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John Mayall headlines the free Niagara Falls Blues Festival

NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara Falls Blues Festival will feature British blues legend John Mayall, a tribute to Chicago style blues, and Claudette King, the youngest daughter of icon B.B. King.

The free, three-day festival being held Sept. 16-18 on Old Falls Street, boasts nearly 30 performances.

“I do this because the blues are the mother and father of American music and we’ve got to keep this going,” said festival founder Toby Rotella, a Falls native. “This is an old-time blues festival – the way it used to be done.”

Noting that a full moon will appear Sept. 16, Rotella said the concert will kick off with “A Full Moon Chicago Blues Review.”

Shawn Holt and the Teardrops take the stage at 5 p.m. Sept. 16 with John Primer. They are followed by Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang, with Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh. Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues perform next, with the Chris O’Leary Band at 10:30 p.m. under the tent.

The 10th annual Memorial Classic Car and Bike Cruise is planned for 1 p.m. Sept. 17, beginning at Sal Maglie Stadium on Hyde Park Boulevard. It travels down Pine Avenue to the festival site.

Aces and Eights will get things started at 1 p.m. Sept. 17 on Old Falls Street, followed by The Electras, the Tommy Z Band and Chicago’s Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, before Mayall and the Bluesbreakers take the stage.

Mayall, who has been referred to as “The Godfather of British Blues,” was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in May.

Popa Chubby is touring the East Coast and off to Europe next month and he will bring his “hard swinging blues rock” style to the tent at 10:30 p.m.

A Gospel Blues Brunch organized by Marsha McWilson is from noon to 7 p.m. Sept. 18. It starts with free coffee and pastries.

“So many different styles of music will be covered,” said McWilson, who will kick things off with Gospel hymns in the Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin tradition.

“This is going to be like those old tent revivals, back in the day, so people can get a feel for it,” she said.

Recording artist Malcolm Wilson and the Joshua Generation will be among the featured guests, who also include Oral Roberts, originally from Trinidad, with Caribbean-Calypso Gospel selections; Richie Derwald, performing Elvis Presley’s gospel selections; and Angel Vox with Marshall Badger, whom McWilson described as an African teen group.

Also: Falls gospel singer Constance Matthews, Men in White (founded by Pat Regan) and liturgical dancers from the Potter’s House.

At 5 p.m., McWilson takes the stage again in her Etta James revue backed by Anthony Taylor and the Beautiful Music Band, who also will accompany King at 6 p.m. McWilson and King will perform together to close out the festival.

“This is one of the top five free blues festivals in the United States,” said Rotella. “And we take all of the money we make at the festival selling T-shirts and such and it all goes into next year’s show. We are all volunteers.”

Rotella owned the Imperial Garage on Third Street in Niagara Falls in the early 1980s, where he hosted many well-known blues artists, from Muddy Waters to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“This festival is a dream come true for me and it’s for the good of Niagara Falls,” he said. “I’m proud to keep this going ... Blues will always have a part in American history.”


What: The Niagara Falls Blues Festival

When: Sept. 16-18

Where: Old Falls Street, Niagara Falls

Admission: Free


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