Announcement, winners, International Blues Challenge #35, Rock and Blues Muse

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists of the 2019 International Blues Challenge!


The 35th Annual International Blues Challenge packed Memphis with an array of exciting performers — from established musicians to young upstarts. This big week of blues also presented networking events, panels, workshops, master classes, exhibits, film, and the always-popular Keeping the Blues Alive Award ceremony.

Complete List of International Blues Challenge 2018 Winners

Band Division

Winner: Ms. Hy-C & Fresh Start (St. Louis Blues Society)

2nd Place: Sammy Eubanks & the Work’in Class (Washington Blues Society)

3rd Place: Celso Salim Band (Santa Clarita Valley Blues Society)

Solo/Duo Division

Winner: Jon Shain (Triangle Blues Society)

2nd Place: Theresa Malenfant & Scott Medford (East Coast Blues Society)

Gibson Guitar Award For Best Band Guitarist

Winner: Gabe Stillman (Billtown Blues Association)

Memphis Cigar Box Guitar For Best Solo/Duo Guitarist

Winner: Steve Strongman (Grand River Blues Society)

Lee Oskar Harmonica Player 

Winner: Darryl Carriere, the Celso Salim Band (Santa Clarita Valley Blues Society)

Best Self-Produced CD

Winner: Lock Up the Liquor– The Little Red Rooster Blues Band (Central Delaware Blues Society)


The winners and finalists all are honored with various prizes for their victories. The winning instrumentalists, not surprisingly, got instruments: a Gibson Custom Guitar and a Category 5 amp to Gabe Stillman; a special Memphis Cigar Box Guitar to Steve Strongman, and a set of Lee Oskar harmonicas (including an autographed, gold-plated limited edition Lee Oskar harmonica) and accessories to Carriere. Winners each took home a plaque, cash, and a package to include a variety of national and international club and festival gigs. In addition, Ms. Hy-C & Fresh Start, as band division winners, received time to record, mix or master at the Showplace Studios.

The Blues Foundation assembled an elite crew of judges for the IBC. The solo/duo finalists were critiqued by Blues Music Award- and Grammy Award-nominated musician Dom Flemons; blues radio DJ/producer and 2019 Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipient Jesse FinkelsteinBlues Hall of Famer and founder of Living Blues Magazine and Rooster Blues Records Jim O’Neal; multi-Blues Music Award-winning slide guitarist Rory Block; and producer of the KBA-winning Edmonton Blues Festival Cam Hayden. Those judging the band challenger finalists included the legendary Memphis songwriter William Bellblues producer and music executive Jerry Williams; founder and President of Alligator Records and Blues Hall of Famer Bruce Iglauer; acclaimed vocalist (best-known for the hit “Misty Blue”) Dorothy Moore; and Grammy Trustee Ken Shepherd, who also is Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s manager.

Next up for The Blues Foundation is its other signature event: the Blues Music Awards.Now in its 40th year, the BMA ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, 2019 at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Individual tickets are $150 per person; Regular Tables for 10 are $1,500, while Premium Tables for 10 are $1,800 each. All tickets can be purchased at The Blues Foundation’s block of rooms at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown also are now open for reservations; and Sheraton reservation link is up on

The Blues Foundation is Memphis-based, but world-renowned, as THE organization whose mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of this uniquely American art form. Founded in 1980, the Blues Foundation has 4,000 individual members with 181 affiliated blues societies representing another 50,000 fans and professionals around the world. Its signature honors and events — the Blues Music Awards, Blues Hall of Fame, International Blues Challenge, and Keeping the Blues Alive Awards — make it the international center of blues music. Its HART Fund provides the blues community with medical assistance for musicians in need, while Blues in the Schools programs and Generation Blues Scholarships expose new generations to blues music. The recent opening of the Blues Hall of Fame Museum, in Memphis, Tenn., now adds the opportunity for music lovers of all ages to interact with the music and the history. Throughout the year, the Foundation staff serves the global blues community with answers, information, and news. Support the Blues Foundation by becoming an affiliated organization, corporate, or individual member, or simply by making a charitable donation.