The festival began in 1987 as the Rose City Blues Festival – a concert to support the homeless, sponsored by the Cascade Blues Association. Performers included John Lee Hooker, the Paul deLay Band, Curtis Salgado, Norman Sylvester Blues Band and Lloyd Jones Struggle.
But the countdown of the annual blues festival begins in 1988 when Oregon Food Share, predecessor of Oregon Food Bank, became producer and beneficiary. That year, the festival raised $7,500 and 650 pounds of food.
In 1991, the festival was renamed the Waterfront Blues Festival.
Artist Gary Houston has been creating unique works of art for the festival each year since 2001.
During the past 24 years, the festival has grown steadily in size and reputation and is recognized as the nation’s premier blues festival. Since 1988, the festival has raised more than $7 million to benefit Oregon Food Bank. The 2011 festival raised 110,454 pounds of food and a record $930,000 to fight hunger in Oregon and Clark County, Wash.
The festival has also received numerous awards. In 2011, Essential Travel magazine, based in London, listed the festival as one of the Top 10 USA Festivals. In 2009, Outside magazine listed the festival as one of the Top 10 Outdoor Festivals. The festival is the winner of the prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the international Blues Foundation and the recipient of the Ovation Award from the Oregon Festivals & Events Association as Oregon’s Best Festival, Civic Celebration or Community Event.
The festival's 25th anniversary was a rousing success! Festival attendees contributed $902,000 through donations at the gate as well as advance purchases of special passes and DME blues cruise tickets, just shy of the festival’s goal of $945,000. In addition, the festival raised an estimated 116,584 pounds of food, exceeding its goal of 100,000 pounds. More than 120,000 people thrilled to five jam-packed days of the best blues in the world including Steve Miller Band, Elvin Bishop Band with James Cotton, Booker T., Charlie Musselwhite, Toots and the Maytals, Bobby Rush, Otis Taylor, JJ Grey & Mofro, Galactic, The Mannish Boys with Sugaray Rayford, Roy Rogers, Lionel Young, Cedric Burnside Project, James Hunter and more.
Perfect weather, committed sponsors and more than 2,300 enthusiastic volunteers also contributed to the festival's success. The festival re-vamped the workshop stage, renaming it the FedEx Crossroads Stage, where artists delivered interviews, workshops and stripped-down sets.
The four-day festival offered more than 120 blues performances on four stages, featuring six-time Grammy Award winner Buddy Guy, three-time Grammy Award winner Lucinda Williams, Maceo Parker, Robert Cray, Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band, Rebirth Brass Band, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Orgone, Bobby Radcliff, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Preston Shannon, Honey Island Swamp Band, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Chris Cain, Nathan James, James Harman, Bruce Conte, Grady Champion, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns and many more.
The festival attracted more than 120,000 people, who contributed 110,454 pounds of food and $748,000 through donations at the gate as well as advance purchases of special passes, exceeding the festival’s donation goal of 100,000 pounds of food and $650,000. The Oregon Potters Association also broke a record, contributing $20,760 to Oregon Food Bank through sales of hand-made pottery and glass at its Empty Bowls booth. The festival also added a giant screen in the middle of the bowl to help blues fans see all of the action on the festival's two main stages.
The 23rd annual festival ran for four days with 120 performances on four stages, featuring Taj Mahal, Little Feat, John Mayall, Booker T., Bobby Rush, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Galactic with Cyril Neville, JJ Grey and Mofro, Chris Thomas King, Curtis Salgado, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Walter Trout, Michael Burks Band with Lucky Peterson, Baskery, Cedric Burnside & Lightnin' Malcolm, Moreland & Arbuckle, Super Chikan & the Fighting Cocks, Mingo Fish Trap, porterdavis, Janiva Magness, Norton Buffalo's Knockouts, Paul Cebar, Kara Grainger, a Zydeco Swamp Romp with Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Donna Angelle & Zydeco Posse, Corey Ledet & his Zydeco Band, Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic and many more, plues blues cruises,
Blues fans set a new record, donating about $650,000 and exceeding this year's $600,000 goal. Blues fans also exceeded this year's food goal of 100,000 pounds, donating 100,662 pounds of food. In addition, the Oregon Potters Association's Empty Bowls sales contributed $17,800 to support Oregon Food Bank's mission.
