Listen to a selection of this year's performers on Spotify below.
MEET THE PERFORMERS
Born in Lettsworth, Louisiana, the soon to be 80-year-old Guy has a long list of accolades such as being as a Rock and Rock Hall of Famer, a six-time Grammy Award Winner (most recently receiving the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award), a recipient of the Presidential National Medal of Arts and a Billboard Century Award Winner. His 2015 release, Born To Play Guitar, is his fifth #1 album on Billboard's Top Blues chart and his twelfth Top 10 Billboard Blues album. He's had his own blues club Legends in Chicago since 1989 and worked alongside Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Rolling Stones. In fact, Eric Clapton said he's 'by far and without a doubt the best guitar player alive' and Keith Richards has said 'He's the godfather now.' The bridge between blues and rock and roll? That’s him.
His life reads like a too-good-to-be-true Horatio Alger story. He was one of five children to grow up on a sharecropper farm in rural Louisiana. Before he reached his mid-teens, he made his first guitar—likely out of wood and hairpins or paint cans and screen door wire (the materials differ based on source). His family moved to Baton Rouge and Guy quit high school to work. He auditioned while working at a service station and started playing with a band while continuing to work as a custodian at LSU. On September 25, 1957, he boarded a train to Chicago, inspired to make a better life for himself.
The story goes up and down, but mostly up. Being shown the 708 Club in Chicago. Playing onstage. Working a session guitarist at Chess Records. Driving a tow truck. Europe in 1965. Touring with the Stones, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and the Band. Releasing 17 solo studio albums and an extensive list of live recordings, compilations and collaborations. Influencing nearly everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck to John Mayer. Up. Up. Up.
Long a musician’s favorite, he released the Grammy winning Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues in 1991 that thrust him into the spotlight. In 2014, Baton Rouge was fortunate enough to welcome him back home and the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation can't wait for generations old and new to experience the talent and showmanship of this living legend. buddyguy.net (Photo: Josh Cheuse)
Born in Tennessee in 1939, Benny Latimore started out as a professional piano player for Florida-based groups like Joe Henderson and Steve Alaimo. He signed a contract of his own and scored a first regional hit with a cover of T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday.” In 1974, his single “Let’s Straighten It Out” was #1 on Billboard’s r&b singles chart. He kept churning out chart hits in the '70s. To various degrees of success, he steadily released albums of R&B and soul in the '80s and '90s. In 2007, he splashed back into the limelight with his album Back Atcha. His most current release pays tribute to Ray Charles.
Blending soul and rock into what he calls “slop ‘n’ soul,” Harding got his start as a child singing gospel alongside his mother until he was 15. Since then, he’s sung backup for CeeLo Green and started a band called Night Sun with Cole Alexander of the Black Lips. During a stint in Toronto while he was away from his home in Atlanta, he bought a guitar and started writing songs. His 2014 debut, Soul Power, propelled him to lots of artists-to-know lists in conjunction with proclamations of him tackling “new blues” and “new soul.” curtisharding.com (Photo: Hedi Slimane)
KENNY NEAL & THE NEAL FAMILY PERFOMING A TRIBUTE TO RAFUL NEAL
Kenny Neal, born in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge, began playing music at a young age. Learning the basics from his father, singer and Blues harmonica master, Raful Neal, Kenny is known as a modern swamp-blues and multi-instrumentalist, that draws from the sizzling sounds of his native Louisiana. For this year's Blues Fest, five generations of the Neal family will join Kenny in performing a tribute to blues legend Raful Neal, marking what would have been his 80th birthday this year. kennyneal.net (This performance is part of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge's Sunday in the Park concert series.)
