As a show of support for the International Blues Challenge that we spotlighted last week, Chuck Porter of WEVL fame is posting updates here from the IBC, one of this city’s signature music events.

Here’s the first, and we hope you’ll watch for more in the coming days.

This is the first in a series of behind the scene blogs of this week’s 24th International Blues Challenge that is produced by the Memphis based non-profit Blues Foundation.

The event has grown leaps and bounds in just the few short years from when I was a Foundation employee in 2000 and 2001. Back then, we had 52 bands in 8 clubs, and we thought we were setting records. In comparison, this year’s event has 160 acts (100 full bands and 60 solo or duo acts) and involves 16 venues on Beale Street.

The current staff at the Blues Foundation’s staff consists of two full-time employees and hundreds of the best volunteers in the world. The stats are mind-boggling – More than 500 musicians in 16 clubs in 6-7 hours with an average of nine acts each and each venue stocked with four working volunteers and three volunteer judges. Bands have 25 minutes to perform for the judges and 10 minutes each to get gear on and off stage or be penalized on their scorecard.

On Wednesday, January 30, four of the acts will perform at the Memphis Grizzlies game against Denver Nuggets at FedExForum. Thursday morning begins the arrival of the acts and registration at the event headquarters in the Doubletree Hotel on Union Avenue in downtown Memphis. Throughout the day on Thursday and Friday, there will be panels at the hotel exploring various aspects of the blues business.

Let me emphasize it again: there are two full time employees at the Blues Foundation. Things like this can only be done with volunteers who believe in what they’re doing and know that their abilities will be utilized and their decisions backed.

If you want to see the world’s largest collection of blues performers, pick a night – Thursday or Friday or both and then join us for the finals at the Orpheum on Saturday where the top band and solo/ duo acts are crowned.

Tickets for the semi-finals in the clubs for Thursday and Friday can be bought at the door of each participating venue. For more information visit

Stay turned for the daily blog that I hope to get out each day as the musicians and volunteers arrive.