The Waterfront Blues Festival & KBOO: celebrating 25 years of playing the blues & fighting hunger

John Lee Hooker - Mr. Lucky
Tom McFarland - Just Got In from Portland
John Mayall
Charlie Musselwhite
Jimmy Rogers

The Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival is the largest blues festival on the West Coast and the second largest blues festival in the nation.

The festival not only brings the best blues artists to Portland, it benefits Oregon Food Bank's work to eliminate hunger and its root causes ... because no one should be hungry.

KBOO has been involved with the Waterfront Blues Festival, formerly the River City Blues Festival, since before it became a fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank (then Oregon Food Share). We've media sponsored the festival and broadcast live at every Festival. 

The Waterfront Blues Festival folks have been kind enough to post their history of the festival, which is what we're working from here. As KBOO is approaching our 45th year, we're proud to be an original sponsor and to have broadcast every Blues Festival. 

We're playin' the blues and fightin' hunger in Oregon


John Lee Hooker - Mr. Lucky
The cover of the 1991 album by John Lee Hooker, Mr. Lucky

In 1987: The Waterfront Blues Festival began as the Rose City Blues Festival, sponsored by the Cascade Blues Association, to benefit Burnside Community Council's projects for the homeless. Performers include John Lee Hooker, Paul deLay Band, Curtis Salgado & the Stilletos, Norman Sylvester Blues Band, Lloyd Jones Struggle, Bill Rhoades & The Party Kings, The Mayther Brothers, Terry Robb Band and DK Stewart. KBOO radio station broadcast performances and has continued to do so throughout the history of the festival.


Tom McFarland - Just Got In from Portland
The cover of Tom McFarland's Just Got In From Portland album from 1986.

25 years ago, in 1988, Oregon Food Share, the predecessor of Oregon Food Bank, became the producer and beneficiary of the Rose City Blues Festival, becoming Oregon's first annual blues festival to benefit people who are hungry in Oregon. Performers included Tom McFarland, Johnnie Ward & The Jokers, Norman Sylvester, Curtis Salgado & The Stilletos and Jesse Mae Hemphill. And KBOO was there as a sponsor, and broadcasting live.


John Mayall with his band at Montreux
A photo from the John Mayall website. 1986- Montreux. L to R: Coco Montoya, Otis Rush, Luther Allison, John Mayall, Joe Yuele, and Walter Trout.

In 1989, the Rose City Blues festival (aka the Waterfront Blues Festival) was raising money & food for Oregon Food Bank. Performers included John Mayall, James Cotton, Little Charlie & The Nightcats, Mel Solomon, Lowell Fulson. KBOO Community Radio was a sponsor, and broadcast the festival live.


Muddy Waters with Charlie Musselwhite
Charlie Musselwhite (R) with Muddy Waters. Photographer unknown.

In 1990, the Rose City Blues Festival (soon to be named the Waterfront Blues Festival) had performers like Charlie Musselwhite, Luther Tucker, Joe Louis Walker, Mitch Woods & The Rocket 88s, Mick Clark Band and Elvin Bishop. They were playin' the blues and raising money & food for the Oregon Food Bank. And KBOO Community Radio was there too, broadcasting live.


Jimmy Rogers
Jimmy Rogers' compilation album from 1984.

In 1991, the festival became the Waterfront Blues Festival, and fans brought in 25K pounds of food and $80K for the Oregon Food Bank. Wuhoo!

Performers included Chicago blues legends Jimmy Rogers and Hubert Sumlin, Katie Webster and Luther Johnson, plus Buddy Brown & The Houd Dogs, Johnny Heartsman, Joe Houston and Lee Allen, Luther Guitar Johnnson, Bernie Perle with Harmonica Fats, Pinetop Perkins, Rockin Sidney, Luther Tucker, Katie Webster, Papa John Creach, Henry Vestine and Big Daddy Kinsey & the Kinsey Report. Dang! And you know - KBOO Community Radio was there broadcasting live -- like we'll be this year. See you there!


Johnny Copeland
Johnny Copeland

In 1992, performers at the Waterfront Blues Festival included Savoy Brown, Wild Child Butler, Johnny Copeland, James Cotton, Debbie Davies, Floyd Dixon, Smokin' Joe Kubec, Luke and The Locomotives, Big Jay McNeely, Paramount Singers, Snooky Pryor, Al Rapone and Zydeco Express, Sonny Rhodes, Fenton Robinson, Eddie Shaw and The Wolfgang, Wailin' Al Walker. They were playin' the blues and fighting hunger for the Oregon Food Bank. KBOO Community Radio broadcast live -- as we will be this year.


