Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Tom Mazzolini is the founder and producer of the San Francisco Blues Festival, the the once-longest running blues festival in the United States.
Born in Chicago, Mr. Mazzolini moved to California in 1963, after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He attended San Francisco State University, where he received a degree in American History in 1967. During his years at SFSU, Tom's interest in folk music, as well as the burgeoning San Francisco rock scene of the 1960s, eventually led to his interest in blues music.
Upon graduation from college, Tom began collecting records, articles and memorabilia, which furthered his interest in writing about blues music. His articles, interviews and reviews of concerts and recordings appeared in numerous publications throughout the 1970s and '80s. He was a contributing editor for Living Blues magazine for 12 years. He occasionally contributes blues interviews to various publications.
Tom Mazzolini founded the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1973 to educate the public about the history and evolution of the blues in the San Francisco-Richmond-Oakland area in the 1940s and '50s. Many of the performers at the early concerts were the pioneers and originators of the West Coast blues sound. At that time there were only a handful of blues festivals across the country.
Also in 1973, Tom started the longest running blues radio show in the Bay Area, which currently airs Saturdays on radio station KPFA-FM in Berkeley. Over the years, he has interviewed numerous blues musicians, including Percy Mayfield, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush, Charlie Musselwhite, Honey Boy Edwards, Charles Brown, Jimmy Dawkins, Lowell Fulson, Kim Wilson, Jimmy McCracklin, William Clarke, Freddie Roulette, James Cotton, Brownie McGhee, Big Joe Duskin, Marcia Ball, Detroit Junior, Luther Tucker, Mighty Joe Young, Katie Webster, and Joe Louis Walker, to name a few. Tom also helped land film roles for Brownie McGhee in "Angel Eyes," starring Robert De Niro and Mickey Rourke, and Harmonica Fats in "The Doors," starring Val Kilmer. He has also written liner notes for numerous albums.
In 1983, Tom received the prestigious W.C.
Handy Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis for his
contribution as a blues producer. He also received the Award of Merit
from the San Francisco Arts Commission for his many productions for city
arts programs. He was also the producer of stage productions for the
annual San Francisco Art Festival in the 1970s. Tom also served on the
advisory board of the Western Regional Folk Festival, a production of
the National Park Service. His productions have been funded by numerous
foundations and organizations, including the National Endowment for the
Arts and the California Arts Council. He curated San Francisco's first
blues photography show at the Art Commission Gallery in the late 1970s,
and in 1990 co-curated a major art exhibit entitled "The Blues Show" at
the S.F. Museum of Modern Art Rental Gallery. This exhibit included
works by William Wiley, Raymond Saunders, Johnny Otis and
Henderson, to name a few.
In 1996 Tom received the first Patron of the Arts Award at the Bay Area Music Awards in San Francisco. In 1997 Tom was the guest for a full hour interview by Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) on the House of Blues Radio Hour broadcast nationally. That same year San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown honored Tom Mazzolini by proclaiming September 20-21 as Tom Mazzolini Weekend in San Francisco. Tom was the recipient of the National Blues Foundation's 1998 "Keeping the Blues Alive" award as Blues Promotor of the year. He also hosted a panel "Jazz and the Beat Era," at the 2004 Beat Generation and Beyond conference in Davis, California. In 2006 Tom Mazzolini was a recipient of The Recording Academy Honors Award for his contribution to blues. Also receiving the Award were Dave Brubeck, George Duke and Green Day. The Award was presented to Tom by Taj Mahal, followed by a performance by Keb' Mo.'
He has served on the Board of the Advisory Committee of the Blues Foundation. He also served on the Ft. Mason Advisory Council and is Board Emeritus of the South of Market Cultural Center.
In 2008 Tom produced his 36th and final San Francisco Blues Festival -- an historic achievement!
In May 2009 Tom was honored with a "Keeper of the Blues" award by the Mariposa Brewing Company at the First Annual Mariposa Blues Festival. The award was given "In recognition of Tom Mazzolini for his dedication of the Salvation of the Blues."
In 2010 Tom received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Golden Gate Blues Society for a lifetime of promotion, education and preservation of the blues to the Bay Area and the greater blues community. "No other individual has done more to keep the flame burning in the blues Community." This award was presented at the Redwood City Blues Festival.