By now, Tommy Stiles and Jason King have been in every bar on Beale Street. Does that mean they are drunks? Nope, just bluesmen.
The Reno guitarists are in Memphis this week to compete for the third time in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge.
King-Stiles are among the estimated 101 Solo/Duo competitors in the 30th IBC. There are even more entrants in the Band category.
King and Stiles are representing the Reno Blues Society, which is represented in the Band competition by the Rick Hammond Band. The quarterfinals are tonight and Thursday, Jan. 22-23. The field will be cut in half for Friday’s semifinals, with a handful going onto the finals Saturday.
King and Stiles are members of the Jason King Band, which was in the IBC in 2011 and 2012. The Schall Adams Band represented Reno last year. This is the first time in at least several years Reno has had a
King told Tahoe Onstage from his cellphone in Memphis he and Stiles have 10 original songs to choose from. He said they will play five tonight in a 25-minute set in the Jerry Lee Lewis Club.
“There will be bands downstairs and we will be upstairs,” King said. “It’s a nice little speakeasy club. I am digging the vibe of the room.”
King-Stiles play late in Wednesday’s competition and will go on first Thursday. King said he likes to play early because judges might be “bluesed out” by the end of the night.
What has he learned from the previous two appearances on Beale Street?
“There’s got to be a lot of blues contentm and one thing that I learned for sure is that you never know what the judges will be looking for,” King said. “Some like blues-blues, some like rock-blues, some like funk-blues. Some of them like rock and roll, some like Delta style, so you never know. They bring in a wide cross section of judges so you have a good chance of pleasing at least one of them.”
King encountered one prominent judge in an elevator: Bill Wax, the well-known Sirius Satellite Radio DJ for “B.B. King’s Bluesville.” King has retired for health reasons. King said Wax has shaved his beard but otherwise looks as he always has: healthy and wearing a contagious smile.
“He said he’s not doing much, just relaxing and enjoying life,” King said.
Formed in 2001, the Rick Hammond Band includes Hammond on vocals and guitar, Bruce Seidel on drums, Kevin Vidal on bass and Fred Mills on harp and Rick Hammond on lead vocals and guitar. It plays a mix of early Chicago blues and West Coast jump blues, according to its Facebook page.
To learn more about the IBC click HERE.
For live webcasts of the IBC, click LIVE.
The IBC winners receive cash, a record deal and an invite to the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Moreover, all of the artists use the opportunity to network with the industry’s organizers.
Prominent former competitors include: Barbara Blue, Fiona Boyes, Eden Brent, Michael Burks, Sean Carney, Albert Castiglia, Tommy Castro, Grady Champion, Sean Costello, Albert Cummings, Delta Moon, Larry Garner, Joey Gilmore, Diunna Greenleaf, Zac Harmon, Homemade Jamz Blues Band, Richard Johnston, Robin Rogers, Matthew Skoller, JP Soars, Super Chikan, Susan Tedeschi, Teeny Tucker, Trampled Under Foot and Watermelon Slim.