Blues music maintains sound footing in Arizona

Phil Wiggins, on harmonica, and his House Party during Tucson Meet Yourself.

Blues music is a pleasant sound for Southern Arizona.

Marty Kool, 91.3 KXCI deejay and founding board member of the Tucson Blues Society

Marty Kool, face of blues in Arizona, has been reviewing blues on air for 30 years at 91.3 KXCI. Kool tells a love for music from R&B of the 50s to blues music he now plays on the radio.

“There’s a magic about blues that seems to bring people together,” said Kool. “People from all walks of life turn up at blues shows and have great fun, dance, laugh and get along.”

Like many other kinds of music, the popularity of blues grows and diminishes.  Country, jazz, or rock and roll, all have hints of blues in their sound. They would not be alive today without the blues.

“As long as there’s music, there’ll be blues,” said Kool.

Tom Walbank, a blues players in Tucson first discovered blues in his teens.

Walbank began playing harmonica, which remains to this day his main instrument, then transitioning to guitar in the style of John Lee Hooker.

“Bands like White Stripes and Black Keys profess their love of blues through their music. That’s when I think a blues revival began,” said Walbank.

Walbank plays three to four gigs a week making his musical talent a full-time job.

“Its an opportunity to get rid of built up anger or tension or any kind of of emotion,” said Walbank. “It’s also good for my health.”

Blues music is relevant in the south but the state of Arizona has kept a variety of blues artist alive. Just to name one; Arthur Migliazza.

After living in Tucson for 19 years, Migliazza now resides in New York. Tucson was the city for him to become immersed in blues music at the age of 9. Continuing his love for blues, at 36, he still plays for live audiences.

Coming back to Tucson, from time-to-time, Migliazza will make an appearance at the Tucson Blues Festival.

Marilyn Stringer, Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation member, helped organize and photograph this year’s 33rd Annual Blues Festival at the Rillito Downs Park in Tucson on October 15.

“The blues is not dead, and there’s a lot of potential for the blues to grow and be a thriving genre again,” said Stringer.

Blues music doesn’t just take place in Tucson. Blues festivals make a presence in Flagstaff, Yuma, Mesa, and Bisbee.

It’s likely that Arizona has not heard the last of blues music. It continues to be relevant.

“The joy and hope of life is prevalent in the blues,” said Kool.

Briana Otanez a reporter for the Arizona Sonoran News, a service from the Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact at 

For high resolution photos and a word doc of this story click here


One comment Add yours
  1. We don’t get much in the way of blues bands here in northwestern Arizona. Way back we lived in Kansas City …fantastic jazz and blues bands there. Sure do miss those days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *