Ann Arbor Blues Festival features impressive lineup

For the first time since 2006, the legendary Ann Arbor Blues Festival will hit the stage on Aug. 19 at the Washtenaw Farm Council Fairgrounds starting at 1 p.m.

This year’s lineup features Benny Turner and Real Blues with special guests Deacon Jones and Brandon ‘Taz’ Niederauer. Also on the bill are The Nick Moss Band, Eliza Neals and the Narcotics, The Chris Canas Band, The Norman Jackson Band and Hank Mowery & the Hawktones.


The world’s first electric blues festival was held in Ann Arbor in August 1969. That’s when a small group of University of Michigan students gathered what may have been the greatest lineup of blues musicians who ever lived for a three-day celebration of Chicago-style blues.

The lineup included such legends as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker, Luther Allison, Big Mama Thornton, Charlie Musselwhite, Buddy Guy and T-Bone Walker.

The lineup in 1970 was equally star-studded, cementing Ann Arbor’s reputation as the premier blues festival in the country. By 1972, the festival had been rechristened as the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, adding Count Basie and Miles Davis to its growing roster of music industry legends attracted to this midwestern mecca of jazz and blues.
Atlantic Records released a two-record live album of the 1972 Blues and Jazz Festival, featuring performances by Koko Taylor, Freddie King, Sun Ra, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, and Otis Rush, among others.

Like all good things, however, the shine eventually faded, and the last Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival was held in 2006.

Recognizing that the approaching 50th anniversary of the mother of all blues festivals could not go unheralded, a small group of blues enthusiasts began the process of recreating and re-energizing the spirit of those early blues festivals. Along the way, they invited a new generation of up-and-coming blues musicians to share the stage with the world’s legends, some of whom were present at the iconic festivals of the 1960s and 1970s.

While this year’s event will be just a single day, organizers anticipate that 2018 will be larger and that 2019’s festival will be a celebration worthy of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival pedigree.

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