Chicago Blues Festival to Celebrate Legacy of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon

February 3, 2015

Centennial tribute performances by friends and family of the legendary bluesmen will cap the annual festival June 12-14 in Grant Park

Mary May, 312.744.0576

Christine Carrino, 312.744.0573

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is pleased to announce a special centennial celebration honoring Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon at the 32nd Annual Chicago Blues Festival this June 12 through June 14 along the shores of Lake Michigan in Grant Park. The weekend of free blues performances will culminate with a centennial celebration at the Petrillo Music Shell honoring Muddy Waters, the “father of modern Chicago blues,” and Willie Dixon, the “poet laureate of the blues,” on Sunday, June 14, beginning at 5:30pm.

Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon were part of the “great migration” of African Americans from the southern United States to Chicago in the late 1930s and 40s. With Dixon’s music and lyrics and Water’s electric guitar they are the nexus that transformed the Delta blues to the Chicago sound. Together they have influenced generations of musicians like the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry and countless other blues, jazz and rock-n-roll artists.

The two Chicago blues legends each had a hand in the origins of the Chicago Blues Festival. On August 30, 1969, Willie Dixon along with Murphy Dunne (Blues Brothers) produced a blues concert at the former Chicago Band Shell located in Grant Park at 11th Street. The 10 hour precursor to today’s festival included performances by Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Walter Horton, Sam Lay, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Little Milton, Koko Taylor, Big Mama Thornton, Junior Wells and ended with Muddy Waters performing "Got My Mojo Workin." Fifteen years later, the first Chicago Blues Festival was held in 1984 in honor Muddy Waters, who had passed away the year before. This year’s festival, coinciding with the centennial of both musicians’ birth year, will now pay tribute with performance by protégés, former band mates, friends and family members.

Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues will kick-off the June 14 finale event at 5:30pm at the Petrillo Music Shell. Branch, a Willie Dixon protegé, is an award-winning artist who honed his harmonica skills with harp masters Big Walter Horton, James Cotton and Carey Bell. As a staunch ambassador for the genre, Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues have travelled the world keeping the cultural legacy alive for generations to come.

The Willie Dixon centennial tribute will follow at 6:30pm featuring Billy Branch, Keshia Dixon, Tomika Dixon, Freddie Dixon, Alex Dixon, Bobby Dixon, Sugar Blue and John Watkins, among others. Dixon penned blues classics like “Wang Dang Doodle”, a song made famous by blues queen Koko Taylor and “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” for Muddy Waters. There were countless others he wrote for and performed with including Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

At 8:15pm Muddy Waters, the man who electrified the blues will be celebrated with a jam session by former band members, family and friends. The tribute will include Bob Margolin, Mud Morganfield, Big Bill Morganfield, John Primer, Rick Kreher, Bob Stroger, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, E.G. McDaniel, Paul Oscher, Jerry Portnoy and Barrelhouse Chuck.

The Chicago Blues Festival is FREE and open from 11am to 9:30pm daily. The Petrillo Music Shell will feature headliners from 6pm to 9:30pm on Friday, June 12, and Saturday, June 13. The stage will run 5:30pm to 9:30pm on Sunday, June 14.

Beginning each day at 11am, the Budweiser Crossroads stage, the Jackson Rhythm and Blues stage and the Pepsi Front Porch contribute to the festival’s reputation as an internationally acclaimed and free admission event. The line-up specifically highlights local and national musicians that celebrate the genres rich tradition and heritage.

A complete line-up and schedule for all stages, as well as preview events, will be released this spring.

Leading up to the Chicago Blues Festival, during May and June there will be several preview performances and film screenings held at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) and Chicago Public Library locations throughout the city. The “official” Chicago Blues Festival preview on Daley Plaza is set for Monday, June 8.

The 32nd Annual Chicago Blues Festival is presented by the City of Chicago and produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events with the following sponsors: Aquafina, Bud Light, Communications Direct, LaGrou Distribution System, Pepsi, Southwest Airlines, VISITJACKSON.COM and 93XRT.

For more information, please visit To plan your trip to Chicago for the Blues Festival this June 12-14, visit Join the conversation on Facebook (Chicago Blues Festival) and follow us on Twitter, @ChicagoDCASE (#ChiBluesFest).

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.


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