Sunday, March 4, 2012

International Blues Challenge in Memphis: the Blues Begin at Home

Pictured above, guitarist-singer Preston Shannon is just an example of the type of homegrown talent found in Memphis. If you want several samples of Preston's formidable skills, including blistering covers of Prince's "Purple Rain" and the Rolling Stones' "I Miss You," go to this link:
We had the opportunity to hear other fine Memphis musicians during the 2012 International Blues Challenge a few weeks back. One was Vince Johnson and the Plantation All-Stars, which represented the Memphis Blues Society at the Challenge. Led by harmonica player Vince Johnson, the band boasts on its website that half of its members are from Chicago and half are from Memphis. Here they are performing at the IBC:

There were also a couple of talented house bands at B.B. King's, which seems informally to be the anchor club for the entire Beale Street scene.
One of them, the B.B. King All-Stars, was the most versatile cover band I've ever seen, doing everything from Al Green to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Here they are with "Love and Happiness:"
Also at B.B. King's, the Will Tucker Band, headed by 18-year-old guitarist Will Tucker, who began playing with the club's house band at 14 and is now a regular attraction there with his own group. Tucker also played on the soundtracks of the movies "The Jenson Project" and "A Walk in My Shoes."
Here's the Will Tucker Band with its version of "Johnny B. Goode:"

And here they are with a song we could not get the title of, but we liked. Yeah, we know it's out of focus, but you can still hear the music:

Also, one of our readers was kind enough to send us video from an IBC competitor we missed. Robbie Antone's Blues Machine hails from London, Ontario and represented that city's Great Lakes Blues Society at the IBC. The band is led by harmonica player Robbie Antone, who was born on the Oneida Nation near the city and grew up with a collection of Chess and Sun Records. Quite a source of inspiration. The group's latest CD is Red Road Blues. The following music video comes with a series of pictures of the band in action:

Since we started this with Preston Shannon, we're going to leave with him. Here's an interview he gave us last fall in which he talks in depth about the Memphis scene. We had fun doing it and we're sure you'll have fun reading it:

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