Chicago Blues Festival

Last week, Lollapalooza and Pitchfork Music Festival announced their entertainment lineups and today the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is getting in on the action. Headliners and details are in for the much ballyhooed Chicago Blues Fest and the lineup is hotter than a Wrigley Field bleacher seat in August. From June 6 - 9 tens of thousands of people will gather in Millennium Park and Grant Park to watch some of the rhythmic bellyaching industry's biggest names, including some of Chicago's most celebrated musicians.

Let's not waste any time. The headliners for the 30th Annual Chicago Blues Festival are: Shemekia Copeland, Bobby Rush, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Johnson, Otis Clay, The Bar- Kays, Eddie Floyd, Sir Mack Rice and a multigenerational Chicago blues showcase finale featuring James Cotton, Lil' Ed and Billy Branch, among others, closing the festival on Sunday. Oh, and admission is free.

Thursday, June 6

The festival will open for the first time at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on June 6. Shemekia Copeland will headline the evening with special guest, blues guitar prodigy and Buddy Guy collaborator Quinn Sullivan. The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with openers Fernando Jones' Blues Kids of America followed by Jamiah on Fire & the Red Machine.

Moving to Grant Park for the weekend, the festival is "Rollin' Up the River" to celebrate the blues with a musical journey up the Mississippi River. During the great migration from the south in the 1940s and 1950s, the "delta blues" landed in Chicago establishing the genre's electric guitar sound known as the "Chicago blues" style. The voyage will start in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mississippi on Friday; then continue on to Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri, on Saturday; ending in Chicago on Sunday, where the blues electrified the world.

Friday, June 7

The journey up the Mississippi begins in Grant Park at the Petrillo Music Shell at 6 p.m. with blues great Earnest "Guitar" Roy.

Taking the stage at 7 p.m. is the legendary Irma Thomas, the "Soul Queen of New Orleans." Thomas is celebrating 50 years in the music business and is the perfect kick-off to a weekend of blues. Throughout her career she has had a string of hits that included "Time is on My Side" which was later recorded by The Rolling Stones. In 2005 her home was destroyed by hurricane Katrina, inspiring her 2006 album After the Rain which went on to win a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

At 8:30 p.m. Mississippi blues man Bobby Rush will bring his "folk funk" to the Petrillo stage. Bringing together soul and funk, Rush is one the most colorful performers on the contemporary chitlin' circuit. With his first hit in 1971, "Chicken Heads," followed by "Bow Legged Woman," the multi-instrumentalist Rush is going strong, bringing his rollicking show to blues fans everywhere.

Saturday, June 8 

Saturday begins with Ronnie Baker Brooks at 5 p.m. The Chicago native is an acclaimed singer, songwriter in his own right.

The internationally acclaimed gospel, soul and blues artist Otis Clay and the Platinum Band follows at 6:30 p.m. From his recent release, "Truth Is" on his own Echo label, to his best known recordings with Memphis based Hi-Records, the album I Can't Take It and singles "If I Could Reach Out" and "Try to Live My Life Without You." Joining Clay is St. Louis, Missouri, soul blues artist Uvee Hayes.

Saturday night closes with The Memphis Soul Revue starring The Bar-Kays with special guests Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice at 8:10 p.m. The famed Memphis-based Stax Records recording artists take the stage showcasing their array of soul and R&B hits that defined an era.

Memphis band The Bar-Kays rose to fame in the 1960s and 70s as a soul, funk and R&B group with hits like "Son of Shaft" and "Soul Finger."  American soul man Eddie Floyd is a singer and songwriter who created the monster hit "Knock On Wood" with Wilson Pickett. Sir Mack Rice completes the evening's trio of soul. One of his best-known singles is the all-time classic, "Mustang Sally."

Sunday, June 9: Sweet Home Chicago

Opening an evening with the blues sounds from the "windy city" at 5:30 p.m. is Delmark artist Shirley Johnson. As a Chicago blues queen, Johnson was influenced by the greats including Mahalia Jackson, Etta James and Koko Taylor which allowed her to develop her own gritty style of music.

Premier Chicago blues artist Jimmy Johnson will take the stage at 6:35 p.m. offering festival attendees a performance from a living legend. Since his 1978 contribution to Living Chicago Blues, Volume 1 with Alligator Records, Johnson has garnered international acclaim because of his soulful guitar and vocals. 

The festival finale is a show stopper at 8 p.m. with Chicago Blues: Old School, New Millennium featuring James Cotton, John Primer, Billy Branch, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, Lil' Ed, Deitra Farr, Demetria Taylor, Matt Skoller, Billy Flynn, Johnny Iguana Felton Crews & Kenny "Beedeyes" Smith. James Cotton performed at the first Chicago Blues Festival in 1984 and this extraordinary set provides testament of the tradition and artistic genius that has established Chicago as the true "Blues Capitol of the World."

