Logan Center Bluesfest

October 19-21, 2018

The line up for the 2018 Bluesfest has been announced!

The Logan Center continues its tradition of celebrating and promoting the rich cultural landscape of Chicago's South Side with a three day festival of concerts, workshops, film, and conversation. From October 19–21, 2018, the Logan Center Bluesfest will feature local and national musicians and artists in spaces throughout the Logan Center.

Many of the events during the Logan Center Bluesfest are free. Tickets are now available for certain ticketed events!

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2018 Logan center Bluesfest SCHEDULE

OCTOBER 19-21, 2018



Purchase tickets to concerts and RSVP for events at tickets.uchicago.edu.


  • 5 -7pm - Exhibition Opening for "Ernest C. Withers: Documenting Memphis Music", Free, Café Logan
    Ernest C. Withers was photographer whose voluminous catalog of arresting black-and-white images illustrates a history of life in the segregated South in the 1950s and ’60s, from the civil rights movement to the Memphis music scene. This exhibition will focus on the his photos from the Memphis’s bustling Beale Street blues scene including rarely seen images of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King, Aretha Franklin, Ma Rainey and Memphis Slim. The exhibition runs September 21 – December 15.

  • 5:30pm - John Primer and Steve Bell, Free, Café Logan

    Two time Grammy nominated Blues guitar and vocal legend John Primer (former guitarist for the Muddy Waters Band) will kick the festival off accompanied by harpist extraordinaire Steve Bell. His life long relationship with John Primer is reflected in the tightness of their sound and amazing chemistry on stage.

  • 7:30pm - Chris Thomas King, with Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton opening

    $15 general admission/$5 for 21 and under/$35 as part of the Bluesfest Pass - PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

    An evening of acoustic Blues with two of the most powerful and interesting artists in Blues music today. We will celebrate the two different paths these artists have set out on to arrive at a place where the musical traditions of their ancestors are kept vital and relevant. Paxton, through his faithful, passionate and technically awe inspiring rendering of the Jazz, Blues and Country music of the 1920’s and 30’s and King who has mastered the techniques of old while continuing the tradition of allowing the “rhythm of his own time” to inform everything he plays.
    Following the performance, the multiple Grammy Award nominated- and winning King will sit down for interview by Chicago-based writer/deejay/musician James Porter.


  • 1-2:30pm - Chicago Blues: an Urban Experience, Free, Performance Penthouse

    Join us for an event premiering “Chicago Blues: an Urban Experience” featuring the archives (video and audio) of Barry Dolins, who ran the Chicago Blues Festival for over 25 years and interviewed countless artists in his various roles. Barry is currently an “artist-in-residence” with Media Burn Archive to help digitize his valuable recordings from 1982-1984.

  • 1:30-2:30pm - Adult Workshop with Bill Sims Jr., Free, RSVP RECOMMENDED

    In this lecture-demostration workshop with Bill Sims Jr. we will explore Country Blues from the earliest practitioners starting with Charley Patton to Chicago Blues. We will explore the prevalence of the open keys E,A,C and also the open tunings in country Blues and why it was so popular: the ease at which chords could be played allowing the player to concentrate on the real heart of the Blues: the vocals.

  • 3-4pm Blues Workshop for Youth with Katherine Davis (Ages 11-16), Free, RSVP RECOMMENDED

    Katherine Davis will talk about the roots of Blues Music history and the spiritual function of Blues within the African American community and culture. With an emphasis on the great migration she will discuss how Blues is a music of survival, celebration and communication. This will be combined with a demonstration and workshop on a cappella vocal techniques engaging the students in sing alongs, call and response and harmony. 

  • 3-4pm “Blues Everywhere I Go” with Zahra Baker (Ages 7-10), Free, RSVP RECOMMENDED

    This blues singing workshop will entertain, engage and demonstrate how personal experiences are communicated using folk and blues forms. We will focus on creating and singing blues about simple day to day living. Come participate in the writing and singing of blues lyrics specific to your family and community’s moods, experiences, personal interests, values, affirmations, hopes and dreams. We will draw inspiration from Langston Hughes poetry and Blues artists including Leadbelly, Odetta and Robert Johnson.  Participants will leave with a heightened sense of the power of this expressive communication.

