Never-before-seen photographs—with text accompaniment—of the performers onstage and backstage at the legendary Ann Arbor Blues Festival
In 1969 and 1970, the first Ann Arbor Blues Festivals brought together the greatest-ever selection of blues performers—an enormous blues party that seemed to feature every big name in the world of blues.
The Ann Arbor Blues Festival was just that: a festival and celebration of city blues. It helped to mark the discovery of modern blues music (and the musicians who made that music) by a much larger audience. The festival, however, was something more than just a white audience discovering black music.
Never before had such a far-reaching list of performers been assembled, including the grandfathers of southern country blues and the hottest electric bands from Chicago. These groundbreaking festivals were the seed that grew into the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, which was continued annually for many years. To name just a few of the dozens of artists who performed at the festival: Luther Allison, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Hound Dog Taylor, Big Mama Thorton, T-Bone Walker, Sippie Wallace, Junior Wells, and Mighty Joe Young.
Stanley Livingston, a professional photographer from Ann Arbor, captured these legendary performances onstage—as well as the goings-on backstage. Livingston's thousands of photographs from these festivals, previously unpublished and known only to a few, are among the finest candid blues shots ever taken. Together with editor and archivist Michael Erlewine's text accompaniments, these photographs, reproduced here as high-quality duotones, comprise a visual history and important keepsake for blues aficionados everywhere.
"This was really the first time that blues music, especially Chicago/urban blues, was showcased in this way. Sadly, the festivals were not recorded professionally. So Mr. Livingston's photos are the best record of the festivals."
—Michael Jewett, longtime weekday afternoon host of 89.1 Jazz and host of "Blues & Some Uthuh Stuff"
"The photos are works of art. It is great to see photos of musicians such as Buddy Guy and James Cotton looking so young and vibrant. And it is great to see photos of blues legends such as John Lee Hooker, Roosevelt Sykes, Howlin' Wolf, and Son House, who have long since passed away."
—Peter Madcat Ruth, Grammy-winning blues harmonica player
"If Woodstock was one of the Fifty Moments That Changed Rock 'n' Roll History, as honored in Rolling Stone magazine, then the Ann Arbor Blues Festival was the coronation for the blues roots that sired rock to begin with. . . . finally we have this amazing book of Stanley Livingston's priceless images, along with Michael Erlewine's detailed chronology."
—From the foreword by Jim O'Neal, Cofounder, Living Blues Magazine
Cover photo of B.B. King by Stanley Livingston