Welcome to Blues Unlimited Radio!

Join us as we celebrate and explore the wonderful world of the blues, and its history, heritage, and rich cultural traditions. Blues Unlimited is the premier destination for fans, lovers, aficionados, authors, musicians, researchers, radio programmers, and scholars — as well as those who simply appreciate and want to know a little bit more about one of the great American musical art forms. Now in its ninth year of production, Blues Unlimited presents the “real” blues, from the men and women who lived that life and made that music. Nothing is ever watered down on Blues Unlimited.

Tightly focused themes are the Blues Unlimited “stock-in-trade,” with beautifully crafted profiles of renowned musicians, beloved songwriters, vintage record labels, harmonica blowers from Memphis, piano players from Chicago, guitar pickers from Texas, country blues heroes of the 1920s and ’30s, in-depth city-by-city surveys, classic, rare, and out-of-print vinyl, and legendary field recordings of the 1930s through the 1970s.

Connect with something vital, vibrant, and authentic, each and every week, on Blues Unlimited.

Every Tuesday, we’ll post this week’s featured episode, and just in case you missed it, scroll down a bit further to catch last week’s show, and one of our favorite installments from our new series, “This Week in Blues History.”

As always, thanks for listening!

—Sleepy Boy Hawkins

Featured Episode for July 16-22

Movin’ & Groovin’ to the Hammond B3

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we’re movin’ and groovin’ to the sounds of the Hammond B3 organ. Popular in Jazz, Blues, R&B, Soul, and Gospel, we’ll celebrate the history of this hit making instrument over the years, with rarities from Sam Lazar and J.C. Davis, plus all time classics from Bill Doggett, Booker T. & the MG’s, Jimmy McGriff, and more.

Pictured: Hit maker for Stax Records, Booker T. Jones.

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Featured Episode for July 9-15

Chicago Blues Harmonica 1945-1955

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we take a look at some of the great harmonica wizards that were a mainstay of the Chicago Blues scene. Beginning with ‘The Chairman of the Board’ – John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, who was pretty much responsible for putting the harmonica on the Windy City Blues map in the first place – and continuing on up through the early recordings of Little Walter, Snooky Pryor, Junior Wells, and Big Walter Horton, it’s a veritable feast of Harmonica Blues, as we pull out some of the finest waxings the Windy City had to offer, including some rare gems and a look at some of the ‘lesser knowns’ who were a part of the scene as well.

Pictured: Little Walter, the King of Chicago Blues Harmonica.

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One Last Chance (Featured Episode for July 2-8)

Blues from the Outer Limits

On this special edition of Blues Unlimited, we pull out all the stops and dig through our archives in search of blues musicians that play one-stringed instruments, Fife and Drum Band music from the Hill Country of Mississippi, blues artists that play pan pipes and trombones (no, not at the same time) as well as a variety of home made instruments. From cult favorites like Bongo Joe to the crowd-pleasing one-stringed boogie riffs of Lonnie Pitchford to the celestial sounds of Gospel singer Washington Phillips, we leave no holds barred on this one for a show dedicated to the odd, the unique, the bizarre and the downright wonderfully weird into one utterly delightful package. Includes rare and classic performances by One String Sam and Willie Joe Duncan & His Unitar, Othar Turner, Jesse Fuller (the one-man-band and his homemade ‘fotdella’); perennial favorites Hezekiah and the Houserockers; Ann Arbor, Michigan street performing legend Shakin’ Jake Woods, and many more.

Pictured: Napoleon Strickland on fife, Jimmie Buford on bass drum, R.L. Boyce on snare drum, and Othar Turner dancing. Photo by David Evans. 

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And… Don’t Miss “This Week in Blues History”

2018 was a big year for us! We started — and finished — a brand new series of 52 audio essays, called “This Week in Blues History.” Here’s one of our favorites, from the week of July 22nd. It involves a legendary blues performer from Bentonia, Mississippi, who made an historic appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, in 1964. It had been 33 years since he last recorded, and no one knew quite what to expect….



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Blues Unlimited is an NPR-style two-hour weekly radio show that explores the wonderful world of the blues, and its history, heritage, and rich cultural traditions. It has repeatedly been called the best radio show of its kind currently on offer in the United States market. Named in honor of the groundbreaking periodical, first published in England in 1963 by Mike Leadbitter and Simon Napier, Blues Unlimited has an established, 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, theme, or aspect of the blues.

Blues Unlimited is available for broadcast worldwide, at a price that is surprisingly affordable. Radio stations that air Blues Unlimited tell us that it quickly gains traction with their listeners, and that they see their numbers go up when the program is airing. For more info, contact us at: bluesunlimited @ gmail dot com (or, you can use the handy online form, posted near the bottom of this main page).

Steve Franz graduated from the University of Memphis with a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology. He is the author of The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James, which was translated into Japanese in 2006, and selected as one of the 100 Books Every Blues Fan Should Own.

Our distinctive “Third and Beale Street” logo comes from a rare poster for the 1977 Beale Street Music Festival. Artist/designer unknown.

Praise for Blues Unlimited

“Highly recommended for anyone who would like to hear the best blues program under the sun. Great music presented beautifully by the most highly knowledgeable blues historian I am aware of….”
—George Mitchell, folklorist and author of “Blow My Blues Away”

“We were blown away by all the work you put into this.”
—Bob Koester, founder of the legendary Delmark record label
(commenting on the episode, “25 from Bob Koester”)

“Blues Unlimited is a real treasure! I really enjoy all of the programming, and always come away from an episode informed and inspired.”
—Randy Glines, avid listener

“I am still in awe of your program. Recently, while waiting for you to post a new one, I went surfing other blues podcasts and you really have no one in your league.”
—T.L., long-time blues fanatic & devoted listener

“I had no idea how much labor went into one of your shows!”
—Paul Garon, renowned author & blues scholar

“I listened to your show tonight, with the lights out and a margarita in my hand. Wonderful! Each song just seemed to flow from one to the next. And where in the world did you ever find such clear, undamaged recordings?”
—K.M. (a listener)

“I think you are doing an unbelievable job in presenting and preserving a body of work proportionately in size and detail that would rival the audio section of the Library of Alexandria. As a blues lover coming across the Elmore James mini-series and then discovering This Week in Blues History, well, thank you for your devotion and dedication. Bravo!”
—J.T. (a listener)

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This Week in Blues History for July 15th

This time, we take a look at the American Record Corporation’s 1939 field trip to Memphis. For the Bluff City, it marked the end of an era. The #1 New Release at the Amazon Kindle Store in Blues Books. On sale now at Amazon and at Apple Books.

This Week in Blues History for July 8th

This time, we profile guitarist Blue Smitty, who cut his only session for Chess Records, this week in 1952. “The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James” is the #1 New Release at the Amazon Kindle Store in Blues Books. On sale NOW at Amazon and at Apple Books.

Give Us A Holler!

If you have a topic you’d like us to tackle, want to make a comment on one of our previous shows, or you just want to say hello, we’d love to hear from you! Just use this handy form!

By checking this box, I promise I'm not a part of the Zombie Apocalypse!

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Stay Tuned!

In the upcoming weeks and months, we’ll have some exciting stuff for you! We can’t tell you too much right now, but…. there might possibly be excerpts from a brand new book we’re working on! More details to come….


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