History

A BRIEF HISTORY…

The longest-running blues festival in the Bay Area was born at San Jose State University in 1981 from an idea hatched by the student directors of the Associated Students organization.  They wanted to put on a free festival as a gift to their fellow students who had attended concerts throughout the year. These organizers picked the blues as the focus of their inaugural spring festival, reasoning that the blues cut across every demographic line known to man, that there were few opportunities to hear live blues in San Jose, and perhaps most importantly for a free student-run festival, that blues acts can be booked on a slim budget.  They named the festival after the fountain on SJSU’s Tower Lawn and welcomed both students and community members.

The first festival featured prominent Bay Area acts:  Ron Thompson and the Resisters, Little Charlie & the Nitecats, J.J. Malone, Troyce Key and the Rhythm Rockers, Charlie Musselwhite, Tom McFarland, Imam Omar Shariff (formerly known as Dave Alexander), The House Rockers, the Mark Naftalin Rhythm & Blues Revue, Dr. Wild Willie Moore, Mississippi Johnny Waters, Sonny Rhodes, and Sugar Pie DeSanto.  To the organizers’ surprise, the festival drew 1,000 fans who, as students’ advisor Ted Gehrke said, “just seemed to have a grand time of it.”  Energized by the success of the first Fountain Blues Festival, the students hired the legendary John Lee Hooker as the headliner the second year, and more than doubled the attendance.  Under Gehrke’s guidance, the San Jose State students continued to produce the festival on the university’s campus for the next 30 years, booking the biggest names in the blues and introducing thousands of students to what B.B. King has called “the mother of American music” — the blues. Admission to the festival was free until the last few years at SJSU, when the students instituted a minimal admission charge.

In 1997, the festival’s fate was threatened by financial reorganization at SJSU, but Metro Newspapers rescued the festival by signing on as the presenting sponsor.  Metro remained a sponsor for many years, thus, in Gehrke’s words, “saving the blues for San Jose.”  The festival faced extinction again in 2010, due to a state-wise budget crisis.  As a consequence, the Associated Students organization was unable to continue as the festival’s main sponsor.  But after 30 years of bringing the blues to San Jose, Gehrke was unwilling to give up on the festival.  He put the word out that the festival was in danger of dying, beating the bush tirelessly for saviors and sponsors.  His tenacity paid off when an anonymous sponsor with a deep love of the blues came forward, and in July 2011 the festival was able to continue at new digs at St. James Park. For several years thereafter, the festival relied on alliances with the San Jose Downtown Association and San Jose Jazz to deliver first-rate blues performances to downtown San Jose.

After the 2013 festival, the event took a year off so that Gehrke, with the help of loyal sponsors and volunteers, could regroup and create a new organization designed to ensure the long-term survival of the festival. They established The Fountain Blues Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that produces the festival, now known as the Fountain Blues & Brews Festival, as well as other blues-focused events.  The Foundation, whose all-volunteer board of directors includes some of the same folks who organized the very first SJSU blues festivals while they were students, has produced the festival since 2014, moving the festival to its new home at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in 2015.  Just like the blues, which Gary Clark Jr., tells us “is not going anywhere,” the San Jose Fountain Blues & Brews Festival is here to stay.

The directors of the Fountain Blues Foundation intend to continue the legacy of Ted Gehrke, the festival’s founder, and self-proclaimed “Chief Whizbang,” and plan to produce the Fountain Blues and Brews Festival for many years to come.

First Annual Fountain Blues and Brews Festival

Friday, May 1 and Saturday, May 2, 1981

  • Ron Thompson & the Resistors
  • Little Charlie & the Nitecats
  • J. J. Malone
  • Troyce Key & the Rhythm Rockers
  • Charlie Musselwhite
  • Tom Mc Farland
  • Imam Omar Shariff
  • The House Rockers
  • Mark Naftalin’s R & B Revue
  • Dr. Wild Willie Moore
  • Mississippi Johnny Waters
  • Sonny Rhodes
  • Sugar Pie DeSanto

Second Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 1, 1982

  • John Lee Hooker
  • Ron Thompson & the Resistors
  • Buddy Ace
  • BBQ Barnes
  • Francis Clay
  • Sonny Lane
  • Little Frankie Lee
  • Sid Morris
  • Mississippi Johnny Waters

Third Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 7, 1983

  • Koko Taylor & the Chicago Blues All Stars
  • The Oakland All-Stars
  • The Broadway Blues Band with John “Broadway” Tucker
  • Roy Rogers
  • R. B. Fire

Fourth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 12, 1984

  • Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
  • The Chris Cain Band
  • Luther Tucker All Stars Blues Revue
  • Ms.Maxine Howard
  • Little John Chrisley

