II Bilbao Blues Award


Rick Estrin (San Francisco, California, 1949), harmonica player, singer and composer, will receive the txapela that accredits him as II Bilbao Blues Festival Award, succeeding the Missouri bassist and singer Bob Stroger, winner of last year’s edition.

Owner of a harmonica sound unmistakably faithful to that of the masters Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walker, Estrin is one of the most brilliant figures on the contemporary blues scene. As a composer, he has worked with blues legends such as Koko Taylor, John Hammond and Robert Cray.

Rick Estrin got his first harmonica at the age of 15 and at 18 he was already frequenting the black clubs of San Francisco, playing with figures such as Z.Z. Hill, Filmore Slim, Lowell Fulson and Rodger Collins. At 19 he moved to Chicago, where he worked with some of the best bluesmen in the city, such as Windy City Johnny Young, Eddie Taylor, Sam Lay, John Littlejohn and Muddy Waters.

In 1976, after a stint in Chicago, he returned to California, where he formed Little Charlie & The Nightcats with guitarist Little Charlie Battie, bassist Lorenzo Farrell and drummer J. Hansen. During this time, Estrin demonstrated equal parts harmonica virtuosity and compositional prowess. This Jump blues and swing line-up remained active for over 30 years until Little Charlie’s retirement in 2008. In his place, Estrin recruited guitar wunderkind Christoffer “Kid” Andersen and formed Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. The band quickly became one of the favourites of blues fans, critics and radio programmers around the world.

The quartet’s worldwide popularity helped Estrin win five Blues Music Awards, including two nominations for Song Of The Year (1994 and 2018), Best Instrumentalist-Harmonica (2013) and Traditional Blues Male Artist Of The Year (2018). The full band, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, won the coveted Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year in 2018 and 2021.