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Road to Memphis: The North Jersey Blues Society's Local Competition

North Jersey Blues Society Local IBC Competition

The North Jersey Blues Society, an affiliate member of The Blues Foundation, is hosting a local competition called Road to Memphis on Sunday, June 30th. The event will take place at The Stanhope House, 45 Main Street, Stanhope NJ. Tickets for the competition are currently on sale and can be purchased by clicking on this link: tickets.

The acts will be divided into two categories -- band and solo/duo. Each act will perform a judged and timed set. The winners of the competition will be sponsored by NJBS to participate in the 40th International Blues Challenge (IBC) held in Memphis, in January 2025. The competition will follow The Blues Foundation's scoring criteria -- blues content, originality, vocal talent, instrumental talent, and stage presence. Below is a video produced by The Blues Foundation providing further insight on judging the IBC:

The competition will be judged by a panel of artists and a blues enthusiast. Meet the judges:

Debra Devi

Debra Devi is an author and blues/rock musician based in Jersey City NJ. Her book The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu (foreword by Dr. John) won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Outstanding Book on Popular Music, and back-cover praise from Bonnie Raitt, Joe Bonamassa, Bob Margolin and Jimmy Vivino. A former associate editor of Blues Revue magazine, Devi has previously judged the International Blues Competition in Memphis.

American Blues Scene calls Devi, “one of today’s top female blues/rock guitarists.” Her live EP, Jamification Station Vol. 1, reached #5 on the Relix/ Top 30 Radio Chart in August 2022. Gov't Mule bassist Jorgen Carlsson joined Devi for her 2021 EP A Zillion Stars Overhead, which Americana Highways calls “exciting and mesmerizing.” Devi is currently performing with her band at festivals and venues nationally, while mixing a new live EP.

Mike Foti

Mike Foti is a seasoned veteran of the rocking blues scene from the Fillmore "daze" to the present day. Mike realized his dream when he started Midnightbluze internet radio in 2017. His vision of an ad-free, station that combines local Jersey talent, unknown, and national acts in a whirlwind of funk soul rock and blues for the world to explore 24/7, 365 for free.

Arthur Neilson born and raised in New York City, taught himself to play guitar on an electric Teisco Del Rey at age fifteen. In the early seventies, formed the "A Train Blues Band" with Felix Cabrera. Arthur was schooled in

Arthur Neilson

New York City bars and clubs, such as Dan Lynch Blues Bar, Lone Star Cafe, Manny's Car Wash, and Tramps. This has led to sharing the stage with many of his influences, most notably B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton, and Albert King, who upon hearing Arthur, said, "That boy sure can play!". In 1998, Shemekia Copeland found Arthur to be the guitar player that she was looking for to complete her band. Arthur has been performing with her across the globe and can be heard on the Grammy-nominated "Wicked", throughout her CD, "Talking to Strangers", as well as "Never Going Back", and the Grammy-nominated "33 1/3" and "Outskirts of Love".

Dean Shot

Vocal and guitar stylist Dean Shot is one of the East Coast’s premier authentic blues artists. Dean’s resume speaks to his dedication to the real blues and roots. The list of artists he has toured and/or performed with is substantial: Hubert Sumlin, Kim Wilson, Junior Watson, Ronnie Earl, Big Jay McNeely, Big Jack Johnson, Mark Hummel, Danny Russo, Lurrie Bell, Otis Rush, David Maxwell, Greg Piccolo, Paul Oscher, Steve Guyger, JB Lawson, Doug James, Floyd Phillips, Lonnie Youngblood, Sax Gordon, Studebaker John, Eddie Shaw, Carl Weathersby, Bob Margolin, Jesse Morrison, Cecil Brooks III, Christian McBride, John Primer, Pat Tandy and many more.

The competition has seven acts competing in the band category and two acts competing in the solo/duo category. Meet the acts:

BBD Rhythm & Blues Band: BBD Is an electric blues band formed in 2012. The band performs original as well as classic blues, performing throughout the northeast.

Big Frank/Mike Smith: Big Frank Mirra & Mike Smith have been fixtures on the NYC/Tri-State blues scene for years. They released "Outskirts of Town" in 2023 which showcases their deep connection with traditional blues.

