June 2006

Chicago’s 23nd Annual Blues Festival
June 8 – 11, 2006 • Grant Park • Chicago

Report & photographs by Gloria Ellis
The long-awaited 23rd Anniversary of the Chicago Blues Festival proved to be one of Chicago’s most successful events so far this year. Blues enthusiasts attended the festival over four days in Grant Park enjoying the music, food, cool drinks and arts and crafts. Opening day got under way promptly at 11:30 a.m. There were six stages to choose from, all with great music from the likes of bassist Aron Burton, vocalist Thornetta Davis, pianist Julien Brunetaul, and guitarist Lil Ray, just to name a few.

Day two of the blues festival also got off to a great start with Smokey Smothers and Elvin Bishop burning up the Mississippi Juke Joint stage. Just down the way a bit, the son of the late blues guitarist R.L. Burnside, Duwayne Burnside and the Mississippi Mafia created their own heat on the Crossroads stage. Louisiana Red captivated the audience on the U.S. Cellular stage with his fantastic guitar playing and great lyrics filled with ear bending anecdotes. All the way from Louisiana, pianist Eddie Bo pleased the blues attendees with some delightful story telling of his own, with audience participation Bo’s sets provided great fun. Later that evening on the Petrillo Music Shell stage, blues vocalist Deitra Farr gave the audience just what they wanted — plenty of great blues with a mix of soul flavor sure to provide lasting memories.

As the Chicago Blues Festival continued on the Route 66 stage, the music just got better and better with four of the elders of the blues, pianist/guitarist Henry Townsend, guitarists Homesick James, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and Robert Jr. Lockwood. All four of these men are legends in the blues world with almost four hundred years between them. They have contributed much to the history of the blues and have paved the way for many that have followed them. Harpist Big George Brock and drummer/guitarist Sam Lay, both disciples of the late great Muddy Waters, performed at the Blues festival. Brock delighted his fans on the Crossroads stage with his show stopping antics while Lay played guitar and Corky Siegel played harp, thrilling the audience on the Juke joint stage. As the evening approached, the Wolf Gang, with special guest vocalist Mary Lane, saxophonist Abbe Lock, and pianist Henry Gray joined blues saxophonist Eddie Shaw on the Petrillo Music Shell stage to create a very energetic and foot stomping performance.

Blues vocalist Zora Young certainly provided her fans with some deeply rooted blues as she playfully interacted with the audience. Young took time to acknowledge (Queen of the Blues) Koko Taylor and briefly brought her on stage for one verse of “Wang Dang Doodle”, one of Taylor biggest hits. The audience wanted more. However, Taylor quickly turned the stage back over to Young. As the Chicago native finished her performance for the evening with her fans asking for more, you could see why Young is among the most sought after blues vocalists today. Siegel-Schwall Blues Band with Marcy Levy and Sam Lay Playing drums also performed on the Petrillo stage Saturday evening. However, closing the show on the Petrillo stage that night would be Louisiana’s own Walter Wolfman Washington and the Roadmasters with a stellar performance.

The last day of the festival, there was still plenty of good music to be heard and great performances to be seen. Guitarist Super Chikan, vocalist Earl Thomas, the Lee Boys and vocalist Shirley Johnson all gratified and pleased the blues fans. With the last of the performances yet to come, one could not help but feel that the festival was ending much too soon. The thought of waiting until next year to enjoy such a marvelous event is just something you do not want to consider.

Gracing the Petrillo stage, Dorothy Moore sang beautifully from the blues, R&B, and soul repertoires, and dazzled her fans with her biggest hit “Misty Blue”. The audience loved every moment of Moore’s wonderful performance. Bobby “Blue” Bland, a true legendary blues artist gave a command performance as he closed out the festival with the fans pinned to their seats. Neither the threat of rain nor the chill that blew over the city discouraged the audience — die-hard blues fans stayed until the very end.

Dorothy Moore

Bobby "Blue" Bland

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• • • • • •
Gloria Ellis
• •
for The Live Music Report

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