Otis Rush
Otis Rush

In 1993, the Waterfront Blues Festival grew by leaps and bounds. Attendees donated $105,000 and 41,000 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank. Performers include Otis Rush, Johnny Johnson and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Plus Billy Boy Arnold, Long John Baldry, Latell Barton, Richard Berry, Sugar Blue, Deanna Bogart, Shirlie Dixon, Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets, Glenn Lane, Charlie Musselwhite, Tom Principato, Guitar Shorty, Terrance Simien and Mallet Playboys, Joe Louis Walker and Arbess Williams. KBOO Community Radio -- yep -- broadcast it live.


Elvin Bishop
Elvin Bishop, ’bout when he fooled around and fell in love.

In 1994, the Waterfront Blues Festival featured artists including Elvin Bishop, Eric Burdon, Johnny Nocturne Band, Frankie Lee, Little Johnny Taylor, Little Milton Revue, Dorothy Moore, Maria Muldaur, Rod Piazza, Jimmy Thackery, The Chambers Brothers, Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Smokey Wilson. The Oregon Food Bank was collecting desperately needed food & $$. And KBOO was broadcasting live on-site.


Luther Allison
Luther Allison

The Waterfront Blues Festival was raising money and food for the Oregon Food Bank. KBOO Community Radio broadcast live. And there were performers, oh yes... Luther Allison, Bobby Parker Band with Little Jimmy King, Deanna Bogart, Savoy Brown, Norton Buffalo, W.C. Clark, Tinsley Ellis, Bugs Henderson, Mark Hummel, Yvonne Jackson, King Ernest, Big Daddy Kinsey and The Kinsey Report, Little Charlie and The Nightcats, John Mayall, The Paladins, Paul deLay Band, Kelly Joe Phelps, Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings, Finis Tasby, The Holmes Brothers and the subdudes.


Hank Ballard & the Moonlighers
Hank Ballard & the Midnighters

In 1996 Elvin Bishop, Geno Delafose, Charlie Musselwhite, Curtis Salgado, performed at the Waterfront Blues Festival as a fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank. KBOO broadcast the festival live. This year, they'll (& we'll) be back -- and hunger in Oregon is at its highest point ever.

Some other performers in 1996: Hank Ballard and The Midnighters, Canned Heat, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Terry Evans, Guitar Shorty, James Harman, Bugs Henderson, Mark Hummel, Big Jack Johnson, Louisiana Guitar Red, Lee Oskar, Gary Primich, Sonny Rhodes, Sista Monica, Syl Johnson Band and Junior Wells.


Boozoo Chavis
Boozoo Chavis at the 2000 Original Southwest Zydeco Festival in Plaisance, Louisana.
Photo by David Simpson

1997. The Waterfront Blues Festival had some great performers to raise food & money for the Oregon Food Bank, and KBOO broadcast it live. Performers included Billy Branch, Boozoo Chavis, John Hammond, King Ernest, Bob Margolin/Pinetop Perkins/Billy Boy Arnold, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Poppa Chubby, Francine Reed, Duke Robillard, Clarence Spady, Angela Strehli, The Bluebirds, The Chambers Brothers, The Staples Singers, Joe Louis Walker, & Kim Wilson and The Tigermen.


Bobby Rush
Bobby Rush with dancers (Photographer unknown)

The Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival was still known as the Albertsons Waterfront Blues Festival. Fans donated $155,000 and 60,000 pounds of food to the Oregon Food Bank during the four-day festival. Then, Albertsons donated an additional truckload of food! Wuhoo! And KBOO broadcast it all live.

There were performers, of course: Bobby Rush, Roy Rogers, Bobby Blue Bland, J. Geils and Son Seals, Blind Boys of Alabama, Honeyboy Edwards, Jack Elliot, Larry Garner, Bugs Henderson, Kelley Hunt Band, Nathan and The Zydeco Cha Chas, Shuggie "no-show" Otis, Kenny Blue Ray and Jackie Payne, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Kelly Joe Phelps, Roy Rogers, E.C. Scott, Jimmy Thackery, The Boneshakers, The Love Dogs, Junior Watson, Zigaboo Modeliste and more.


