Women play critical role in Waterfront Blues Fest

'I think it is essential to the blues, the female voice'

LaRhonda Steele in an undated performance, as seen on her website, June 24, 2017
LaRhonda Steele in an undated performance, as seen on her website, June 24, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Many women have played a huge part in helping both the Oregon Food Bank and the Waterfront Blues Festival.

One of those women is LaRhonda Steele, who has been a part of the festival ever since she came to Portland from Oklahoma 22 years ago.

The Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival
June 30 – July 4, 2017

“It is wonderful to perform on a stage with thousands of people watching, but to know that you’re also doing good for your community, for your country, for the world – that makes it even more special,” Steele said.

From Sonny Hess to Duffy Bishop to the late Linda Hornbuckle, women have played a critical role in the festival’s success.

LaRhonda Steele talks to KOIN 6 News, June 22, 2017. (KOIN)
LaRhonda Steele talks to KOIN 6 News, June 22, 2017. (KOIN)

Steele said, “I think it is essential to the blues, the female voice – if it was to be unheard, the blues would be incomplete, as far as I’m concerned.”

There’s a real camaraderie among the women in blues in Portland, and Steele said she felt it when she went through breast cancer treatment not too long ago. Two women, in particular, have made a strong impact, both of whom have passed on; Linda Hornbuckle and pianist Janice Scroggins.

“I mean, these women worked nonstop,” Steele said. “I’m hoping that people understand how much they did give, I mean, we gave them a lot too, but they gave themselves to this music community.”

As Steele prepares for another year at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, she helps carry the torch for all the women who continue to pave the way.

“I feel like it’s a part of me, and I’m a part of it, and the fact that it’s lasted 30 years is amazing,” Steele said. “I don’t ever want it to stop.”

KOIN 6 News is a proud sponsor of the Waterfront Blues Festival

Kingfish, Samantha Fish and Ty Curtis at the 2016 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, (Oregon Food Bank)
Kingfish, Samantha Fish and Ty Curtis at the 2016 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, (Oregon Food Bank)