Short Stories

Harmonica visitors submit fiction or non-fiction short stories based on experiences that involve the harmonica or harmonica playing. If you would like to have a short story included in our collection, please note the procedures for submission in the bullet points on the Short Stories main page.

"Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969"

I was 19 then, and was trying to decide which summer music festival to go to: the first annual Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Michigan, or a big rock festival in upstate New York at a place called Woodstock. I chose the blues, and I'm glad I did.

The drive over with my buddy, Jim Vales (may he rest in peace), in his 1965 red Chevy Impala was not far, the weather was great, and we camped out at Otis Spann Memorial Field on or near the U. of Michigan. 99% of the living blues legends were appearing, but I had recently started focusing in hard on blues harp, Charlie Musselwhite in particular, and he was one of the people I was most interested in seeing.

One of the best things about the whole deal was that you didn't have the huge crowds that you got at rock shows. There was plenty of room for everyone, and it never got ugly. I will try my best to list here all of the artists who appeared, but I will start with one who wasn't there (John Lee Hooker: that's why I said 99% were there).

Over three afternoons and two or three evenings, we saw and heard the following:

Roosevelt Sykes, Luther Allison, Jimmy Dawkins, Mighty Joe Young, Howling Wolf, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Musselwhite, Memphis Jug Band, Big Mama Thornton, Son House, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Hound Dog Taylor, Otis Rush, Sam Lay, James Cotton, and others. It has been so long that I simply cannot recall all of the artists who appeared.

If anyone out there was in attendance, please let me know. I would like to get a real listing of the artists at Ann Arbor I. It was a life-changing experience.

Steve Wanvig

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