  • 3-3:45pm  - “Bitten by the Blues” Book release and Q&A with Bruce Iglauer and Patrick A Roberts, Free, Performance Penthouse

    Bitten by the Blues is Iglauer’s memoir of a life immersed in the blues—and the business of the blues.  In this book, Iglauer takes us behind the scenes, offering unforgettable stories of those charismatic musicians and classic sessions, delivering an intimate and unvarnished look at what it’s like to work with the greats of the blues. It’s a vivid portrait of some of the extraordinary musicians and larger-than-life personalities who brought America’s music to life in the clubs of Chicago’s South and West Sides. Bitten by the Blues is also an expansive history of half a century of blues in Chicago and around the world, tracing the blues recording business through massive transitions, as a genre of music originally created by and for black southerners adapted to an influx of white fans and musicians and found a worldwide audience.

  • 4pm:  Fernando Jones’ Blues Kids of America, Free, Café Logan

    Blues Kids is an internationally recognized multicultural, interdisciplinary, artist-in-residency music program founded by musician, author and educator, Fernando Jones. It is designed to help improve literacy through music in a hands-on, nurturing environment.   Join us in kicking off their 30th Anniversary season and Blues Camp's 10th Anniversary season with this free and intimate concert.

  • 5-6pmLIFE STORIES -August Wilson, The Blues…and then some, Free, RESERVATIONS REQUIRED

    Tony Award winning Actor/Director/Writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson (JITNEY, Lackawanna Blues, Seven Guitars) delivers a presentation on the significant influence of the Blues on the plays of August Wilson and others. Through readings, music, and his personal experiences with August Wilson, Santiago-Hudson demonstrates and discusses the direct correlation of the Blues and the plays of August Wilson. With special guest, OBIE and Drama Desk winner, Grammy nominated composer/musician Bill Sims, Jr. (The Piano Lesson, JITNEY, Two Trains Running)

  • 6pm: Bill Sims Jr, Free, Café Logan

    Grammy nominated master musician/composer Bill Sims will do a solo performance that will take us into his personal world of Blues music that spans several generations and styles. From field hollers and deep Delta Blues stylings to more modern grooves Bill conjures the spirit of his ancestors while staying firmly rooted in the ‘here and now’.      

  • 7:30pm:  Sanctified and Secular: Sisters in the Blues- Ruthie Foster with Deitra Farr and Leanne Faine

    $20 general admission/$5 for 21 and under/$35 as part of the Bluesfest Pass - PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

    In this program we take a journey into the wide intersection where Blues and Gospel music reside together, in harmony. We begin our program with one of the most dynamic and accomplished voices in Chicago Gospel history: Leanne Faine.  She is a shameless Blues lover and shows through her song choice and arrangements the sisterhood that exists between traditional Gospel music and Blues music. Next we have world renowned, Chicago born (Southside) vocalist and songwriter Deitra Farr whose deep Chicago Blues roots and knowledge are combined with a poet’s sensibility.  Having been raised listening to Gospel and Blues at home, the powerful influence of Gospel music in her Blues and Soul singing is palpable. Headlining our event is Texas Blues woman Ruthie Foster who was born into a family of Gospel singers. Ruthie, with a singer/songwriter sensibility moves seamlessly through all genres of roots music with equal portions of Blues and Gospel influencing everything she does. 

  • 10:30pm - Pro-Am Jam with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, Free, Performance Penthouse



  • 11-1pm: Blues Brunch: Johnny Iguana and Michael Caskey from The Claudette’s

    $20 with food, $10 for just music, PURCHASE TICKETS HERE (Event not included in Bluesfest Pass)

    Inspired by the '60s piano-drums recordings of Otis Spann and S.P Leary, pianist Johnny Iguana and drummer Michael Caskey formed The Claudettes in 2011. The band has since evolved into a four-piece group with vocals and guitars, but the original concept of the group (as heard on their early recordings) was a piano-drums instrumental blues duo. Johnny had toured with Junior Wells and Otis Rush and recorded with many Chicago blues legends (as well as his own cult-favorite punk-organ band Oh My God), and Michael had grown up playing drums for multiple bluesmen in Detroit and is now one of the most in-demand drummers in Chicago.

