Chicago Blues Festival

The internationally acclaimed festival is designed to celebrate and remember the blues tradition and heritage. The 3-day festival features five distinct stages that tell the story of the Blues using various Blues music styles. .

The Blues Fest is the largest free blues festival in the world and remains the largest of Chicago's Music Festivals. The 27th annual festival opening Friday is expected to attract more than 640,000 blues to prove that Chicago is the "Blues Capital of the World." Past performers include Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, B.B. King, the late Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy and the late Koko Taylor. This year's festival will feature Chicago's hometown favorites and performers from around the country. The line up includes: Corky Siegel, Dave Weld and The Imperial Flames, Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang, Hubert Sumlin, Sam Lay, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Billy Boy Arnold, Grady Champion and dozens more.

Blues Fest will be held Friday through Sunday from 11 am to 9:30 pm in along the city's lakefront in Grant Park at Jackson and Columbus. For a complete schedule and information on related events, visit: or call or call 312-744-3370.

Here's a sample of the line up: on Friday, the Front Porch stage features west side guitarist Jimmy Dawkins, Taildragger, George Brock, Henry and Café R&B. The most eclectic platform, the Gibson Guitar Crossroads stage will play host to Dave Weld, Abb Locke, Mary Lane --a west side woman singer and Mississippian Grady Champion.

The Mississippi Juke Joint stage features artists, from the delta, that include Chicagoan Sam Lay, a veteran of playing with Howlin Wolf and the first cross-cultural blues band led by Paul Butterfield. The last set is a festival jam led by Mississippi Blues musicians. The ZonePerfect Route 66 Roadhouse opens each day with a harmonica lesson by Joe Filisko, a Chicagoan who travels around the world performing and teaching his craft. Here too, a discussion about Wolf, that will feature those who knew him best. And each day will end with Chicagoans East of Edens Soul Express spinning classic blues music.

Artists on the Petrillo Music Shell include Otis Taylor, James Cotton and Matt "Guitar' Murphy, both are former sidemen and band mates of Wolf. The show ends with Zora Young, Chicago singer and Wolf kin, and special guest Hubert Sumlin.

On Saturday, get a "Spoonful" of bands from traditional Chicago Blues ensembles and the Soul/Blues artists of today. In the afternoon catch local bluesman Toronzo Cannon, world renowned harmonica player –Sugar Blues. And first time featured artist Sonny Rhodes, who plays the peddle steel guitar-unique in the blues world. Also featured this afternoon is a discussion with Dr. William Ferris, a renowned folklorist. The Petrillo stage opens with Nellie Travis, Bobby Parker follows and the evening closes with a Grammy nominated set- Chicago Blues: A Living History with Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell and Carlos Johnson.

On Sunday, you will be "Sittin on Top of the World," as the day opens with Linda Tillery and her Cultural Heritage Choir featuring percussive and a capella singers. This set is followed by Maxwell Street veteran-Dancin' Perkins, 2010 Grammy Award winner for Traditional Blues category-Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Guitar Shorty, who has a new release on Alligator Records; and the stage closes with Chicago blues fusion band Lubriphonic.

Sunday evening also features Chicago Father and daughter set-Vance and Vivian Kelly, Erwin Helfer's Chicago Boogie Woogie set that showcases the earliest sounds of Chicago Blues, a Chicago Blues Reunion that features Barry Goldberg --Steve Miller's first band leader -- Harvey Mandel, veteran of Canned Heat and the Rolling Stones, Nick Gravenites, composer of "Born in Chicago", Corky Siegel and special guests Sam Lay and Charlie Musselwhite. The festival closes with 2009 Soul Blues Award winner TK Soul.

In addition, there will be an academic Blues symposium at Dominican University, and noon concerts held at Millennium Park as well as a "Special Music Without Borders" collaboration on the Pritzker Pavilion Thursday, June 10 in honor of Howlin' Wolf's birthday.


11 am to 9: 30 pm
Friday through Sunday
Grant Park
Jackson at Columbus, Chicago

ABOUT GRADY CHAMPION 2010 International Blues Challenge (IBC) Winner
Grady Champion is a blues singer and harmonica player from Mississippi who got his start in the music business as a rapper, appearing as MC Gold. In 1993, he was introduced to traditional Blues, while living in Miami and began programming and writing raps to Blues samples. He entered the McDonald's Music Festival and was runner-up, rapping the Blues. The producer of the event, Milana Beamon, asked him back the next year to sing the blues and he was hooked. Grady began to buy and listen to traditional Blues artists, like Sony Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and others. He went to Tobacco Road, the oldest club in Miami where he sang at the Monday Night Blues Jam. In 1998, he recorded his first blues CD, entitled, "Goin' Back Home" (on his own label, Grady Shady Music, Inc.).Shortly after the release of his CD, Grady signed his first recording deal with Shanachie Entertainment who put him in touch with producer and songwriter, Dennis Walker (producer of Robert Cray and others). Grady flew out to Los Angeles, where they recorded, "Payin' For My Sins." Grady began touring in 1999, but three years later took a break and returned to Canton, Mississippi, where he was born and raised. He went back to school and studied music at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi, while playing locally with Eddie Cotton. Grady then decided to revive his career and put together his band, The Grady Champion Revue. For more on Grady Champion visit his website


You can also hear the Blues this weekend in Evanston, where the Third Annual Blues on the North Shore kicks off on Thursday, June 10 with the Harp and Soul Festival. Blues harp that is. Harmonica is the theme for the evening featuring Bob Corritore and Friends, Patrick Rynn on guitar and Patrick James on bass, with blues drummer, Kenny Smith backing them up. Also appearing on Thursday night are Chicago's own Bob Stroger and Willie Smith. Grady Champion, 2010 International Blues Challenge winner, joins these Chicago originals all the way from Mississippi. Thursday night's special guest is Sam Lay, blues drummer, rock 'n roll drummer (who played with Bob Dylan) blues guitarist and composer. Sam will share the stage with a young harp player he mentored, Rob Stone.

Three Generations of Mississippi Delta Blues will be featured on Sunday, June 13. Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner David "Honeyboy" Edwards takes the stage along with John Primer, former guitarist for the late great Muddy Waters and Grady Champion. They will be celebrating Honeyboy's 95th birthday.

All shows are at Space, 1245 Chicago Ave, Evanston; 847.492-8860. To see the complete lineup or purchase tickets visit, or

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.