Niagara Gazette — The fifth annual Niagara Falls Blues Festival returns to Old Falls Street this weekend.
This year’s festival carries a “Roots of the Blues” theme, while featuring more than 20 acts, nine of which are nationally recognized including James Cotton, Donnie Walsh, Richard Ray Farrell, The Nighthawks, John Primer, Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues, Tas Cru, The Forty Fours and Shrimp Daddy. The weekend celebrates the music of harmonica players and is free and open to the public.
“The Blues is the music that never grows old, it keeps you young at heart,” said Toby Rotella, founder and president of the Niagara Festival & Entertainment Group. “As my friend Muddy Waters used to say, ‘The Blues had a baby and they named it Rock & Roll.’ “
The festival begins today with the annual Pine Avenue Classic Car and Motorcycle Cruise to Old Falls Street. Participants are asked to assemble at Sal Maglie Stadium in Hyde Park, for a police-escorted cruise to the festival’s Kick-Off Party at Legends Bar & Grill, located on Old Falls Street. The party features music by the Coupe de Villes, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Activities, including live music and food and beer vending, are planned from 4 to 11 p.m. on Old Falls Street featuring the following lineup:
• Billy’s Blues Band (Home Town Blues)
• Reflector (Classic R&B)
• Electras with special guest Tommy Z
• Richard Ray Farrell
• Mac Arnold & Plate Full of Blues – Mac Arnold’s music career reads as a “Who’s Who” of Blues/R&B legends including collaborations with James Brown, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, The Temptations and B.B. King
“Roots of the Blues” activities are planned from 11:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. and feature:
• Roots Percussion
• Richard Ray Farrell – Mississippi Delta Blues
• Shrimp Daddy
• Double Take Blues Band
• Nickel City Pimp Choir (Jive/Swing)
• The Amazing Dr. Zarcons Breathing Machine (Jug Band)
• The Bravuras (Old School Blues)
• LeeRon Zydeco
• The Forty Fours (West Coast Roots Blues)
• John “The Real Deal” Primer – Grammy Award and Handy Award nominee, Primer began his career at the age of eight and has collaborated with Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Lonnie Brooks and Muddy Waters.
• The Nighthawks
• Donnie “Mr. Downtown” Walsh
• James “Mr. Superharp” Cotton – Grammy Award-winning blues harmonica master, who celebrates 68 years as a professional musician and has recorded nearly 30 solo albums, including the famed “Harp Attack!” with Junior Wells, Carey Bell and Billy Branch, in 1990.
The Blues Festival wraps up from noon to 6 p.m. with performances by:
• Zark and the Sharks
• Junkyard Dogs
• Aces & Eights
• Tas Cru
The weekend also features an autographed electric guitar raffle, signed by all performers, which will be given away on Saturday evening. Proceeds benefit next year’s Niagara Falls Blues Festival. Also raffled off will be a specialty Blues Basket, including a bottle of Crystal Head Vodka, signed by Dan Aykroyd.
For more information, visit www.niagarafallsbluesfest.org or www.FallsStreet.com