Fifth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Sunday, May 12, 1985

  • Bo Diddley with the Rat Band & Lady Bo
  • Lady Bianca Thornton
  • Nick Gravenites
  • Ms. Maxine Howard
  • Johnny Heartsman
  • Little John Chrisley & the Hair Of The Dog

Sixth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Sunday, May 11, 1986

  • John Lee Hooker & the Coast To Coast Blues Band
  • with Roy Rogers & Michael Osborn- guitars; Kenny Baker-Sax; John Missocco, bass; & Tim Michael, Drums
  • The Bobby Murray Band
  • Lady Bianca Thornton
  • The Rat Band with Tim Kiehatsu
  • Little Frankie Lee
  • Little John Chrisley & the Hair Of The Dog

Seventh Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Sunday, May 10, 1987

  • Katie Webster
  • Nitecry
  • Lady Bianca Thornton
  • (HELP! This is all we have of that year’s lineup. Ted Gehrke lost his booking book for that year and the poster is not in any of our files! DOES ANY ONE REMEMBER? REWARDS! Call Ted Gehrke at 408-924-6262)

Eighth Annual Fountain Blues and Brews Festival

Sunday, May 8, 1988

  • Buddy Guy
  • Lady Bianca Thornton
  • The Bobby Murray Band with Maurice Mc Kinnies & Vivian Irvine
  • Andy Just & the Shapes
  • Little John Chrisley
  • Beau Kane’s Blues Train

Ninth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Sunday, May 7, 1989

  • Otis Rush
  • Johnny Heartsman
  • Earl “Good Rockin” Brown
  • Lady Bianca Thornton
  • Nitecry
  • The John Garcia Blues Band

Tenth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Sunday May 6, 1990

  • Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
  • Johnny Heartsman
  • Lady Bianca Thornton
  • Nitecry
  • Madylan Rose
  • Joe Louis Walker & the Bosstalkers

Eleventh Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Sunday, May 5, 1991

  • Slide Guitar Shootout
  • Johnnie Shines with Kent Duchine
  • **Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings
  • John Mooney
  • Robert Lowery with Virgil Thrasher
  • Nitecry
  • The Back to Back Blues Band
  • **Roy Rogers, booking consultant

Twelfth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Sunday, May 17, 1992

  • Harmonica Heaven
  • Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers
  • The Junior Watson/ Lynwood Slim Blues Band
  • The Bobby Murray Band
  • Andy Just & the Shapes
  • The Gary Smith Blues Band
  • Little John Chrisley
  • Ginny Sakellar

Thirteenth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Sunday, May 2, 1993

  • Women & the Blues
  • La Vern Baker
  • The Debbie Davies Blues Band
  • Taylor P. Collins
  • Vala Cupp
  • Liz Fisher
  • Beverly Stovall
  • Lady Bianca Thornton
  • Nancy Wright
  • The Great Nitecry (On Stage for 4 Hours!!)

Fourteenth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, April 24, 1994 (RAINED OUT)

  • Little Charlie & the Nitecats
  • Zakiya Hooker
  • Smokey Wilson
  • The Johnny Nocturne Band with Brenda Boykin
  • W. H. A. T. (Wedemeyer, Hayes & Tarsey)

Fourteenth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 14, 1994

  • Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings
  • Sista Monica
  • Zakiya Hooker
  • The Johnny Nocturne Band with Brenda Boykin
  • W. H. A. T. (Wedemeyer, Hayes & Tarsey)

Fifteenth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 13, 1995

  • Jimmy Rogers & the Chicago Blues All-Stars
  • Johnnie Johnson (backed by the Tommy Castro Band)
  • Sista Monica
  • Mark Hummell & the Blues Survivors
  • The Tommy Castro Band

Sixteenth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 18, 1996

  • Lowell Folson with the Kevin Coggins Band
  • Johnnie Johnson (backed by the Tommy Castro Band)
  • Pam Hawkins
  • James Armstrong
  • The Tommy Castro Band
  • The Elmer Lee Thomas Blues Revue

Seventeenth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 10, 1997

  • The Texas Blues
  • The Smokin’ Joe Kubek Band with Bnois King
  • Lou Ann Barton
  • Angela Strehli
  • Derek O’Brien
  • Antone’s House Band
  • Pete Mayes
  • Kelly Joe Phelps

Eighteenth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 9, 1998

  • Great Guitars
  • R. L. Burnside with Kenny Brown
  • The Tommy Castro Band
  • Eddie King & the Swampbees
  • Deborah Coleman
  • Barry Levinson with Sherry Pruitt & Edward Earl Thomas
  • The Ray Bailey Band

