Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s blues was being taken over by white folk. There were lots of reasons for this. I won’t get into those reasons here, but you can read my take on this page.
But as a result of things like, The British Invasion, The Blues Brothers, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, by the mid 80’s blues music began to have a following and more and more clubs had blues bands doing well for them.
But as whites, and some baby boom blacks, started to get into the blues, they began to see more and more of the same faces at these clubs. Soon they knew each other and shared their love of the blues with stories and recommendations for the best blues music and blues bands. Forming a “club” was the natural next step.
Eventually the concept of a “blues society” caught on and The Blues Foundation claims there are over 165 blues societies world wide that are chapter members of their organization. There are probably many more, less organized societies around that are not members.
Being the first and oldest Blues Society is claimed by The Santa Barbara Blues Society. They formed in 1977, three years before The Blues Brothers movie came out. Humble in the beginning, the SBBS soon had over 500 members, which is small by many blues society membership standards. Still they were the first.
Blues societies can number anywhere from just a few members to memberships in the thousands. The Norsk Bluesunion in Norway has over 7500 members. Europe has many large blues societies. Blues is very popular in Europe.
Here in a America, there are many blues societies with over 1000 members. Although, admittedly, membership is down compared to the boom years of the early 2000’s.
Here in the Tampa Bay area, our blues society, The Suncoast Blues Society, has about 750 members. It peaked in the late 90’s and early 2000’s with over 1200 members. It’s still an active and healthy society. I just attended their 16th birthday party in June of 2013.
What Does A Blues Society Do?
The typical blues society often does no more than offer regular meetings and sometimes a newsletter or website. Obviously the smaller the society the less that can be done.
But a larger blues society, like the one here in Tampa, has a bi-monthly newsletter, an excellent website, and has regular concerts that they organize. Back in the hey day of the blues, it was common for there to be monthly shows and certainly annual major concerts and participation in festivals.
One of the major benefits is the listings of blues shows and blues jams on the websites and newsletters. A blues fan can easily find out where to find a blues band on any given weekend or weekday. That plus blues the CD reviews, will keep a blues lover on track with the best blues happening locally and around the world.
And if you are a local blues band, it’s a great benefit to have the Blues Society as a place to get the word out about local shows and other promotional opportunities. My local society has a listing of over 75 local blues bands on their site and in their bi-monthly “Twelve Bar Rag.” Blues jams are also listed. We have over 30 blues jams a week in our area.
If you love the blues, a blues society is a major resource to help your “get your fix” of the blues at just about any time.
A wonderful benefit of any Blues Society is the sharing of new talent. I’ve seen so many new blues bands that I would never have found without the help of the Suncoast Blues Society’s bringing them to town. Just in the last few years I’ve seen John Nemeth, Papa Chubby, Coco Montoya, Ruth Brown, Matt Schofield, and many others, mostly at a Blues Society concert, or at the recommendation of some member or article they presented.
And I can’t even mention all of the great concerts I’ve been to that the Suncoast Blues Society has helped promote and recommend over the last 16 years. My blues experience is far richer thanks to my local blues society. I bet you’ll feel the same way if you connect with one near you.
Blues Society Listings
Here’s a listing of the 165 member blues societies on The Blues Foundations website. I bet you’ll find one near you.