July 3, 2007 > The Blues comes home to Hayward
The Blues comes home to Hayward
It is now known as West Winton Avenue in Hayward, but following World War II, a farmer named Joel Russell offered black migrants from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi some of his land for settlement and the area gained a reputation for something quite special. This rural community would eventually become the unincorporated town of Russell City, a place with a sound that would transform the world of music...West Coast blues.
Russell City residents farmed the land and worked in Oakland shipyards by day. By night, they created their unique brand of Delta blues. Inside lively clubs, harmonica-based Southern Delta blues gave way to a California flavored, jazzy, guitar-driven beat. Blues musicians came from Chicago (the birthplace of blues), New York and Paris to witness the burgeoning blues form taking shape in a small California town. Performers doing shows in Oakland would make sure to stop by Russell City and make a contribution of their own. The Russell City stop attracted great blues artists like Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Hooker and Big Mama Thornton. During those long nights of music and dancing in that small community by the bay, West Coast blues laid the foundation for today's vibrant Bay Area music scene.
The roots of latter day rock music reach all the way back to those early blues artists. Big Mama Thornton wrote and recorded, "You ain't nuthin' but a hound dog, cryin' all the time" years before Elvis popularized the lyrics. Janis Joplin borrowed another Big Mama Thornton song, "Ball and Chain" in the late 60s. Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" helped catapult Bill Hailey and the Comets to the forefront of the early rock era.
It was here that West Coast blues began to lay the ground for the prolific Bay Area music scene. "Bands like Green Day, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Grateful Dead - they all have their roots in blues," noted Bay Area Blues Society Executive Director Ronnie Stewart. For over two decades, the Bay Area Blues Society has focused on just Blues to present the rich musical heritage of the Blues, American's only true home-grown art form. In addition to his role as head of the society, Stewart is also director of the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival.
In honor of Russell City and its contributions to the American blues scene and West Coast blues in particular, the Bay Area Blues Society and the city of Hayward proudly present its annual Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival on July 7 and 8. The festival was created in 1991 to bring well-known blues musicians, and lesser known local talent together for the entire community to enjoy. It is the highlight of the summer for many Bay Area blues aficionados and is highly recommended across the nation as the definitive blues fest.
This year's theme is "From Chicago to Russell City," a two-day event featuring the great stars of Chicago Blues. Mr. Pinetop Perkins, the world's oldest and best blues piano player will celebrate his 94th birthday on July 7th at the festival. Born in Mississippi in 1913, Pinetop played guitar at house parties and honky-tonks, growing up under the tutelage of Clarence "Pinetop" Smith for whom he composed "Pinetop Boogie" that later became a hit record. A guitarist until an injury led him back to the piano, Pinetop who adopted the name from his mentor, developed an unmistakable sound that became a foundation for swing and eventually, rock and roll. Best known for his work with Muddy Waters, Pinetop has worked with many well-known artists including B.B. King and Earl Hooker. His appearance at the Russell City Blues Festival is a rare opportunity to meet this living legend.
Other notable performers include the reunion of the "Billy Branch and Sons of the Blues" with Lurrie Bell and Carl Weathersby. The festival will also feature the sounds of legendary John Primer, Eddie Shaw and Mr. Chicago, Taildragger. Other great artists from the Windy City include Willie Big Eye Smith, Big Time Sarah; Nellie Tiger Travis; Vance Shaw and Doug McDonald - his first visit to the festival.
For more information, call (510) 836-2227 or visit www.bayareabluessociety.net. Tickets are available at highsierratickets.com or tickets.com. Also at The Bistro, The Cobbler, Aim mail center, Shark Shack, San Ramon Library, Mojo Lounge, JJ's Blues Club, Down Home Music.
Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival
Saturday and Sunday, July 7 and 8
11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Hayward City Hall Plaza
777 B Street, Hayward
Kick Off Party
Friday, July 6
9 p.m. - 1 a.m.
"B" & Main Sts., Hayward
General Public - $15 in advance; $20 at the gate
Two-day pass - $30 in advance only
Students and Seniors (62+) - $15
Group rates of 10 or more
Children under 12 - free