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Knowing that my announcements from the stage at Club 152 were being broadcast through speakers out on to Beale Street I told the people, “It may be cold outside, but the blues are burnin’ hot inside here.” And that in itself could have been the theme for this year’s International Blues Challenge. You just never know what to expect from the weather in the Mid-South and I have seen years when it has been a balmy 60 degrees and others that have witnessed ice and snow. Though we escaped the latter, which was raising havoc across a good deal of the country, contestants and blues fans braved airport closures and hazardous road conditions to make it to Memphis.

And hot blues music was truly at hand. When I first started volunteering to work the IBC for The Blues foundation twelve years earlier, there were only 70 bands, mostly from the United States, Canada and a couple from Australia competing in about a dozen clubs. This year saw a record 255 bands, solo/duos and youth acts from sixteen countries in 20 clubs and there is no sign it is going to slow down in the future. The Pacific Northwest was extremely well represented this year, with five blues societies from Oregon and Washington sending ten acts, and six of those advanced to the semi-finals and two going all the way to The Orpheum Theater for the finals. All three Portland-based acts advanced to the semis, Ben Rice & the iLLamatics and Tevis Hodge Jr from the Cascade Blues Association and the Rae Gordon Band representing Eugene’s Rainy Day Blues Society, with Ben Rice and Illamatics - Cascade Blues AssociationBen Rice making it to The Orpheum stage on Saturday.

It has been said by many that the blues should not be a competition. But let’s be real, everything in life has its own competitions and music is no exception. Whenever you try to book a gig or attempt to be signed by a label or push yourself through promotions, you’re in competition with everybody else trying to do the same thing. The real goal in Memphis is not winning the IBC. It is about the contacts you make and what can become of them. The IBC brings you to Memphis for this purpose. Nowhere else will you be performing for so many people in the industry that can push your career further. Record labels, festivals, promoters, agents, media outlets, radio personnel, blues societies and fans are all there to see what new talent can be found or acts they have never heard of that will catch their attention. It can surely be a win-win situation for all involved if approached the correct way. Thousands of acts compete world-wide to have this opportunity and as stated by producer Joe Whitmer, “they’re all winners before they even arrive in Memphis having won their own regional competitions.”

Out of the 255 who arrived Wednesday to begin the event, only seventeen make the finals, nine bands and eight solo/duos. Along with Ben Rice & The iLLamatics from the Cascade Blues Association, Arthur Migliazza, the solo act from the South Sound Blues Association in Tacoma also made it to the finals. But it was the Mississippi Delta blues musicians who won out this year in the bands with Vicksburg Blues Society’s Mr. Sipp taking first place and Memphis Blues Society’s Ghost Town Blues Band taking second (and it should be noted that both of these acts were finalists in the event last year). Billy The Kid & The Regulators from the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania captured third place. In the solo/duo category Calgary Blues Society’s Tim Williams took the overall prize and Lucious Spiller from the Ozark Blues Society of Northwest Arkansas Inc. was second. Other prizes included Castro “Mr. Sipp” Coleman was announced the most promising guitarist in the band category and Tim Williams the guitarist in solo/duos. The Lee Oskar harmonica prize was awarded to Jerome Godboo from the Toronto Blues Society and the Best Self Produced CD prize was given to Hank Mowery and the West Michigan Blues Society for his release Account To Me.

Aside from the actual competition, there were plenty of other events taking place during the IBC, including the annual Keeping the Blues Alive ceremonies for non-performer achievements, seminars to help performers and societies, a free health screening for musicians, the International Showcase and Youth Showcases, special events held by various promoters, societies and groups featuring artists from around the world, and plenty of jams going late into the night that saw well established blues heroes like Bob Margolin, Sean Carney, Candye Kane, Dennis Jones, Janiva Magness, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Brandon Santini, Rich DelGrosso, Tom Holland, Bob Corritore and many others taking part. All in all a sensational event, despite the cold weather.

