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Mavis Staples performed at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island during Farm Aid 30, September 19, 2015.
Photograph: Max Herman

Mavis Staples and a Little Walter tribute top the Chicago Blues Festival 2018 lineup

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

Chicago's current bout of winter weather may be giving you the blues, but don't despair—warm temperatures and summer music festivals will return in just a few months. One reliable sign that the days of beach trips and patio dining are nearly upon us is the Chicago Blues Festival, which takes over Millennium Park from June 8 to 10.

This morning organizers revealed the complete lineup of main stage performers at this year's festival, where local legends and touring acts will pay tribute to prominent blues musicians of the past. Friday night's lineup at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion will celebrate the 65th anniversary of Chicago blues label Delmark Records, which released albums by the likes of Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Junior Wells and more. Modern Delmark artists the Corey Dennison Band and Mississippi Heat will kick off the evening before a cavalcade of local acts turn in tribute sets honoring some of Delmark's most notable signees.

On Saturday night, a long list of local acts will honor blues harpist (a.k.a. harmonica player) Little Walter, who got his start in a blues club on Maxwell Street before joining Muddy Waters' band. Harmonica aficionados can expect to see Billy Branch, Billy Boy, Arnold, Corky Siegel, Rick Estrin, Sugar Blue, Magic Dick and more blowing on their harps during a climactic end-of-the-evening jam.

Finally, on Sunday night Chicago Blues Festival will welcome gospel legend Mavis Staples to the stage to close out the weekend with a hometown set. Staples recently released her third album (If All I Was Was Black) produced in collaboration with Jeff Tweedy, so don't be surprised if the Wilco frontman shows up to play a few songs with Staples. The evening will also feature performances from rootsy vocalist Fantastic Negrito and Louisiana bluesman Kenny Neal.

In the coming months, the festival will reveal the lineups for its Budweiser Crossroads Stage, Mississippi Juke Joint and the Front Porch. This summer will mark the Chicago Blues Festival's second appearance in Millennium Park since being moved from its former home in Grant Park. Take a look at the complete lineup of headlining acts below.

Friday, June 8
Jay Pritzker Pavilion – 65th Anniversary of Delmark Records Celebration

5:30–6:15pm - Corey Dennison Band

6:30–7:15pm - Mississippi Heat with guests Billy Flynn and Giles Corey

7:30–9:30pm - Tribute to Those Who Came Before and Bob Koester
Corey Dennison and Gerry Hundt – Tribute to Sleepy John Estes
Jimmy Burns – Tribute to Big Joe Williams
Ken Saydak – Tribute to Roosevelt Sykes
Guy King – Tribute to Willie Kent
Billy Flynn and Linsey Alexander – Tribute to Jimmy Dawkins
Lil’ Ed & Dave Weld – Tribute to J.B. Hutto
Demetria Taylor and Tomiko Dixon – Tribute to Big Time Sarah
Steve Bell and Lurrie Bell – Tribute to Carey Bell
Jimmy Johnson and Dave Specter – Tribute to Magic Sam
Omar Coleman – Tribute to Junior Wells

Saturday, June 9
Jay Pritzker Pavilion

5:30–6:30pm - Selwyn Birchwood

6:45–7:45pm - Willie Clayton

8-9:30pm - Little Walter Tribute
Featuring harp players: Billy Branch, Billy Boy Arnold, Corky Siegel, Rick Estrin, Sugar Blue, Magic Dick and others.

Sunday, June 10
Jay Pritzker Pavilion

5:30–6:30pm Fantastic Negrito

6:45–7:45pm - Kenny Neal

8–9:30pm - Mavis Staples

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