I don’t know who Alfie is, but the Fox Valley Music Foundation is all about music and musicians with ties to the Fox Valley. The Foundation is the brainchild of a core group of local individuals who re-discovered a world of music in the 1990’s dating back to the 1930’s that seemed to have been long forgotten. That world of music consisted of over 300 recordings by blues artists from Chicago and St. Louis who gathered at the Sky Club in the Leland Tower in Aurora in 1937 and 1938, and those recordings were captured for posterity by Bluebird Records.
Those recordings have collected a lot of dust until re-discovered, and a wealth of information is waiting for publication flowing from those Bluebird recordings. Although unknown to many, the songs recorded in Aurora became staples for some of the greatest blues artists like Muddy Waters. They have been performed and continue to be performed over and over. Just one of those songs recorded in the Sky Club, Good Morning. School Girl, has been recorded by Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Les Paul, Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna and dozens of other artists. (Check out Billy Boy Arnold from the Sky Club recreating the famous recording from the Sky Club in 1997.)
Blues on the Fox, inspired by the musical treasure chest of recordings is the precursor to the Foundation. It began as a street festival in 1997 and has grown into one of the premiere blues festivals in the Midwest and the country. The success of Blues on the Fox inspired the River Edge Park where the festival and many other musical performances now find their home in downtown Aurora run by the Paramount.
With the City of Aurora and the Paramount taking over Blues on the Fox, which will boast its 20th year in 2016, the core group began to develop an expended vision. Out of that expanded vision grew the Fox Valley Music Foundation. The Foundation’s mission now includes the preservation, promotion and protection of all music in the Fox Valley and education. The long term vision includes a physical home, archives, a library, a local hall of fame, memorabilia, events (lots of events), education, musical training and a community of musicians and music lovers. Think Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.
Preservation means digging up and archiving the history of music and musicians who have roots in the Fox Valley. Who knows what other historical gems are awaiting re-discovery! The Leland recordings are still yielding up gold. If someone does not preserve the history of music and musicians with ties to the area it will eventually be lost to fog of lapsed memories.
Promotions means highlighting the exciting things going on today. The area is quietly budding with music and musicians about which people do not know nearly enough. Never before in history has it been easier for musicians to create and publish music, and never has there been so much music available to music lovers. But, therein lies a problem: there is so much music “out there” that it is hard for anyone to stand out in the crowd. The Foundation aims to highlight local talent and promote local music and musicians to the community and the world.
Steve Warrenfeltz, owner of Kiss the Sky, one of very few independent record stores still in business, and a local gem located in Batavia, has already been doing that. Steve has produced several albums highlighting local artists, has weekly and monthly shows in his store, among many other things, and brings that experience and commitment into the Foundation where he hopes his efforts will be supercharged.
Protection means not only preserving the past and promoting the present, but advocating for music and musicians. Creating opportunities and helping music, musicians and the music industry to flourish locally. The Foundation is primarily about music but realizes that music is just one element of a vibrant arts community. The Foundation looks to form creative partnerships with other organizations the promote the arts in the Fox Valley area.
Education means letting people know what we find, teaching younger generations about their musical heritage, older and more experienced musicians training, encouraging and educating younger musicians and much more.
The Foundation envisions helping to create an environment in the Fox Valley in which a community of musicians, would-be musicians and appreciators of music (and all lovers of art) find fertile soil to grow, celebrate, perform, collaborate and contribute to a burgeoning arts Renaissance in the Fox Valley. We hope you will tune in and get involved in what we are doing. There is a way for almost anyone to participate and enjoy the musical fabric of our Fox Valley.
If you have not already become a member, what are you waiting for?! Join now and you will get notice of events and discounts to events. For a little extra, you will get the T-Shirt that was the hit of Blues on the Fox, a member-only print of Sonny Boy Williamson created by Rex Bohn who has created all of the distinctive Blues on the Fox shirts over the last decade. A family membership will net you 4 T-Shirts!
“We have only just begun” (to quote a famous musical brother and sister). Mark your calendars for January 26th for the first annual FVMF Blue Tie Event. If you become a member, you will be among the first to learn who the musical guest will be, a Fox Valley native with long roots in Nashville. Stay tuned.