a grey, rainy St. Louis morning, accompanied
by the occasional lightning & thunder, STLBlues
departed for Northern California, and the SF
Blues Festival. It's always fun to travel to
a new musical experience, especially when it
involves visiting a city as beautiful as San
In it's 31st year, this event is the brainchild
Mazzolini. Tom founded the San Francisco
Blues Festival in 1973 to educate the public
about the history and evolution of the blues
in the San Francisco-Richmond-Oakland area in
the 1940s and '50s.
A evening was spent with friend & STLBlues
correspondent Jim V., who lives in Placerville,
AKA 'Hangtown' of CA Gold Rush fame. A view
of 100 miles off the back deck displayed the
vast beauty that is the Sierra
Nevadas, always stunning to behold for this
Day 1 of the Fest mandated an early rise time
of 5 am, for the drive into Vallejo,
CA. in time for the 8 am ferry into San
the sun rose, We rolled out at 6am sharp, SF
bound, Jim, his friend Susan, and Boots the
dog. Jim V., a CA native AND a former St. Louisian,
made for a great tour/fest guide.
at Vallejo, we boarded the Bayline Ferry bound
for SF, and a very scenic trip! Arriving around
9am, a long walk along the Embarcadero
brought us to pier 39, also known as Fishermans
Wharf. A short cab ride later, and we were
there, at the San Francisco Blues Festival!
We arrived just before the gates opened, and
were able to claim some great festival real
estate, giving us a perfect stage view. Tom
Mazzolini was on hand, and welcomed STLBlues
to his event. The Fest soon began opening up
with the Blue
Eyed Devils, a well known Bay Area group
with a very loyal following, musicians whose
sound dates back to 1940s Delta blues.
was the Craig
Horton band.His accomplishments are critically
acclaimed, earning him recognition by the Bay
Area Blues Society for his contribution to West
Greene was up next. This young Bluesman
has established quite a presence here in the
Bay area, an accomplished musician on acoustic
and electric guitar, harmonica, acoustic and
electric piano and Hammond B-3 organ.
Following Jackie to the stage was Melvin
Taylor and the Slack Band. One of the most
exhilarating blues guitarists to emerge in the
past decade, Melvin Taylor is more a blues innovator
than a purist, mixing jazz chords and rock influences
into his tapestry of electric blues
the Blues' featuring Tracy
Nelson, Angela Strehli & Linda Tillery
was the next act, and one STLBlues had been
looing forward to.
Tracy, now in her 5th decade of performing,
established her West Coast presence back in
1968 with her band Mother Earth. Linda Tillery
proved magical also, in this power trio, with
a voice that critics have compared to those
of Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin.
Angela Strehli, an incredibly gifted singer
and songwriter, a Texas blues historian, impresario
and fan, added her very trademark sound to the
mix. Inspired by the blues and R&B music
that she heard on late-night radio, Angela took
up the harmonica and bass before becoming a
day was far from over, as Magic
Slim and the Teardrops were the next band
up. As Blues Revue wrote, "Whoever the
house band in blues heaven may be, even money
says they're wearing out Magic Slim albums trying
to get that Teardrops sound down cold."
Rogers and Norton
Buffalo followed a great set by Magic Slim.
Roy Rogers is a highly acclaimed San Francisco
Bay area artist who is known as one of the premier
slide guitarists performing today.
In Rock, R & B, and Blues circles, as well
as in New Age, Country and Jazz circles, Norton
Buffalo is widely acclaimed as the finest multigenre
harmonica player of our time.
The sounds of this festival, the oldest Blues
festival in America, could only be matched by
the spectacular backdrop of the San Francisco
Bay & the Golden Gate Bridge!
of the most prominent figures in late 20th century
blues, singer/multi-instrumentalist Taj
Mahal was the closing act of the day.
Taj Mahal played an enormous role in revitalizing
and preserving traditional acoustic blues. While
he dabbled in many different genres, he never
strayed too far from his laid-back country blues
An excellent choice to close out Day 1 of the
fest, and great music to depart to, as we began
to retrace our cab-ferry journey of earlier.
Back to the hotel, to recharge for Day
2 of the SF Blues Festival.