WALTER "WOLFMAN" WASHINGTON & THE ROADMASTERS
Long before he formed The Roadmasters more than 30 years ago, Walter Wolfman Washington was already a New Orleans name. Born in 1943, he made his first guitar from a cigar box, rubber bands and a clothes hanger after seeing a guitar player in person while he was singing gospel at a radio station. One of his uncles (likely Guitar Slim or Lightnin’ Slim) bought him a real one, and he was on the road with Lee Dorsey and playing the Apollo Theatre by the time he was 19. With other stints alongside names like Johnny Adams, Irma Thomas, Joe Krown and Russell Baptiste, Jr., he hasn’t stopped since (he credits his musical interest to his cousin, Ernie K-Doe, too). His style combines rhythm and blues, blues, New Orleans funk and modern jazz into his unique way of playing that’s intricate, heartfelt and full. walterwolfmanwashington.com
THE REVEREND PEYTON'S BIG DAMN BAND
Hailing from Indiana, the Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band spends much of the year on the road, playing and sharing their blend of blues, ragtime, folk and country. The three-piece has been hitting the road together since 2006. The Rev. Peyton traces his interest in fingerpicking back to his father’s album collections, the recordings of early blues artists like Robert Johnson, Charley Patton and more modern recordings from Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter. So Delicious, their fifth full-length album is on Yazoo Records, a label dedicated to classic performances of early rural and traditional American music. bigdamnband.com (Photo: Tyler Zoller)
Back when blues was king and South Louisiana was the breeding ground for a blast of some of the most memorable American music ever recorded, at the heart of it was Lazy Lester. It was in the mid-1950s, on a bus, that fate turned Lester’s way, and the roots to what would become classic music began to grow. As Lester tells it, he was living in Rayne, Louisiana at the time and was on the bus riding home. Lightnin’ Slim, who was already an established recording artist, was also on the bus and was headed to Crowley to cut a record at Jay Miller’s Studio, where so much of the material for the Nashville-based Excello Records was being recorded. Since Crowley was just seven miles further than Rayne and because Lester had a serious itch to be around big-time music making, Lester decided to stay on the bus and accompany Slim to the studio. When they got there, the scheduled harp player, Wild Bill Phillips, didn’t show for the session. Lester told Slim that he had actually played with Slim’s band and thought he could handle the harp parts for the session. Remarkably, Slim and Miller gave Lester that chance, and he did not disappoint. A classic pairing was born, and Lester became a mainstay on Slim’s Excello recordings and his gigs. Through the popularity of his recordings and as the Excello story has become the stuff of legend, Lazy Lester has enjoyed tremendous popularity worldwide. As a true living legend, his talents are as much in demand as ever. lazylester.net (Photo: Jamey Firnberg)
Born in 1971 in Tennessee, Kent Burnside was raised in Northern Mississippi and mentored by none other than R.L. Burnside, his legendary grandfather. Further influenced by the established musical skills of his uncles Duwayne and Gary, and his cousin, Cedric Burnside, Kent’s guitar finesse has taken him from juke joints to large festivals. He often plays at Buddy Guy’s Legends club in Chicago. His debut full-length album, My World is So Cold, was released in 2014 and showcases his unique blend of his Mississippi blues roots mixed with more modern rock, soul and a spoonful of '60s psychedelia.
Blues legend Henry Gray began his career playing piano in an Alsen, Louisiana church at the age of eight and has yet to slow down. After serving in World War II, Gray moved to Chicago where he played and recorded with notable players and blues innovators for 22 years before joining Howlin' Wolf's band in 1956. Since returning to Baton Rouge in 1968, Gray has worked with an extensive list of blues notables such as Muddy Waters and BB King, has performed all over the world and has been honored with several award nominations including a Grammy nod for his work on "A Tribute to Howlin' Wolf." This will be Gray's 18th appearance at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival. (Photo: Ron Carr)
JAMES 'CHICKEN SCRATCH' JOHNSON
James 'Chicken Scratch' Johnson is a true swamp blues legend most widely known as Slim Harpo's guitarist. He was a self-taught for most of his youth, until another musician gave him informal training in his late teens. After sitting in with Harpo one night, his talent was impressive enough to be asked to join the band. While not formally credited, it was his standout "chicken scratch" lick in Harpo's iconic song, "Baby Scratch My Back." Touring took its toll on Johnson, who inevitably quit the band and took at job at LSU. He continued to play in his spare time, sustaining respect from the blues community in Baton Rouge and beyond. Johnson released his first solo album in 2014. (Photo: Thomas Besson Jr.)