In 1999, Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival added a third stage. Oregon Food Bank raised more than $210,000 and 80,000 pounds of food at the Festival. And KBOO Community Radio was there, broadcasting live. Performers included Koko Taylor, Jimmie Vaughan, Booker T & The MGs and Charlie Musselwhite. Plus R.L. Burnside, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, Guy Davis, Mark Hummel with Big Joe Duskin and Joe Beard, Indigo Swing, Johnny Nocturne Band, Lazy Lester with Teddy Morgan and Sevilles, Little Malcolm and the Zydeco House Rockers, Magic Slim and The Teardrops, Cookie McGee, Mike Morgan and The Crawl, Geoff Muldaur and Fritz Richmond, Charmaine Neville, Paul deLay with the Rockin' Johnny Band, Johnny Rawls Revue, Eric Sardinas, Josh Smith and The Frost, Irma Thomas, Jimmie Vaughan, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Corby Yates and more


In the year 2000, the 13th annual Waterfront Blues Festival raises $350,000 and 100,000 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank. KBOO Community Radio is there, broadcasting live. Fans turn out in droves to see performers like Jonny Lang and Shannon Curfman, Pinetop Perkins and Robert Junior Lockwood, Alberta Adams, Alice Stuart Band, Monte Amundson, Brian Auger, Long John Baldry, Johnnie Bassett, Carey Bell, Eddie Bo, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Paul Brasch, Deep Banana Blackout, Dr. John, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jeffrey Halford and The Healers, Howard and The White Boys, Long John Hunter, Candye Kane, Eddie Kirkland, Johnnie Marshall, Larry McCray, Raful Neal/Tabby Thomas/Tab Benoit, Kelly Joe Phelps, Lou Pride, "Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks, Rolling Fork Revue (Margolin, Morganfield, Perkins, Bell), Terrance Simien, Sista Monica, Nina Storey, The Paladins, Carl Weathersby and more.


Fans raise a record $380,000 and 103,000 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank. KBOO broadcasts it all live. And more than 125,000 fans at the Waterfront Blues Festival hear Solomon Burke, Shemekia Copeland, Double Trouble, Anson Funderburg and Sam Myers, Hoodoo Kings, Little Feat, Los Lobos, Delbert McClinton, Rod Price, Geno Delafose, Sony Rhodes, Roomful of Blues, Mem Shannon, Wild Magnolias, Zydeco Dance with Rosie Ledet and Geno Delafose and more.


The Waterfront Blues Festival attracts 120,000 fans, who donate more than $310,000 and more than 115,000 pounds of food to the Oregon Food Bank. KBOO is there, broadcasting live. As are Marcia Ball, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Tommy Castro, WC Clark, Deborah Coleman, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Honeyboy Edwards, Al Kooper and The ReKooperators, John Mayall, Jimmy T-99 Nelson with Duke Robillard, Kelly Joe Phelps Trio, Queen Ida, Michelle Shocked, Howard Tate and The Uptown Horns, Melvin Taylor, Jimmy Thackery, The Radiators, Ike Turner and more.


The Year of the Blues. Even so, the Waterfront Blues Festival broke all records. Fans donated $363,000 net and 120,000 pounds of food to Oregon Food Bank. And KBOO -- oh yeah, we were there too. Performers included Etta James, Susan Tedeschi, Taj Mahal, Steve Miller with Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo, Jody Williams, North Mississippi All-stars, Ruthie Foster, Pinetop Perkins, Phil Upchurch, Bryan Lee, Henry Butler, Lil' Malcolm and the Zydeco Houserockers, Papa Grows Funk and more.


Generous blues fans donated $323,000 and 100,649 pounds of food to the Oregon Food Bank. The Waterfront Blues Festival was spotlighting the music of Louisiana and Texas. KBOO was broadcasting, and Keb' Mo', Jonny Lang, the Holmes Brothers and Canned Heat were playing. In addition, there was Hubert Sumlin, Sonny Landreth, James and Lucky Peterson, the Mannish Boys, Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers, Ruthie Foster, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, Reggie Houston, Cyril Neville and the Uptown Allstars, Robert Belfour, Mark Lemhouse, Roy Book Binder, Arthur Adams, Tracy Nelson and more.


Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, Oliver Mtukudzi, the subdudes, Mavis Staples and Shemekia Copeland headlined the 2005 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival. KBOO broadcasted live from the waterfront. Other performers including Reggie Houston, Guitar Shorty, Big Monti Amundson, King Louie & Baby James, Eric Johnson, Mark Lemhouse, the Kenny Neal Band, Sherman Robertson, Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, the Campbell Brothers, Roy Tyler & New Directions, Stephen Bruton, Doyle Bramhall and more. Music lovers donated $348,000 and 107,000 pounds of food to the Oregon Food Bank.


