The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Immediate

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 Sheperd.

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 on the World Wide Web.