Having spent part of his years attending teen dances on Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Wright pestered his parents into getting him a guitar and started cranking out Cream riffs. His foray into the blues started with Hendrix, Clapton, Jimmy Paige and Jeff Beck—who didn't sound much like the blues of his parents or grandparents. After stints playing across the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas (opening for folks like Albert King and Freddie King), Wright moved to Los Angeles in the '80s. He became a session man and touring guitarist for greats like Michael Jackson, Mick Fleetwood, the Gap Band, Berlin and Spencer Davis. A 2013 Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inductee, Wright is known for his stage presence and connection with the audience. greggwright.com (Photo: William Hines)
In January 2015, Rolling Stone labelled Adia Victoria one of the “10 Artists You Need You Need to Know.” Her blend of blues, rock and roll, jazz and hip hop cuts and lingers. She taught herself guitar at 21 after being turned onto and falling for country music storytellers like Johnny Cash. Her exposure to the blues came by way of The Black Keys—and their inspirations like R.L. Burnside. A South Carolina native who’s no stranger to moving, Victoria released her first single “Stuck in the South” in summer 2014. Since then, she’s just been moving up and making waves like opening for Hurray for the Riff Raff. facebook.com/adiavictoria (Photo: Brandon Thibodeaux)
LEO 'BUD' WELCH
Bud Welch is like a blues family secret. Born in Mississippi in 1932, he started playing the guitar as a teenager. The guitar, though, was his older cousin’s and Bud was actually forbidden to touch it. But his cousin caught him playing and gave him permission to play. Bud made his living as a plower and a logger, not a musician. For the next six decades, he played the guitar mostly for family, friends and churches. In 2014, two months before his 82nd birthday, he made his recording debut with Sabougla Voices. In 2015, he followed up with I Don’t Prefer No Blues, which is exactly what his pastor had to say about Bud making a record of Delta blues. leobudwelch.com (Photo: Aubrey Edwards)
Like most blues musicians, Quinn Sullivan started playing guitar at a young age—he was 3 when his toy guitar became much more than toy. Unlike most blues musicians, Sullivan isn’t old enough to get into most blues clubs. Born in 1999, by the time he was 7, Sullivan was starting to share the stage with legends like Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Eric Clapton. He appeared on Guy’s 2008 album Skin Deep and has already released two albums of his own, most recently 2014’s Getting There. As Guy told Rolling Stone after Sullivan first played alongside him, ‘Players like him come along once in a lifetime.’ quinnsullivanmusic.com (Photo: Chuck Lanza)
SMOKEHOUSE PORTER, MISS MAMIE & THE GUTBUCKET BLUES BAND
As a child, Smokehouse Porter was instantly transfixed by the blues. However it wasn’t until he began playing with local legend W.W. Woolfolk and meeting icons like Arthur “Guitar” Kelly and Silas Hogan that he found his specific sound, the gutbucket blues. This style is a combination of swamp blues and Mississippi Delta blues that “hits you deep down in the gut.” While Smokehouse was refining his sound, Miss Mamie was performing in the Chicago R&B scene. Growing up with a harmonica playing-father, she had the blues in her blood, and began singing the blues when she returned to Baton Rouge in the late eighties. With Mamie’s soulful delivery and lyrics and Smokehouse’s unique sound, the duo have earned the title of King and Queen of the gutbucket blues.
