Annual Blues Competition Draws Hundreds to Marietta

By Brad Bauer
News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, WV), February 23, 2009

MARIETTA – Hundreds of blues fans from across the region converged on the Lafayette Hotel over the weekend for the 17th annual River City Blues Competition.

Playing to a sold-out crowd, 16 bands from Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, battled Friday and Saturday for the top prize: an invitation to next year’s International Blues Competition in Memphis, Tenn.

“We really have something unique and special in our competition” said Steve Wells, vice president of the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society of Marietta. “Ours is so great because we don’t have limitations or requirements on where these bands come from. Most try to keep their competitors from the area or state… We get some pretty good acts from all over.”

The festival, which normally draws 900 people for the weekend, opened at 8 p.m. Friday in the Grand Ballroom of The Lafayette Hotel in downtown Marietta. Wells said the competition started out as a mid-day “filler” to the city’s blues festival, set for March 20 and 21 this year.

“We’ve grown into the oldest and largest blues competition in the state,” Wells said. “We started with four, five or six bands and it was just sort of a filler for Saturday afternoon at our Blues Festival. Now this is just as big an event as our festival.”

“The Lafayette ballroom was sold out to its 450 seat capacity on Saturday night for the finals – it was standing room only,” said society president John Bolen.

Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings, a group from Columbus, Ohio, took home the top honor at this weekend’s competition. The group and soloist Paul Miles, of Southfield, Mich., who took second place, won an invitation to next year’s International Blues Competition in Memphis.

“Winning (at Memphis) is a career- and life-changing event,” Wells said. “That’s why everyone is here.”

Blues fan Tom Sharretts, 57, of Marietta, said he was “blown away” by the talent he heard over the weekend.

“This is such a great event because you have all of these great musicians from far away – and many people in the audience, too – and you don’t have to go to Columbus or Cincinnati… It’s right here in Marietta,” he said. “There is nothing like a live performance. And this is especially great because every half-hour there is another group. It’s unique and everyone should experience this at least once. It could change your thoughts on music forever.”

The 17th annual River City Blues Competition winners were:

First place: Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings, of Columbus.
Second: Paul Miles, of Southfield, Mich.
Third: Gary Applegate and Sal Balbera, of Seymour, Ind.
Last year’s Marietta event winner, Austyn “Walkin’ Cane,” placed in the finals at Memphis this year.

First place earned $1,000 in cash and BJFMS sponsorship to the IBC. Second place pays $200, and since he finished in the top three, Miles will also be sponsored to the IBC in the solo/duo division. The third place competitors received $100.

Deb Landolt (Long Tall Deb) has won at The River City Ohio Blues Competition before when she sang with another band. She’ll be going back to Memphis with her new band, made up of Columbus guitarist Richie B, bass guitarist and vocalist Melvin Powe and drummer Doug Oscard.

Miles is no stranger to winning awards either. In addition to winning in Marietta, Miles is a Detroit Music Award winner in 2008 for “Blues/R&B,” “Best Recording,” “Best Instrumentalist” and “Best Songwriter.” In 2002, he was The Detroit Blues Society’s “Solo Performer of The Year.”

The next event for the BJFMS will be the annual River City Blues Festival on March 20 and 21 at The Lafayette. Professional touring blues artists from around the country will be appearing that weekend at the 18-year old festival.

Hundreds Turn Out
For Blues Weekend

Marietta Times (Marietta, OH), Febraury 2009

Fact Box
Winners:

First place: Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings, of Lancaster.

Second: Paul Miles, of Southfield, Michigan.

Third: Gary Applegate and Sal Balbera, of Seymour, Indiana.

2008 event winner, Austyn “Walkin’ Cane” placed in the finals at Memphis this year.
Hundreds of blues fans from across the nation converged on the Lafayette Hotel over the weekend for the 17th annual River City Blues Festival.

Playing to a sold-out crowd, 16 bands from Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, battled Friday and Saturday for the top prize: an invitation to next year’s international blues competition in Memphis, Tenn.

“We really have something unique and special in our competition,” said Steve Wells, vice president of the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society of Marietta. “Ours is so great because we don’t have limitations or requirements on where these bands come from. Most try to keep their competitors from the area or state… We get some pretty good acts from all over.”

The festival, which normally draws 900 people for the weekend, opened at 8 p.m. Friday in the Grand Ballroom of The Lafayette Hotel, 101 Front St.

Wells said the competition started out as a mid-day “filler” to the city’s blues festival, set for March 20-21.

“We’ve grown into the oldest and largest blues competition in the state,” Wells said. “We started with four, five or six bands and it was just sort of a filler for Saturday afternoon at our Blues Festival. Now this is just as big an event as our festival.”

Lancaster act “Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings” took home top honor at this year’s event. The group and soloist Paul Miles, of Southfield, Mich., who took second, won an invitation to next year’s International Blues Competition in Memphis.

“Winning (at Memphis) is a career and life-changing event,” Wells said. “That’s why everyone is here.”

Blues fan Tom Sharretts, 57, of Marietta, said he was “blown away” by the talent he heard over the weekend.

“This is such a great event because you have all of these great musicians from far away – and many people in the audience, too – and you don’t have to go to Columbus or Cincinnati… It’s right here in Marietta,” he said.

“There is nothing like a live performance. And this is especially great because every half-hour there is another group. It’s unique and everyone should experience this at least once. It could change your thoughts on music forever.”