Ear candy in Memphis

One eyed harmonica player

The harmonica (harp) half of Dr. Dudley and Michael, second place winners in the solo/duo category of the recent Memphis Blues Society battle of the bands, gives his rendition of a one-eyed harmonica player. He also plays in the Blues Berry Jam Band of Jackson TN.

Being in the same room with a group of blues musicians trying to outdo each other is analogous to ear candy for those of us who appreciate this genre. Just being in that room would more than likely push non-believers over the edge to blues addiction like the rest of us. The site was Neil’s Bar and Grill on Madison Avenue in midtown Memphis.

The event was the first night of the two-night 2010 battle of the bands sponsored by the Memphis Blues Society. Winners of the solo/duo category and the band category go on to represent the Memphis Blues Society in the International Blues Challenge, also held in Memphis. See the winners of this competition on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there. We’ll wait here.

Redd Velvet and the Big Daddy Bad Ass Band

Redd Velvet and the Big Daddy Bad Ass Band took second place in the band category. Redd has the verve and showmanship of Gladys Knight and Mahalia Jackson rolled into one.

Second and third place winners were:

This is one competition where the difference between first, second, and third is a thin line. All of these were fine performers and practitioners of blues music. A lot of feet were tapping and the atmosphere in Neil’s is appropriate and conducive. It is nice and well taken care of, the food is good, and the service is excellent. It is not fancy and that is a good and appropriate thing.¬† The combination is just right. Fancy and blues don’t play well together.

The lead guy for the Ghost Town Blues Band

The lead guy for the Ghost Town Blues Band, third place winner in the competition.

Blues musicians, though they follow the cachet and panache that makes blues music what it is and what it means, are as different as a Fedora and Rastafarian locks, as was clearly demonstrated in this competition. It is this difference which makes this competition so much fun. You kinda know what to expect. And then, you kinda don’t. And being bored is not in the tea leaves.

Brandon Bailey

Brandon Bailey, second place winner in the solo/duo category puts on a fine one-man show.

I had a yummy and crunchy chicken-fried chicken sandwich and an order of hand-made onion rings so the rest of my body could be in tune with what I was seeing and hearing. Bean sprouts and tofu won’t hack it in a blues venu.


We shot morBlues musicianse than 900 exposures of these bands and narrowed the picture collection down to 42. See pictures of all the competing bands and acts in our picture-only gallery, click here to go there.

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Blues in the Night

blues band in memphis

An impromptu band at a recent Memphis Blues Society jam session bears a resemblance to the Lil' Ol' Band from Texas, ZZ Top. Their music, vintage blues, played with primordial passion, crawled into my person. I welcomed the visitation. Musicians, left to right: Greg Gumpel, guitar; Brian Wells, drums, "Evil," bass; and Josh Roberts, guitar.

Blues, one of the few unique American art forms, according to numerous denizens of Memphis, got its start in their fair city. Nearby, their Mississippi brethren will probably argue that the birthplace was a few miles further south. Most of the rest of us acknowledge that the beginnings were in the neighborhood of both. Thank goodness I don’t have a dog in that fight. I just love the music and could care less about the geography thereof.

Before we venture further, this treatise got its start on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there and see a couple of blues pictures and read about the blues experience.

blues singer and bass player

Memphis blues singer Red Velvet is accompanied by bass virtuoso Leo Goff in the soon to be legendary September 16 Jam Session of the Memphis Blues Society.

Speaking of which, the September 16¬† Memphis Blues Society¬† jam session which I attended was one of those rare events for which the stars, the moon, asteroids, the shifting winds, the Mississippi River flow, the smog level, the mosquito reproduction rate, and the ghost of W. C. Handy all come together and sprinkle Neil’s Bar and Grille with blues pixie dust. Having breathed deeply of these unseen cosmic colloids, a hastily assembled, impromptu band held forth with a toe-tingling music session to remember. The audience, similarly entranced swayed with the tunes and lyrics. Especially the one couple on the dance floor clinging to each other and moving as one.

Josh Roberts

At the ripe old age of 13, Josh Roberts first laid his hot little hands on a guitar. It was like bacon and eggs, 'taters and gravy and, or coffee and a cup. They were simply meant to be together. As his fingers negotiate the fretboard like a spider and he plucks the strings with frenetic energy, the blues spew forth and wing their way around the room.

The Blues Society holds these sessions twice monthly at 7:30 – 11:00 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays. There is an open invitation for blues musicians to perform. A Blues Society band starts the action for one set and then the volunteers come forth to wail. Normally, at about 9:00 p.m. any professional musicians present are invited to come forth and do their thing. And on the 16th, did they ever. Like McArthur, ” . . . I shall return.”


Every week we shoot more pictures than we can post, so we put those suckers up in a high resolution galleries, one for folks with a PC and one for folks with Macs and I-Phones. This week there are 19 bigger and better pictures from this event. PC, click here. Mac, I-Phone or PC, click here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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