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Blues Unlimited

Series produced by Steve Franz

Series image

Join us as we explore the wonderful world of the Blues, and its history, heritage, and rich cultural traditions.

Blues Unlimited is an NPR-style two-hour weekly show that has been called the "best blues radio show in the United States," and has an established and loyal audience of listeners from around the globe. Hosted by "Sleepy Boy Hawkins" (the alter-ego of scholar, author, fanatic, and historian Steve Franz), each installment is a self-contained evergreen show, delving into a different genre, topic, or aspect of the blues. For more details on the program, see our full profile, or email us at bluesunlimited@gmail.com


209 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
Caption: Hand-painted photo of Elmore James courtesy of Blues Unlimited magazine. Inset: Some of Elmore's first singles.
Join us as we start a new, ongoing mini-series dedicated to the life and musical career of one of the most beloved figures in blues history — slide...

  • Added: Nov 14, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Pictured: The hands of St. Louis guitarist Bennie Smith. Photo by Bill Greensmith. Inset: A St. Louis classic from Guitar Tommy Moore.
Join us as we journey to St. Louis, and celebrate some of the talented musicians that called the River City their home. We'll hear modern classics ...

  • Added: Oct 13, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Pictured (from left to right): Jacob Stuckey, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, and Tommy Lee West, in front of Bentonia’s legendary Blue Front Cafe. Photo courtesy of Jimmy “Duck” Holmes. Inset: One of the recordings Skip James made for Paramount in 1931.
Join us as we aim the spotlight on the Bentonia, Mississippi blues tradition, and the handful of practitioners — such as Skip James, Jack Owens, an...

  • Added: Sep 15, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Pictured: Robert Petway, whose “Catfish Blues” has become a beloved Mississippi Delta classic. Illustration by William Stout.
Join us as we explore the rich and fascinating history of animal symbolism in the blues. Ever since the very first recordings, from the 1920s, blue...

  • Added: Aug 25, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Photo of Bob Koester by William Ellis, from the "One LP Project."
Join us for an extra special treat! We asked Bob Koester, founder of the legendary Delmark Records, for a list of his favorite performances. All we...

  • Added: Aug 09, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Photo by Jan Persson. Taken during the 1968 American Folk Blues Festival Tour, probably in Copenhagen. Inset: Jimmy Reed’s very first R&B hit for Vee-Jay.
Join us for another installment of our "Great Songwriters" series, as we aim the spotlight on Jimmy Reed. Enjoying more R&B hits than any of his co...

  • Added: Jul 24, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Any program featuring gut bucket blues would be woefully inadequate without representation from Louisiana Swamp Blues master, Lightnin’ Slim. Illustration by William Stout.
Join us for two hours of our favorite gut bucket blues! We’ll hear low down classics from Lightnin’ Hopkins, Joe Hill Louis, L.C. Green, Elmore Jam...

  • Added: Jul 04, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
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Join us as we dig into a collection of blues songs all dealing with the topic of war. Featuring commentary, insight, and criticism on Vietnam, Kore...

  • Added: Jun 01, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Brownsville mandolin man, James "Yank" Rachell (in his later years).
Join us for part two of our look at the blues traditions in Brownsville, Tennessee. This time, we’ll focus primarily on the Decca label, and hear s...

  • Added: May 14, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Image by R. Crumb.
Join us as we get into our time machine, and go back to the 1920s and ’30s, to examine the blues traditions in Brownsville, Tennessee. At the epice...

  • Added: Apr 29, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: During the 1940s, Louis Jordan was king of the charts, racking up an unbroken string of almost 40 top ten R&B hits between 1942 and 1948.
Join us for another installment of “hits that missed,” as we count our way down through some of the biggest recordings of the 1940s. We’ll hear mus...

  • Added: Apr 01, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Illustration of Smiley Lewis by William Stout. His recording of “I Hear You Knocking” was one of the biggest number two hits of the early 1950s.
On this episode of Blues Unlimited, join us as we pay tribute to a remarkable collection of records that all have one thing in common — they were a...

  • Added: Mar 09, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Illustration of Son House by R. Crumb; Lightnin’ Hopkins by William Stout.
On this special edition of Blues Unlimited, join us as two legendary musicians, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Son House, tell us about their lives in story...

  • Added: Feb 21, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Recorded in May 1952, “Juke” became a huge number one hit for Little Walter, when it climbed to the top of the R&B charts later that year.
Join us as we put the Checker label in the spotlight. Started by Phil and Leonard Chess as a subsidiary imprint in 1952, Checker issued some specta...

  • Added: Feb 04, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Third & Beale: According to some, the epicenter of the Blues Universe.
Join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite moments from 2016. In a year filled with highlights, great blues, and a bunch of good music,...

  • Added: Jan 14, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Blue Horizon often featured striking and distinctive album covers, such as this one for Bukka White’s “Memphis Hot Shots” LP.
Join us as we dig into some of the great recordings made by Mike Vernon's Blue Horizon label during the 1960s. This time we’ll be focusing on some ...

  • Added: Jan 02, 2017
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: One of the rare 78s from the collection of John Tefteller. Courtesy of Blues Images.
Join us as we explore some of the rarest of the rare — John Tefteller's legendary collection of Paramount 78s. One of the most important blues labe...

  • Added: Nov 28, 2016
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: One of the Maxwell Street regulars, Blind Arvella Gray. Photo by Vivian Maier, 1967.
If you like your blues raw and gritty, then join us as we head down to Maxwell Street. That’s where filmmaker Mike Shea went with his cameras in 19...

  • Added: Oct 04, 2016
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: One of the high-water marks of Chicago Blues, “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” by Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Baby Face Leroy.
Join us as we dig through the remains of the Parkway label, a Chicago independent who was only in business for a short time during the first few mo...

  • Added: Sep 20, 2016
  • Length: 01:58:59
Caption: Featured on this program, the Rev. Robert Wilkins and his epic masterpiece, “The Prodigal Son.” Illustration by William Stout.
Join us for our annual gospel show! Guest host Brother Hawkins will lead us on a journey down to Memphis and the Hill Country, to hear music from M...

  • Added: Sep 02, 2016
  • Length: 01:58:59