This event is far larger than any blues festival. Where else will you find over 200 acts on 20 stages all taking place in one night? And the event goes on for five days. Keep in mind that The Blues Foundation has a paid staff of three full time and one part time employees and you can imagine the kind of work and detail going on behind the scenes. It takes a small army of volunteers, many traveling from all parts of the world, to make this event work. And the cooperation of the Beale Street Merchants and the event’s sponsors to provide the location and expenses to cover it all. It is truly an impossible work made possible that continues to grow annually and should be on every blues fan’s bucket list for must-do events.

We recently posted this list on the CBA Facebook page. It received a thankful response from so many that we thought we would run it in the BluesNotes, too This list is a compilation of regional musicians who were nominated for the 2013 Muddy Awards. Though the final ballot is limited to only a few in each category, all of the following artists were recognized by our members in the ballots returned to us for nominations in the first round.

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Tevis Hodge Jr.

By Laurie Morrisey

At a recent CBA monthly meeting, I could have sworn I was sitting at one of the many amazing bars along Beale Street in Memphis. Honestly, I closed my eyes and I thought I was there. The amazing bluesy sound coming from the stage was mesmerizing. I opened my eyes and in front of me was Tevis Hodge Jr. I found out he is headed to Memphis to compete at the International Blues Competition and I knew I had to find out more about this young man.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born Michael Tevis Hodge Jr. , son of Melody Hodge and Michael Tevis Hodge, in Woodbridge, Va. As a young child, we (my mother and I) moved to American Fork, Utah, where she could pursue an education while living with her dad (my grandpa). I lived there until I was a young teenager. At that point, my mother and I moved to Portland where I have lived since high school age.

How long have you been performing professionally?

Well it kinda depends on what you mean by “professionally.” I’ve been performing since I was about 12 at various open mics and gatherings, but I’ve been focused on getting paid Read more

Tevis Hodge Jr - photo by Greg Johnson

Tevis Hodge Jr – photo by Greg Johnson

Tevis Hodge Jr. is the Cascade Blues Association’s winner of the Journey To Memphis in the solo/duo category and will be representing the organization and region in Memphis, TN at the International Blues Challenge this coming January 2014. Though he will receive a cash prize from the CBA to help offset some of his expenses traveling to Memphis, it is not inexpensive and he will need to raise more funds to ensure he makes it back.

The first fundraiser that Tevis Hodge Jr. will be holding to help him raise funds will take place at The Central Hotel (8606 N Lombard, easy access right off the St. Johns Bridge in the heart of downtown St. Johns) on Saturday, August 17th. Show time is 7:00 pm with a $5.00 cover. This Read more

In 1952, ethnomusicologist Harry Smith released the seminal recordings The Anthology of American Folk Music. The 84 songs collected on the original three 2-LP sets became some of the most influential numbers for the folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s, with renowned musicians such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez citing its impact of their songwriting. ” It is like looking back in time, sort of like the Hubble telescope, only we are looking at images from our own human heritage, and perhaps ourselves. a “genetic code” for modern music.”

Harry Smith was born in Portland, Oregon in May 1923, so in recognition of his birthdate the Mission Theater will be hosting a little hometown celebration on Saturday, May 18th. Emcee’d by Miz Kitty and following the artist direction of Joe McMurrian, the event will be an all-star extravaganza featuring artists from multiple genres proving that the recordings released back in 1952 still have an impact today.

Among those appearing will be several blues artists to note. Along with Joe McMurrian, they will include Alice Stuart, Mark Lemhouse, Lauren Sheehan, Tony Furtado, Tevis Hodge Jr, Anne Weiss, Thad Beckman and multitudes more.

The Mission Theater is located at 1624 NW Glisan. Showtime is 7:00 pm and tickets are available through www.cascadetickets.com, $15 advance and $20 day of show. This is a 21 & over event only.