Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Memphis Here I Come: International Blues Challenge 2012

I have always wanted to go to Memphis, Tennessee. I mean over the years, I have heard that it is not only a blues city, but the blues city in America.
On February 2, I decided to see if Memphis lived up to its reputation. I traveled down there to check out the 2012 International Blues Challenge, in which blues bands and performers from around the world compete for prizes of cash, professional consultancy and guaranteed gigs.
Now I have to say that Chicago has been my "blues capital" ever since I first attended the Chicago Blues Festival in 2004. You can see how I feel about it if you check out this post: But when I first hit Beale Street, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Whereas the blues clubs in the Windy City are spread all around town, the ones in Memphis are located in the same area and are next door to one another! How’s that for convenience?
The winning band at this year’s competition was The WIRED! Band, which represented the Washington (State) Blues Society. We did not shoot any video of them, but someone else did, and here they are on YouTube:

But being from D.C., I was pulling for Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner, the band sent by the D.C. Blues Society. He made it to the quarter-finals, the first elimination round. Here’s Clarence and his crew playing some tight blues at the College Park (Maryland) Blues Festival last November:

Keep in mind that Clarence is also a strong bass player. Here he is playing bass with guitarist Memphis Gold at a recent D.C. Blues Society event. Keep watching, because he has a solo:

Still, having lived in Pennsylvania, I also was familiar with harmonica player Andrew Michael “Mikey Jr.” Hudac and his band, the Stone Cold Blues, who were representing the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation and became finalists. The band’s bassist, Jimmy Pritchard, had been part of a house band led by guitarist Randy Lippincott that had hosted Tuesday night jams I used to attend at Warmdaddy’s in Philly. He used to throw me a few tips on playing bass from time-to-time. I wrote about him in the following Beldon's Blues Point post,
Here’s Mikey Jr. and the Stone Cold Blues playing the IBC competition at Alfred’s on Beale Street:

Over at B.B. Kings’, arguably the anchor of whole Beale Street scene, a number of bands caught my attention. One was Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers, which made the quarter-finals representing the Marietta Ohio Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society at the IBC:

Another band at B.B. King’s was Ed Wills and Blues 4 $ale, which made it to the finals representing the Voodoo Blues Krewe New Orleans Blues Society:

We’ll have more on the IBC in the days ahead. In the meantime, let us know what's going on in your blues world by emailing us at Also, join our site!

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