History of the Illinois Central Blues Club
The Illinois Central Blues Club (ICBC) was conceived in the summer of 1985 for the purpose of preserving and promoting blues music culture and sponsoring live blues performances. The ICBC was named for a railroad line which carried many black travelers from the southern states to Chicago during the early 1900s. Many black travelers fostered the creation of Chicago’s distinct electric blues style music. The ICBC held its first Blue Monday jam session March 17, 1986 and premiered its first blues concert at Sangamon State University on May 9, 1986.
The ICBC fulfills its mission by sponsoring live performances of blues music, promoting public education and an appreciation of blues music as a cultural art form. This is accomplished by publicizing the significant cultural contributions of blues musicians and songwriters while promoting and participating in blues festivals. The ICBC offers educational opportunities through musicians, Blues in the Schools events, and music workshops. Since 1986, ICBC has sponsored more than 1,700 live performances and educational events with culturally diverse audiences numbering more than 127,000 attendees. The ICBC Blue Monday jam sessions have hosted more than 4,700 musicians and is currently the city’s longest running weekly music tradition. The ICBC focuses on gaining performance opportunities and recognition for local musicians. The ICBC has worked with several artists to write successful grant applications, many of which have resulted in CDs or demo tapes.
Three award winning resident Blues musicians, Fenton Robinson, Eddie Snow and Wayne Carter have won Illinois Arts Council fellowships. ICBC has sponsored local musicians to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Recipients have included a 16-year-old performer and a legally blind musician who proceeded through the competition to become one of 6 finalists in a field of 60 internationally acclaimed musicians. ICBC consistently sponsors performances by traveling artists to accent and develop the local blues’ music opportunities, while offering educational opportunities to local musicians. Many of these traveling artists are nationally and internationally known musicians who have won prestigious awards such as the W.C. Handy award, the Critics Choice award, Lifetime Achievement award and the coveted Grammy award.
Each year ICBC sponsors free performances for special audiences. The venues have been as varied as the zoo, library, a baseball game, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, homes of stroke victims, churches, juvenile detention center, rural arts fair, and neighborhood parks. Each year since 1986, ICBC has sponsored Blues in the Schools and other educational blues music workshops. Many young fans and musicians say these events were their first exposure to blues music. ICBC regularly publishes a bi-monthly newsletter. Two of our members host a weekly blues broadcast on WQNA Radio in Springfield. The ICBC donates CDs, journals, and other educational materials to the Lincoln Library of Springfield, IL. We have held video festivals, operated a blues tent at the Illinois State Fair, and regularly collaborate with other Blues Societies and organizations to sponsor events in Central Illinois. ICBC has sponsored 79 Blues in the Schools workshops since February 2001.
Corporate support accounts for approximately one-third of the ICBC’s resources. The ICBC also receives substantial in-kind and financial support from the city, county, state, park districts, service organizations, and the ICBC membership base.
The ICBC meets it goals and objectives via a committed volunteer staff of who are current or past board members or part of the 300 plus membership base.