About the festival

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The Swamp Blues story

Swamp blues originated in Louisiana's capital city, gaining significant exposure in the 1950s thanks to Crowley record producer J.D. Miller. Miller distributed recordings from Baton Rouge blues artists through Nashville's Excello Records, bringing names like "Lightnin' Slim" and the legendary Slim Harpo onto the American music scene with hits like "Rooster Blues" and "Rainin' In My Heart." Swamp blues crossed the Atlantic to Europe, helping to birth the British Invasion as artists like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, The Kinks and Eric Clapton performed music inspired by artists Slim Harpo, Henry Gray and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Today, legendary south Louisiana musicians like Tabby Thomas and his son Chris Thomas King, Tab Benoit, Larry Garner, Big Luther Kent, Kenny Neal and his brother Lil Ray Neal tour the globe, bringing joy to blues fans everywhere, their catchy common-man lyrics irresistibly wrapped in the rhythms of a music born to turn even the hardest times in life into a celebration.

The Baton Rouge Blues Festival comes to life

Originating in 1981, the Baton Rouge Blues Festival is one of the oldest blues festivals in America, first held on the campus of Southern University. The festival honors the legend of home-grown blues artists like Slim Harpo, Rudy Richard, Silas Hogan, Whisperin' Smith, Guitar Kelly, Schoolboy Cleve, Chewin' Gum Johnson and Raful Neal. Expanding outside our backyard, the festival has brought in nationally and internationally recognized names like Bobby Blue Bland, Marcia Ball, Phil Guy, Larry Garner and Charlie Musselwhite—including recent Grammy-nominee Ruthie Foster, who won the hearts of festival goers in 2009. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to further their Baton Rouge blues experience beyond the festival at hangouts like Phil Brady's (with the longest-running 21-year Thursday night blues jam around) and the inimitable Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary, Louisiana.