The Blues Café was initially put together by Tom Schlief, one of the original and long-time organizers of the Big Bull Falls Blues Festival. Uncle “Daddy” Marcus Nickel was the emcee of the event, originally designed to raise funds for the Marathon County Historical Society.

The event ran for a couple of years and then disappeared. When the Great Northern Blues Society was formed in 1998, reviving the Blues Café was discussed as a way to raise money. It took a couple of years of planning to put on an event of its size, with the first “reincarnated” Café being held at Marathon Park’s Youth Building in 2000. (Now known as East Gate Hall.)

The event took place there until 2008, when it was moved to the Stoney Creek Inn. The Blues Café came full circle in 2010 and moved back where it started in 1993 – the historical Rothschild Pavilion.

If you, or anyone you know, has photos from the event at the Youth Building or Stoney Creek, we’d love it if you’d share them with us. Send us your prints to P.O. Box 2276 • Wausau WI 54402-2276 so we can scan and get them back to you quickly.


GNBS Blues Café Lineups:

2024: 2024_Blues_Cafe_Poster

Friday Night

Kyle Renfro Band

Big Mouth & the Power Tool Horns


*Acoustic Sets – Reverend Meantooth

Stefan Geisinger Band

Chris O’Leary Band

Joyann Parker Band

The Cash Box Kings

Dylan Salfer Band



Friday Night2023 Blues Cafe

Tommy Bentz Band

The Peoples Brothers Band


*Acoustic Sets – Andy Zynda

Alex Wilson with Big Al Dorn

The Avey Grouws Band

The Stephen Hull Experience

Vanessa Collier

Nick Moss Band with Dennis Gruenling



Friday Night

Harrison Street Band

Hip Pocket Band


              *Acoustic Sets – Michael Murphy

The Blues Disciples

Ivy Ford Band

Hector Anchondo

The Jimmys

The Altered Five Blues Band


2021: – Show Canceled by Coronavirus Pandemic


2020: (The Coronavirus Year)

Friday Night

Soul Symmetry – Canceled and replaced by Bobby Blues Tortured Soul

Aaron Williams & the Hoo Doo


              *Acoustic Sets – Sam Ness

Boom Boom Stevie V. & the Knockouts

The Bel Airs

Vanessa Collier – Canceled due to “Virus”

John Nemeth Band – Extended set to 2 hours

Ana Popovic – Extended set to 2 hours


2019: (20th Anniversary Show)

Friday Night

Howard “Guitar” Luedtke

Reverend Raven & the Chain-Smokin’ Altar Boys


*Acoustic Sets – Macyn Taylor

The Mark Cameron Band

The Ivy Ford Band

The Cash Box Kings

The Danielle Nicole Band

Ronnie Baker Brooks



              *Acoustic Sets – Cathy Grier

Big N’ Tasty

Norman Jackson Band

Southern Avenue

Victor Wainwright & the Train

Jeremiah Johnson Band





*Acoustic sets – Bing Futch

Joyann Parker Band

Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell Mama

Ghost Town Blues Band

Brandon Santini

Becky Barksdale





              *Acoustic sets – Dan Phelps

Aaron Williams & The Hoo Doo

Left Lane Cruiser

Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers

Lionel Young Band

Albert Cummings





*Acoustic Sets – Duck Shack Dave

Left Wing Bourbon

Crankshaft & The Gear Grinders

Bobby Messano

Chris O’Leary Band

Samantha Fish





*Acoustic Sets – Lonesome Dan Kase

Howard Guitar Luedtke & Blue Max

Altered Five

Rusty Wright Band

Shaun Murphy

Joe Louis Walker






*Acoustic Sets – Robert “One-Man” Johnson

Donnie Pick & The Road Band

Kilborn Alley Blues Band

Grady Champion

Sena Ehrhardt (Booked after Magic Slim Died)

Corey Stevens




2012: (March 31)

*Acoustic Sets – Bryan Anderson

Donnie Pick & The Road Band

Jumpship Blues Band

Howard & The White Boys

Albert Castiglia

Chris Duarte





*Acoustic sets – Lonesome Dan Kase

Jumpship Blues Band

Tallan Noble Latz

Red, White, and Blues Band

Joanne Shaw Taylor

Tinsley Ellis




2010: (March 27)

Red, White, and Blues Band

Meantooth Grin


Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials

Shane Dwight





2009: (March 28)

Mean Tooth Grin

Aaron Williams & The Hoo Doo

Charles Walker

Studebaker John & The Hawks

Walter Trout





2008: (March 22)

Geneva Red

Deep Water

Anthony Gomes (Ride Em’ Cowboy)



2007: (March 17)

Deep Water Reunion

Otis & the Alligators

Howard “Guitar” Luedtke & Blue Max

Janiva Magness

Debbie Davies




2006: (March 18)

Howard “Guitar” Luedtke

Bryan Lee

Studebaker John & the Hawks

Alvin Youngblood Hart




2005: (March 19th)

Sweet Tea

Shirley Johnson

Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings

Jimmy Johnson






2004:  (March 20)

Michael Murphy & The Mob

Rev. Raven & The Chain-Smokin’ Altar Boys

The Bill Perry Band

Magic Slim & The Teardrops






2003: (March 22)

The Blue Shadows

Howard “Guitar” Luedtke & Blue Max

Otis & The Alligators

Scott Holt



2002:  N/A – no show on record.


2001: (October 20)

Jr. G & the Hellhounds

Dave Steffen Band

Catfish Stephenson Band

Willie Kent & the Gents






2001: (March 31)

Soul to Soul

Joe Moss Band

The Milwaukee Slim Blues Band

Melvin Taylor & the Slack Band






2000: (March 18th)2000 Blues Cafe

Blue Shadows

Juliano Bailey and the Gems

A.C. Reed & The Spark Plugs

Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials