Back to Beale Street 2011

// Randy Oxford Band set to represent Tacoma at Back to Beale Street 2011.

It’s that time of year again. The South Sound Blues Association will be hosting its annual fundraiser, concert and dance at the new Rhythm and Brews club downtown Nov. 14 to raise money to send the Randy Oxford Band to Memphis to compete in the Back to Beale Street 2011 competition.

This year, solo artist JD Hobson along with The Cody Rentas Band, The Chester Dennis Jones Band, Maia Santell and Friends, The Red Hot Blues Sisters and The Randy Oxford Band will be bringing the blues to this weekend’s event.

In total, about 40-50 blues organizations from across U.S. and from nine other countries compete to bring their greatest bands to Memphis’s Beale Street each year for the five-day competition.

Locally, the upcoming fundraiser for the event gathers money to help send the winning regional band to Memphis, and also allows for a good time filled with blues, dancing and more.

“Our local competition happens in June each year, and historically we have 11-12 Northwest groups that participate,” Gary Grape, president of the South Sound Blues Association, said. “From the prelims we select the top 4, and they each play at Freedom Fair at Duke’s Chowder House at the 4th of July celebration. The top band is picked that day and represents our association in Memphis in February.”

The local winners of the South Sound Blues Association’s competition for the past few years were Blues Redemption back in 2009, The Michal Miller Band in 2008 and in 2007 it was the Red Hot Blues Sisters.

For the competing bands, quite a lot is at stake for getting to Beale Street and competing with other known local blues acts from around the world, Grape affirmed.

“When I talk to the bands, I tell anybody who participates that they are a winner just for being a part of this competition,” Grape said. “Even if you go back to Memphis and play and don’t make finals, you’ve entered in a marketplace for blues. Radio people and talent agents are there, and the exposure in Memphis is priceless.

The first place winners of the Back to Beale Street 2011 competition will get a recording contract with a major label, a $2,000 cash prize, invitations to play 14 major U.S. blues fests including the Legendary Blues Cruise, as well as many other noteworthy prizes for up-and-coming musicians. The second and third place winners are handsomely rewarded as well

In addition to getting the chance to hear five local bands and one solo act during the upcoming fundraiser, attendants can take part in raffles, silent auctions and the opportunity to meet other local blues supporters in a new blues-based venue downtown.

For the raffles, CDs of both national and regional blues bands are offered up, Grape noted. For this year’s silent auctions, everything from wine baskets to restaurant gift certificates, signed photos of musicians like B.B. King and more will be up for grabs for this musical cause.

Those who have attended and look forward to the local Back to Beale Street competition every year will be pleased with the lineup they’ll get the chance to hear this weekend, but Grape affirms that this is an event that will appeal to many who enjoy seeing bands up close and personal.

“Everybody that breathes, that is alive should come!” Grape laughed. “But really, everybody who enjoys live music and to dance should come out, and it’s an all ages event.”

The Back to Beale Street Blues 2011 fundraiser, concert and dance will take place Nov. 14 at Rhythm & Brews Restaurant and Bar, 933 Market St. from 4-10:30 p.m. Donations are $8 for Blues Society/Association members and $10 for non-members. For more information, call (253) 627-0137.


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