In the fifth of the series of LEGEND SESSIONS, Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival is delighted to again host a virtual session exploring the possibilities where two musical genres coincide.

This year the centre point will again be the legendary Donegal Fiddler John Doherty whose roots run deep in the Bluestack Mountains of his native county but who travelled and transcended musical boundaries throughout his life until his last years spent in the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon.  The musical odyssey continues despite the best efforts of the Covid Pandemic and this year’s session imagines the evolution of the scene if John Doherty had embarked on a journey along the Blues trail from Chicago to Mississippi, the musicians he may have met including Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, the tunes and songs that might have been swapped, the stories behind the music and finally the life experiences which they would have shared.

The session will be personified by two legends of the current music world who have themselves travelled extensively sharing their musical talents and experiences literally all over the world but whose roots are firmly in the Bluestacks and the Blues.

Seamie O Dowd from Sligo is a multi instrumentalist and singer but for this session he will focus mainly on the fiddle in his portrayal of John Doherty’s music. Johnny Gallagher from Bundoran is also multi-instrumental but will focus on the blues guitar which he is renowned for all over the world.  Johnny will portray the New World’s bluesy music. Both will blend their unmistakeable blues soaked voices together to push boundaries and break down barriers.

This is  ‘Safe Session” which will take place in the Covid compliant Abbey Centre in Ballyshannon on Friday night July 30th at 8.00 p.m..  Audience will be limited to 40 participants . Tickets will be available on a first come first served basis from https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/legend-sessions-where-john-doherty-meets-chuck-berry-tickets-164292383943

The event will also be streamed on line through our face book page www.facebook.com/ballyshannonfolkfestival

Be sure to join us on Friday, July 30th at 8.00 and why not start you own Watch party with your friends.



Background to the Mississippi Blues Trail


The Mississippi Blues Trail celebrates the people and places that have influenced the development of the blues, the soulful musical genre that combines lyrical tales of tragedy, hardship, and lost love with creative and evocative harmonics. Perhaps the greatest creation to come out of Mississippi, the blues have inspired musicians around the world and shaped popular culture in America. The Blues Trail consists of markers placed at sites around the state, each recounting the story of an artist, venue, or event that played an important role in the development of the blues. The markers serve as a source of civic pride, keep alive local stories and sentiments, stimulate economic growth, attract tourists, and provide opportunities for education about the cultural heritage of Mississippi communities.

Each marker documents an important legacy that has local, national, and global significance. Some capture stories at risk of being lost forever, as they have persisted only through oral history or have been suppressed by those who have devalued the blues as the “devil’s music.” Once in place, the markers create greater interest in the roots of American music, attracting blues fans and heritage tourists from around the world. Visitors are eager to experience the places that have been immortalized in song and that gave the blues life and want to learn more about the people who made the music. The sites along the Blues Trail convey these stories from a hometown perspective.


The “Great Migration” from the South to “the Promised Land” of Chicago brought more African Americans  from Mississippi than from any other state, especially during and after World War II. With the migrants came the Delta blues that was the foundation of the classic postwar Chicago blues style. Muddy Waters, who became the king of Chicago blues, was among the thousands of Mississippians who arrived on Illinois Central trains at Central Station, which stood across the street from this site from 1893 to 1974.

Robert Johnson never moved to the place he praised in his song “Sweet Home Chicago,” but his sentiments were shared by thousands of fellow Mississippi natives who came here in search of a better life. In “Chicago Bound,” bluesman Jimmy Rogers called the city “the greatest place around,” and in “Chicago Blues,” Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup deemed it “the greatest place on earth.” Many migrants travelled north on the Illinois Central (IC) via its extensive lines that spread across the Deep South, including eight hundred miles of IC-owned Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad track that criss-crossed the Mississippi Delta. Pullman porters on IC trains to Mississippi often delivered copies of the African-American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, which organized “migrant clubs” and arranged group discounts for train fare northward. The first wave of the “Great Migration” began with World War I, and between 1910 and 1920 the number of black Chicagoans who were born in Mississippi increased from 4,612 to 19,485.

The rise of the blues recording industry in Chicago attracted many musicians, and during the 1930s, blues artists here who claimed Mississippi roots included Willie Dixon, Memphis Minnie, Lil Green, and big Bill Broonzy. During World War II the need for factory labour helped fuel a larger wave of migration, and between 1940 and 1950 some 150,000 Mississippians moved here. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Sunnyland Slim, Emore James, Sonny Boy Williamson, No. 2 (Rice Miller), Otis Rush, and Magic Sam were among the many who arrived in the 1940s and ’50s and found recording opportunities with Chess, Vee-Jay (co-founded by Mississippi native Vivian Carter), Cobra, and other labels. Blues clubs proliferated on the South and West sides, and Chicago’s airwaves also took on a down-home Mississippi flavour on programs hosted by Pervis Spann and Al Benson  who earned the honorary title “Mayor of Bronzeville” as the South Side’s most popular personality. Local labels Delmark and Testament began recording blues albums in Chicago for a new generation of listeners in the 1960s, paving the way for other companies such as Alligator and Earwig. Albums by Mississippi-born bluesmen Big Joe Williams, Jimmy Dawkins, Carey Bell, Honeyboy Edwards, Big Walter Horton, Eddy Clearwater, Eddie Shaw, Magic Slim, Fenton Robinson, Eddie C. Campbell, and Hound Dog Taylor brought their music to world-wide attention. Foreign tourists made Chicago a musical destination, and the local blues audience adopted “Sweet Home Chicago” as its theme song as the blues expanded to the North Side, the suburbs and here to Grant Park, where the world-renowned Chicago Blues Festival debuted in 1984.