AURORA – Although Chicago is known as the blues capital of the world, the city of Aurora is steeped in blues history.
In 1937 and 1938, Sonny Boy Williamson, Henry Townsend and other notable Bluebird artists made recordings at the Leland Hotel high-rise in downtown Aurora. To honor that history, the Blues on the Fox festival was started in 1997, by the Fox Valley Blues Society.
The festival's history will be on display this weekend as part of the Virtual Blues on the Fox festival being organized by the nonprofit Fox Valley Music Foundation, which operates The Venue in downtown Aurora. The festival will be livestreamed on The Venue's Facebook page, facebook.com/TheVenueAurora.
RiverEdge Park – where the festival was supposed to take place this weekend – is closed to events because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Venue also is closed for the time being.
Fox Valley Music Foundation President Dave Glynn put together the film "The Story of Blues on the Fox" in collaboration with RiverEdge Park and the city of Aurora. Part 1 of the documentary will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by a performance at 8 p.m. by Toronzo Cannon. Part 2 will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by a performance at 8 p.m. by Billy Branch.
Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf talked to Glynn about the film. The interview has been edited for length and style.
Eric Schelkopf: This is the 24th year of Blues on the Fox, virtual or not. What made you want to put this together?
Dave Glynn: I felt we could provide the experience of the festival to people and tell the story of the festival. It's a very interesting story, I think.
Schelkopf: Blues legend Junior Wells appeared at the first Blues on the Fox festival, one year before he died in 1998. It seems like Aurora has contributed a lot to the history of the blues in Illinois.
Glynn: Absolutely. The RCA Bluebird recordings really shaped the urban blues, as it came to be known. All those guys that recorded at the Leland Hotel were the forerunners to the guys who came right after them in the '50s and the '60s, like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
These guys really set the stage for them and influenced them heavily. It truly is part of Illinois' blues history. And we've made modern history in the last 20-some years with the festival.
Schelkopf: How are people responding to the virtual concerts that The Venue has been putting on?
Glynn: Well, we had a really good night with John Primer last Saturday as part of the Blues and Roots festival. And the majority of the donations we get go to the artists.
A smaller percentage goes to the Fox Valley Music Foundation, so we can keep the doors open.