History of HBS

The Hamilton Blues (HBS) was established in 1995 by Mike Garner. At the time, Mike was responsible for the NZ Blues Letter magazine and had received interest from local musicians to establish a club where people could jam and listen to live blues in Hamilton. Since then, HBS has provided a stage for jam nights, concerts, visiting/touring blues artists, and very successful blues festivals. Initially, HBS was hosted by the Mainstreet Bar and Grill on Victoria Street, later moving to Digger’s Bar in Hood Street, then Biddy Mulligan’s Irish Bar diagonally across Victoria Street from its beginnings.

As well as regular jam nights, the annual festivals would sell out weeks in advance bringing a number of NZ blues artists to Hamilton from around the country.

Time-line (shortened): 

1995 Inaugural Club Jam

1996 1st Blues Experience Festival and Danny’s Harp Attack featuring: Ronnie Taylor, Kokomo Blues, Marg Layton, Ralph Bennett, Pitt Ramsey and Elephant Gerald.

1997 2nd Blues Experience Festival and Danny’s Music World Guitar Contest featuring: Early Day Blues Band, Kokomo Blues, Beat Roosters, Blues Healers, Red Wilson, Shayn Wills, and Pip Payne.

1998 3rd Experience Festival featuring: Midge Marsden, Windy City Strugglers, Beat Roosters, Elephant Gerald, Derek Jacombs, Red Wilson, Neil Findlay, and Pip Payne.

2000 4th NZ Blues Festival: featuring Leighbouys, Pitt Ramsey, Air Sculptures, Great Brain Robbers, Red Wilson, Gary Harvey and the Night Owls, Railway Pie, No Big Hurry, Windy City Strugglers, Steppin’ Out, and Hammond Gamble.

2002 HBS hosted the Blues Variety Concert at Hamilton Gardens Festival featuring: Red Wilson Trio, Mike Cooper, and Leighbouys. The Society receives a charitable grant to purchase PA and speakers.

2003 HBS hosted the Shades of Blues Variety Concert at the Hamilton Gardens Festival featuring: Hammond Gamble and guests.

2004 HBS Jam Nights at Diggers Bar come to a close relocating to Biddy Mulligans Irish Pub in Victoria Street, diagonally across the road from where it all began.

2005 John Bisset finishes hosting “Night Owl Blues” on Community Radio Hamilton.

2006 Nate Taiapa begins hosting “The Blues Room” on Community Radio Hamilton. A call by Nate on the air for a regular blues venue identifies Biddy Mulligan’s as the home of Blues in Hamilton, the first successful jam for a while is hosted in December that year.

2007 Blues Jams continue at Biddy Mulligan’s – new committee sets date for re-launch – 14 June 2007.

2008 HBS organises Ladies Sing the Blues at Diggers, becoming an annual feature event. This event has also been staged at Altitude, returning to Biddy’s on Hood in 2018.

2009 HBS manages stage adjacent to the Frankton overbridge during the ITM 400 V8 car races in Hamilton.

2010 HBS begins hosting sessions under the auspices of the Tauranga Jazz/Blues Festival Committee in the theatre in The Historic Village, Tauranga.

2011 Mike and Sally Garner, Pauline Sinel, and Nate Taiapa all awarded Life Membership status in recognition of their contribution and service to HBS.

2013 HBS organises a very successful Okoroire Blues Festival at Okoroire Springs, just out of Tirau. The following year the BOP Club was involved with the organisation as well.

2016 HBS manages a stage at the March Frankton Thunder Festival, held annually.

2017 HBS successfully instigates Sunday Afternoon Blues sessions (first one being September, Ladies Sing The Blues) every 4th Sunday.

2017 HBS manages a stage on The Strand over two afternoons, providing eight bands for the Tauranga Jazz Festival (repeated in 2018).

2018 HBS holds first successful HBS Concert Night in April hosting The Flaming Mudcats in a packed back bar at Biddy Mulligan’s on Hood Street. This leads the way to more potential concerts with touring artists, national and international.

2018 HBS provided three concerts for HBS members of visiting artists from Australia, Toni Swain, Dale Robbins Band, and Jessie Valach with Blues Mountain. Great nights to witness.

2018 HBS, The Roadhouse (Morrinsville) and double bass promotions organise the Moo’vember Xtravaganza – a night of blues in Morrinsville – an incredibly successful night.

2019 HBS Blues Stock Blues Festival – the inaugural Easter Blues Festival to be repeated in 2020, and beyond.

2019 Queen’s Birthday weekend Hamilton Blues Society supported BOP Blus Club with their Rotorua Blues Festival by providing eight bands to perform at Barcode on Arawa Street.