Remembering Steve Franz

BIMA staff are sad to learn of the passing of Steve Franz, a friend of BIMA and invaluable member of the music community.

If you attended the daytime events at this year’s MOJO Rhythm and Blues Festival at BIMA in July 2019 you heard him sharing music at the blues listening parties, his commentary on the documentary And This is Free, and his insights into documenting, preserving and sharing blues music history during the panel discussion. Steve added incredible depth and richness to the program, we are grateful to his contributions to preserving and honoring blues music.

Mark Hoffman, Bainbridge Islander and one of Steve’s co-panelists from the MOJO festivities, wrote a tribute he has allowed us to share:

Steve was the real deal—one of the most knowledgeable scholars of vernacular music I ever met, and I’ve met some of the greatest. He was up there with Paul Oliver, Mike Leadbitter, Peter Guralnick, his mentor David Evans, and very few others as a vast storehouse of accurate information about every aspect of blues history, and he could also astound you with his knowledge country & western, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, and bluegrass. He could tell you everything I knew and more about the blues players I followed and everything you’d want to know about blues players I barely recognized. His book about Elmore James was the first and last word about one of the greatest blues singers and electric slide players ever. Steve ran the best blues podcast I ever heard: Blues Unlimited Radio, where as “Sleepy Boy Hawkins” he did a weekly two-hour deep dive into a different genre, topic, or theme of the blues. He was a thoughtful man who tirelessly publicized the music and doings of many up-and-coming young blues players. He leaves behind the broken hearts of his many friends, who knew him as a learned gentleman of infinite kindness.