I've Got A Mind To Ramble
By Keith S. Clements

Columbus Blues Challenge

This was the first year that the Columbus Blues Alliance held a blues competition and it was organized to perfection. The event was held Sunday, October 29 at Club 504, a spacious venue with a high-tech character at the corner of Spruce and Bank St. The Columbus marathon was being run at the same time, with the finish line just a mile away. This made for contrasting competitive excitement, both inside and outside the building. There were no bi-blues-a-thon competitors who both ran and played. I guess Spandex and Stratocasters don't mix.

I was asked to be a judge for the competition, which included twelve bands from central Ohio and the Cincinnati area. Judges included Bill Hultz and Rolly Haugh from the Black Swamp Blues Society in Toledo; Ken Renfrow from the Marietta Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society; Tammy Fultz from the Greater Cincinnati Blues Society and Steve Alexsy, who hosts "Blue Collar", a blues radio program in Columbus.

Jim Cowan and Hot Across Texas kicked off the music at 12:30, about a half-hour late. It's always hard to grade the first band in such a contest, since the judging is against all the other acts. As the afternoon and evening wore on, each successive act performed to a very high level. T. J. Lewis and the Bluestones followed Cowan with a slow blues called "A Rich Man's Woman Living on a Poor Man's Pay." The Buzzmark Blues Bland was four 14- and 15-year-olds who poked fun at themselves with "White Kid Blues."

Night Train was an up tempo swing band, decked out in black suits and ties. Adam Schlenker carried his band with his powerhouse, rock-edged guitar, but he strayed far from the blues. The Reverend Billy Rose and The Legendary Soul Shakers had one of the best soulful blues vocals with "I've Been Convicted for Another Man's Crime."

After the sixth day, it was time for a meal break, which was a delicious dinner catered by Max & Erma's Restaurant. During the break, when the last of the marathon stragglers were plodding by, I met Tini Tucker, the daughter of Tommy Tucker, who first recorded the R&B classic "High-Heeled Sneakers." Tini is a blues singer who has toured Europe several times. She was checking out some of the musicians for her bend.

The level of competition during the second half was cranked up a notch with the Primetime Blues Band's "They Call Me the Axeman," a boogie woogie blues with extended solos. The Terra City Blues Band was the largest, with six players. The really got to the heart of the blues with "I Got a Cold Feeling." The Dave Chisolm Band did a diverse set of originals, featuring an exuberant performance by Chisolm.

Ray Fuller and The Blues Rockers, longtime regulars on the Columbus blues scene, did all original material from their several recordings. Willie Pooch and the Upsetters featured Willie on smooth, soulful vocals. The Wolfhound wrapped up the competition with a set of full-voiced blues and ballads by Kathy Wolfe.

Following the tally by a sixth judge, the Dave Chisolm Band picked up the $500 prize and the chance to compete in the Blues Foundation's 2001 International Blues Challenge in February in Memphis. Kudos to CBA President Maggie West, emcee Paula Giany and Herb Sollars, who instigated the whole affair.

It was mentioned during the competition that Noah and The Stratocats, the winners of this year's Greater Cincinnati Blues Competition, had signed with a major recording company and will be ineligible to compete in Memphis. The runners-up, Sonny Hill and Night Shift, who won their contest the year before, will get to compete in the International Challenge two years in a row.

Austin City Limits

Antone's, Austin

A recent visit to Austin, once the Mecca of Texas blues, failed to turn up much on the current blues scene. A scan of the weekend entertainment section in the local paper turned up just Omar & the Howlers at Hanover's Draught House and Steve James at Flipnotes Coffeespace. When I went to Antone's Record store, which is just across the street from the old Antone's club on Guadalupe, the owner said that there are few blues acts in Austin, as "it just doesn't pay." Most of the local musicians like Jimmy Vaughn, Angel Strehli and Kim Wilson and the Thunderbirds usually perform out of town. They current Antone's, at the corner of 5th and Lavaca, features everything but the blues. I guess we'll have to wait until Clifford Antone gets out of prison in 3-and-a-half years before Austin's blues scene gets a shot in the arm. (He was convicted on charges relating to the distribution of marijuana during the early Nineties.) Antone's Records is still releasing blues albums under the Texas Music Group label.

Sylvester Weaver Winner

Rocky Adcock

Congratulations to Rocky Adcock, a.k.a Rocky Amaretto when he had his band, for receiving this year's Sylvester Weaver Award from the KBS. Rocky has been performing and promoting the Louisville blues for over thirty years and was a founding member and first president of the Kentuckiana Blues Society. Look for an interview with Rocky in next month's issue.