Nineteenth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 8, 1999

  • Son Seals (backed by the Sammy Varela Band)
  • Howard & the White Boys
  • Chris Cain
  • Sugar Pie DeSanto
  • Rusty Zinn
  • Terry Hanck & the Soul Rockers

Twentieth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 13, 2000

  • Bo Diddley with the Debby Hastings Band
  • The Tommy Castro Band
  • Sista Monika
  • Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers
  • Murali Coryell
  • Jimmy D. Lane
  • The Jimmy Dewrence Blues Band

Twenty-first Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 12, 2001

  • Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
  • Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings
  • The Smokin Joe Kubek Band with Bnois King
  • Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets with Sam Myers
  • The Imperial Crowns
  • The Kaye Bohler Blues Band

Twenty-second Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 11, 2002

  • The Tommy Castro Band
  • Magic Slim & The Teardrops
  • E.C. Scott & Smoke
  • Corby Yates
  • Mighty Mo Rodgers
  • The Cathy Lemons – Johnny Ace Blues Band

Twenty-third Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 11, 2002

  • Bernard Allison
  • Sista Monica
  • Corby Yates
  • Blue Monday – with Ron E. Beck, Chris Cain, Clifford Coulter, & Danny Hull
  • Rene Solis & the Persuaders featuring Gary Smith, with special guest, Essra Mohawk
  • The Shane Dwight Band

Twenty-fourth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 8, 2004

  • Canned Heat
  • Otis Taylor
  • Lady Bianca
  • The J. C. Smith Band
  • The Shane Dwight Band
  • Ron Hacker & the Hacksaws

Twenty-fifth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 14th, 2005

  • Etta James & the Roots Band
  • The Tommy Castro Band
  • Chris Cain
  • Craig Horton
  • The Lara Price Band
  • David Jacobs-Strain

Twenty-fifth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 14th, 2005

  • Etta James & the Roots Band
  • The Tommy Castro Band
  • Chris Cain
  • Craig Horton
  • The Lara Price Band
  • David Jacobs-Strain

Twenty-sixth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday May 13th, 2006

  • Great Guitars 2
  • Magic Slim & the Teardrops
  • Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings
  • The Craig Horton Band with special guest Rusty Zinn
  • The Debbie Davies Band
  • Johnny A
  • The Daniel Castro Band

Twenty-seventh Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

  • Buddy Guy
  • Sista Monica
  • Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers
  • Jason Ricci & New Blood
  • The J.C. Smith Band
  • The Lara Price Band

Twenty-eighth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

  • The Robert Cray Band
  • Koko Taylor & her Blues Machine
  • Sonny Landreth
  • The Smokin’ Joe Kubeck Band Ft. Bnois King
  • The Shane Dwight Band
  • Maxx Cabello Jr.

Twenty-ninth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

  • The Derek Trucks Band
  • The Tommy Castro Band ft. Chris Cain
  • Lurrie Bell
  • The Candye Cain Band ft. Laura Chavez
  • The Bay Area Blues Society Caravan of Allstars
  • John Wedemeyer & Friends

Thirtieth Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

  • Otis Taylor
  • Bettye LaVette
  • Metro Fountain Blues All-Stars
  • Sista Monica
  • Jason Ricci & The New Blood
  • Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Thirty-First Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

  • Roomfil of Blues
  • Tommy Castro with special guests Guitar Shorty, Rod Piazza & Sista Monica
  • The Guitar Shorty Band
  • The Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival All-Stars

Thirty-Second Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

  • Elvin Bishop
  • CANNED HEAT featuring Fito de la Parra, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor, & and Dale Spalding
  • Ruthie Foster
  • The Chicago Blues Guitar Shootout with Lurrie Bell & John Primer

Thirty-Third Annual Metro Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday July 20, 2013

  • Girls Got the Blues
  • Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings
  • Ruthie Foster
  • John Mayall

Thirty-Fourth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday June 20th, 2015

  • Tommy Castro & The Painkillers
  • Carolyn Wonderland
  • John Nikki Hill
  • Nemeth
  • John Primer
  • Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic

Thirty-Fifth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday June25th, 2016

  • Otis Taylor Band
  • Rick Estrin & The Nightcats
  • Maria Muldaur with her Red Hot Blues Band
  • The Delgado Brothers
  • Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir

Thirty-Sixth Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday June 24th, 2017

  • Elvin Bishop
  • Bettye Lavette
  • Fillmore Slim
  • Aki Kumar
  • Maxx Cabello Jr.

Thirty-Seventh Annual Fountain Blues & Brews Festival

Saturday June 23rd, 2018

  • The Fabulous Thunderbirds, featuring Kim Wilson
  • Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings
  • Wee Willie Walker, Terrie Odabi and the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra
  • Nikki Hill Band with Laura Chavez
  • Sons of the Soul Revivers