I've Got A Mind To Ramble
With a record eleven bands, the Eighth Annual Unsigned Blues Contest had all the competitive and camaraderie spirit necessary for six hours of good times and music on Sunday, August 13. Stevie Ray's was the host venue for the third year in a row and Champion Bar-B-Que served excellent dinners throughout the afternoon and evening in the Voodoo Garden.
The draw of performance order was held at 4 p.m., with all the bands present. The schedule was announced and Bill Roy and the Blues Surgeons from Lexington got the kick-off spot. It's tough to break the ice as the lead-off band but Bill, who was dressed in a sharp red suit, got it started with a variety of standards that include "Little Red Rooster." "Listen to My Ya Ya" and "Bright Lights, Big City."
The Louisville's The Diamondbacks, who competed last year as the Moments, where next up. Dan Boone did a nice original, "So Sad to Be Lonesome," on vocals and guitar. Dr. Hemiola and the Blues Activators, who were also in it last year, followed. Walter Lay used his slide guitar on "Twelve Below Zero" and his harp "Caldonia." Julie Spenser filled out the band's sound on keyboards.
One Shot Johnny, another repeat competitor, did several originals, including "Nuthin' Tuit," "Wandering Eye" and "53 Flat Head Ford" with Randy Colvin singing and playing guitar. Soul Patch from Richmond, KY did an unusual shuffle tune called "Radio Farm," about life in the 'holler.' Another Richmond band, Sofa King Deluxe, was next, with an inspired set that included my favorite, "Cadillac Assembly Line."
After six bands, it was time to load up on some serious BBQ, beans and salad and give the hard-working judges a break. Sonny Hill and Nightshift started the second half with strong vocals from Sonny. This Cincinnati band won the Greater Cincinnati Blues Challenge last year and came in second this year. Blind Dog Gatewood was the only Hoosier (Newburgh, IN) and solo act of the contest, His beautiful chrome Model 90 Dobro, harp on a rack and foot tramp with a tambourine made him a one-man band in the tradition of John Hammond. His version of "Papa Was a Jockey" awed the crowd.
The Blues Drifters from Lexington mixed several familiar standards, including "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "Fly, Flop and Fly." Tom Truley fronts the band with his mature vocals and harp. They will be opening the Blues to the Point Festival in Carrollton on September 8.
Sacre Bleu was back again from Frankfort. They are known for playing Zydeco as well as blues and did a driving version of their
"Mojo Magic." The Last Minute Blues Band is a group of veteran Louisville musicians, with Marcus Tharpe on the vocals. They brought the competition to its conclusion around 10 p.m., finishing their set with "Cherry Red."
When the final tally was done, KBS President Brenda Major announced the judges' selections for
Win, Place and Show. One Shot Johnny was third, Dr. Hemiola and the Blues Activators came in second and the big winners were … (drum roll) … Sofa King Deluxe. They were caught off-guard but rallied and closed the night out with a thirty-minute victory jam.
This was the best competition to date, with a very high quality of music that was kept on schedule by Stevie Ray's sound man, Eric. The five judges, Scott Mullins, Jeffery Lee Puckett, Jimmy Roberts, Steve Walls and Keith West. Provided the critical ears. Genie Walls kept the time and Paul Schneider and Natalie Carter tallied the score sheets. A special thanks goes to the enthusiastic and supportive crowd.
The Sofa Kings entered the competition just to make friends and contacts, but with their different take on their songs, they did a lot more than that. To get the lowdown on these guys, I called James Bellando, the second guitarist. Bellando said that the name of the band evolved from an earlier group, the Couch Crickets, that included Jack Smith, Mark McCoy and himself. They played both blues and bluegrass and always had a couch on stage. When Jamie Potterbaum joined the band, they were briefly known as the Recliners, so when the band arrived at its current configuration, the Sofa Kings was a logical name.
Based in Richmond, they frequently perform at the Players on Water St. Bellando comes from a musical background, having lived in Nashville with his father during the Sixties while performing in a folk group He got hard rock background playing with Jerry Dale McFadden and Piece Monkey. Mark McCoy, the Sofa Kings' bass player, is the real McCoy, i.e., descended from the feuding McCoys of Pike County. His is a bluegrass background and, accordingly, he plays several instruments. Jack Smith, who previously fronted a group called Stoner Boone, handles harp, guitar and sings.
Drummer Randy Eldridge was out of music for some seven years, following stints with Velvet Elvis, Cattywampus and Kelly Richey. He joined the Kings in order to play with the other musicians. Jamie Potterbaum is the group's musical director and has brought several songs to the band. Originally from the Myrtle Beach, S.C. area, he counts the Smoke House Blues Band on his musical resume. [His vocals and guitar work really carried the band's performance at the competition. - KC ]
The group was featured at the recent Master Musicians Festival in Somerset, KY. The shared the stage with the Amazing Rhythm Aces and their performance will be aired on KET during the Jubilee Series. Since they won the KBS, they will open the Six Flays Blues Festival at the fairgrounds on Saturday, September, 16 at 3 p.m. Additionally, Mike Kinney has already booked the band at Stevie Ray's for an October 25 gig. Finally, a Special Deluxe "Good Luck" goes to the Sofa Kings when they represent the KBS in the International Blues Competition in Memphis on January 2000.