Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced today a special centennial celebration honoring Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon at the 32nd Annual Chicago Blues Festival, June 12-14 in Grant Park.

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. June 14 at the Petrillo Music Shell, honoring Muddy Waters, the “father of modern Chicago blues” and Willie Dixon, the “poet laureate of the blues.” Billy Branch and Sons of Blue will kick off the music lineup, which is also scheduled to include Keisha Dixon, Tomika Dixon, Freddie Dixon, Alex Dixon, Bobby Dixon, Sugar Blue and John Watkins, among others.

At 8:15 p.m., Waters will be celebrated with a jam session by former band members, family and friends, including Bob Margolin, Mud Morganfield, Big Bill Morganfield, John Primer, Rick Kreher, Bob Stroger, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, E.G. McDaniel, Paul Oscher, Jerry Portnoy and Barrelhouse Chuck.


Muddy Waters | Courtesy photo/DCASE

According to the celebration announcement:

Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon were part of the “great migration” of African Americans from the southern United States to Chicago in the late 1930s and ’40s. With Dixon’s music and lyrics and Water’s electric guitar they are the nexus that transformed the Delta blues to the Chicago sound. Together they have influenced generations of musicians like the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Buddy Guy, Chuck Barry and countless other blues, jazz and rock-n-roll artists.”

The two Chicago blues legends each had a hand in the origins of the Chicago Blues Festival. On August 30, 1969, Willie Dixon along with Murphy Dunne (Blues Brothers) produced a blues concert at the former Chicago Band Shell located in Grant Park at 11th Street. The 10-hour precursor to the present-day festival included performances by Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Walter Horton, Sam Lay, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Little Milton, Koko Taylor, Big Mama Thornton, Junior Wells and ended with Muddy Waters performing “Got My Mojo Workin.” Fifteen years later, the first Chicago Blues Festival was held in 1984 in honor Muddy Waters, who had passed away the year before.

The complete Blues Festival lineup will be announced in the coming months. For more information, visit