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2012 Chicago's Blues Festival Preview

Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago Blues Festival
Grant Park
Jackson Blvd. & Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL 60604

Price: Free
Dates: June 8, 9 and 10, 2012
Hours: Fri to Sat - 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sun - 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

With multiple stages and countless acts, it may seem tough to pick and choose who to watch at the 2012 Chicago Blues Festival. Founded in 1984, just one year after Chicago's own Muddy Waters passed away, the festival quickly grew into the largest free blues festival in the world. Some groundbreaking musicians have performed at the festival over the years, including  Etta James, B.B. King, Staple Singers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ray Charles, and Otis Rush. In the summer of 2012, there are going to be some amazing local and legendary musicians performing at Chicago's biggest music festival, and here are some acts you will not want to miss.

Jam Session with Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith
Mississippi Juke Joint Stage

Date: June 8, 2012
Hours: 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

As the night falls over the Chicago sky, you can enjoy a jam session featuring drummer Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith. Brought up in the Chicago blues scene, his father was the late Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, who was part of Muddy Water's band for nearly 30 years. His father taught him the blues from a young age, and at the 2012 Chicago Blues Festival, Kenny Smith will make you take notice of his musical gift. If you happen to miss his jam session, he will also be part of the Hubert Smith Tribute and the Muddy Waters Disciples celebration performance, both of which take place on Saturday, June 9.

Nightlife & Music Chicago Blues Festival
Photo Credit: Chicago Blues Festival via Facebook

Milton Hopkins and Jewel Brown
Petrillo Music Shell

Date: June 8, 2012
Hours: 7 p.m. to 8:05 p.m.

This year's Chicago Blues Festival will host female jazz vocalist, Jewel Brown. As an added thrill, she will be teaming up with blues guitarist Milton Hopkins to put on a must-see performance. Taught by Joe Scott, Hopkins has performed with legendary blues, R&B and jazz artists such as Little Richard, Johnny Ace and Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. Jewel Brown was part of Louis Armstrong's All Star band for seven years before retiring from music in 1971, she is out of retirement for a special treat and her performance alongside Hopkins is sure to be one that both jazz and blues fans will enjoy.

Related: Best Chicago Jazz Clubs

Tribute to Hubert Sumlin
Pepsi Front Porch Stage

Date: June 9, 2012
Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

In a hour long performance, Steady Rollin Bob Margolin, Kenny "Beedy Eye's" Smith, Dave Specter, Bob Corritore, Johnny Iguana, Eddie Shaw and Bob Stroger will pay tribute to the late Blues Foundation Hall of Fame inductee, Hubert Sumlin. The Chicago Blues Festivals always pays tribute to artists who died the previous year, and Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin left us in December of 2011. Sumlin was an electric blues guitarist and singer who has worked with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and James Cotton. Whether you are a fan of Sumlin's work with Howlin' Wolf or a lover of his his solo career, this is one performance you will not want to miss.

Floyd Taylor
Petrillo Music Shell

Date: June 9, 2012
Hours: 8:25 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Floyd Taylor is the son of the late Johnnie Taylor and, luckily for blues and R&B lovers, he has followed in his father's musical footsteps. Floyd Taylor toured with his father in the late 70s and later went on to perform with such power houses as Patti LaBelle, Natalie Cole, and Aretha Franklin. In 1998 he was voted Entertainer of the Year by the Chicago Blues Society before he even got a recording contract. This Chicago-born musician will delight your ears as he closes out Saturday night's portion of the 2012 Chicago Blues Festival.

Mavis Staples
Petrillo Music Shell

Date: Headlining June 10, 2012
Hours: 7:45 p.m. to 9 p.m.

One of the best acts to watch at the 2012 Chicago Blues Festival will be rhythm, blues and gospel singer, Mavis Staples. Hailing from Chicago, Staples began professionally singing in the 1950s as part of her family group, The Staple Singers. Her first solo album was released in 1969, and since then she has become a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Grammy winner, and a National Heritage Fellowship Award recipient. Her most recent album, You Are Not Alone, was produced by fellow Chicago musician Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Mavis Staples will close out the 2012 Chicago Blues Festival with what is expected to be a powerful and memorable performance. 

Related: Cheap Chicago Clubs With Music – For Free

Natalie Kuchik is a longtime freelance writer living in Chicago. She enjoys interviewing bands, reviewing concerts, and writing about all things entertainment related. Her work can be found at

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