In early June of each year the Chicago Blues Festival kicks off the summer music festival season in Millennium Park. The first festival was in 1984, one year after the death of celebrated blues musician Muddy Waters, and ever since it has continued to honor this great genre with fantastic musicians and lively crowds.

Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago and the Blues

Chicago's love affair with the blues goes back to the middle years of the 20th century. As African Americans migrated north from the Mississippi delta they brought this uniquely American genre of music with them.

One of those musicians was Muddy Waters. With his electric guitar he helped to create the Chicago Blues sound. Both blues clubs and record labels dedicated to the blues popped up all over the city, including the famous Chess Records and Aligator Records.

In addition to Muddy, Chicago artists Koko Taylor, Howlin Wolf, Corky Siegel and the still-jammin' Buddy Guy have made the Chicago Blues sound known all over the world.

Ruthie Foster, photo by Riccardo Piccirillo

Ruthie Foster, photo by Riccardo Piccirillo

The Chicago Blues Festival Schedule

The Chicago Blues Festival runs for three days from Friday through Sunday. The headliners hit the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stage each night, and there are side stages set up for the plethora of musicians that perform throughout the day. Past performers have included Ray Charles, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Koko Taylor, and Buddy Guy.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

  • 7:45–9pm - Bobby Rush
  • 6:30–7:30pm - Jimmy Johnson Blues Band
  • 5–6:15pm - Charlie Musselwhite with special guest Billy Boy Arnold

 

Budweiser Crossroads Stage (at South Chase Promenade)

  • 4:15–5:30pm - Bombino
  • 2:45–4pm - Guy King with special guest Chris Cain
  • 1:30–2:30pm - Thornetta Davis
  • 12:15–1:15pm - Benny Turner and Real Blues
  • 11am–12pm - Joanna Connor
 

Visit Mississippi Juke Joint Stage (at North Chase Promenade)

  • 4:15–5:30pm - Jam Session with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith
  • 3–4pm - Grady Champion
  • 1:45pm–2:45pm - Karen Wolfe
  • 12:30–1:30pm - Keith Johnson “Prince of the Delta Blues" & The Big Muddy Blues Band
  • 11:15am–12:15pm - Jimmy Burns Band

 

Front Porch Stage (at Wrigley Square)

  • 8–9pm - Vance "Guitar" Kelly & The Backstreet Blues Band
  • 6:30–7:30pm - Breezy Rodio
  • 5–6pm - Mzz Reese
  • 3:30–4:30pm - Mojo Morganfield & The Mannish Boyz
  • 2–3pm - Kenny Smith & The House Bumpers
  • 12:30–1:30pm - Bob Stroger
  • 11am–12pm - Blues in the Schools with Katherine Davis, Tim Gant, Tino Cortes, Alan Burroughs and Stone Academy

Park Grill Stage

  • 4–4:45pm - Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell Mama
  • 3–3:45pm - Eric Noden
  • 2–2:45pm - Gerry Hundt’s Legendary One-Man Band

 

Rosa’s Lounge

  • 11am–9pm

Daily showcase of Chicago Blues Legends and emerging artists that have called Rosa's Lounge home over the last 35 years.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

  • 7:45–9pm - Bettye LaVette
  • 6:30–7:30pm - Don Bryant
  • 5:15–6:15pm - Latimore

 

Budweiser Crossroads Stage (at South Chase Promenade)

  • 4:15–5:30pm - Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore with The Guilty Ones
  • 3–4pm - Billy Boy Arnold
  • 1:30–2:45pm - Rico McFarland, Carl Weathersby and Kenneth “Hollywood” Scott
  • 12:15–1:15pm - Marquise Knox
  • 11am–12pm - Melody Angel

Visit Mississippi Juke Joint Stage (at North Chase Promenade)

