About the Blues Series
Since 1988, when Detroiter Robert Jones brought the blues, “the roots of all American music,” to our Navarre Branch, the Monroe County Library System’s annual Black History Month Blues Series has thrilled tens of thousands of music lovers of all ages with free entertaining, educational concerts performed by local, regional, national and international blues and roots music artists. Legends like Willie Dixon, Pinetop Perkins and Robert Jr. Lockwood have been joined by legends-in-the-making like Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women, Billy Branch and Victor Wainwright.
With awards from the Public and Michigan Library Associations, the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and The Blues Foundation’s 2009 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Education (the blues world’s most prestigious honor available to non-musicians), the series is now the state’s longest running annual blues celebration.
Blues 2018 - Celebrating 31 Years
The 2018 lineup takes listeners on another whirlwind journey across the blues and roots landscape, from the deep, soulful blues of living legends like Primer and Bob Margolin to the genre-blending (and busting) work of next generation artists like Luke Wilson-King, Jontavious Willis and Hubby Jenkins. The Big Gig! stars three-time Grammy-nominee soul / blues / folk / gospel / rock singer / songwriter Ruthie Foster, firebrand blues rocker Anthony Gomes, and (returning for his 31st year) Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Ellis Library & Reference Center - 7:00 pm
The 2018 Blues Series launches by bringing Chicago’s Southside to Monroe’s riverside when the legendary guitarist John Primer & The Real Deal Blues Band electrifies Ellis. Primer played a key role in the creation of the Chicago blues style and sound as we know it, as bandleader and guitarist for Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Magic Slim. Primer has played and recorded with a who's who of blues and rock luminaries like Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Jr, Derek Trucks, Johnny Winter and the Rolling Stones. With his strong traditionalist blues phrasing, seasoned soul-drenched vocals and lightning-fast slide guitar style, few artists today can match Grammy nominee John Primer and his vast, "real deal" place in blues history. (Fair warning: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 is not the night for quiet study at the Ellis Library.)
3700 S. Custer Rd. Monroe, Michigan
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Dorsch Memorial Branch Library - 7:00 pm
Celebrate Fat Tuesday with New Orleans (via Cadillac, Michigan) based guitarist, singer, composer, producer and songwriter Luke Winslow-King, whose work combines Mississippi delta blues, folk, traditional jazz, and roots rock & roll. His songs blend contemporary ideas with styles from bygone eras, producing a sound that is rustic and urbane, elegant and entirely his own, looking to the past to move to the future. This along with his burgundy voice, dapper attire and versatile guitar playing have earned Luke a reputation as a musician who delivers soulfully energetic and dynamic performances.
18 E. First Street, Monroe, Michigan
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Carleton Branch Library - 7:00 pm
Guitarist Bob Margolin’s on a mission: "I want to move and entertain you, make you laugh, fill your heart or break it with my music and the stories in my songs. Come ride My Road with me." On February 20, this Blues Series mainstay invites music lovers to join him on an intimate journey through his storied musical life, from his early days performing beside Muddy Waters to his current, well-earned status as one of today’s blues legends. Bob will be joined by another Blues Series audience favorite—and yep, legend—Ann Arbor’s harmonica titan Peter Madcat Ruth. Bob and Madcat’s musical bromance will be on full display.
“An Evening with Bob Margolin” is the 2018 Ann Rabson Concert, so named to honor the memory of the late, great friend of the Blues Series, Bob and Madcat.
1444 Kent Street, Carleton, Michigan
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Ida Branch Library - 7:00 pm
Every generation or so a young bluesman bursts onto the scene. Someone who sends a jolt through blues lovers. Someone who has mastered the craft for sure, but who also has the blues deep down in his heart and soul. At the age of 21, bluesman Jontavious Willis may be the one. “That’s my Wonderboy, the Wunderkind,” Taj Mahal said after inviting Jontavious to play on stage in 2015. “He’s a great new voice of the 21st century in the acoustic blues. I just love the way he plays.” Hailing from Greenville, Ga., Jontavious grew up singing gospel music. At age 14, a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man” set his course on the blues. He's a fingerpicker, flat-picker and slide player, on guitar, harmonica and banjo. (Four years later he was playing on Taj Mahal’s stage.)
3016 Lewis Avenue, Ida, Michigan
Saturday, February 24, 2018
1555 S. Raisinville Rd. Monroe, MI 48161
Rolling Stone called Ruthie Foster, the Texas-based, three-time Grammy-nominated blues-soul-folk-gospel singer/songwriter “pure magic to watch and hear,” and she headlines The Big Gig! 2018. Influenced by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples, Foster’s commanding, compelling vocals bring to life both original compositions and cover songs she makes her own. Also appearing is high-octane Canadian guitar virtuoso Anthony Gomes, whose “blues soul and rock and roll heart” reinvents the blues in relevant and fresh ways and propels his electrifying live performances, blues scholarship and philanthropy. And returning for his 31st year as host and featured artist is Detroit-based multi-instrumentalist, storyteller and educator Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr.
The Big Gig! is an extremely popular event—no tickets are required, but seating is general admission, first-come, first-served, and limited to theater capacity. Doors will open at 6:00 pm.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Bedford Branch Library - 7:00 pm
Hubby Jenkins is a talented multi-instrumentalist who endeavors to share his love and knowledge of old-time American music. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he delved into his Southern roots, following the thread of African American history that wove itself through country blues, ragtime, fiddle and banjo, and traditional jazz. Hubby got his higher musical education from busking, developing his guitar and vocal craft on the sidewalks and subway platforms of New York City, performing material by the venerable artists whose work he was quickly absorbing. An ambitiously itinerant musician, he took his show on the road, playing the streets, coffee shops, bars, and house parties of cities around the U.S. After years of busking around the country and making a name for himself, in 2010 Hubby became acquainted with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and has since been an integral part of the Grammy Award winning group while continuing to make solo performances.
8575 Jackman Road, Temperance, MI
Thanks to Our Sponsors
Monroe County’s 31st Annual Black History Month Blues Series is presented by the Monroe County Library System and made possible by the 2018 Blues Coalition of community cosponsors: Monroe County Community College, DTE Energy Foundation, Friends of Bedford, Friends of Carleton, Friends of the Dorsch Memorial Branch Library, Friends of Ellis, Friends of Ida, Detroit Blues Society and Lettie Kempf.
This event is made possible with support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
Past Blues Series Events
Enjoy video from the 2017 Big Gig!