The festival's 22nd year featured a stellar line-up with more than 100 performances, including triple Grammy Award-winning bluesman Keb' Mo', presented by First Tech Credit Union; Grammy-nominated Robben Ford; Texas blues-rock legend Johnny Winter, presented by iQ Credit Union; slide-guitar wizard Sonny Landreth; Karl Denson's Tiny Universe; the Lee Boys; Rick Estrin and the Nightcats; Candye Kane; Terry Evans; Bonerama; Kevin Gordon, presented by the Boeing Company; Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings; Ryan Shaw; Magic Slim and the Teardrops; Big Sam's Funky Nation; Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, presented by Karolyn H. March, attorney at law; and more.
Blues fans donated more than $479,343 at the gate. This year, the festival also offered blues fans new ways to increase their donations by buying special passes. Special passes purchased online added $65,295 to festival coffers, enabling the Oregon Food Bank to exceed its $500,000 goal with total donations of $544,638. In addition, blues fans contributed more than 76,363 pounds of food. Festival entry was $10 and two cans of food per person, per day.
The festival celebrated its 21st year with perfect festival weather. The four-day festival featured both legendary icons and young and edgy musicians. The lineup included soul icon Isaac Hayes, Charlie Musselwhite, Phoebe Snow, Canned Heat, The Mannish Boys with special guests Kid Ramos, Kirk Fletcher and Finis Tasby, Joe Bonamassa, Elvin Bishop, James Hunter, Eric Lindell, Ruthie Foster, Arthur Adams, Curtis Salgado, Portland Soul All-Stars, Carolyn Wonderland, Back Door Slam, Fred Wesley & Groovesect, Robert "Wolfman" Belfour, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Classie Ballou, Paul Thorn, The Legendary Shack Shakers, Tribute to Freddie King with Phillip Walker, Sherman Robertson and Andrew "Jr. Boy Jones and zydeco with Rosie Ledet, Christ Ardoin & Nu Step Zydeco, Cedryl Ballou & the Zydeco Trendsetters, Dikki Du & The Zydeco Krew and more.
With the help of Portland Parks and Recreation, Hoffman Construction and Kink.fm, fireworks featured two barges and were twice the size of any other fireworks display in Oregon. Festival entry was !$10 and two cans of food. Generous blues fans donated $538,000 at the gate, making gate donation the second highest in the festival's 21-year history and highest for a four-day festival. Attendees also donated 91,192 pounds of food. Oregon Potters Association raised $12,995. And for the first time, boaters listening to the music from the Willamette River, flew special flags recognizing their combined donations of $3,306.
The festival celebrated 20 years of blues, community and fighting hunger with its hottest lineup ever. Headliners included The Neville Brothers, a Waterfront Blues Festival first; Koko Taylor; Joan Armatrading; The Blind Boys of Alabama; Mavis Staples; Marcia Ball; Pinetop Perkins, who celebrated his 94th birthday at the festival; Watermelon Slim; James Cotton Band with special guest Hubert Sumlin; The Dirty Dozen Brass Band; Eric Burdon and the Animals; Voice of the Wetlands Allstars (Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, Johnny Sansone); Savoy Brown; Lurrie Bell; Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums; J.J. Grey and Mofro; J.W. Jones; Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks and more.
Portland Oregon Visitors Association presented the festival with its 2007 Rose City Award. Gorgeous new scrims on the A&E Front Porch Stage put blues fans right in the heart of the Delta Swamp. Special 20th anniversary features included an expanded lineup of nine DME Blues Cruises, an offical U.S. Post Office postmark commemorating the festival, more features for children and families, surprise collaborations and guest apperaences and much more. Generous blues fans donated $510,000 and 97,343 pounds of food at the gate. Festival entry was $8 and two cans of food.
Dr. John, a.ka. "The Night Tripper"; Irma Thomas, "Soul Queen of New Orleans"; New Orleans "Blues Queen" Marva Wright; Little Feat, Rebirth Brass; Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias; Porter, Batiste & Stoltz; Henry Butler; Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk; Henry Gray; Buckwheat Zydeco; The Bluerunners; John Hiatt & The North Mississippi Allstars: The Hacienda Brothers; Tommy Castro Band; Jimmy Thackery and Reba Russell; Rich DelGrosso; Harper and Mia Dyson from Australia; Ian Siegel from the U.K.; The Soul Stirrers; The Lee Boys; A NW Tribute to Ray Charles; Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin on stage together for the first time in 30 years to pay tribute to Fritz Richmond; Larry McCray, Johnny Rawls, Keith Frank & Soleil Zydeco, the Greyboy Allstars, Big Monti Amundson, the Rhythm Council and more.
