North Atlantic Blues Festival

A story by Paul Benjamin from 1990-2024

Portrait of Paul Benjamin

I was brought up on Jazz and Blues by my parents. They were always playing music in the house. I liked the Blues music more than the Jazz. In my youth I became a Rolling Stones fan. Things changed for me when I was working at a club where I met Mr. Eddie Shaw in 1978, he is the reason that I have been bringing Blues to Maine since then. Through him, I got to meet, work with and join the Blues Family.

The festival started in the parking lot of the Trade Winds in 1990. It was called the Trade Winds Blues Bash. In 1994 I was approached by Gil Merriam, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce to move the small festival that I was doing to the Public Landing. It started out as a one day event with the name being changed to the North Atlantic Blues Festival. I had been working with Randy Labbe who introduced me to Jamie Isaacson and the three of us put on the first festival. All three of us had a love of the Blues and brought a lot to the festival. Randy moved on after a couple of years to do other things so Jamie and I continued to put on the festival.

We went to a two day festival and added a club crawl, closing down Main Street ,putting bands on the street and into local clubs featuring Maine Blues Bands. It was important for us to showcase the local bands and it was a way for us to give back to the City of Rockland for their support. The club crawl was free for everyone so it let the locals who could not afford a ticket to the festival to be part of it.

2023 was the 30th year and it has grown into one of the best known festivals in the country. It is an honor to be part of the Blues Family around the world.

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