Blues Fest continues evolution this weekend

Canned Heat will be the headliner Saturday at the Niagara Falls Blues Festival being held Friday and Saturday on Old Falls Street. They are, from left, John "JP" Paulus, Dale Spalding, "Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra and Rick Reed. (Contributed photo)

The Niagara Falls Blues festival being held this weekend — ever-changing through 40 years of evolution — is really moving on up this weekend. 

The free two-day event, being held Friday and Saturday on Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls, will for the first time feature only national acts, the likes of which are expected to attract blues fans from near and far.

Founder Toby Rotella and Sherry Kushner are working with the management of Old Falls Street USA to present what they believe is one of the largest free blues festivals in the nation.

The lineup for Friday night is topped by a collection of musicians who haven’t all been on the same stage in a very long time, the last remaining members of the original Muddy Waters Band.

“In the blues world, the people that really follow blues will be here because they know these are the last remaining members of Muddy Waters band. A couple years ago we got some of them, this year we got all of them. It’s going to be a great night.”

Mayor Paul Dyster will also be receiving a special award at the festival.

“Paul Dyster always supported the Blues Festival any way he could,” Rotella said.

Other bands on Friday night include: The Nighthawks with Bob Margola, Mac Anold and Plate Full of Blues with John Primer, and Jerry Portnoy.

On Saturday, the headliner will be Canned Heat, formed in 1965 in Los Angeles and known for promoting the blues and blues artists (See sidebar).  Other bands performing include: The Seville Sisters, who will perform with Canned Heat; Mississippi Heat an Lurrie Bell; The Pittbull BLues band and Stan Street; Backstreet Blues Band; and the Couple deVilles. 

Rotella said this is the 12th Niagara Falls Blues Festival, which morphed from the Imperial Garage Reunions, started in the memory of Rotella’s bar, the Imperial Garage on Third Street, which opened on Third Street in 1980s.

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