  • 4:15–5:30pm - Jam Session with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith
  • 3–4pm - O.B. Buchana
  • 1:45pm–2:45pm - John Primer & The Real Deal Blues Band
  • 12:30–1:30pm - Super Chikan
  • 11:15am–12:15pm - Jesse “Guitar” Robinson

 

Front Porch Stage (at Wrigley Square)

  • 8–9pm - Lurrie Bell
  • 6:30–7:30pm - Morry Sochat & The Special 20s
  • 5–6pm - Bridges to the Blues
  • 3:30–4:30pm - Dom Flemons
  • 2–3pm - Chicago Blues Piano Master—A Tribute To Otis Spann
  • 12:30–1:30pm - The Joel Paterson Organ Trio featuring Chris Foreman
  • 11am–12pm - Mary Lane

Park Grill Stage

  • 4–4:45pm - Doktu Rhute Muuzic
  • 3–3:45pm - Harmonica Hinds
  • 2–2:45pm - Dom Flemons

Rosa’s Lounge

  • 11am–9pm - Daily showcase of Chicago Blues Legends and emerging artists that have called Rosa's Lounge home over the last 35 years.
Rich King, photo courtesy Chicago DCASE

Rich King, photo courtesy Chicago DCASE

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

  • 7:45–9pm - Ruthie Foster
  • 6:30–7:30pm - The CONNECTION: Mike Welch & Friends
  • 5:15–6:15pm - Larkin Poe
 

Budweiser Crossroads Stage (at South Chase Promenade)

  • 4:15–5:30pm - Roomful of Blues with special appearance by guest vocalist Lynne Jordan
  • 2:45–4pm - Toronzo Cannon
  • 1:30–2:30pm - The Kinsey Report
  • 12:15–1:15pm - Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band
  • 11am–12pm - Omar Coleman
 

Visit Mississippi Juke Joint Stage (at North Chase Promenade)

  • 4:15–5:30pm - Jam Session with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith
  • 3–4pm - Zac Harmon
  • 1:45pm–2:45pm - Jarekus Singleton
  • 12:30–1:30pm - RL Boyce
  • 11:15am–12:15pm - King Edward

 

Front Porch Stage (at Wrigley Square)

  • 6:30–7:30pm - Mike Wheeler Band
  • 5–6pm - Russ Green
  • 3:30–4:30pm - Ivy Ford Band
  • 2–3pm - Cash Box Kings
  • 12:30–1:30pm - Erwin Helfer
  • 11am–12pm - Willie Buck

                        

Park Grill Stage

  • 4–4:45pm - Tom Holland & The Shuffle Kings
  • 3–3:45pm - Rick King’s Royal Hustle
  • 2–2:45pm - Chicago Bound Blues Band

 

Rosa’s Lounge

  • 11am–9pm - Daily showcase of Chicago Blues Legends and emerging artists that have called Rosa's Lounge home over the last 35 years.
Tom Holland

Tom Holland, photo courtesy Chicago DCASE

What You Can Bring

While you can buy tickets for food and drink, you can also bring your own. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed, but soft drinks, water, juice and anything else is. You'll specifically want to bring water. Weather in Chicago is unpredictable at best, and in June it can get hot and you'll want to be well hydrated.

You might also want to bring blankets, maybe some folding chairs, sun screen, and rain ponchos. What you don't want to bring is anything you'll worry about getting dirty. With thousands of music fans dancing and drinking you are guaranteed to get something on you. Speaking of dirty, you'll probably want to throw some hand sanitizer in your bag as well.

Getting There

Grant Park is easily accessible via public transportation. Buses run up and down Michigan Avenue, the El is just a couple of blocks away, and the Metra Electric Line runs right under Grant Park. If you drive in to the festival the Millennium Garages are the closest parking and there are several other garages in the area. Check the map below for discounted parking through Spothero:

Where to stay near the Chicago Blues Festival

Booking.com


Blues fans from all over the world visit the Windy City for the Chicago Blues Festival. It's a three day celebration of one of the most American of music genres, and best of all, it's free!