The event was put together and organized by the Blues Lovers United of San Diego. The president of the Blues Lovers United, Janine Harty has been leading this nonprofit, organization since 2012. What makes this organization so awesome is that they take their money and spend it on the “Blues In the schools” program where they take musicians around to different schools, all the way from Elementary school to High school, to get kids interested in the blues and also teach them a little bit of how to play; they also have a summer camp for kids to attend where they teach kids to play the blues. After being at the camp for one week the kids put on a concert to show what they have learned during that week of camp. Another great thing the organization does is to supply instructors for “Doors of changes” homeless youth program in ocean beach. They meet at the Episcopalian church on Sunday afternoons and if the kids return on a regular enough basis they get to keep their instruments. Some of the kids have moved on to become mentors and instructors themselves.
The International Blues Challenge takes place in Memphis every January and usually features over 200 bands from around the world who are competing for one of only two spots. The first spot is “band of the Year” and the other is “Solo/Duo.” The Blues Lovers United are doing all this because they want blues to be a bigger part of the public conversation and trying to increase the awareness and support of the local talent. After this final round at Tio Leo’s, they will have a sendoff party, which is scheduled for January 13th from 1pm to 4pm, to raise additional money to replenish their funds for next year’s event.
So today is the final round and the artists are ready to perform. The Judges for today are Brian Tierney (BackStage360.com); Eli Medellin (Boogie Magazine); Ric Lee (Bayou Brothers); Al Schneider (Christ Fast Band) and Claudia Russell (KSDS). Today’s job won’t be an easy one for the judges! All of these bands have been incredible. The four finalists are: Mike Maldonado and Jump Start, John January and Linda Berry, Anthony Cullins AKA “The Fallbrook Kid” and Fuzzy and the Blues Band.
Taking the stage first was Mike Maldonado and Jump Start. Mike has been playing music since the late 80’s and has been a blues artist since 1988. Mike took a break from playing music for 17 Years so he could concentrate on raising his children and being a family man. So therefore I can say Welcome back Mike Maldonado. When Mike was younger he played in a rockabilly band. After they broke up he started looking around for another band. He then found a blues band which was looking for a singer and the instant he started singing blues he was hooked. What he loves about the blues is that it has no pre conceived notion; you can be young, you can be old, you can be black, you can be white, you can be male or female it just doesn’t matter. Mike stated that “If you love blues and you are good at it you will play” and this is what became so very appealing for Mike. You can tell he has his heart and soul committed when you see and hear his band perform. They are a lot of fun to watch! Mike is a very energetic and outgoing performer. He dances on stage while singing and also playing his harmonica showing off his skills. The audience cheered, applauded and loved the performance of the band and it took the audience no time to move along and start dancing to the music.
Next on stage was John January and Linda Berry. The band was prepared and they seemed anxious to start. Linda has a great powerful blues voice and John doesn’t just have a great voice but also has some amazing guitar skills which he showed when they performed the song “Taste Of Something Else”. What got me focused on this song was the Saxophone part. I absolutely love the sound of the Saxophone. The audience was fixated on the band while they played this song, telling the story. They also applauded and cheered loudly during and after John’s guitar solo. This band was tight and the judging was about to get even tighter!
The third band of the day was Anthony Cullins AKA “The Fallbrook Kid”. Anthony is a young local artist who has a lot of friends which participated in the exact same competition in the past. Some of them have also made it all the way to Memphis; therefore, Anthony decided to give it a shot and signed up for the event. When he started playing, everybody in the audience pretty much stopped what they were doing and focused on him. He had the full attention of the audience who then started dancing and moving along to his music. It’s so much fun to watch him play because he has complete control of his guitar. This became obvious when he came off the stage and began shredding his guitar on his knees in the middle of the dance floor. He is one amazing young talent.
The last contestant was Fuzzy and the Blues Band. Fuzzy has what I think is a very interesting story. He grew up on the east coast and came to SoCal in 1990. Fuzzy was singing gospel back then when he decided to try out the blues. He liked it so much that he decided to see what the blues style had to offer him in the future. Writing his own music, he tries to go for the more funky style with a bigger twist to it. He wants to create a different sound where people dance to it in a more funky way. He is currently putting the final touches on a new album which is called “Talk about the Blues”. There is no exact date for the release yet but I’m sure that he will keep us updated so
BackStage360 can keep you informed. The music he creates is based on his life experiences and of what he sees in his everyday life. When Fuzzy and his band came on stage they certainly didn’t disappoint. He put on a very entertaining show. The band started out with a high up beat style of blues and the dance floor instantly filled up. Even a lady on crutches was seen on the dance floor boogying along. I absolutely loved the funky style blues and you could tell that the audience did too. It is different and also very catchy. The best was when Fuzzy played his guitar with a water glass. You really don’t see that on a regular basis. Fuzzy is a great entertainer and his facial expressions make it more fun to watch while he delivers his own style of blues.
So much great talent! It didn’t make it easy for the judges to decide who the International Blues Challenge was going to send to Memphis. The decision had to be made and the winner was Fuzzy and the Blues Band. I’m positive that they will be awesome in representing San Diego in Memphis.
If you would like to get more info on the Blues Lovers United of San Diego make sure you check out their web page at www.BLUSD.org. You can get a ton of info on future events. Today was a ton of fun and I can’t wait for next year to be able to attend. Blues is so much fun and it has a lot of heart and soul in it. If you haven’t given it a try you don’t know what you are missing out on.
We wish Fuzzy and the Blues Band the best of luck in Memphis!
International Blues Challenge – Tio Leo’s