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Fountain Blues Festival Brings Big Blues Names to St. James Park

In Music

When the Fountain Blues Festival started in 1981, there was barely a place for blues musicians to play in San Jose. Yet it drew 1,000 people that first year. The next year, the organizers managed to score John Lee Hooker to headline. They more than doubled the attendance. Through the years, tons of blues legends have graced the Fountain Blues Festival stage, including Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Canned Heat, Robert Cray and Elvin Bishop. Now in its 33rd year, the Fountain Blues Festival is still going strong with top names in blues.

Rock and blues outfit Len Cat will kick the festival off with a song at noon. Following them will be the Dan Goghs, who play Latin-funk-country-folk-tinged blues. The Dan Goghs will stick around to back Kim Addonizio, San Jose State University poet-in-residence, who will read some of her works—and who also plays a mean blues harmonica. She will introduce the first of the festival’s four headliners: Girls Got the Blues.

Girls Got the Blues
Lara Price came to the Bay Area in 1997. By the following year, she was running a regular blues jam over at JJ’s Blues. She’s opened up for several blues greats and has gigged all over. Her strong sultry voice has been a hit with blues fans. Her latest project, Girls Got the Blues, is an all-female blues group. They pay proper tribute to the blues, including playing a lot of the classics. Her backing band are all seasoned blues musicians in the Bay Area, though it might not be accurate to call them her “backing band,” since several of them take turns singing lead vocals. Price is just more of the ringleader to this talented ensemble.

Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings

Longtime Fountain Blues Festival devotees may remember Roy Rogers when he kicked off the first Fountain Blues Festival in 1981. He’s gained a reputation as a slide guitar aficionado, pulling from both the country and blues traditions. He’s brought his slide skills to several live performances and/or recordings of John Lee Hooker, Linda Ronstadt, Sammy Hagar, Bonnie Raitt, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Elvin Bishop, Carlos Santana and Steve Miller. He’s also a talented band leader in his own right. The Delta Rhythm Kings strike a very fine balance between classic delta blues and southern rockabilly.

Ruthie Foster

In 2009, Ruthie Foster’s album, The Truth according to Ruthie Foster, was nominated for a Grammy for best contemporary blues album. But her style goes beyond traditional blues. She takes pieces of R&B, jazz, country, soul and of course the blues, melding it all into one sound. But she’s really known for her powerful voice. It gets compared to singers from all different styles: Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald. She brings a little bit of each of them to her performances. She’s been moving crowds since 1997, but has really been getting a lot of attention the past five years or so.

John Mayall
Arguably one of the biggest names in the British Blues movement is John Mayall. The sound predated (and influenced) the blues-rock explosion that the Rolling Stones and other rock & roll bands came out of in the ’60s. In fact, Mayall’s band, the Bluesbreakers, served almost as a training ground for future blues-rock stars. The list of people that played in the Bluesbreakers before they were famous is stunning: Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce (Cream), Peter Green, Jon McVie and Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac), Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones ’69-’74) and Don “Sugarcane” Harris (Mothers of Invention). The list goes on. The reason Mayall never gained the celebrity status several of his bandmates did was that he always stuck closely to blues, never jumping in on the more accessible blues-rock sound.

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