Ann Arbor Blues in Black & White

Lightnin' Hopkins, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Albert King, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Junior Wells--that's the short list. The Ann Arbor blues festivals of 1969 and 1970 saw one of the most astonishing lineups of musical artists of any genre at any time (including the more famed Woodstock festival of 1969).

"Were you there?" was the question many blues fans were asking each another in 1969. But they didn't mean Woodstock, they meant Ann Arbor.

Michael and Stanley and thousands of others were here in Ann Arbor to witness and facilitate the spread of electric city blues as it made its way from the small Chitlin' Circuit to an enthusiastic larger audience hungry for this new, powerful roots-inspired American "folk" music.

Join us Thursday, August 19, 7-9 p.m. as Michael Erlewine, chronicler of popular music and founder of the largest music review database in the world, All-Music Guide, discusses Blues in Black & White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals, with stunning photographs by Stanley Livingston. A book signing, with books for sale, will follow the talk.


In 1972, the festival was expanded to include jazz and it became (and has remained) the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival ever since. Jazz stars like Miles Davis, Count Basie, Sun Ra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef, Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor have played the festival, as well as top headliners like Ray Charles, Maceo Parker, Etta James, James Brown, Booker T. & the MG's, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, and Al Green.
Although started with the support of the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival has, over the years, become an all-volunteer, non-profit 501(c) event, supported by a dedicated group of community volunteers working with the city administration. Since then, the scope of the festival has expanded.

This was a wonderful event. Can you do more like this? The event helped show why the Ann Arbor Blues Festivals were so special & historically unique. Stanley L's photos are beautiful. I loved the reverence of the Speaker for this art form & for its practitioners. His comparison of the artists to Eastern Spiritual Masters was startling. His observation that the artists had a seemingly other-wordly gift of 'stopping time' in the performance of their music may have been as much a reflection of his own special experience as of the art itself, but in no way diminishes from the magnitude of their contribution to American culture- and how it has been experienced throughout the world.