One of the oldest and largest talent competitions of blues musicians in the country returns this Friday and Saturday to the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta.
The annual River City Blues Competition, now in its 20th year, started out as part of the annual Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society festival, typically held in March.
"It's hard to believe it's been 20 years," said "Cobbler" John Bolen, a longtime supporter and organizer of the event. "(This event) started out as a showcase but over the years it got so big, we had to have a separate event and break it up into three segments so we didn't have to turn people away."
Photo courtesy of Dusty Blues
Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers from Columbus took first place at the 2011 River City Blues Competition. This year’s competition will be held Friday and Saturday at the Lafayette Hotel.
What eventually became the annual blues competition has seen acts from all over the country, all vying for the first place prize of $1,200 and a chance to go to Memphis, Tenn. for the International Blues Challenge.
This year's competition will bring 15 bands from Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indianapolis, including three local acts - Appalachian Criminals from Vienna, W.Va. and Vinnie Mele and Silverhorse, both from Marietta.
Along with all the musicians coming to town for the weekend, music lovers from all over will converge as well. A big supporter of the blues is Ella Shafer, also known as "Miss Ella Sister to the Blues," who will be driving in for the weekend from her home in Rockbridge, Ohio, near Logan.
If you go
What: 20th annual River City Blues Competition sponsored by The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society, Inc.
When: 8 to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 6 p.m. and 8 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Lafayette Hotel, 101 Front St., Marietta.
Cost: Weekend pass - $25 member/$40 non-member; Friday night - $10 member/$15 non-member; Saturday afternoon - $15 member/$20 non-member; Saturday night - $15 member/$20 non-member.
For information: www.bjfm.org.
Friday, first preliminary
8-8:20 p.m. Silverhorse (4 pc. Band) Marietta, Ohio
8:30-8:50 p.m. Chaz Humley and the Effects (4 pc. Band) Teays Valley, W.Va.
9-9:20 p.m. Big Al & The Capital City Players (4 pc. Band) Columbus, Ohio
9:30-9:50 p.m. Scott Horn (Solo) Akron, Ohio
10-10:20 p.m. Mojo Theory (5 pc. Band) Columbus, Ohio
Saturday, second preliminary
12:30-12:50 p.m. Appalachian Criminals (5 pc. Band) Vienna, W.Va.
1-1:20 p.m. Wade and The Mojo Blues (4 pc. Band) Columbus, Ohio
1:30-1:50 p.m. Luther Trammell (Solo) Elyria, Ohio
2-2:20 p.m. Vinnie Mele (4 pc. Band) Marietta, Ohio
2:30-2:50 p.m. Mack Jump (Solo) Indianapolis, In.
3-3:20 p.m. The Tee Dee Young Band (5 pc. Band) Lexington, Ky.
3:30-3:50 p.m. Elm Street Blues Band (4 pc. Band) Willoughby, Ohio
4-4:20 p.m. Gary Applegate (Solo) Indianapolis, In.
4:30-4:50 p.m. Bourbon Dan and The Chasers (4 pc. Band) Columbus, Ohio
5-5:20 p.m. Magic Mama Band (8 pc. Band) Gallipolis, Ohio
Dinner Break from approximately 6 to 8 p.m.
Finals begin at 8 p.m.
Miss Ella was introduced to the blues nearly a decade ago while attending the BJFM Society's annual spring festival and now serves as an ambassador of blues music. She travels the country, judging for the International Blues Challenge and networking with kindred blues fans and musicians through radio shows, Internet blogs and other methods. Detroit bluesman Paul Miles penned a song with Miss Ella called "My Guitar" and one about her called "Sister to the Blues."
"I got to talk to (Chicago blues guitarist) Lurrie Bell and he said to me 'Miss Ella, how did you find the blues?' and I said 'The blues found me,'" Shafer said.
"The blues is happy, I mean, it's sad but it's happy ... everything they were singing about were things that I lived through ... I have an eclectic love of music," she said. "Before the blues, I loved gospel and I went through country and some rock n' roll. But when I first walked into the (BJFM) festival, I was captivated. "
Miss Ella, through her love of the blues and nonstop promotion of blues music, has become somewhat of a celebrity in her own right.
"I can't walk down Beale Street (in Memphis) without being stopped by someone," she said, referring to the fact that she has judged the International Blues Challenge in the city for the past five years.
"The great thing about Marietta is that (the blues competition organizers and judges) follow the IBC rules, which are blues content, instrumental talent, vocal talent and originality and stage presence," she said.
Miss Ella said she and her husband, Ed "the bluesman," and their dog, Sam "Wang Dang Doodle," will be in town to enjoy every part of the competition this weekend.
"If you come you're gonna see me decked out in a stetson and dressed to kill," she said.
Tickets for the event are $25 for a weekend pass for members and $40 for non-members; for Friday night only, $10 for members and $15 for non-members; Saturday afternoon, $15 for members and $20 for non-members; and for Saturday night only, $15 members and $20 non-members.
For information, visit the website www.bjfm.org.