John Black grew up listening to the Chicago blues artists on Chess Records. He loved Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, BB King and Paul Butterfield.
"What I like about the blues is it sets you free," he said. "It doesn't make you sad, it makes you experience life."
For the past several years, he has shared his passion with the city by organizing the annual Modesto Blues Festival, set this year for Saturday on the 1200 block of J Street. The free family event features performances by five bands: Café R&B, MoFo Party Band, Second Tradition Band, Big Earl and the Cryin' Shame and 1950s-60s cover band Tommy and the Edsels.
That last band is a nod to Modesto's monthlong Graffiti Summer celebration honoring Modesto native George Lucas' movie "American Graffiti" about teens in the summer of 1962. Classic-car owners are invited to attend and park their cars at the festival.
The event also will include a sale of art by members of Black's Peer Recovery Art Project, which operates a gallery on that block and seeks to end the stigma of mental illness. Children will be invited to create their own art.
"I build community and I do it through arts and music," said Black, who has schizophrenia. "I do it so I can drag someone along with me like someone dragged me along."
Food will be available from restaurants on the block: Concetta, Papapavlos and Deva Café. Some of the restaurants also will present live music.
Festival headliner band Café R&B hails from Los Angeles and has been a regular at the Sonora Blues Festival.
"The band is so tight," Black said. "When you see (lead singer Roach) on stage, you'll never see a more energetic, action-packed show."
MoFo Party Band, from Fresno, has been a regular at the festival since 2001. "Every time they play, they give 100 percent," Black said. "They're show-stoppers."
WHAT: Modesto Blues Festival
WHEN: Noon-8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: J Street between 12th and 13th streets, Modesto
CALL: (209) 581-1695
The schedule will be:
Noon-1 p.m. Tommy and the Edsels
1:30-2:30 p.m. MoFo Party Band
3-4 p.m. Second Tradition
4:30-6 p.m. Big Earl and the Cryin' Shame
6:30-8 p.m. Café R&B
"We're going to have some of the best music you've heard in Modesto," Black said.