Memphis’ claim as the “Home of the Blues” will be indisputably evident the first week of February when the Blues Foundation hosts its 33rd Annual International Blues Challenge. Musicians from around the globe will convene in Memphis to compete for cash, prizes, and bookings as they are judged the best in IBC categories, among them Band, Solo/Duo, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica Player, and Self-Produced CD. The Challenge’s alumni include such acclaimed musicians as Susan Tedeschi, Tommy Castro, Delta Moon, Trampled Under Foot, Sean Costello and Grady Champion.
Historic Beale Street will be the site for each of the challenge rounds, opening with the International Showcase on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, quarter-finals on Wednesday, February 1 and Thursday, February 2, and the Youth Showcase and semi-finals on Friday, February 3. The finals round of the world’s largest and most prestigious blues music competition will be held at Memphis’ grand Orpheum Theatre on Saturday, February 4 beginning at noon. Besides the amazing live blues performances, the five-day-long IBC will also present a variety of lectures, seminars, workshops, film, networking events, a silent auction, and affiliated blues society receptions that will appeal to blues professionals and fans alike.
While the International Blues Challenge looks to the future, The Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Awards honor those individuals and institutions that have helped to keep the blues going strong. As Blues Foundation President and CEO Barbara Newman proclaimed, “Our 2017 Keeping the Blues Alive recipients are all wonderful examples of blues flame keepers, each working in their own sphere of influence to move the genre forward while honoring its past.”
The 2017 Keeping the Blues Alive Awards recipients are:
1. Baltimore Blues Society
2. Blues and Soul Records
3. Kathy Bolmer
4. Briggs Farm Blues Festival
5. Kyle Deibler
6. Greaseland Studios
7. Highway 99 Blues Club
8. Jay Miller
9. Jacques Morgantini
10. James Nagel
11. Porretta Soul Festival
12. Steve Salter
13. Eddie Stout
14. Susan Swanson
15. WGLT radio
16. Wolf Records
These honorees, who will be recognized during a luncheon on February 3, represent a broad spectrum of the music world: record labels, music festivals, recording studios, clubs, radio stations, publications, and individuals with an undying passion to preserve and sustain the blues. They include grassroots blues heroes like Steve Salter, who created the nonprofit Killer Blues Headstone Project so that blues musicians wouldn’t be buried in unmarked graves, and Eddie Stout, who is known as the “Ambassador of Texas Blues” for his work single-handedly running Dialtone Records. The KBA’s spotlight also shines on events like the Briggs Farm Blues Festival, which has been bringing the Mississippi Delta to eastern Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years, and Greaseland Studios, the San Jose recording studio where Kim Wilson, Maria Muldaur, Elvin Bishop, and Charlie Musselwhite have laid down tracks.
2017’s KBA recipients not only cover America coast-to-coast—from the Baltimore Blues Society to Seattle’s Highway 99 Blues Club—but also reveal blues’ international popularity. Wolf Records has been promoting Magic Slim and other Chicago blues acts for over 30 years, and they aren’t doing it from Illinois, but Austria. The Chicago blues were also very important to 92-year-old Jacques Morgantini, known as the Alan Lomax of Europe, who brought many American bluesmen to play in France. The Porretta Soul Festival, meanwhile, has turned a small Northern Italian town into a mecca of soul music, particularly the Memphis variety.
The International Blues Challenge is sponsored in significant part by ArtsMemphis, AutoZone, Beale Street Merchants Association, BMI, First Tennessee Foundation, Gibson, Lee Oskar Harmonicas, Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, Saint Blues Guitar Workshop, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Tennessee Arts Commission, and VividPix & Design
Media sponsors include Beale Street Caravan, Big City Rhythm and Blues, Blues Festival Guide, Blues Matters!, Downtowner, Elwood’s Bluesmobile, and Living Blues
More information on the International Blues Challenge can be found at Blues.org.
Passes to the IBC for the entire week’s events are just $100 and add-on tickets for the Keeping the Blues Alive luncheon are available online at Blues.org or by calling 901-527-2583, ext. 10