The 2006 festival focused on the music of New Orleans. It featured celebrity Chef Cris Pasia. The 4th of July featured two a cappella renditions of the National Anthem with 10-year-old Javon Carter, 4th-grader at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and winner of the National Anthem project; and Irma Thomas "Soul Queen of New Orleans. Blues fans donated 103,500 pounds of food and $545,000 at the gate.
Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, Oliver Mtukudzi, the subdudes, Mavis Staples and Shemekia Copeland headlined the 2005 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival. A Tribute to Ray Charles, featuring Portland's finest, was a huge hit. More than 100 blues artist performed, including Reggie Houston, Guitar Shorty, Big Monti Amundson, King Louie & Baby James, Eric Johnson, Mark Lemhouse, the Kenny Neal Band, Sherman Robertson, Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, the Campbell Brothers, Roy Tyler & New Directions, Stephen Bruton, Doyle Bramhall and more.
The 2005 festival put the spotlight on Women in Blues, Gospel Blues and the blues-based music of the Gulf Coast states of Texas and Louisiana. Music lovers donated $348,000 and 107,000 pounds of food.
Keb' Mo', Jonny Lang, the Holmes Brothers and Canned Heat headlined the 2004 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival. In addition to the headliners, blues fans raved about Hubert Sumlin, Sonny Landreth, James and Lucky Peterson, the Mannish Boys, Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers, Ruthie Foster, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, Reggie Houston, Cyril Neville and the Uptown Allstars, Robert Belfour, Mark Lemhouse, Roy Book Binder, Arthur Adams, Tracy Nelson and more.
The 2004 festival celebrated the late Howlin' Wolf and spotlighted the blues-based music of Louisiana and Texas. It also offered more cruises and more educational workshops. Generous blues fans donated $323,000 and 100,649 pounds of food.
The 16th annual Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival celebrated the Year of the Blues. The festival broke all records. Even though the day was a day shorter than the previous year, blues fans donated $363,000 net and 120,000 pounds of food to Oregon Food Bank. The festival began offering blues cruises on the Willamette River, giving fans a chance to see their favorite acts in a more intimate setting on the Portland Spirit.
Performers included Etta James, Susan Tedeschi, Taj Mahal, Steve Miller with Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo, Jody Williams, North Mississippi All-stars, Ruthie Foster, Pinetop Perkins, Phil Upchurch, Bryan Lee, Henry Butler, Lil' Malcolm and the Zydeco Houserockers, Papa Grows Funk and more.
Marcia Ball, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Tommy Castro, WC Clark, Deborah Coleman, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Harp Blow-Off, Honeyboy Edwards, Al Kooper and The ReKooperators, John Mayall, Jimmy T-99 Nelson with Duke Robillard, Kelly Joe Phelps Trio, Queen Ida, Reel Blues Film Series, Michelle Shocked, Howard Tate and The Uptown Horns, Melvin Taylor, Jimmy Thackery, The Radiators, Ike Turner and more highlighted an eclectic lineup of more than 80 blues artists performing for five days.
The festival attracts 120,000 fans, who donate more than $310,000 and more than 115,000 pounds of food. In addition, the Oregon Potters Association raises more than $21,200 through its Empty Bowls project. More than 1,100 volunteers help run the festival.
More than 125,000 fans hear Solomon Burke, Shemekia Copeland, Double Trouble, Anson Funderburg and Sam Myers, Harp Blow-Off, Hoodoo Kings, Little Feat, Los Lobos, Delbert McClinton, Rod Price, Reel Blues Film Series, Geno Delafose, Sony Rhodes, Roomful of Blues, Mem Shannon, Wild Magnolias, Zydeco Dance with Rosie Ledet and Geno Delafose and more.
Fans raise a record $380,000 and 103,000 pounds of food.
