Friends of the Blues

A decent crowd watches Albert Castiglia perform in 2017 during a Friends of the Blues show at the Longbranch Restaurant in L’Erable.

Certainly, the blues music genre remains timeless. Local fans of live blues music will have to hold onto that belief for another year.

The Friends of the Blues, an informal club that has promoted live blues music in the area for more than 14 years, made the tough decision recently to not host any shows this season. The Friends of the Blues usually hosts shows from April to November in venues in Bourbonnais, Bradley, Kankakee, L’Erable and Manteno.

“We’re not going to do any [shows] year,” said Friends of the Blues co-founder James Walker. “Maybe, 2022. I can’t guarantee that as we’re not getting any younger. Definitely not 2021 as we’ve got to get everybody vaccinated.”

Walker, 70, of Watseka, has done most of the legwork for the live blues shows from booking the acts, promoting the concerts at venues such as Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Bradley-Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club and Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, to getting hotel rooms for the bands and making sure they get paid. It’s a lot of work, and Walker isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be up to the task.

Walker and his wife, Susan, work the gate at the shows, and he always gives out a good number of door prizes of blues CDs and other items at each show. Tickets were just $10 to see the live acts.

The last Friends of the Blues show was Jim Suhler and the Monkey Beat, from Dallas, Texas, in November of 2019 at the Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. It was the final gig of the 13th season of the FOTB.

The FOTB had a handful of shows scheduled for 2020 but were canceled due to the pandemic.

“Every show we had booked, we had about five, and the artists canceled,” Walker said. “We only book touring bands, and they all decided not to tour.”

The biggest show of the season was always guitarist Albert Castiglia on the outdoor stage each August at the Longbranch Restaurant in L’Erable. Hopefully, he’ll return in 2022.

“Our audience is Baby Boomers, so there’s no sense in doing anything until they’re all vaccinated,” Walker said. “That’s what we’re thinking.”

Associate Editor

Chris Breach is the Associate Editor of The Daily Journal and the editor of the business section. A graduate of Indiana University, Breach has more than 25 years experience in newspapers. He can be reached at