Festival Highlights

The festival in Grant Park will include music on five stages: The Petrillo Music Shell, Bud Light Crossroads Stage, Pepsi Front Porch, Mississippi Juke Joint and the Windy City Blues Society Stage.

Highlights this year include a panel discussion and centennial celebration of the legendary Pinetop Perkins which will take place on the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage on Saturday, June 8. Sunday, June 9 will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Delmark Records on the Petrillo Music Shell and the Bud Light Crossroads Stage. Also on June 9, a special tribute to Chicago bluesman Magic Slim, who passed away earlier in 2013, will take place on the Pepsi Front Porch Stage.

A Breakdown For People Who Don't Like to Read


Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park
6:30 p.m. - 6:50 p.m. Fernando Jones' Blues Kids of America
7:10 p.m. - 7:40 p.m. Jamiah On Fire & The Red Machine
8 p.m. - 9 p.m. Shemekia Copeland with special guest Quinn Sullivan


Bud Light Crossroads Stage
11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Dented Trucks
12:45 p.m. - 2 p.m. Toronzo Cannon
2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Mississippi Heat
4:15 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Kevin Purcell and the Nightburners

Mississippi Juke Joint Stage
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Panel Discussion -The Mississippi Blues Trail with Alex Thomas, Jim O'Neal & Scott Barretta
12:45 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Terry "Harmonica" Bean
1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. Lightnin' Malcolm
3 p.m. - 4 p.m. Bill "Howlin Madd" Perry
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band
6 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. Kenny "Beedeyes" Smith Blues Ja.m.

Pepsi Front Porch Stage
Noon - 1 p.m. Blues In The Schools withStone Academy, Eric Noden, Katherine Davis
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Donna Herula and Tony Nardiello
3 p.m. - 4 p.m. The Jimmy Burns Band
4:30p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Cicero Blake

Petrillo Music Shell - Headliners
6 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. Earnest "Guitar" Roy
7:05 p.m. - 8:05 p.m. Irma Thomas
8:30p.m. - 9:30 p.m. Bobby Rush and his Blues Band


Bud Light Crossroads Stage
11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Bobby Slim James
12:45 p.m. - 2 p.m. Michael Coleman and the New Back Breakers
2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Peaches and the Grove Shakers
4:15 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Mike Avery and West Side Soul

Mississippi Juke Joint Stage
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Panel Discussion (Pinetop Perkins 100th B-Day) with Pat Morgan, Barrelhouse Chuck & Kenny "Beedyeyes" Smith
1:00 p.m. - 2 p.m. The Peterson Brothers Band
2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Eddie Taylor, Jr.
4 p.m. - 5 p.m. Castro Coleman
5:30 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. Tribute to Howlin'Wolf featuring Eddie Shaw and friends

Pepsi Front Porch Stage
Noon - 1 p.m. Liz Mandeville and the Blue Points
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Khalif Wailin' Walter
3 p.m. - 4 p.m. Holle Thee Maxwell
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Larry McCray

Petrillo Music Shell - Headliners
5 p.m. - 6 p.m. Ronnie Baker Brooks
6:30 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. Otis Clay and the Platinum Band featuring Uvee Hayes
8:10 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. The Memphis Soul Revue starring The Bar-Kays with special guests Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice


Bud Light Crossroads Stage
11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Willie Buck
12:45 p.m. - 2 p.m. Dave Weld & Imperial Flames
2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Grana Louise & TroubleMake
4:15 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Lindsey Alexander Blues Band

Mississippi Juke Joint Stage
11:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Panel Discussion - Delmark Records 60th withBob Koester and Steve Wagner
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Nellie Tiger Travis
2 p.m. - 3 p.m. Vickie Baker
3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Big Time Sarah and Mike Wheeler Blues Band
5 p.m. - 6 p.m. Jarekus Singleton
6:30 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. Blues Jam Session with Jarekus Singleton

Pepsi Front Porch Stage
Noon - 12:45 p.m. Fruteland Jackson
1 p.m. - 2 p.m. Lurrie Bell's Chicago Blues Band
2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. John Primer Trio & Michal Prokop Trio (Czech Republic)
4:15 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Magic Slim Tribute featuring Shawn Holt & The Teardrops
Petrillo Music Shell - Headliners
5:30 p.m. -6:15 p.m. Shirley Johnson
6:35 p.m. - 7:35 p.m. Jimmy Johnson Band
8 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Chicago Blues: Old School, New Millennium


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