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Thursday, March 24, 2016 12:03 am

Blues club turns 30

Shawn Holt and the Teardrops play the Illinois Central Blues Club 30th anniversary celebration on Sat., March 26 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Meadowbrook Road.


Per usual, there are gigs galore going on all over town this weekend. Even though the Easter holiday is happening on Sunday with accompanying spring events and church doings, folks still got to get out.

Our breaking news is the celebration show commemorating the 30-year anniversary of the Illinois Central Blues Club. The celebratory concert is on Saturday, March 26 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Meadowbrook and Iles, in the same building that houses Casey’s Pub. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., Robert Sampson plays from 7:30 to 9, and Shawn Holt and the Teardrops go from 9 to midnight. A general admission ticket is $10 but if you’re a club member, it’s only $8. May I advise you to join the ICBC if you are not already a member? The anniversary night is always a big deal concert. You can go every year and renew your membership, get a deal on your ticket and help out a noble cause to support live blues music in our community.

Robert is a superb performer and musician, a scholar of the blues and an extraordinary entertainer. He’s progressed to the finals at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis several times, a feat that shows his profound prowess as a bluesman. As a working musician, he’s out and about at local clubs regularly, but it’s always fun and exciting to catch acts usually seen around town up on the big stage with concert-level sound and lights.

Blues travelers will notice the headlining band name of the Teardrops as belonging to the late, great Chicago blues master Magic Slim. After Slim passed away in 2013, his son, Shawn Holt, who had just recently joined the band as an official Teardrop, kept the connection intact and continued the family legacy. Shawn embraced the simple-yet-powerful style of his father through songs, performance and attitude. His authenticity and sincerity allowed the Teardrops – Levi William (guitar/vocals), Vern Taylor (drums/vocals) and Russell Jackson (bass) – to keep on moving in Magic Slim’s award-winning ways, traveling the world playing heartfelt, beating-heart blues.

The Illinois Central Blues Club name comes from the famous railroad line first promoted by the likes of Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln that ran the length of Illinois. Later, the Illinois Central traveled from New Orleans to Chicago (among other areas) and carried many of the blues musicians that migrated from the South to start the great blues tradition in Chicago. The club officially formed in the summer of 1985, hosting its first “Blue Monday” jam on March 17, 1986 and first blues concert that May at Sangamon State University (the predecessor of University of Illinois Springfield). Since then, the member-run group has kept a working board with elected officers, hosted thousands of performances at bars and festivals, presented educational programs such as Blues in the Schools and provided unyielding support of blues music for musicians and audiences alike.

As you could imagine, like most organizations, the club rode waves of popularity and neglect, cooperation and dysfunction, success and failure to come out stronger and more vital than ever at this 30-year milestone. The group continues to act in accordance with the original ICBC mission statement of promoting blues music in central Illinois. Of the many supporters through three decades of existence, we need an extra shout out to Dan Bringman and Mike King, founding club members still going strong after all these years of backing the blues. Dan still books the Blue Monday groups, and the two blues guys host a weekly Sunday radio show on WQNA at noon.

Long live the blues, and long live the Illinois Central Blues Club.

Contact Tom Irwin at


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