LIL RAY NEAL
Rayful Neal Jr. was steeped in the blues early on as a member of the legendary Neal Family with his father bluesman Raful Neal Sr. Lil Ray as he is better known, began playing in his father’s band which led him to meeting blues greats, such as Buddy Guy, Slim Harpo and B.B. King. In October, Neal's unique brand of blues was celebrated with the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation's inaugural Red Stick Blues award. (Photo: Ron Carr)
On their second album, Bones, The Delta Saints brought producer/engineer/mixer Eddie Spear (Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Neil Young) into the studio for a spontaneous songwriting result with the ghostly essence of blues, country, R&B, soul and gospel. Louisiana-born Ben Ringel co-founded the band in 2007 while at Belmont University. Since then, the band's averaged nearly 200 shows a year across the States and in Europe. Often compared to Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes, they've opened for a range of acts from Robert Randolph & The Family Band to Michael Franti & Spearhead. thedeltasaints.com (Photo: Alysse Gafkjen)
CHRIS LEBLANC BAND FEATURING LUTHER KENT
With unstoppable energy, Chris LeBlanc has been a staple in the Louisiana music scene for more than 20 years, combining Southern rock with blues and juke joint vibes. Performing locally, nationally and internationally, Chris has been billed with artists such as ZZ Top, Hank Williams Jr., BB King and Brett Michaels, among others. Having released four albums on his Sweetroll Records, Chris has recently spent time writing and recording new material in his private studio. In addition to his performance at the festival, you can also see him the Friday before, performing at Live After Five. chrisleblancband.com
LUKE WINSLOW KING
A staple of the New Orleans scene, Luke Winslow King is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer known for his slide guitar. His live shows and second full-length, Everlasting Arms, draw from traditional jazz, pre-war blues, delta-folk, ragtime and rock and roll. Born in 1983, he started out playing piano and switched to guitar around 8 years old. He continued studying music at Interlochen Arts Academy in his home state of Michigan, abroad in the Czech Republic and later at the University of New Orleans. He’s typically joined by an upright bassist, drummer, trumpeter/keyboardist and his washboard-playing singing partner. lukewinslowking.com
Local favorite Elvin Killerbee belts out a fiery brand of electric blues and original music. Raised in Baton Rouge, Elvin is a great part of the local music scene. While performing a steady supply of his own gigs, he's also shared the stage or opened up for artists such as Cowboy Mouth, Sonny Landreth, and Clarence Gatemouth Brown. (Photo: Thomas Besson Jr.)
HENRY TURNER AND FLAVOR
In the 1990's Henry Turner Jr. set out on a musical quest. He wanted to create a completely new kind of music and pay homage to the diversity of his home state of Louisiana. He decided to find musicians, from different backgrounds, who had a deep love and respect for their art and cultures, who all played different musical styles and incorporate rich irie tones to create what has become known as the Louisiana reggae, soul, funk and blues band–Henry Turner, Jr. & Flavor. The concept for the band was a fusion of contemporary and ethnic rhythms combined with the hypnotic elements of reggae, funk beats and the smooth soulful sounds of R&B, all mixed in with some blues riffs and jazz chording. His goal was to create a genre that would appeal to a broad cross section of music fans. And so, for the past two decades Henry Turner Jr. & the Flavor have performed their innovative style of music in clubs and at festivals across the country and around the world, releasing numerous CDs and singles. henryturnerjr.com (Photo: Eric LaCour)
From backwoods bluegrass, to slinky nods to Muscle Shoals soul and unexpected bits of doo-wop sweetness, the Banditos recall many, but sound like no one but themselves. The sextet has developed their unique and airtight sound, culminated through several years of enduring friendships and a roaddog touring schedule that has, at their count, numbered over 700 shows in the last three years. (Photo: Albert Kuhne) banditosband.com
Loudness War, a fuzz-worshipping garage rock band from Baton Rouge, were all in the jazz ensemble at St. Michael the Archangel High School. After hearing some Ty Segall and watching other young bands around town, they got started on their own rock and roll. They released their lo-fi debut, Garbage Rock, in 2014 to non-garbage reviews. Now on Lagniappe Records, they released Extraterrestrial Hangover in 2015 with their a more matured version of their signature '70s rock. facebook.com/loudnesswarband
The Rakers are a six-piece original “thinking man’s drinking band” from Baton Rouge. Co-led by Alex V. Cook and Lance Porter, they write passionate, intelligent, funny, poignant grown folks rock music with the fervor of the band they should have had when they were fourteen. The songs are turbocharged by the rhythm hit squad of Anna Byars on drums, Lewis Roussel on bass and Leon Lejuene on guitar, and saxophonist Ian Frazier applies just the right amount of snake venom. Their songs encompass everything from the Bible to car accidents and all the heartbreak in between. therakers.com (Photo: Eric LaCour)
TANK & THE BANGAS
With a mixture of spoken word, zingy theatrics, and soul-rousing music Tank and the Bangas have no problem going against the grain of what traditional New Orleans music is supposed to sound like. The Bangas which include Joshua Johnson on drums, Norman Spence on bass, Merell Burkett on keys, and Albert Allenback on Saxophone create the perfect compositions for front lady Tank to take you somewhere. Combining the various musical technique among the Bangas, coupled with the instilling play on lyrics from the lead vocalist; Tank and The Bangas have quilted a unique sound that singles them as one of the most distinctive groups to come out of New Orleans. tankandthebangas.com (Photo: Gus Bennett Jr.)