Safeway becomes the title sponsor for the 13th annual Waterfront Blues Festival. It features 80 bands on three stages over five days. The event raises $369,649 and 100,000 pounds of food. Fans turn out in droves to see rising stars—Jonny Lang and Shannon Curfman—and legendary stars—Pinetop Perkins and Robert Junior Lockwood. In addition, Alberta Adams, Alice Stuart Band, Monte Amundson, Brian Auger, Long John Baldry, Johnnie Bassett, Carey Bell, Eddie Bo, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Paul Brasch, Deep Banana Blackout, Dr. John, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jeffrey Halford and The Healers, Howard and The White Boys, Long John Hunter, Candye Kane, Eddie Kirkland, Johnnie Marshall, Larry McCray, Raful Neal/Tabby Thomas/Tab Benoit, Kelly Joe Phelps, Lou Pride, "Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks, Rolling Fork Revue (Margolin, Morganfield, Perkins, Bell), Terrance Simien, Sista Monica, Nina Storey, The Paladins, Carl Weathersby and more played at the festival.
The festival launches its third stage, the A&E Front Porch Stage, for acoustic acts and workshops, plus blues films in partnership with the Northwest Film Center. More than 100,000 applaud Koko Taylor, Jimmie Vaughan, Booker T & The MGs and Charlie Musselwhite. Plus R.L. Burnside, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, Guy Davis, Mark Hummel with Big Joe Duskin and Joe Beard, Indigo Swing, Johnny Nocturne Band, Lazy Lester with Teddy Morgan and Sevilles, Little Malcolm and the Zydeco House Rockers, Magic Slim and The Teardrops, Cookie McGee, Mike Morgan and The Crawl, Geoff Muldaur and Fritz Richmond, Charmaine Neville, Paul deLay with the Rockin' Johnny Band, Johnny Rawls Revue, Eric Sardinas, Josh Smith and The Frost, Irma Thomas, Jimmie Vaughan, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Corby Yates and more performed at the festival. The festival raises more than $210,000 and 80,000 pounds of food. Admission was $3 - $5 and two cans of food per person.
Performers include Bobby Rush, Roy Rogers, Bobby Blue Bland, J. Geils and Son Seals, Blind Boys of Alabama, Honeyboy Edwards, Jack Elliot, Larry Garner, Bugs Henderson, Kelley Hunt Band, Nathan and The Zydeco Cha Chas, Shuggie "no-show" Otis, Kenny Blue Ray and Jackie Payne, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Kelly Joe Phelps, Roy Rogers, E.C. Scott, Jimmy Thackery, The Boneshakers, The Love Dogs, Junior Watson, Zigaboo Modeliste and more. Fans donate $155,000 and 60,000 pounds of food during the four-day festival. Albertson's, the festival's presenting sponsor, donates an additional truckload of food. The festival showcased 2 stages with 40 bands over four days, and Fourth of July fireworks. It raised $160,000 and 7,000 pounds of food with an entry fee of $3 - $5 and 2 cans of food per person.
Billy Branch, Boozoo Chavis, John Hammond, King Ernest, Bob Margolin/Pinetop Perkins/Billy Boy Arnold, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Poppa Chubby, Francine Reed, Duke Robillard, Clarence Spady, Angela Strehli, The Bluebirds, The Chambers Brothers, The Staples Singers, Joe Louis Walker, Kim Wilson and The Tigermen 1996Hank Ballard and The Midnighters, Elvin Bishop, Canned Heat, Geno Delafose, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Terry Evans, Guitar Shorty, James Harman, Bugs Henderson, Mark Hummel, Big Jack Johnson, Louisiana Guitar Red, Charlie Musselwhite, Lee Oskar, Gary Primich, Sonny Rhodes, Curtis Salgado, Sista Monica, Syl Johnson Band and Junior Wells. The festival raised $155,000 and 7,700 pounds of food.
47 bands played on two stages for five days. Headliners included Canned Heat, Guitar Shorty, Elvin Bishop, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Geno Delafose, Burnin' Chicago and James Harman. The festival raised 6,950 pounds of food and $150,000.
Luther Allison, Bobby Parker Band with Little Jimmy King, Duffy Bishop, Deanna Bogart, Savoy Brown, Norton Buffalo, W.C. Clark, Tinsley Ellis, Bugs Henderson, Mark Hummel, Yvonne Jackson, King Ernest, Big Daddy Kinsey and The Kinsey Report, Little Charlie and The Nightcats, John Mayall, The Paladins, Paul deLay Band, Kelly Joe Phelps, Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings, Finis Tasby, The Holmes Brothers and the subdudes perform at the festival. The five-day festival charged $3 and two cans of food for admission and raised 13,500 pounds of food and $45,000. Sponsors included Miller Genuine Draft and Southwest Airlines.
