International Blues Challenge

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The International Blues Challenge is a music competition run by the Blues Foundation.[1]

Notable blues artists that have competed in the IBC over the years also includes Fiona Boyes, Eden Brent, Michael Burks, Tommy Castro, Sean Costello, Albert Cummings, Larry Garner, Zac Harmon, Homemade Jamz Blues Band, HowellDevine, Richard Johnston, Julian Fauth, Super Chikan, Susan Tedeschi, Southern Avenue, and Watermelon Slim.[2] The 1994 event in particular had a lot of talent as Susan Tedeschi, Michael Burks (who won the Albert King Guitar Award) and a 16 year old Sean Costello competed, although none of them were the eventual winner.


The competition began in 1984, then named the Blues Amateur Talent Contest.[3] The idea was to give amateur or up and coming musicians a chance to be discovered and get a foothold. In 1986 the event was renamed the National Amateur Talent Contest and 17 bands competed. Prior to 1993 the IBC had a rule that performers had to make less than 50% of their income from performing. This rule was dropped that year and the following year the word “Amateur” was dropped from the name of the event. In 1995 the event was renamed “The International Blues Talent Competition” to reflect the expanded demand and over 40 acts competed. No competition was held in 1999 as the timing of the event was changed from the fall during the King Biscuit Festival to the January/February time frame. In January 2000 the first International Blues Challenge was held with 50 bands competing. As the event has grown in size it was decided to split the acts into two categories, Band and Solo/Duo in 2002. Now each year more than 200 acts from around the world gather on Beale Street in Memphis to compete for the International Blues Challenge.

Diunna Greenleaf and her backing band, Blue Mercy, won the competition in 2005.[4] In 2006, the Joey Gilmore Band won the Best Band prize.[5] The winners in 2008 were Trampled Under Foot.[6] The 2010 winner of the top Solo/Duo prize was Matt Andersen. Grady Champion and his band won the Best Band title at the 26th International Blues Challenge in 2010,[7] The 2011 winners of the Solo/Duo category were Georg Schroeter and Marc Breitfelder.[8]

The band winner in 2014 was Mr. Sipp, with the solo winner being Tim Williams.[9] In 2015, Eddie Cotton won the best band category, with Randy McQuay coming out on top in the solo/duo division.[10]

Band winners[edit]

Year Band Blues Society
1984 Reliance A band from Memphis won the first Blues Amateur Talent Contest
1985 Reliance Reliance repeated as winners
1986 Arletta Nightingale Memphis, Tennessee
1987 N/K (The Blues Foundation website does not list a winner)
1988 Larry Garner & the Boogaloo Blues Band Baton Rouge, Louisiana
1989 John Weston Lee County, Arizona
1990 The Dynamics Bloomington, Indiana
1991 The Roach Thompson Band Miami, Florida
1992 Piano Bob & the Snowman (Robert Wilder & Ken Minahan) Miami, Florida
1993 Evil Gal Boston Blues Society
1994 The Hardway Connection Washington, D.C.
1995 The Movers Boston Blues Society
1996 Smilin Vic & the Soul Monkeys Oklahoma Blues Society
1997 Chris Cameron Fort Smith Blues Society
1998 Abe Reid Piedmont Blues Preservation Society
1999 No challenge held Moved date from King Biscuit Fest to January/February
2000 Dave Keyes Band New York Blues Society
2001 Richard Johnston Beale Street Blues Society
2002 Chef Chris & His Nairobi Trio Canada South Blues Society
2003 Delta Moon Charlotte Blues Society
2004 Zac Harmon & the Mid-South Revue Southern California Blues Society
2005 Diunna Greenleaf and The Blue Mercy Band The Blue Shoe Project
2006 Joey Gilmore South Florida Blues Society
2007 Sean Carney Band Columbus Blues Alliance
2008 Trampled Under Foot Kansas City Blues Society
2009 JP Soars & the Red Hots South Florida Blues Society
2010 Grady Champion Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola
2011 Lionel Young Band Colorado Blues Society
2012 The WIRED Band! Washington Blues Society
2013 Selwyn Birchwood Suncoast Blues Society
2014 Mr. Sipp Vicksburg Blues Society
2015 Eddie Cotton Vicksburg Blues Society
2016 The Delgado Brothers Ventura County Blues Society
2017 Dawn Tyler Watson Montreal Blues Society
2018 Keeshae Pratt Band Houston Blues Society

Solo/duo winners[edit]

In 2002, the Blues Foundation split the challenge into two categories and began awarding a winner in the Solo/Duo category.

