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drawing of a guitar neck and a Ann ARbor Blues Festival marquee

New Blues

GoFundMe helps revive a seminal festival.

by arwulf arwulf

From the August, 2017 issue

In August 1969, a group of U-M undergrads put on a three-day blues festival on the "Fuller Flatlands" next to Huron High School. Supported by the University Activities Center and Canterbury House, it has since been recognized as America's first outdoor festival almost entirely devoted to electric blues. A second Ann Arbor Blues Festival was held in 1970, followed in '72 by the first of three expanded Blues and Jazz Festivals. People's lives were changed; the events inspired whole careers in broadcasting, music promotion, and the humanities.

As the fiftieth anniversary of that first festival approaches, semiretired attorney and blues lover James Partridge is on a mission to revive it. A cardinal member of the Ann Arbor Blues Society, he developed a passion for the music while taking guitar lessons in his middle forties. Puzzled by what he calls Ann Arbor's "collective amnesia" about this chapter in its history, he set about looking for backers. "At first people told me I was crazy, or blew me off completely," he says. "If they even returned my calls they told me that the blues is dead, that no one would buy a ticket, or even that the founders would take legal action against me!

"So I spoke with several of the original organizers, and everyone was supportive. Of course, this is our first event; we have no track record of success. If I were a sponsor, I'd be cautious too. But our GoFundMe campaign raised $7,500. People are buying tickets. The blues is very much alive and well.

"Of course," he adds, "none of that means I'm not crazy." The 2017 Ann Arbor Blues Festival hits the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds on Saturday August 19 (see Events).    (end of article)

[Originally published in August, 2017.]

 



 
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