Photos by Sandra Richardson
The packed house in Hard Rock Cafe’s Music Room exploded in cheers and applause again and again during the more than 7 hours of music we witnessed at the Atlanta Blues Challenge on Sunday, August 21. Twelve of the best blues acts in Georgia competed for the opportunity to win the chance to represent Atlanta at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January 2017 They competed in two categories, Solo/Duo and Band, plus the Youth Acts who go to Memphis to perform during the Challenge but not to compete.
The competition was judged by five music professionals, four of whom are musicians themselves (Ted Drozdowski, Tim Fik, Dr. Hans Skott-Myhre, Kelly Thomas, Barry Zion). They had a tough job because all of the acts were sensational. In addition, the attendees voted for a People’s Choice Award, and that winner receives $250. There are monetary rewards as well to help with the costs of going to Memphis for the winners.
In Addition, every band that participates in the challenge gets an HD video of their set with a full multi-track LIVE recording that is mix down in the studio, free of charge! This is provided by Midnight Circus Productions and The Atlanta Blues Society, which is an invaluable tool for promoting themselves to future venues and festivals.
The winning band and Solo/Duo act will also receive a complete recording package from Midnight Circus Productions to record a CD at no charge so they can go to Memphis with a finished professionally Studio recorded product!
Here s the list of competitors and the winners
WINNER: Garrett Collins
Collins is a 17-year-old who plays a fiery guitar and sings his own original songs. with soul and enthusiasm.
Jontavious Willis and Country Royalty
Dos Blues Guys
WINNER: Dos Blues Guys
This one was a very close match, with Dear Watson barely in second place. Bennie Mobley, long-time Atlanta favorite and winner of the 2015 Southwestern Harmonica Championship, and Andy Johnson, guitarist and vocalist for Royal Johnson,carried the day, and Mobley should have won a special prize for Best Clothing for that golden suit!
David T and Friends
Diane Durrett and Soul Suga
Stoni Taylor & Miles of Stone
Rae and The Royal Peacocks
Rockabilly Kitty Rose
WINNER: Rae and the Royal Peacocks
This group, which was named after a famous Atlanta night club of the past because Rae wanted a name with some history, was new to everyone, but several of the members were very familiar to most of us. Danny Vinson, also of The Cazanovas, on guitar has long been my pick for best guitarist in the Atlanta area, and Art McNaughton, Valerie Waters and Harold Patillo on bass were equally formidable, but it was their incredible vocalist Rebekah “Rae” Easly who sealed the win for them. What a perfect blues soul that woman projects! When she performed “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” it was as though she was channeling Ruth Brown right there on the stage.
PEOPLE”S CHOICE WINNER: Rae and the Royal Peacocks
It was no surprise that the audience agreed with the judges. They simply dazzled us all.
Any one of these acts could have won. That is how good they were. Some groups were more obviously blues-based while some leaned toward the rock side. Quite a few were new to the audience, so you never knew what to expect until the music started. Then it was just a thrill to hear that all of them were real contenders this time around.
Judging by the packed room and the people being turned away at the door by Hard Rock staff because the room was too full by around 5 pm, word has gotten out that the Blues Challenge each year is an event you don’t want to miss. As usual, this year the event was thoroughly enjoyable. Kudos to the bands, the Atlanta Blues Society, and the Hard Rock Cafe for a phenomenal event!
From Last Year’s Atlanta Blues Society Challenge “Marky Blue” and their Finished HD Video