The American Folk-Blues Festival 1962-1966

The 60’s was an amazing time for the blues. The “folk scare” made many people aware of the blues tradition in America for the first time. It introduced many white people to a music form that was created and developed in America, mostly in the south. Even in Europe the blues was being discovered and black American blues musicians were finally getting the attention they deserved. In fact, Europe had a much deeper understanding and respect for the blues and blues artists. They still do to this day.

The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966 was a blues music festival that toured Europe beginning in 1962. These videos are from some of the shows that appeared on European television from 1962 to 1966. Somewhere around 1996 these performances were put on video and now you can buy them through Amazon and other DVD distributors. Owning the real thing is worth it if only for the booklet that comes with it describing how these shows all went down with the amazing story behind it and super pictures.

These videos are truly an amazing documentation of the blues artists of that era and if you’ve never seen this before you will be amazed. It shows some of our best blues artists, some at their peak and some long after their peak, but still powerful and inspirational.

Any blues lover will probably want to have these videos in their collection. They can be purchased on Amazon or through any DVD outlet.

The video is not only amazing for the performances but for the sound and video quality as well. Plus you’ll some amazing combinations of great artists performing together. Also you get see Muddy Waters playing a lot of guitar. In his later years he mostly played only slide guitar. Truly special.

The concerts featured some of the leading blues artists of the 1960s, such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson. Some playing in unique combinations such as T-Bone Walker playing guitar for pianist Memphis Slim, Otis Rush with Junior Wells, Sonny Boy Williamson with Muddy Waters. The Festival DVDs include the only known footage of Little Walter, and rare recordings of John Lee Hooker playing harmonica.

There are three separate videos/shows. Each is over an hour long. Watch them and see if you agree. Enjoy!

Part 1

This was recorded in a small German TV studio. Some of the highlights of this first show are Otis Rush and Lonnie Johnson. These are two great guitar players that I didn’t know much about. Both sound years ahead of their time. John Lee Hooker also shows some energy and gets the crowds attention.

This short excerpt from Volume 1 features T-Bone Walker…

Part 2

Highlights of this DVD include a super T-Bone Walker performance where he shows himself in top form. Howlin Wolf also grabs your attention and Hubert Sumlin shows how he became the next generation of blues guitarists. Wolf announces him as “Little Hubert.” Also an over-matched John Lee Hooker is seen playing harmonica during the harp showdown. But the truth is he was just filling in for someone who didn’t show up so he was just helping out.

Part 3

Highlights of this show are Big Joe Turner, rare Skip James, Son House, a young Koko Taylor, and a great last set with T-Bone Walker, Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

German jazz publicist Joachim-Ernst Berendt first had the idea of bringing original African-American blues performers to Europe. Jazz had become very popular, and rock and roll was just gaining a foothold, and both genres drew influences directly back to the blues. Berendt thought that European audiences would flock to concert halls to see them in person.

Promoters Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau brought this idea to reality. By contacting Willie Dixon, an influential blues composer and bassist from Chicago who appeared on many of the top blues and rock and roll records, they were given access to the blues culture of the southern United States. Willie is part of the backup band for many of the musicians here, much as he was back in Chicago.

The first festival was held in 1962, and they continued almost annually until 1972, after an eight-year hiatus reviving the festival in 1980 until its final performance in 1985.

Attendees of the first London festivals are believed to include such influential musicians as Mick Jagger, Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, and Steve Winwood, who were the primary movers in the blues explosion that would lead to the British Invasion. You can clearly see how these concerts must have been a big influence on the British blues invasion that took place a bit later.

Sonny Boy Williamson’s visit to London with the 1963 festival led to him spending a year in Europe including recording the Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds album, and recording with The Animals.

Sites where the festival was held included London, Hamburg, Paris, and others.

Blues musicians who performed included:

  • Muddy Waters
  • Sonny Boy Williamson
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Sippie Wallace,
  • T-Bone Walker,
  • Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee
  • Memphis Slim,
  • Otis Rush,
  • Lonnie Johnson
  • Eddie Boyd
  • Big Walter Horton
  • Junior Wells
  • Big Joe Williams
  • Mississippi Fred McDowell
  • Willie Dixon
  • Otis Spann
  • Big Mama Thornton
  • Bukka White
  • Howlin’ Wolf (with a band made up of Sunnyland Slim, Hubert Sumlin, Willie Dixon and drummer Clifton James)
  • Champion Jack Dupree
  • Son House
  • Skip James
  • Sleepy John Estes
  • Little Brother Montgomery
  • Victoria Spivey
  • J. B. Lenoir
  • Little Walter
  • Carey Bell
  • Louisiana Red
  • Lightnin’ Hopkins
  • Joe Turner
  • Buddy Guy
  • Magic Sam
  • Lee Jackson
  • Roosevelt Sykes
  • Doctor Ross
  • Koko Taylor
  • Hound Dog Taylor
  • Archie Edwards
  • and Helen Humes

You can buy the complete DVD series and other blues DVDs at Amazon here.