Long Beach to Play Berth of the Blues

It’s a perfect afternoon.

The golden sun of mid-September is wrapped around your bare feet, which are stretched out on a perfect lawn of green. Resting on your lap is a plate of Cajun sausage, red beans and rice, and John Lee Hooker is executing a perfect blues riff in the background.

A couple 20 feet away gets up to dance. A yellow and black bumblebee circles them lazily, then wanders off.

This is what springs to mind when we remember years past of the Long Beach Blues Festival. John Lee Hooker. Etta James. Stevie Ray Vaughan. B.B. King. Ruth Brown. All the greats wander through here at one time or another, belting out the blues.


This year, the festival returns to the Cal State Long Beach campus’ athletic field Saturday and Sept. 19 with a lineup heavy in tributes to the great blues artists, but with room for some emerging talent.

On Saturday, the party sponsored by local jazz radio station KLON-FM starts with an annual event: the introduction of the national talent search winner. This year it’s the Preston Shannon Band from Memphis.

The lineup includes “King Biscuit Time” with Robert Jr. Lockwood and Pinetop Perkins, then Sonny Payne, Rufus Thomas and a tribute to blues legend Robert Johnson with John Hammond and others. Winding up the day will be James Cotton and John Lee Hooker.

Next Sunday, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama--Charlie Musselwhite, Denice LaSalle and Little Milton--will perform. Another tribute, this time to Muddy Waters, will feature Jimmie Rogers, Luther “Guitar Jr.” Johnson, Carey Bell, Pinetop Perkins, Lester “Big Daddy” Kinsey, Willie Smith and Calvin Jones.


On both days, music begins at 11 a.m., doors open at 9 a.m., and the music lasts until about 6 p.m. Free parking is available in the lower campus parking lots, off Atherton Street, near 7th Street and Bellflower Boulevard.

Wait. Thinking back to that little scene we painted for you, you could create this picture in your own back yard. Drag a lawn chair out, make your own red beans and put an album on the stereo. Invite the neighbors over to dance for you.

In fact, this is exactly what we think you should do. We don’t want you showing up to eat all the crawfish and dancing in our space.

If you must go, however, you can buy tickets through Ticketmaster for $25 before the festival, or pay $28 at the gate. Information: (213) 985-5566.