The festival ran for four days, featuring 43 bands on two stages. Headliners included, Elvin Bishop, Eric Burdon, Johnny Nocturne Band, Frankie Lee, Little Johnny Taylor, Little Milton Revue, Dorothy Moore, Maria Muldaur, Rod Piazza, Jimmy Thackery, The Chambers Brothers, Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Smokey Wilson wowed blues fans.
The festival grows by leaps and bounds. Performers include Otis Rush, Johnny Johnson and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Plus Billy Boy Arnold, Long John Baldry, Latell Barton, Richard Berry, Sugar Blue, Deanna Bogart, Shirlie Dixon, Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets, Glenn Lane, Charlie Musselwhite, Tom Principato, Guitar Shorty, Terrance Simien and Mallet Playboys, Joe Louis Walker and Arbess Williams. Fans donate $105,000 and 41,000 pounds of food.
Savoy Brown, Wild Child Butler, Johnny Copeland, James Cotton, Debbie Davies, Floyd Dixon, Smokin' Joe Kubec, Luke and The Locomotives, Big Jay McNeely, Paramount Singers, Snooky Pryor, Al Rapone and Zydeco Express, Sonny Rhodes, Fenton Robinson, Eddie Shaw and The Wolfgang, Wailin' Al Walker. The festival raised 2,500 pounds of food and $80,000.
The festival is renamed the Waterfront Blues Festival. Headliners include Chicago blues legends Jimmie Rogers and Hubert Sumlin, Katie Webster and Luther Johnson. Plus Buddy Brown & The Houd Dogs, Johnny Heartsman, Joe Houston and Lee Allen, Luther Guitar Johnnson, Bernie Perle with Harmonica Fats, Pinetop Perkins, Rockin Sidney, Luther Tucker, Katie Webster, Papa John Creach, Henry Vestine and Big Daddy Kinsey & the Kinsey Report. Fans donate $80,000 and 25,000 pounds of food.
Charlie Musselwhite, Luther Tucker, Joe Louis Walker, Mitch Woods & The Rocket 88s, Mick Clark Band and Elvin Bishop performed at the festival. The festival raised 1,500 pounds of food and $25,500.
Performers included John Mayall, James Cotton, Paul deLay Band, Norman Sylvester, Curtis Salgado and the Stilettos, Bernie Pearl Band, Terry Robb Band, Harmonica Fats, Jimmy Dawkins Band. The festival raises 950 pounds and $7,500.
Oregon Food Share, predecessor of Oregon Food Bank, becomes the producer and beneficiary of the Rose City Blues Festival. This becomes Oregon's first annual blues festival to benefit people who are hungry in Oregon. Miller Genuine Draft is the festival's first title sponsor. The countdown of annual blues festivals begins here. This two-day festival at Waterfront Park featured a beer garden and continuous music from noon to 10 p.m. each day with 40 acts on two stages.
The festival included: Charlie Musselwhite, The Continentals, Seattle’s Stevie and the Blue Flames, Tom McFarland Band, Jo and the JoMatics, Jesse Mae Hemphill, Blubinos with Monti Amundson on guitar, Bill Rhoades Party Kings, Norman Sylvester Revue, Curtis Salgado and the Stilettos, Little Charlie & the Nightcats, Al Carson, Mike Propsom, New Orleans Pete, Liquid Blues Band, Curtis Salgado and Terry Robb, Eagle Park Slim, Blues Professor and Legendary Dave, Jesse Mae Hemphill, Dan Perz Trio with Bill Rhoades, Chris Coltrane and the Blues Blasters, The Taildraggers, Paul Connor Band, Henry and the Hamhawks, Marg Tufo Revue, Johnnie and the Jokers, Terry Robb, William Clarke Band, Lloyd Jones Struggle and the Jelly Roll Kings.
Entry was a $1 donation and a can of food with proceeds going to Oregon Food Bank. In addition to Miller Genuine Draft, sponsors included Seagram’s Wine Cooler, KGON, the Cascade Blues Association and Downtowner Magazine. The festival raised $7,500 and 650 pounds of food.
Festival begins as the Rose City Blues Festival, sponsored by the Cascade Blues Association, to benefit Burnside Community Council's projects for the homeless. Performers include John Lee Hooker, Paul deLay Band, Curtis Salgado & the Stilletos, Norman Sylvester Blues Band, Lloyd Jones Struggle, Bill Rhoades & The Party Kings, The Mayther Brothers, Terry Robb Band and DK Stewart. KBOO radio station broadcasts performances and has continued to do so throughout the history of the festival.