, and shouts for more. The City of Chicago continues to give blues lovers great music that keeps them coming back year after year.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Gloria Ellis
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