MICHAEL JUAN NUNEZ
CAFÉ AU LAIT
Cafe Au Lait is a New Orleans-based trio striving to preserve the rich jazz, blues, and afro-cuban traditions of the port city while honoring a love of Motown, rock and roll, and relentless funk. mycafeaulait.com
(Photo: Eric LaCour)
The OMT Band or One More Time Band, has been together since 1995 with their goals of making good music, putting on a good show and making sure everyone has a good time. The band plays R&B, soul and classic rock and roll from the '60s and '70s with a style all its own. You may have seen them downtown before at Live After Five or gotten down with them at Teddy's Juke Joint.
New York has been Mighty Fine's stomping ground (really, a sweating/rump shaking ground) for more than a decade, but New Orleans was the training ground for singer Steve Myers. In fact, Myers spent several minutes bleeding on the ground in front of his 504 house, after being shot six times in a 1999 random act of violence. He'd just returned from a worldwide tour opening for Aerosmith with The Afghan Whigs. After learning how to walk again, he moved to New York to recover. Years later in 2003, Myers met a fellow Nola/NY transplant and decided to start a band. Having shared the stage with names like TV On the Radio, Titus Andronicus and The Slackers, Myers and the rest of Mighty Fine are ready to bring their soul-review-meets-rock-n-roll sounds to Baton Rouge. Learn more about Mighty Fine on Facebook.
THE BEDLAMVILLE TRIFLERS
Since 2008 the Bedlamville Triflers have been bringing the heart pounding, foot stomping sounds of desperate 1950’s-style rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, surf, and traditional country music to festivals and venues all across the Gulf Coast. They have been asked to play along side many great artists including Al Ferrier, Dick Dale, Bill Kirchen, Kinky Friedman, Webb Wilder, Mike Watt, Southern Culture On The Skids, The Hillbilly Hellcats and Psycho DeVilles, just to name a few.
CLIFF & COMPANY
More than just a singing group, Baton Rouge-based Cliff & Company focuses on ministering beyond the four walls of the church through outreach as well as music. Their latest single, "He Watches Over Me," is now available for download. Learn more about Cliff & Company on Facebook. (Photo: Eric LaCour)
(Photo: Kristina Britt)
BATON ROUGE MUSIC STUDIOS
Since 2006, Baton Rouge Music Studios' faculty of music educators and professional performers has instructed area youth in music education. In groups or one-on-one, students learn fundamentals from ear training, theory and instrument technique to professional skills like networking and communication. Students at BRMS apply their lessons on stage, in public at venues like the Hard Rock Café in New Orleans and the Atrium at the Belle of Baton Rouge. In 2014, BRMS moved to a new location on Burbank Drive with a recording studio, concert venue and classrooms. brmusicstudios.com
Louisiana guitarist/vocalist Danny Kane returns to the swamps after nearly 20 years abroad. Dan performs on National resonator guitars and lap steels in various alternate tunings. He presents a historical retrospective of the blues in it’s acoustic and electric variations tracing the roots of the music from Blind Lemon Jefferson to Slim Harpo. You’ll find everything in his set…old time delta and country blues, swamp blues inspired by JD Miller’s work with Baton Rouge players like Slim Harpo and Lightnin’ Slim, New Orleans R&B from Earl King and others. Danny will be performing a solo set that is guaranteed to be a a full tilt, foot stomping affair. Make it over to the Porch Stage Sunday and join the fun.