Music

Jazz Fest Through the Years

This weekend, a Southern cultural institution marks a significant milestone—New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival turns fifty. What began in 1970 with hometown greats such as Mahalia Jackson, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Fats Domino playing to 350 people has transformed over the years to spotlight multiple genres and such stars as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, the Allman Brothers Band, and Willie Nelson—and the event now draws nearly half a million music lovers. Although birthday-year headliners include Dave Matthews Band, Jimmy Buffett, Van Morrison, Diana Ross, and Earth, Wind & Fire, the heart of Jazz Fest lies in the other five hundred names on the lineup. Eighty percent hail from the area, with local heroes such as Irma Thomas (known as the Soul Queen of New Orleans), Trombone Shorty, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Click through to see Jazz Fest performers over the past half century.

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Clifton Chenier on stage.

photo: David Sutherland

A Grand Marshal with the Eureka Brass Band.

photo: Jim Messina

A Grand Marshall with the Olympia Brass Band.

photo: David Sutherland

Olympia Brass Band.

photo: David Sutherland

Olympia Brass Band.

photo: Burt Steel

Professor Longhair at Congo Square in 1971.

A Mardi Gras Indian at a food booth.

photo: Girard Mouton III

Stage 5, 1981.

photo: Sandra Russell Clark

Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1986.

photo: Harold Baquet

Fats Domino, 2003.

photo: Girard Mouton III

First Emanuel Baptist Church Mass Choir.

photo: Joshua Brasted

Acura Stage, 2018.

photo: Douglas Mason

Trombone Shorty.

photo: Douglas Mason

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