Friday, January 25, 2013

Inaugural Field of Blues Festival Lineup

2013 Inaugural Field of Blues Festival Guide to Festival Artists and Crossroads Blues Society

The Inaugural Field of Blues Festival to be held at the soon-to-be-renamed Rockford Riverhawks Stadium  on June 22nd has finalized their lineup and they have six great bands ready to be featured on stage. Crossroads Blues Society is proud to announce that Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, Willie Buck and Tail Dragger with the Rockin' Johnny Band, Toronzo Cannon, Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames, Aaron Williams and he HooDoo and the Flaming Mudcats will be the lineup for the event.This lineup gets into deep traditional, funky, and rocking blues; the energy and sound will please all blues fans and anyone else who attends.  Gates will open at 11 AM and the fun begins at noon!  Advanced tickets are only $10 and admission at the gate is $15.  Parking is $2 and ample parking is available at the stadium.

The headline act is Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials.  From working at Chicago’s Red Carpet Car Wash to appearing on national television, from gigging at the smallest ghetto blues bars to performing on the biggest international concert stages, master bluesman Lil’ Ed Williams has come a long way. Mixing smoking slide guitar boogies and raw-boned Chicago shuffles with the deepest slow-burners, Lil’ Ed and his blistering Blues Imperials – bassist James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton – deliver the blues, from gloriously riotous and rollicking to intensely emotional and moving. Not since the heyday of Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers has a blues band made such a consistently joyful noise. Currently celebrating 24 rip-roaring years together, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials ply their musical talents with skills that have been honed to a razor’s edge. As much a family as a band, Lil’ Ed, Pookie, Mike and Kelly have outlasted sports stars and presidents, musical fads and fashion trends. And together, they continue to make blues history with each and every performance and new recording.  The band won the prestigious Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year in both 2007 and 2009 and also took home the Best Live Band Award in the 2011 Living Blues Critics’ Poll. Blues Revue said, “Listen and hear how a great blues player can make a guitar weep…Lil’ Ed is a blues master at the top of his game.”

Delmark Records are celebrating their 60th Anniversary and we have three hot acts from their stable of blues artists coming out to our festival.  Two men with roots back to the heyday of Chicago Blues will be coming out to pay tribute to them.  Willie Buck and Tail Dragger will perform in the Muddy Waters vs. Howlin’ Wolf Tribute with Rockin’ Johnny Burgin and his band backing them up.  Blues vocalist Willie Buck was born in 1937 in the small town of Houston, Mississippi. Willie performed on what became known as the "Chittlin Circuit" bouncing between Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, North & South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Shortly after developing his reputation, Willie migrated to Chicago in 1953 where he truly immersed himself in the Chicago Blues scene and became a real force on "Maxwell Street". Willie Buck has been leading his own bands for over 40 years.  Willie was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Chicago in the summer of 2004.  James Yancy Jones, aka Tail Dragger, was born in Altheimer, AR, in 1940. He was brought up by his grandparents and was influenced as a child by the electric Chicago blues of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and especially Chester Burnett, the Howlin' Wolf. Jones was a Howlin' Wolf devotee, right down to his deep, gruff voice. After moving to Chicago in the '60s, he began playing with blues legends on the West Side and South Side. It was Howlin' Wolf who gave Jones the title "Tail Dragger" because of his habit of showing up late to gigs. When Jones first appeared on the Chicago blues circuit he was known as Crawlin' James. A number of local West Side and South Side blues artists, including Hubert Sumlin, Carey Bell, Eddie Shaw, Mack Simmons, and Willie Kent, got their start playing in Tail Dragger's bands.   The two together enjoy the backing of guitarist Johnny Burgin, who came to Chicago from South Carolina to attend the University of Chicago, and earned the name "Rockin' Johnny" as a DJ at the college radio station WHPK. Rockin' Johnny began playing in the ghetto clubs of Chicago's West Side with blues singer Tail Dragger, and then began touring nationally as a sideman with former Howlin' Wolf drummer Sam Lay and blues piano legend Pinetop Perkins. After learning from the masters, he put his own band together.  The Rockin' Johnny Band plays vintage Chicago blues, but also is known for a wide repertoire which ventures into Stax style soul, swing, and lots of originals that are harder to classify. On stage, the band performs with spontaneity and fun, always showcasing fantastic guitar playing. The band consists of true veterans: Rick Kreher (rhythm guitar) played rhythm guitar with Muddy Waters for four years; John Sefner (bass) was formerly with Studebaker John and Eddie Kirkland; and Steve Bass (drums) also plays with Chicago blues legend Eddy Clearwater.

One thing missing from Lil’ Ed’s bio is that his co-conspirator in Westside and slide guitar and original band member was a guy named Dave Weld.  As a child Weld heard the blues on old records and determined that he would become a professional musician. While studying in New Mexico, he was tutored on guitar by Kurt Black. He teamed up with the Hound Dogs, the legacy band of Hound Dog Taylor, which featured Brewer Phillips and Ted Harvey. He also worked at one point with the Howlin’ Wolf legacy band. In the mid-70s, Weld was back in Chicago where he interviewed J.B. Hutto for an article for Living Blues magazine. He extended his knowledge of blues guitar by taking tuition from Hutto, eventually becoming especially adept as a slide player. He also met up with fellow slide guitarist Lil Ed Williams, a nephew and also a pupil of Hutto’s. Weld, Williams and James Young, another of Hutto’s nephews, started playing together as Little Ed And The Blues Imperials in some of Chicago’s least salubrious blues clubs. In the late 80s, Weld led a band he named the Imperial Flames, touring internationally.  In the 90s, Weld and Williams sometimes teamed up as their band was in demand and was frequently booked into leading Chicago blues clubs. Weld received rave reviews for his appearance at the 1997 Weld made his first visit to the UK where he was very successful.  Caring for a terminally ill relative has limited Dave’s ability to effectively tour but it also shows the heart and compassion of this great musician.  The current band is staffed by veteran sax player Abb Locke (who has toured and played with all the Chicago greats and the Rolling Stones), the smooth voiced Jeff Taylor on drums , the sexy tones of Monica Mhyre on vocals, and the ever-funky Dave Kaye on bass.  Dave and the band take traditional urban Westside Chicago into a new direction with this superb lineup.  They have picked up their touring schedule and are always in demand here in the US and in Europe!

Growing up in the shadows Chicago's blues mecca, Theresa's Lounge, had a lasting effect on Toronzo Cannon. As a kid, Toronzo would listen to the raw, soulful sounds of legends like Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. "It wasn't just the music that got me, but the effect on the people. I knew right then, that was what I was gonna do." These experiences led him to pick up his first guitar as a teenager and begin to learn to sing and play the sounds he heard. Inspired by the three Kings (Freddie, B.B. and Albert), a little Hendrix and some 70's R&B/Soul, Toronzo soon developed his own sound. "If I wasn’t gigging I was hitting every jam session I could find. I couldn’t get enough." It was during this time that he developed his own powerful, gospel-flavored vocal style and electrifying stage presence.  After playing rhythm guitar with local artists like Wayne Baker Brooks and Joanna Connor, Toronzo decided to form his own band, The Cannonball Express. He immediately was in demand, playing some of Chicago’s greatest blues venues and then clubs and festivals nationwide.  This will be a funky, energy-filled set.

Aaron Williams and the HooDoo formed as a trio in May of 2008; Aaron Williams (Vocals, Guitar), Eric Shackelford (Drums, Vocals) and Z (Bass, Vocals) have the blues deeply rooted in the music they love to play. The trio all met while Aaron was hosting a blues jam at the now defunct club, The Cuda CafĂ© in Madison.  Word spread quickly beyond their hometown and the trio began to tour all over the Midwest playing sold out shows in North Dakota, Illinois and Indiana. As the band continues to grow musically they’ve fused blues, roots and rock music into and original sound that a growing fan base is recognizing and following.  Aaron, like so many other determined young player’s had a veteran musician to learn the craft from, none other then his father, Hammond organist, Cadillac Joe Andersen.  Cadillac Joe, noticing his kid’s prowess for the blues signed him on for his next project, The Cadillac Joe Blues Band. Touring the Midwest extensively with his father, Aaron was able to learn the craft and business of music. With the stock rising on the Cadillac Joe Blues Band, one of the top blues clubs in the Midwest, Luther Blues in Madison, took them on as their house band. This gave Aaron a large following and he was able to play with some of the foremost blues players in the world. Shemekia Copeland, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Carey Bell, Lil’ Ed, Anthony Gomes, Ana Popovic, Taj Mahal, Canned Heat and the list goes on.  Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo’s music is unwavering, filtering blues, soul, roots, and rock through a prism of emotional authenticity. What emerges isn’t a reinvention of the wheel, rather something undeniable, and the very definition of a force of nature. It’s real American music at its core and at its best.

