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'Blues Harmonica Blowout'

Back in 1991, Mark Hummel looked around at his fellow blues harmonica players and got the idea to feature them in a yearly Blues Harmonica Blowout.

The idea has grown to become an international sellout event, performing at festivals and theatres from Norway to Monterey. And this week, the Blues Harmonica Blowout is coming to Southern Oregon. The show will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Rogue Theatre, 143 SE H St., Grants Pass.

Since it began, the series has featured such artists as Snooky Pryor, Charlie Musselwhite, Huey Lewis, Rod Piazza, William Clarke, Rick Estrin, Paul Delay, Billy Branch, Lazy Lester, Carey Bell, Billy Boy Arnold, Little Sonny, Paul Osher, Cephas and Wiggins, Gary Primich, Paul Rischell and Annie Raines, Carlos Del Junco, Norton Buffalo, Sam Myers and many more. All the acts excepting acoustic duos are backed by Hummel's band, The Blues Survivors.

Hummel and the Survivors will share the bill at the Rogue Theatre with James Cotton, Kim Wilson and Curtis Salgado.

The past decade has seen the emergence of young harmonica-led blues bands. In California, groups that draw their inspiration from the Chicago school but add elements of jump blues and rock 'n' roll into the mix have come up with a new style of West Coast blues. That sound is represented by Hummel.

Cotton has been called the last of the old guard 1950s Chicago blues harmonica greats. Raised by Sonny Boy Williamson from age 12 to 15, the 17-year-old Cotton played in Howlin Wolf's band plus recorded his own sides at Sun Records in Memphis. He took Little Walter's spot in Muddy Waters' band in 1957, then stayed 12 years. In 1966 Cotton started his own band, which played regularly with Paul Butterfield's band, Janis Joplin, Electric Flag, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and practically every other 1960s rock band in rock ballrooms all over the United States.

Wilson is a founder and current bandleader/frontman of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The band's '80s hits received considerable airplay on the radio and MTV for several years.

Portland-based Salgado spent six years in Robert Cray's band. He started his own band in the burgeoning Northwest blues scene in the early 1970s. He inspired John Belushi to create the Blues Brothers when Belushi was in Eugene to film "Animal House" and caught Salgado's act. Belushi dedicated the first Blues Brothers album to Salgado.

Tickets for the show at the Rogue Theatre cost $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Call 471-1316.

Mark Hummel - Photo by Grant Kessler