Paul Benjamin likes to say the Bradenton Blues festival doesn’t really have a headliner. From the first act in the late morning, to the last one finishing long after sunset, it’s a whole day of headliners.
Benjamin is the guy who always books the acts for the Bradenton Blues Festival, from the first one in 2012 though this year’s set for Saturday on the Riverwalk. He books several other blues festivals around the country, too.
So it’s hard to argue with him when he says he doesn’t think of the festival’s last act as the headliner. But the audience will probably still see it that way. That act has almost always been the one with widest name recognition.
That’s definitely true for the 2017 Bradenton Blues Festival. The headliner — pardon me, the last act of the festival — is a giant of the blues, guitarist Joe Louis Walker.
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He plays all over the world (he was in Spain just this past weekend) but he has a special affection for Florida.
You talk about the Blues Brothers. You know who the real blues brothers are? Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
Joe Louis Walker
“Florida is one of the few states left that has a lot of blues clubs,” he told the Bradenton Herald in a phone interview. “Florida’s great.”
Walker, who turns 68 on Christmas Day, is known for an authentic blues style that still stretches the boundaries of the genre. He speaks in awe of such blues pioneers as Muddy Waters and B.B. King, but also of the British Invasion artists who introduced blues and R&B to white American youth, and says one of the greatest experiences of his life was performing with and meeting Paul McCartney.
“You talk about the Blues Brothers,” he said. “You know who the real blues brothers are? Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.”
Walker has played just about everywhere in the world, from Moscow and Beijing to Peru and all over Europe. Wherever he goes, he said, people appreciate the authentically American nature of the blues.
“No matter where you go, people want culture,” he said. “That’s what they’re looking for, culture.”
Walker has released 23 albums, the most recent being “Everybody Wants a Piece” in 2015. He’s played with John Lee Hooker, Thelonius Monk, Nick Lowe, Bonnie Raitt and Jimi Hendrix (among many others). He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013.
Florida is one of the few states left that have a lot of blues clubs.
Joe Louis Walker
If you don’t already have tickets to this year’s blues festival, you’re not going to get to see him perform on Saturday. For the first time, the festival has sold out before the day of the show.
You’ll still be able to hear Walker and the other artists the lineup from the periphery of the park, though. A lot of people spend the day sitting by the river, enjoying the sun, the water and the blues.
The festival kicks off with Sean Chambers (11 a.m.), followed by Vanessa Collier (12:15 p.m.), Nick Moss Band (1:30 p.m.), Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band (2:45 pm.), Sugar Blue (4 p.m.) and Curtis Salgado (5:15 p.m.), Walker takes the stage at 6:45 p.m. Brody Buster plays on a side stage between main stage sets.
A map of nearby parking areas is available at bradentonbluesfestival.org/wp-content/themes/BBF-BGD/images/Parking-map.pdf.
Details: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 2, Bradenton Riverwalk. Sold out. bradentonbluesfestival.org.