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Chick Willis in Victoria Square as part of the Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival 2010

Big Bear Records, one of the longest established independent record companies in the UK, have been at the forefront of Jazz, Swing and Blues since 1968.

This year, the 30th Anniversary of the Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival, we are bringing you free, top drawer live music across the city from 18th – 27th July 2014.

The company was named Big Bear by legendary radio producer John Peel who thought the gait of the label’s founder, Jim Simpson, resembled that of a bear. The label grew out of Simpson’s production company which has steered Black Sabbath through their first three years and the best three albums of their career.

Initially recording the U.S. Bluesmen, the label’s repertoire quickly expanded to include such significant West Midlands bands as Muscles, The Quads, Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes, The Gangsters and Mel Gaynor’s Zulu.

From 1985, Big Bear Records began to establish its reputation as the home of great jazz, blues and swing with King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, Kenny Baker’s Dozen, Clark Terry Big Bird Band, Bruce Adams / Alan Barnes Quintet, Lady Sings The Blues, Alan Barnes All-Stars, Duncan Swift, Bill Allred’s Good Time Jazz, and many more.

The next wave of signings came with the dawn to the millennium with Tipitina, Dr. Teeth Big Band, Django’s Castle and The Nomy Rosenberg Trio.

So take a browse around and find out what we’ve been doing over 40 years of Straining Up Under The Bear – and don’t stay away too long, there’s always something new in The Bear’s Lair!