Year Band Blues Society
2002 Little Toby Walker Long Island Blues Society
2003 Fiona Boyes Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society
2004 Lightnin' Lee & the Upright Rooster Spa City Blues Society
2005 Jimi Hocking Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society
2006 Eden Brent Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola
2007 Nathan James and Ben Hernandez Blues Lovers United of San Diego
2008 Lionel Young Colorado Blues Society
2009 Little Joe McLerran Blues Society of Tulsa
2010 Matt Andersen Harvest Jazz & Blues
2011 Georg Schroeter & Marc Breitfelder Baltic Blues Society
2012 Ray Bonneville Ozark Blues Society of Northwest Arkansas
2013 Little G Weevil Atlanta Blues Society
2014 Tim Williams Calgary Blues Music Association
2015 Randy McQuay Cape Fear Blues Society
2016 Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons Washington Blues Society
2017 Al Hill Nashville Blues Society
2018 Kevin "B.F." Burt Central Iowa Blues Society

Best self-produced CD award[edit]

Year Band Blues Society
2005 (TIE) Robin Rogers - Crazy, Cryin’ Blues N/A
2005 (TIE) Collard Greens & Gravy - Silver Bird N/A
2006 Roxy Perry - Back in Bluesville N/A
2007 Mighty Lester Band - We are Mighty Lester N/A
2008 Sue Palmer & Her Motel Swing Orchestra - Sophisticated Ladies N/A
2009 Nathan James & Ben Hernandez - Hollerin’ N/A
2010 (TIE) The Informants - Crime Scene Queen N/A
2010 (TIE) Laurie Morvan - Fire It Up! N/A
2011 Joe McMurrian - Get Inside This House Cascade Blues Association
2012 Dave Keller - Where I'm Coming From Rhode Island Rhythm & Blues Preservation Society
2013 Steve Hill - Solo Recordings Montreal Blues Society
2014 Hank Mowery - Account To Me West Michigan Blues Society
2015 Altered Five Blues Band - Cryin' Mercy Grafton Blues Association
2016 Rob Lumbard - Blues in a Bottle Central Iowa Blues Society
2017 JW-Jones - High Temperature Ottawa Blues Society
2018 Jontavious Willis - Blue Metamorphosis Atlanta Blues Society


  1. ^ "International Blues Challenge - Blues Foundation - Blues Challenge Memphis". 2013-02-03. Retrieved 2014-05-17.
  2. ^ "2016 International Blues Challenge | The Blues Foundation". 2014-06-20. Archived from the original on 2015-08-13. Retrieved 2015-07-27.
  3. ^ "A Brief History of the International Blues Challenge". 2014-09-03. Retrieved 2016-01-17.
  4. ^ "About Jonn 'Del Toro' Richardson - The Texas Bull". Retrieved 2014-05-17.
  5. ^ "Joey Gilmore | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  6. ^ "The Band | Trampled Under Foot". Archived from the original on 2014-05-17. Retrieved 2014-05-17.
  7. ^ "Grady Champion's "Bootleg Whiskey" a Return to Down Home Southern Soul | American Blues Scene Magazine". 2014-09-02. Retrieved 2015-07-29.
  8. ^ "Georg Schroeter and Marc Breitfelder". 2011-05-02. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02. Retrieved 2014-05-17.
  9. ^ "30th International Blues Challenge Winners - Memphis, Tennessee, January 25, 2014". Retrieved 2014-05-17.
  10. ^ "BREAKING: International Blues Challenge Winners! | American Blues Scene Magazine". 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2015-07-27.

External links[edit]