Performances of Finger-Style Guitarists at the 1969 and 1970 Ann Arbor Blues Festivals

Isaac Repinski, “Performances of Finger-Style Guitarists at the 1969 and 1970 Ann Arbor Blues Festivals”
Mentor: John Stropes, Music

The Ann Arbor Blues Festivals of 1969 and 1970 were historic cultural events that are now understood as pivotal moments in American music. They brought together the leading electric blues guitar players of the time and many of the seminal acoustic blues guitar players who were still touring. In this period of cultural reconfiguration, this music was interesting to a wider, curious audience. This research builds on work which began in Fall 2017: the accession, digitization, and integrations of materials (color slides, audio recordings, programs, photos, and other ephemera) related to the 1969 and 1970 Ann Arbor Blues Festivals. This extraordinary collection of materials provides the basis for case studies of the evolution of the blues, its dissemination in the US, and the comparative analysis of blues guitar technique. In this project, materials were cross-referenced with contemporaneous print documentation to determine their correspondence with extant audio and video. Set lists were established and personnel were verified. Biographical and discographical information was organized to provide context for the analysis of the guitar technique and repertoire of each artist. This information can now be accessed on the web along with audio excerpts. A social media strategy has been implemented to bring together blues scholars and enthusiasts around the world who share an interest in this topic. The presentation will conclude with an analysis and performance of the music of Mississippi Fred McDowell.



  1. Very interesting topic! Generally, music can be very subjective; however, focusing on both technique and history and how those pieces tie together to influence modern music and practice is a fascinating approach. I appreciate the time that you took to give background and set up the context of the project, as this is obviously a concept that is foreign to most. I would be interested to know more about the techniques of modern guitarists and how their techniques/styles of playing compare to that of Fred McDowell.

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