Dr. John, a.ka. "The Night Tripper"; Irma Thomas, "Soul Queen of New Orleans"; New Orleans "Blues Queen" Marva Wright; Little Feat, Rebirth Brass; Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias; Porter, Batiste & Stoltz; Henry Butler; Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk; Henry Gray; Buckwheat Zydeco; The Bluerunners; John Hiatt & The North Mississippi Allstars: The Hacienda Brothers; Tommy Castro Band; Jimmy Thackery and Reba Russell; Rich DelGrosso; Harper and Mia Dyson from Australia; Ian Siegel from the U.K.; The Soul Stirrers; The Lee Boys; Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin on stage together for the first time in 30 years to pay tribute to Fritz Richmond; Larry McCray, Johnny Rawls, Keith Frank & Soleil Zydeco, the Greyboy Allstars, Big Monti Amundson, the Rhythm Council and more. Blues fans donated 103,500 pounds of food and $545,000 at the gate.


The festival celebrated with headliners like The Neville Brothers, Koko Taylor; Joan Armatrading; The Blind Boys of Alabama; Mavis Staples; Marcia Ball; Pinetop Perkins, who celebrated his 94th birthday at the festival; Watermelon Slim; James Cotton Band with special guest Hubert Sumlin; The Dirty Dozen Brass Band; Eric Burdon and the Animals; Voice of the Wetlands Allstars (Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, Johnny Sansone); Savoy Brown; Lurrie Bell; Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums; J.J. Grey and Mofro; J.W. Jones; Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks and more. Generous blues fans donated $510,000 and 97,343 pounds of food at the gate.


The festival celebrated its 21st year with both legendary icons and young and edgy musicians. The lineup included soul icon Isaac Hayes, Charlie Musselwhite, Phoebe Snow, Canned Heat, The Mannish Boys with special guests Kid Ramos, Kirk Fletcher and Finis Tasby, Joe Bonamassa, Elvin Bishop, James Hunter, Eric Lindell, Ruthie Foster, Arthur Adams, Curtis Salgado, Portland Soul All-Stars, Carolyn Wonderland, Back Door Slam, Fred Wesley & Groovesect, Robert "Wolfman" Belfour, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Classie Ballou, Paul Thorn, The Legendary Shack Shakers, Tribute to Freddie King with Phillip Walker, Sherman Robertson and Andrew "Jr. Boy Jones and zydeco with Rosie Ledet, Christ Ardoin & Nu Step Zydeco, Cedryl Ballou & the Zydeco Trendsetters, Dikki Du & The Zydeco Krew and more. Generous blues fans donated $538,000 at the gate, making gate donation the second highest in the festival's 21-year history and highest for a four-day festival. Attendees also donated 91,192 pounds of food.


The festival's 22nd year featured Keb' Mo'; Grammy-nominated Robben Ford; Texas blues-rock legend Johnny Winter; slide-guitar wizard Sonny Landreth; Karl Denson's Tiny Universe; the Lee Boys; Rick Estrin and the Nightcats; Candye Kane; Terry Evans; Bonerama; Kevin Gordon; Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings; Ryan Shaw; Magic Slim and the Teardrops; Big Sam's Funky Nation; Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real; and more. Blues fans donated more than $544,638. In addition, blues fans contributed more than 76,363 pounds of food.


The 23rd annual festival featured Taj Mahal, Little Feat, John Mayall, Booker T., Bobby Rush, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Galactic with Cyril Neville, JJ Grey and Mofro, Chris Thomas King, Curtis Salgado, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Walter Trout, Michael Burks Band with Lucky Peterson, Baskery, Cedric Burnside & Lightnin' Malcolm, Moreland & Arbuckle, Super Chikan & the Fighting Cocks, Mingo Fish Trap, porterdavis, Janiva Magness, Norton Buffalo's Knockouts, Paul Cebar, Kara Grainger, a Zydeco Swamp Romp with Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Donna Angelle & Zydeco Posse, Corey Ledet & his Zydeco Band, Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic and many more. Blues fans set a new record, donating about $650,000 and exceeding this year's $600,000 goal. Blues fans also exceeded this year's food goal of 100,000 pounds, donating 100,662 pounds of food.


Buddy Guy, Lucinda Williams, Maceo Parker, Robert Cray, Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band, Rebirth Brass Band, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Orgone, Bobby Radcliff, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Preston Shannon, Honey Island Swamp Band, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Chris Cain, Nathan James, James Harman, Bruce Conte, Grady Champion, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns and many more. The festival attracted more than 120,000 people, who contributed 110,454 pounds of food and $748,000 through donations at the gate as well as advance purchases of special passes, exceeding the festival’s donation goal of 100,000 pounds of food and $650,000.

And the story continues...

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