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posted: 6/16/2012 6:51 PM

Singing and swinging the blues in Aurora

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  • Shemekia Copeland cools off the crowd Saturday during the second day of Blues on the Fox in Aurora.

       Shemekia Copeland cools off the crowd Saturday during the second day of Blues on the Fox in Aurora.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

  • Shemekia Copeland performs Saturday during the Blues on the Fox Festival in Aurora.

       Shemekia Copeland performs Saturday during the Blues on the Fox Festival in Aurora.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

 
 

Eric Vonderlack's toes were tapping Saturday afternoon as he listened to the music at the Blues on the Fox festival in downtown Aurora.

So what is it about the blues that makes people feel so good?

"It's good time, swinging music," said Vonderlack, of Geneva.

He said he grew up listening to Top 40 radio with the likes of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. But in that music you could hear the influences of blues, and soon enough he started following performers like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon.

Those legends influenced a new generation of musicians who are keeping the music alive at festivals such as Aurora's, now in its 16th year. Thousands attended the two-day fest, which concluded Saturday night at North River Street Park in downtown.

The event takes place just blocks from where the blues in Aurora got its start: the Leland Hotel, now the Fox Island Apartments, which is the city's tallest building. Recording sessions with artists such as John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Tampa Red, Washboard Sam, Robert Lee McCoy, "Big Joe" Williams, Bill "Jazz" Billium and Yank Rachel began in 1937 in the 16th floor ballroom.

Blues on the Fox began in 1997 as a way to honor the 60th anniversary of the first blues recordings in Aurora.

While the Aurora festival is a must-see for followers of the blues, it also attracts those who may not be seeking it out.

Jeremy and Andrea Solana and their 2-year-old twin daughters came upon the festival Saturday as they came to town to purchase a new bicycle.

"The girls love to dance, and we like to get out and enjoy the good weather," Jeremy said.

Added Andrea, "There's the big Blues Fest in Chicago and to have one here, it's pretty cool."

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