It all started in the spring of 1981, with a Sold Out concert at the San Jose Civic Auditorium by the rock group, Ambrosia. The Associated Students wanted to do a Free of Charge show to repay their fans for their support during the year. The Board decided on a blues festival because 1) the blues is an art form that cuts across every demographic line known to man, 2) blues artists usually don’t cost an arm and a leg to contract, and 3) there was almost no blues in San Jose at that time. To everyone’s surprise about 1,000 fans appeared to see mostly local acts, and just seemed to have a grand time of it. Some money was put aside earlier in 1982, John Lee Hooker and the Coast to Coast Blues Band was hired to headline, around 2,500 people came and the rest is history.
In 1997, the Festival had some financial problems and was on the verge of going under when our friends at Metro Newspapers signed on as primary sponsors. Metro has kept its commitment ever since to “save the Blues” for San Jose and the South Bay. In 1999, we received permission for the first time to sell beer and wine and moved the festival site to San Carlos Plaza. In 2005 we had a huge success celebrating our 25 th year with Etta James. In 2011, we moved the festival to its current location at St. James Park.