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Ann Arbor Blues Festival celebrates 50th anniversary with Third Man Records LPs, recently revived festival


  • Courtesy of Third Man Records

Fifty years ago, a group U-M students and blues fans threw the inaugural Ann Arbor Blues Festival, featuring the likes of blues legends like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Son House, Big Mama Thornton, and more. This weekend, Third Man Records is celebrating what was the nation's first electric blues fest with a handsome 24-track anthology restored and assembled from tape recordings that were previously thought to be long gone.

Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969 is released on Friday in two volumes, in addition to a handsome "deluxe" version that features colored vinyl, a 58-page bound book, and more.

Third Man Records' Jack White is a huge blues fan, famously covering Son House's "Death Letter Blues" with his band the White Stripes. A version of the track by Son House himself appears on the anthology.

To celebrate the release, Third Man Records Cass Corridor (441 W. Canfield St., Detroit) will throw a record release party from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday with music from Erich Goebel & the Flying Crowbars and Eliza Neals & the Narcotics. Admission is free, and copies of the new records will be available for purchase.

Additionally, a 50th anniversary edition of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival — which was revived in 2017 — is set for Aug. 16-18 on the Washtenaw Farm Council Fair Grounds in Ann Arbor, featuring the Allman Betts Band, Benny Turner, Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers, Bernard Allison, Laith Al-Saadi, and others. Tickets start at $40 and are available at

In the meantime, you can stream Muddy Waters' "Long Distance Call" from the anthology below.

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