The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is the proud recipient of River Action's Eddy Award for Art for 2015.  The Eddy Award acknowledges "those who act as an eddy, 'going against the current' to accomplish excellence on the Mississippi River."

In his remarks at the ceremony April 24, River Action President Joe Chambers noted that:  "The Blues Fest draws a national crowd to the Quad Cities to hear world class musicians playing the blues.  The Fest and its spin-off performances expand the QC's cultural offerings, and help make the Quad Cities a cool place to live."

Mississippi Valley Blues Society President Scott Klarkowski and director Karen McFarland were on hand to accept the award, a stunning abstract trophy of an eddy swirling against the Mississippi current.  It joins the 2014 award to MVBS from the Blues Foundation for Keeping the Blues Alive?U.S. Festival.

"MVBS is so thrilled to receive the Eddy!" said McFarland.  "This award confirms that the music we present at the Blues Festival in LeClaire Park makes a difference in the community."

The Eddy Awards recognize "tenacity and perseverance," said Chambers.  "The blues were born out of hard times and pain.  The blues sing the feelings of those who suffer in the low points of life, who overcome adversity, and at the same time the blues celebrate life.  So, the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest must be recognized for surviving five floods!"

The floods occurred in 1993, 2001, 2008, 2013, and 2014.  The cumulative effect of the last three floods in addition to rain days prompted the MVBS Board of Directors to move the 31st annual BluesFest to the traditionally dryer (cross your fingers) Labor Day Weekend this year, on September 5 and 6.

River Action is also celebrating its 31st year of stewardship of the Mississippi River.  Perhaps best known for Ride the River and installing lights on the Centennial Bridge framing LeClaire Park, River Action has been awarding the Eddy since 2000 and is currently fundraising for a bike and footpath across River Drive where the first train bridge once stood.

Dates:  Saturday September 5 and Sunday September 6

Location:  LeClaire Park, Davenport IA

Gate Opens:  1:00 p.m. each day

Music on two stages from 2:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.

4 Free Adult Workshops Each Day, in the Freight House

3 Sessions of BlueSKool for the kids each day

Information on Tickets yet to come!

As of May 1, here are the artists who will perform at the 2015 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.

More headliners to be announced soon!

  • Alvin "Youngblood" Hart--internationally acclaimed master of country blues, Alvin will also conduct a workshop on guitar styles

  • Corey Harris--a MacArthur Fellow featured in Martin Scorsese's documentary series The Blues, besides his performance Corey will conduct a workshop on the African roots of Delta blues

  • David Berntson--educator from Tulsa who teaches children to play harmonica at BlueSKool

  • Ellis Kell Band--Quad-City favorites, celebrating their 25th year

  • Gaye Adegbalola & the Wild Rutz--a founder of the award-winning acoustic group Saffire the Uppity Blues Women, Gaye is also an educator who specializes in songs made by the sassy original blues divas including Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie, and Ida Cox, and she will present a workshop on that

  • Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat--a guitarist from Texas, Jim has toured internationally with Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, and most recently George Thorogood

  • The Kinsey Report--sons of the late Chicago legend "Big Daddy" Kinsey, brothers Kenny, Ralph, and Donald (previously known as one of Bob Marley's Wailers) present a rock mixture of old and new blues

  • Mike Zito & the Wheel-- a guitarist from St. Louis, Mike is also co-founder of the Royal Southern Brotherhood, and the Wheel's Jimmy Carpenter will present a workshop on saxophone.

  • Tweed Funk--this sextet from Wisconsin performs soul-blues with a horn section

Winter Blues AllStars--a team of the best kids from the River Music Experience's Winter Blues educational program

Just in time for its 30th anniversary in 2014, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival has been honored with a Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the international Blues Foundation of Memphis TN.  The coveted award, in the U.S. Festival category, is the equivalent of lifetime achievement recognition.

The Blues Foundation notes that the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival has become "one of the longest running, most prestigious blues festivals in the world. Held on the shores of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa, this event features music on two outdoor stages and educational presentations. Four different times, the festival has moved due to river flooding, but each time, festival organizers have been up to the task. Beginning in 1995 with Honeyboy Edwards, the festival inaugurated its RiverRoad Award to honor the true legends of the blues. Thus far, 36 men and women have been so honored."  The Festival is also the only major blues festival in the nation to be produced by a non-profit, all-volunteer organization?the Mississippi Valley Blues Society.

Each year, The Blues Foundation presents the Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) Awards to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the Blues world.   Unlike the Blues Music Awards, which recognize the past year's best in recordings and performance voted on by thousands of The Blues Foundation's members, the KBAs are awarded to non-performers strictly on the basis of merit by a select panel of blues professionals. Affiliated organizations, past KBA recipients and members of The Blues Foundation's Board of Directors are eligible to submit nominations.

The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival was nominated for the KBA award by musician Michael "Hawkeye" Herman, himself a 1998 KBA recipient for Education and a former member of the board of directors of the Blues Foundation. In his nomination, Hawkeye noted that "The 2014 KBA Award would be a most auspicious way of honoring this event's 30 years of hard work and dedication to 'Keeping the Blues Alive' in both spirit and action."

The Blues Foundation will present 20 individuals and organizations with KBA awards during a recognition luncheon Friday, January 24, 2014, at the Downtown Memphis Doubletree, during the International Blues Challenge weekend of events.

Congratulations to the 2014 Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipients:

  1. Affiliated Organization: Crossroads Blues Society of Illinois - Rockford, Illinois
  2. Art: Cristen Craven Barnard - Senatobia, Mississippi
  3. Club: Kingston Mines - Chicago, Illinois
  4. Education: Tas Cru - Chaumont, New York
  5. Festival (International): Cazorla Blues Festival - Cazorla, Spain
  6. Festival (U.S.): Mississippi Valley Blues Festival - Davenport, Iowa
  7. Film, Television and VideoStefan Grossman - Sparta, New Jersey
  8. Historical PreservationGeorge Mitchell - Fort Myers, Florida
  9. InternationalThe Royal Mail Hotel - Goodna, Queensland, Australia
  10. Journalism: Gene Tomko - Lafayette, Louisiana
  11. Literature: Gerard Herzhaft - Lyon, France
  12. Manager: Marcia Weaver - Jackson, Mississippi
  13. Photography: Dick Waterman - Oxford, Mississippi
  14. Producer: Tom Hambridge - Nashville, Tennessee
  15. Promoter: Myron Mu - San Francisco, California
  16. Publicist: Frank Roszak - North Hills, California
  17. Radio (Commercial): Jerry Schaefer - East Islip, New York
  18. Radio (Public): Larry Lisk - St. Petersburg, Florida
  19. Record Label: Stony Plain Records - Edmonton, Alberta
  20. Special Committee Award: Blue Star Connection - Winter Park, Colorado


The Mississippi Valley Blues Society voted at a special board meeting tonight to move the 29th Mississippi Valley Blues Festival from its home in Davenport's LeClaire Park to a downtown Davenport location.  The Park is predicted to be flooded during the dates of the Blues Festival, July 4 through 6.  The Army Corps of Engineers predicts that the Mississippi River will crest above flood stage this weekend, and will not have receded enough by July 4 to make the Park usable.

The MVBS board, after lengthy discussions of many alternatives, decided on a location on 3rd Street in downtown Davenport, with use of the Adler Theatre for Tent Stage performers.  Bandshell acts will perform on a stage on 3rd Street west of the skywalk, weather permitting.  If the weather does not cooperate, the Bandshell stage performances will be moved to the Great Hall of the River Center.

"Of course we didn't want to have to move from LeClaire Park," said Karen McFarland, Entertainment Committee Co-Chair.  "But the 3rd Street and Adler venues will still provide great quality music, and parking is abundant in the area."

Further details about the layout will be forthcoming, including the free parking for motorcycles, vendor spaces, and admission gates.

The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival was forced by the flooded Mississippi River to move three previous times:  during the great flood of 1993 (when the festival moved to the municipal airport in Mount Joy) and also in 2001 (in the parking lot of Modern Woodmen Park), and 2008 (on 2nd Street in downtown Davenport).

The Festival volunteers are experts at moving logistics in a hurry.  And this year's move to 3rd Street promises to run smoothly, "given the mistakes we made and now know how to avoid from 2008," said McFarland.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band will close out the 29th Mississippi Valley Blues Festival on Saturday July 6 on the Bandshell in Davenport's LeClaire Park.  Sponsored in part by Wieblers Harley-Davidson of Davenport, Shepherd's set will show why Guitar World named him the world's #3 blues guitarist?right after B. B. King and Eric Clapton.

Still barely in his 30s, the Louisiana-born axeman and songsmith has been selling millions of albums, throwing singles into the Top 10, shining a light on the rich blues of the past and forging ahead with his own modern twist on a classic sound he has embodied since his teens. He met Stevie Ray Vaughn at 7 and shared the stage with New Orleans legend Bryan Lee at 13.

From 1995 on, Shepherd took seven singles into the Top 10, and holds the record for the longest-running album on the Billboard Blues Charts with Trouble Is.   Shepherd has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, and has received two Billboard Music Awards, and two Blues Music Awards.

In 2007, he released a critically-acclaimed and two-time Grammy-nominated DVD-CD project, 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads. The film and album document Kenny Wayne Shepherd as he travels the country to jam with and interview the last of the authentic blues musicians, many of them now gone. As they tour the backroads, Shepherd, with members of the Double Trouble Band, play with a host of blues greats including Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, blues harp master Jerry "Boogie" McCainCootie Stark,  John Dee HolemanEtta Baker, and Henry Townsend with Honeyboy Edwards.  There's also a concert session with the surviving members of Muddy Waters' and Howlin' Wolf's bands, including luminaries such as Hubert Sumlin, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, and Pinetop Perkins.

"It's exciting to have such a name and talent as Kenny Wayne Shepherd at the BluesFest," said Bob Covemaker, co-chair of the committee that books acts for the festival.  "His energy is perfect for drawing in more young people, the future of the blues."

Kenny Wayne Shepherd is one of 27 acts on two stages at the Blues Festival, which begins at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday July 4 and runs through July 6.  Free workshops by festival artists are scheduled for all three days, and BlueSKool for the kids runs Friday and Saturday.

Discount advance tickets are available until June 30 from Hy-Vee stores in the Quad-Cities, Clinton, and Muscatine, by calling the Mississippi Valley Blues Society at 563-32-BLUES, or online at  Gate admission is $20 per day, with children 14 and under free if accompanied by a paying adult.

Besides the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, this year's artists include, Mighty Sam McClain, Walter Trout, Southern Hospitality, John Primer (who will receive the RiverRoad Lifetime Achievement Award), C. J. Chenier, W. C. Clark, The 44s, Anthony Gomes, Samantha Fish, and Davina & the Vagabonds?among a total of 27 acts on two stages.

Also this year the festival will see the first-ever Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge.  Three bands from within a 175-mile radius of the Quad-Cities will compete in the final round on July 5, with the winner playing a full set on July 6 at the festival and representing the Mississippi Valley Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January 2014.

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society has received a major grant from the Iowa Arts Council to help fund the 2012 Blues Festival as well as the MVBS Blues in the Schools residencies for 2012-2013.  In addition, Humanities Iowa has granted the MVBS funds to help support the free workshops to be held in the Freight House across the tracks from LeClaire Park on June 30 and July 1.

The 28th annual Mississippi Valley Blues Festival takes place on June 29, June 30, and July 1 in Davenport's LeClaire Park.  The event features 24 acts on two stages over three days.  Advance tickets at only $12.50 per day until Thursday June 28 are available at Hy-Vee stores in the Quad Cities, Clinton, and Muscatine, as well as at the Muddy Waters in Bettendorf, Rascals in Moline, and Martinis on the rock in Rock Island.  They are available until Thursday June 28.

