Kevin Hillier (centre) with Blues greats Little Freddie King and Henry Gray. SUR
Ain't nothin' but the blues on the Costas for retired bar owner
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Ain't nothin' but the blues on the Costas for retired bar owner

Music ·

Kevin Hillier owned one of Europe's most famous music clubs in London for nearly 30 years and used to run the Mijas Blues Festival

Jennie Rhodes

La Herradura

Friday, 5 January 2024, 18:16

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Any blues fans on the Costa del Sol will have probably already heard of, or even know Kevin Hillier. Not only did he run the Mijas Blues Festival from 2007 to 2014, but until 2020 he was also the owner of one of Europe's best-loved blues clubs, 'Ain't Nothin' But - the blues bar near Carnaby Street in London's legendary Soho district.

Originally from the UK capital, Kevin, 64, says that he first got into blues at the end of the 1980s. "I'd been into all kinds of music but when I heard blues it struck the right chord," he told SUR in English. "I see blues as a fun music. We managed to create this every night in the bar. Blues is the base to most music which is why most people like it, even subconsciously."

He goes on to say, "Blues is the flamenco of the Black and flamenco is the blues of the Spanish – it's the passion in music that people feel and get connected to – it's emotion. I think just about everybody loves blues without knowing it."

“We have made our mark here already and have organised a few gigs. I always want to give something back and I can do that through music”

Fed up of working in accounting, Kevin decided to open a blues bar in the city, which he ran for 27 years before selling it during the Covid pandemic and retiring. Kevin says that the bar is still going under new management.

While he was at the helm he explains, he would "fly people in from the US especially to play there. There was live music every night".

He designed and developed the club himself and says he "introduced young people to blues in London".

The club occasionally saw celebrities and Kevin mentions Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, Suggs from Madness and Mick Jagger's brother, Chris Jagger "was a regular". Kevin says, "but you left them alone". He also adds that there are "hazy clips of Amy Winehouse singing there with the band during one of the jam sessions on YouTube".

For a number of years Kevin divided his time between London and the bar and Mijas, where the family initially bought a holiday home in 1999. It would eventually go on to become the family home and his son was born in Mijas.

It was while he was living there that Kevin decided that the town would "be a good place for a blues festival". Over the years it attracted some big names and Kevin describes it as "an extension of the bar" which he says "is very small" and therefore not big enough to pull in large audiences.

In fact he says that profits from the club helped to pay to fly performers, including blues legends like Little Freddie King and Henry Gray, to Malaga for the festival.

La Herradura

After leaving the Mijas festival, Kevin also left Spain and went to live in London permanently for a time, but it was after selling the London club that he decided that he wanted to return to Andalucía, but this time, and with his new wife, he was drawn to "the other side of Malaga" and the couple found a house in La Herradura in Granada province around eighteen months ago.

"It's a really nice town, not overly touristy, the locals are friendly and Granada is still old school Spain - you get free tapas with your drink. It has a pretty bay – we get dolphins. And there's a lot of music here which is important. There's a real mixture of nationalities," Kevin says.

The couple continue to divide their time between Spain and the UK, where they both have family.

"We have made our mark here already," says Kevin who adds that he is passionate about wanting to "give something back" to the place where he lives and that he can do this through music.

He has already organised a few gigs in the town and started a Facebook page to bring local musicians together, which he says has about 600 members. "That is the momentum for doing the festival," he says. He has the backing of Almuñécar town hall, to which La Herradura belongs, and the event will be taking place on 28 and 29 June 2024.

Kevin is now looking for sponsors and acts to perform at the event and says that he has already had a lot of interest from Spanish as well as international musicians.

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