Opening the day will be a firm favourite in Auckland’s Blues scene (as in Auckland, New Zealand), as well as at national and international festivals, The Flaming Mudcats are a band that is well versed on what it takes to please a crowd, exhibiting levels of professionalism and musicianship that makes it easy to become a dedicated fan.  The pieces don’t just fit together seamlessly, they belong together. Craig Bracken (Vocals & Harmonica), Doug Bygrave (Guitar), Ian Thomson (Drums) and Sean McCarthy (Bass Guitar) are a rip snortin', fire breathin' outfit that puts heart and soul into every note they play. Often gritty, sometimes raw, they hold nothing back and play the blues like they had no choice in the matter. Tinged with hints of Little Walter, George 'Harmonica' Smith, Magic Sam and Jimmie Vaughan, the ensemble lays down deep grooves marked by solos with an innate swing that is always impressive.  The Mudcats ooze personality, and pull off the tricky task of playing tribute to their heroes without slavishly ripping them off.  While their music may sound vintage, their attitude is definitely current. They confidently move through different components of the blues — shuffles, soul, funk, four on the floor rock and roll and low down blues. Harmonica, incorporated with Jimmie Vaughan and Ike Turner-inspired guitar licks is backed by the band’s hard working rhythm section (who are neither too loud or too showy.  The Flaming Mudcats mission is to smile in your face and then kick you in the ass, musically speaking.  They succeed. Audiences have bruises to prove it!

Between sets the illustrious Steve Ditzell will be featured to entertain the crowds.  A blues guitarist with an inborn knack for timing and phrasing, Steve Ditzell has performed consistently since 1976. He started out in Chicago where he performed on the Blues Stage at the Chicago Fest, and went on to tour the U.S. and Canada with Fenton Robinson Band. He then joined Koko Taylor & her Blues Machine and toured Mexico with Son Seals, Willie Dixon, Blind John Davis, and Muddy Waters and was later the lead guitarist for Big Mama Thornton & the Jay McShann Jazz Orchestra in New York City's Carnegie Hall. Ditzell once again toured the U.S. and Canada, with the Junior Wells and Buddy Guy blues band and played festivals with Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Junior Wells. He toured Brazil with Junior Wells, Albert Collins, and Buddy Guy and frequenty gigged with Junior Wells during the '90s.  Ditzell also formed his own band in the ‘90s, the Blue Lightning Band, where most of his recent time and work have been focused.  The ultimate buitar player, Rockford loves this multiple RAMI award nominee and winner.

The Crossroads Blues Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that primarily raises funds in order to host Blues In The Schools (BITS) programs in the greater Rockford area of northern Illinois.  These programs are fully funded by CBS and there is absolutely no cost to area schools for these programs.  BITS is a nationally acclaimed cultural and musical appreciation program that helps students understand the rural and urban African-American culture.  Age appropriate content is formatted to deliver high quality learning experiences that meet the goals and fulfill the mission of   Blues In The Schools, Inc.  Based on this premise, this program was developed to suit the needs of students in a variety of settings from organizations to schools.  Crossroads works to raise funds through membership, donations and festivals.  Crossroads collect annual dues from members who share our conviction to keep the blues alive.

They have held blues festivals in Byron for the past three years in conjunction with the Downtown Byron Bar Association and continue that partnership (the 4th Annual Byron Crossroads Blues Festival will be held in downtown Byron, IL, on Saturday, August 24, 2013.  This new Field of Blues Festival will become the major funding source for BITS.  The funds that are raised and collected each year are used to host several Spring and Fall BITS programs in area schools.  By the time the festival rolls around they will have completed 116 programs for about 35,000 students in the eleven years of conducting BITS. Staffed entirely by volunteers, the group is a dedicated collection of blues lovers led by Steve Jones (President and Festival Chair), Karl Dahlin (Vice President), Al McNary (Treasurer), Bonnie Fox (Secretary) and Board Members Rich Gordon, Rick Davis, Dennis Barker, Bob Haendler and Terry Keller.

Crossroads hopes that the Inaugural Field of Blues Festival is something the greater Rockford area enjoys and becomes a staple for the music scene for many years to come.  Crossroads would like to thank all their sponsors, volunteers and members who have helped to make this happen!


  1. We've swapped the order for Toronzo Cannon and Dave Weld.

    Toronzo will appear at 3 PM and Dave and his band at 5 PM now.