This is the first time that the Blues Festival has been underwritten by support from the Iowa Arts Council and Humanities Iowa.  The Humanities Iowa grant helps to fund the six free workshops associated with the festival.  On Saturday, the workshops feature David Horwitz?Blues Photography, Donna Herula?Slide Guitar, and Doug MacLeod?National Resonator Slide Guitar.  Sunday's workshops feature Paul Geremia?6 and 12-String Country Blues Guitar, Liz Mandeville?Women in the Blues, and Hawkeye Herman?Stories of the Blues.

Other major sponsors of the blues Festival include the Riverboat Development Authority, KWQC-HD TV6, The River Cities' Reader, The Lodge, KALA Radio, and Alcoa.

For more information about the Blues Festival, visit

Preston ShannonPreston Shannon was working and performing in Memphis during the 1960s and '70s, when "Soulsville USA" rivaled Detroit's Motown. Stax Records ruled the airwaves with Booker T & the MGs laying down the backing "Memphis Soul Stew" for hits by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Wilson Pickett, while over at Hi Records producer and songwriter Willie Mitchell was working with Al Green and Otis Clay. It was a magic time. You can hear those soul influences in Preston Shannon's music, but he doesn't acknowledge the soul connection.

"I am really a blues man," Shannon declared in a recent phone interview. "I know the blues, I've experienced the blues, I play the blues. You know, when I recorded all my CDs, the reason I inserted R&B ... was because at the time it was so hard to get airplay for the blues."

"Is he soul? Is he blues? Is he gospel? Yes, and he has become an iconic figure in all those genres." - Chicago Sun-Times

Otis Clay

"I've always been a bit open-minded about the music," Otis Clay said in a recent phone interview. He recalled that when he first went professional, he performed a genre of music called jubilee that included show tunes alongside gospel. "In the '60s we would be all up in the Catskills during the week, and do churches on Sunday. I had done secular even then. [But] I never left gospel. It was all mixed up in there."

That genre-blending had begun even before Clay - who will receive the Mississippi Valley Blues Society RiverRoad Lifetime Achievement Award before his July 3 festival performance - started touring when he was 18. Born in Waxhaw, Mississippi, in 1942, Clay started singing in the church at four, but even then he was also getting a different music education. "My father was an entrepreneur - he always had a juke joint, and my mother was very religious. But ... for the Saturday-night fish fries, she would cook and sell sandwiches," Clay said. There he would listen to John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf on the jukebox. He was seven years old when he experienced his first live concert: Muddy Waters in Clarksdale.

Kim Massie

"You know the saying that you got to be in the right place at the right time?" singer Kim Massie asked in a recent phone interview. "It wasn't until I came to St. Louis where it was like, 'This is the place I'm supposed to be!' Everything started to happen. One thing led to another."

Kim Massie is not a household name, even in the context of the blues. She has become an institution in the great blues and jazz city of St. Louis over the past 10 years, twice winning the Riverfront Times' female-vocalist-of-the-year award, and she's the featured artist twice a week at the blues club Beale on Broadway. Yet she rarely performs outside of her hometown -- trips to Hungary, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C., but no tours. St. Louis is a place like Chicago or New Orleans where blues musicians can find enough work that they don't have to leave.

Mike and Nanci Livermore of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society's Entertainment Committee "discovered" Massie in St. Louis and were so impressed with her show that they suggested the committee get her for the 2010 festival. The committee loved her powerful, soulful singing, which described as "the voice of God with growling nuances of Etta James."

Sugar Pie DeSantoJames Brown was known as the Godfather of Soul, but his other nickname was "the hardest-working man in show business." Sugar Pie DeSanto is known as the female James Brown because of the way she works a stage, even at 73.

"What an honor, you know, to be the lady James Brown," Sugar Pie said in a recent phone interview. "Because I was cuttin' up and I still cut up - if you know what I mean. I was getting down, all right? And with God's help I will still be getting down 'til I don't want to sing anymore. Wait 'til I'm 85 and they push me on-stage in a wheelchair - 'And here she is!' - and I bet I'll be mastering that wheelchair, having it spinning and everything!"