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The first weekend of September brings a special edition of the Paramount Music Fest to Coal Dock Park in Port Washington, Wisconsin. For three days (September 1-3), the festival presents the best in live blues and other roots genres, paying special tribute to Paramount Records to celebrate the revered label’s centennial birthday. Way back in 1917, the Wisconsin Chair Company launched its Paramount Records subsidiary, now legendary thanks to its many seminal recordings by “Ma” Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, Big Bill Broonzy, Charlie Patton, Son House, King Oliver (with Louis Armstrong), and Jelly Roll Morton.

The centerpiece of the entire weekend takes place at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, when an amazing array of Chicago blues legends comes together for a once-in-a-lifetime concert. The all-star lineup consists of dazzling harmonica master Billy Branch and his band, Sons of Blues; southpaw guitarist Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, whose high-energy rocking blues attack blends Chuck Berry-derived rhythms with intense West Side-style string-bending; former Muddy Waters and Magic Slim guitarist John Primer, now a star in his own right; ex-Howlin’ Wolf and Paul Butterfield Blues Band drummer Sam Lay (inventor of the “double shuffle”), and harmonica stalwart Corky Siegel, once the co-leader of the Siegel-Schwall Blues Band

and more recently the founder of the blues/classical hybrid Chamber Blues.

Prior to that incredible musical aggregation at 6:45 p.m. comes powerhouse blues belter Shemekia Copeland; she learned the blues well from her dad, the late Texas guitar great Johnny Copeland, and shortly before her death, Koko Taylor anointed her as the new Queen of the Blues (back in the 1920s, Paramount star Rainey held the same regal title). The 2:00 p.m. Main Stage set of Chicago acoustic duo Joe Filisko (on harmonica) and guitarist Eric Noden is sure to be another highlight. They’ll be followed by Milwaukee-based guitarist Alex Wilson at 3:15 p.m. and blues-rock guitar slinger Davy Knowles at 4:45.

Several of the artists on this year’s bill will perform songs associated with Paramount’s long-ago galaxy of stars. Sturgeon Bay’s Cathy Grier, the Paramount Music Association’s representative at the upcoming International Blues Challenge in Memphis, plans to interpret the music of Rainey and Hunter along with doing her own songs during her 12:30 p.m. Main Stage set on Saturday. Preceding her at noon is Beaver Dam’s Starkweather Bay Blues Band, whose Phyllis Becker will sing a special song to commemorate the centennial as well as the classic blues chanteuses that once graced the talent rosters of Paramount and Black Swan Records.

There’s a second stage in operation all day Saturday as well, where Jonny T-Bird(1:30 p.m.), Katz Sass (4:15 p.m.), and the Water Street Hot Shots (6:15 p.m.) will hold forth. Also on Saturday, renowned Delta blues historian Gayle Dean Wardlow, whose book Chasin’ That Devil Music: Searchin’ For the Blues was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006 as a classic of blues literature, will present a history lesson that’s sure to enlighten serious aficionados of the genre (one of Wardlow’s primary claims to fame: he discovered Robert Johnson’s death certificate).

Friday’s Main Stage blues festivities kick off at 4:30 p.m. with harpist Lil’ Davy Max, southpaw axeman Matthew Curry at 5:30 p.m. followed by celebrated young St. Louis guitarist Marquise Knox at 7:00, and an outstanding group closing the show out at 8:30 consisting of guitarist Greg Koch and his trio with a pair of very special guests, veteran Milwaukee harpist Jim Liban and multi-instrumentalist Billy Flynn, a Green Bay native who’s a wizard on both guitar and mandolin.

Sunday afternoon’s lineup is far more eclectic. Harmonica/guitar duo “Big” Al Dorn & Jonny T-Bird get things hopping at 1:00 p.m. Washington, D.C. roots rockers the Muddy Crows are next at 1:30 p.m., followed by another guitar/harmonica pairing, Reverend Raven & Westside Andy, at 3:15. Nelson Street Revival, a sizzling Chicago aggregation featuring Ellen Miller on harmonica, guitarist David Anthony Herrero, violinist Anne Harris, and two powerhouse vocalists, Peaches Staten and Jefferson Starship front woman Cathy Richardson, takes over at 5:00. Celtic rockers Whiskey of the Damned from Milwaukee cut loose at 6:30, and Columbus, Ohio-based rock band Starset brings this year’s Paramount Music Fest to a close with an 8:00 p.m. set of their singular “cinematic rock.”

The Paramount Music Association demonstrates its commitment to music education by preserving and promoting the history of music, commerce, and technology, as utilized by the Wisconsin Chair Factory for the Paramount Records label. We celebrate the history and support all genres of music recorded by Paramount Records in Wisconsin, while keeping the blues at the forefront of our mission. We strive to tell the Paramount Records story by educating the public through live performances, historical presentations, and artifact displays.

Please visit for more information and a complete schedule of performances.



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