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John Rutherford

Blues musician, songwriter, recording artist and historian John Rutherford is no stranger to Calgary Bluesfest stages. John has brought his own groups to perform on our festival Mainstage, and since its inception, has been the host of the long running Calgary Bluesfest series, A Walk Through Blues History.

Growing up in Toronto in the 60's and 70's Rutherford first laid hands on a guitar at age 10, and at 16 told his guitar teacher he wanted to play some of the popular rock songs of the day. Rutherford was told “if you want to play rock ’n’ roll you’ll have to learn the blues”

Lessons were spent digging into classic blues guitar recordings, studying the rhythm, feel and form of the music. Rutherford took his homework seriously swinging by Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street each week to purchase whatever blues album they’d been working with. This process spawned both a passion for the sound of the blues but also a sprawling record collection. Rutherford’s blues library and his earliest influences began with works by John Mayall, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Johnny Winter, Hubert Sumlin, T-Bone Walker, Otis Rush,  Freddie, Albert and BB King. Rutherford never learned those rock songs of the day, he stuck with the blues.

A few years later, early 80's, Rutherford moved west to Calgary where he began to test run his guitar chops on a local scene ripe with great players and a thriving music community. He also put his record collection to use starting a weekly blues music broadcast on the airwaves of the University of Calgary radio station CJSW.

At that same time an old east-side hotel dubbed “The Eddy” was about to embark on a reign as a real deal blues venue on the international circuit presenting many of the greatest names in blues history between 1982 and 2004. Rutherford was there for it all becoming a regular in the early days often spending his evenings immersed in the artists performances, the culture and vibe that permiated the smokey bar room. He quickly began conducting radio interviews with many of the Eddy's featured performers.

The Eddy's legendary Saturday afternoon jam sessions beckoned Rutherford to the stage of the Eddy where he met, played with and further established connections with the local scene. It also frequently offered up opportunities to be schooled by many of the visiting artists.

Rutherford would often be invited to join featured artists on evening shows where he'd find himself performing with and learning at the feet of blues greats like Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, Buddy Guy, Billy Branch, Eddie Shaw, Philip Walker and Jr. Wells.

Rutherford could never have imagined engaging in conversation with many of the same blues heros who's records he'd collected and studied just a few years earlier, let alone be on stage playing guitar with them!

Energized by that scene Rutherford and Calgary blues singer Bill Dowey founded the 1990’s Alberta blues juggernaut The Hoodoo Sons conquering the western Canadian blues circuit and opening concert appearances for Buddy Guy, The Neville Brothers, John Mayall, Downchild, Colin James and even Robert “Junior” Lockwood.

That rich experience and immersion in blues has fuelled a career of exploration and discovery in roots music. Rutherford’s many associations and collaborations include touring and recording with The Hoodoo Sons,  The Ronnie Hayward Trio, The Highwater Jug Band and as an ongoing contributor to the rotating cast of the Edmonton based Front Porch Roots Revue.

Rutherford’s solo career began with the release of the 2010 LP Echo Broadcast which reached #1 on the Alberta public broadcaster CKUA top 30 chart and received glowing reviews internationally. The leap to branch out on his own blossomed into appearances at clubs, concert venues and major music festivals across Canada.

In 2012 Rutherford was invited to sing the role of Hades in the first western Canadian tour of Anais Mitchel's Tony Award winning folk opera Hadestown.

In 2016 Rutherford was awarded the Calgary Blues Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year Award and inducted into the CBMA Hall of Fame.

Maintaining a long running residency at Calgary’s current home of the blues, The Blues Can, Rutherford performs solo shows and routinely rocks the house with his blues trio while honing his signature guitar sound and storytelling songwriting style.

In 2017 Rutherford joined the Calgary blues band Dice Deluxe adding a muscular guitar sound to the band's swamp boogie blues vibe.

Adding to a long list of projects, accomplishments and career milestones Rutherford is pleased to announce the release of his new EP entitled Midnight Microphone.

Produced by legendary guitarist Tim Williams, and joined by Thom Moon on drums and Bill Price on bass the new songs express Rutherford’s will to push the blues form beyond traditions or expectations in a search of his own honest connection to the feel and power of the music.