BLUES People: BLUES People is a NY/NJ blues band featuring...KELTON COOPER (vocals/guitar), MIKE GRIOT (bass), RON THOMPSON (keys) and GENE LAKE (drums). Having released two promotional singles in 2022 ("The Skin I'm In" and "Troubled Times"), the band has independently released its 2024 debut album "The Skin I'm In". These seasoned veterans have certainly paid their dues; as individual side men, they have supported a who’s-who of touring “A-listers”, including Sue Foley, Josh Smith, Kool & the Gang, Ruf’s Blues Caravan, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Bo Diddley, Jr. and Michael Hill’s Blues Mob… just to name a few. After taking the NY-metro area by storm for 3 years with their incredible shows and musicianship, the band recently won the North Jersey Blues Society International Blues Challenge… and (in their very first attempt) made the SEMIFINALS in the 2024 Memphis International Blues Challenge!

Bone Daddy & The Hoochies: Bone Daddy & The Hoochies is a NYC band playing their own take on classic blues and originals.

Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Charlie Apicella was voted onto the 84th and 86th DownBeat Readers Poll for Guitar. He studied composition and improvisation with musical titans Yusef Lateef and Pat Martino and was trained as a historian by Archie Shepp and Dr. Billy Taylor. As a young guitarist he met his idol BB King, who offered him advice and shared some stories. He has performed concerts and recorded with jazz legends Dave Holland, Sonny Fortune, John Blake, Jr., and Avery Sharpe as well as contemporary masters Joe Magnarelli, Vic Juris, Dave Stryker, Don Braden, and Jon Herington of Steely Dan. In 2022 he formed The Griots Speak with bassist William Parker, saxophonist Daniel Carter, and percussionist Juma Sultan who is known for his work with Jimi Hendrix.

Ed Alstrom: Ed Alstrom can play the blues and a whole lot of other things. He's been Organist at Yankee Stadium since 2004, and has played with Bette Midler, Chuck Berry, Herbie Hancock, Odetta, and many others.

Gypsy Eyes: Gypsy Eyes is northern New Jersey’s, premier soul, and blues band, powered by smoky vocals, gritty blues guitar, steady grooving bass, and greasy funky drumming. They have been together for 15 years.

Robert Hill Band: Robert Hill, is an award-winning songwriter and slide guitarist. vocals/Rae Simone, drums/Frank Pagano, keys/Ed Alstrom, bass/Steve Gelfand. Exceptionally soulful vocals, with searing slide guitar!

The Fabulous Rhythm Aces: Blues, jump, swing, and rock & roll band based in NJ and the NY Hudson Valley. The band members are blues veterans with many decades of experience, some having played all over the world.

The Scios Bros. Played together on & off for many many years. Thousands of gigs. Worked with & did shows with many well-known acts. Jammed with hundreds & hundreds of musicians. A few Cds out under various names,

Below is the schedule for the competition:

Start Set

End Set



11:20 AM

11:40 AM

Charlie Apicella & Iron City


11:55 AM

12:15 PM

Big Frank/Mike Smith


12:30 PM

12:50 PM

BBD Rhythm & Blues Band


1:05 PM

1:25 PM

The Fabulous Rhythm Aces


1:40 PM

2:00 PM

Gypsy Eyes


2:15 PM

2:35 PM

BLUES People


2:50 PM

3:10 PM

Bone Daddy & The Hoochies


3:25 PM

3:45 PM

Ed Alstrom


4:00 PM

4:20 PM

Robert Hill Band


4:35 PM

4:55 PM

The ScIoS Bros.


NJBS Guitar Raffle

We are raffling an autographed Epiphone Les Paul Special guitar to offset the winners' travel expenses, so make sure to grab a ticket or two and show your support! The guitar will contain over two signatures from blues artists. To date, the guitar has been signed by Joanna Connor, Chris Duarte, Tinsley Ellis, Samantha Fish, Arthur Neilson, John Primer, and Johnny Rawls. This will be a treasured piece of art and history. As the saying goes, you gotta be in it to win it! Tickets can be purchased online or at any NJBS event.


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