CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
House of Blues' 'Highway 61' retraces the roots and growth of the
blues Nov. 20 in Hancher
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The House of Blues will trace the roots and development
of the blues in "The Highway 61 Tour," featuring emcee Buddy
Guy and performances by Guy and his band, the Blind Boys of Alabama and
Billy Boy Arnold, at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 in Hancher Auditorium on the
University of Iowa campus.
The House of Blues was founded by "Blues Brother" Dan Ackroyd
and his colleagues to preserve and showcase the blues, an American art
form with far-reaching international impact. In a multimedia spectacle
of music, narrative and rare film clips, "Highway 61" explores
the origin and growth of the blues, from its roots in African chants and
rhythms, slave field hollers and gospel to the R and B of Memphis and the
urban edge of Chicago blues -- a migration up route 61.
Host Buddy Guy, a Chicago blues legend, was once described by Eric Clapton
as "the greatest guitarist in the world." A native of Louisiana,
Guy has traveled a long road of his own, from his early days as a sharecropper
and gas station attendant to four Grammy Awards and Billboard magazine's
1993 Century Award.
Guy's distortion-heavy, feedback-drenched licks have been acknowledged
influences on rock and blues artists including Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck,
Jimmy Page, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eddie Van Halen and Kenny Wayne
Guy responds to the plaudits that have come to him late in life with
modesty, and he downplays the importance of technical virtuosity. "Caretaker
of the blues is more like it," he suggests. "I just take what
they taught me and keep adding to it. I just kept my eyes and ears open
and tried to learn as much as I could whenever I heard someone who was
on to something hot. But no matter how hot-shit a guitarist you got bendin'
them strings, the blues ain't the blues until there's real feeling, real
. . . mileage, between the notes being played."
The Blind Boys of Alabama vocal group has been performing for more than
50 years. Lead singer Clarence Fountain formed the group in 1939 at the
Talladega Institute for the Blind, where they built their distinctive style
on the gospel tradition.
Their major-label debut, "Deep River," garnered a Grammy Award
nomination for Gospel Album of the Year, but their first hit was recorded
back in 1948. More than 20 of their minor-label releases have topped the
gospel charts, mixing the old "Jubilee" a-cappella style with
blues and, later, funk. The Blind Boys of Alabama found a new audience
on Broadway, where they were featured in the 1988 production of "The
Gospel at Colonus."
Billy Boy Arnold is part of the first generation of Chicago blues artists
born in the city, as contrasted with the previous generation that migrated
from the South. A protege of legendary blues harmonica player Sonny Boy
Williamson, he grew to musical maturity rubbing shoulders with the likes
of Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Junior Wells and Otis Rush.
Arnold was a star at 20, and he recorded a series of hit records through
the '50s, but by the time the blues scene was reinvigorated by the arrival
of the British blues bands in the 1960s, he had been making his living
as a bus driver and later as a parole officer.
The British bands had idolized Arnold, making his recordings collectors'
items, and recordings by the Yardbirds and the Animals featured his songs.
After David Bowie also covered his material, Arnold came out of retirement,
touring Europe into the '90s.
In 1992 Arnold scored his biggest hit with "Back Where I Belong,"
which was called "triumphant" by Billboard and launched him to
appearances at major clubs and festivals in the United States and Europe.
His new "Eldorado Cadillac" showcases his status among the artists
at the forefront of the Chicago blues tradition.
UI Men's Intercollegiate Athletics is the sponsor of this event through
the University of Iowa Foundation.
Tickets for the House of Blues, "Highway 61," are $30, $27
and $24. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount,
with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience
members 17 and younger are half price.
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa,
dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is
toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged
to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases
to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option
of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services
should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office
personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair
access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is
equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr/
on the World Wide Web.