  • 12-1:30pmIntergenerational Blues Poetry Workshop with avery r. young, Free, RSVP RECOMMENDED

    A blues poetry and lyric writing workshop with Chicago poet and performer avery r. young. Using the song “Grandmas Hands” by Bill Withers and others as the example texts, participants will create 2 standard blues verses about member(s) of their biological &/or chosen family.

  • 1-2pm - Circumnavigating the Blues Line of Literature with Tyehimba Jess, Free, RSVP RECOMMENDED

    Join Pultizer-Prize winning poet, UChicago alum and educator Tyehimba Jess (AB '91) in a workshop about examining the history of The Music, African American song, as a tether to the political, personal and social realities of everyday life.  Space is limited.  RESERVATIONS REQUIRED

  • 2-3:30pm - Exploring "American Epic", including a discussion with members of the Creative Team including producer, Allison McGourty, Free, Logan Screening Room

    American Epic is an award-winning documentary series about the first recordings of rural music in the U.S.A. and their cultural, social and technological impact on the world. Using the last surviving electrical sound recording system from 1925, meticulously rebuilt for this film, The American Epic Sessions documents twenty contemporary artists, paying tribute to their early influences and the technology that gave birth to popular music.  Using recent interviews, early recordings, and a wide range of period film, photographs, and documents, many of them previously unknown or unpublished, American Epic explores the varied sources and extensive impact of this explosion of American popular culture.  https://www.americanepic.com/

  • 4pm-4:45pm - Live Interview: Billy Branch Interviews his mentor and friend, the poet Sterling Plumpp, Free, Logan Performance Hall

  • 5pm - Stories Untold: Tyehimba Jess, Sterling Plumpp and Billy Branch, Free, Performance Hall

    This collaborative event features poet, author and educator, Sterling Plumpp and two of his mentees; Pulitzer Prize winning poet Tyehimba Jess (AB ’91) and three-time Grammy nominee and Chicago blues musician Billy Branch. Plumpp and Jess have contributed to an extensive history of writers synthesizing the blues into poetry. For Plumpp, it's been through books such as Blues: The Story Always Untold (1989) and Ornate With Smoke (1997), and for Jess, the processes of combining the narratives, the feelings, and the music have appeared in Leadbelly (2005) and Olio (2016). Joined by Billy Branch on harmonica, Plumpp and Jess will read relevant works and the event will culminate in a discussion about the Chicago's Blues scene, its impact on literature, and some of the international ramifications of these connections.   

  • 7pm - Charlie Musselwhite, also featuring a Chicago Blues Harmonica Summit

    $15 general admission/$5 for 21 and under/$35 as part of the Bluesfest Pass - PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

    The legendary Charlie Musselwhite is more than a great harmonica player—he's a consummate Chicago bluesman with roots that stretch to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker and many other giants of the genre. Grammy Award winner - and multiple Grammy nominee - Musselwhite released his first album in 1966 and has been at it ever since. Although long revered among Blues aficionados—Musselwhite was the model for the Blues Brothers parody of the briefcase-toting harp player—he also enjoys wider appeal as a solo performer and an accompanist for a diverse lineup of Rock, Pop, Gospel and Soul artists. Now 72 years old, Musselwhite shows no signs of slowing down, with his most recent albums among his finest, demonstrating his talents as a bandleader and musical curator. 

    Closing out the 2018 Logan Center Bluesfest will be an all-star Chicago Blues Harmonica Summit beginning with a set by veteran Blues harpman (and Fest director) Matthew Skoller, a fixture on the Chicago Blues scene for over 33 years, followed by Blues harmonica legend Billy Branch, who has led the world-renowned band, The Sons of Blues, for 35 years. After Musselwhite’s set with his quartet, Skoller and Branch will join Musselwhite for a grand finale to close the festival. 


Background picture: Ruthie Foster