The oldest blues society in the United States, the Santa Barbara Blues Society was founded in March 1977. However, prior to that time the blues was no stranger to Santa Barbara. A town of less than 100,000 on the central California coast, Santa Barbara played host in the 1960s to blues legend Mance Lipscomb, and in the early 1970s to stellar performers like Eddie Taylor, L.C. Good Rockin' Robinson, and Johnny Shines at the famed Bluebird Café. A predecessor entity of the same name was started in December 1972, but was disbanded in less than a year.
In early 1977, physician Laszlo Kiraly and disc jockey Greg Drust, devotees of the blues, launched the blues society to satisfy their craving for live blues music. Thus the SBBS was born, and to their pleasant surprise, the shows, initially called Blue Mondays, were a rousing success. A devoted following of blues lovers developed via word of mouth and a mailing list, providing support for monthly shows initially featuring primarily performers from the nearby Los Angeles area, then expanding to the west coast and within a year nationally to present such legends as Louis Myers and Fenton Robinson along with some then up-and-coming standouts like Robert Cray and Hollywood Fats.
From its inception to the present, the blues society has adhered to its mission of featuring only authentic, original, high quality, and artistically significant bluesmen and blueswomen faithful to the African American Blues Tradition. In 1982, after becoming aware of the society during its first five years of operation, the executive director of The Blues Foundation Joe Savarin requested documentation of the activities of the group which lead to the establishment of the category of Blues Organization of The Year with the first such award bestowed on the Santa Barbara Blues Society.