2023 Journey to Memphis Semi-Finalists!

2023 Journey to Memphis Semi-Finalists

2023 Journey to Memphis Semi-Finalists!

Join us on Saturday, June 17th, starting at 3 pm!
(Facebook event link)

The Cascade Blues Association is pleased to announce that the following SEVEN acts will compete on June 17th for top spots at the Journey to Memphis Finals at the Waterfront Blues Festival on the Front Porch Stage on Tuesday, July 4th, from 11:30 am – 1:55 pm.

We have five acts competing in the solo/duo category, and two bands for your listening pleasure!

Solo Acts

Jason Thomas

Jason ThomasJason Thomas is a Portland-based blues musician who plays with various blues artists, including Lisa Mann, the Fenix Rising band, and the Sugar Roots.
Jason loves to bring his solo show and original songs to blues-loving audiences everywhere!

Juliet Yanko

Julie YankoJulie Yanko (aka Juliet) originally broke into the Portland blues realm in 2001, teaming up with Portland blues bassist Dean Mueller (The Insomniacs, Duffy Bishop). Portland’s blues scene introduced her to various new venues, musicians, and an advanced level of learning. Julie became a member of the Cascade Blues Association and was nominated for and the recipient of several awards including Best New Act, Best Traditional Act, Journey to Memphis Winner, Best Venue, and the Back What You Believe In Award.

When Covid hit, Julie used the incubation time to develop a new, fresh set of songs and an opportunity for Julie to pick up the lap steel, take guitar lessons, and teach herself ukulele. This rebirth wove another string into the musical tapestry and allowed the artist “Juliet” to emerge. With a voice and soul immersed in blues and jazz history, and lyrical roots of heritage country, Juliet’s new style is all her own… and she looks forward to sharing it with you.


Mick Schafer Duo (Mick Schafer & Jesse Samsel)

Mick SchaferVocalist, guitarist, and band leader Mick Schafer has been singing since childhood – he started in 7th-grade choir and continues to work with a vocal coach to bring it to a new level.


Jesse SamselHe’s teaming up with veteran Muddy award-winning guitarist Jesse Samsel on a new Blues record for Lightning in the Bottle Records. This pairing has been so yummy that they decided to bring it to the Cascade Blues Association’s Journey to Memphis Contest!

Timothy James + Alec Donn

Timothy James is what many would call a phenomenon. At the age of 20 he has already achieved accomplishments that many musicians never will in their career. With 2 albums under his belt, a third on the way, and an endorsement from Brazil’s largest guitar manufacturer, he is on his way to the top. He has been to the International Blues Challenge two times as a youth representative for the Cascade Blues Association, and one time (as T.J. Wong in the T.J. Wong Trio) as a competing act in 2023.


Alec Donn is a drummer from Portland, Oregon. Alec is currently studying jazz at Portland State University under direction of George Colligan, Sherry Alves, and Darrell Grant. Alec was granted the title of state champion in rudimental snare drum during his high school years, and began recording/playing around town with various artists. Alec began playing with Timothy James in the spring of 2022 and together they have performed on all kinds of stages from small bars to the Waterfront Blues Festival.

Taylor and the Riders!

Taylor and the Riders! Is the duo band of two Rough Rider teachers from Portland’s Roosevelt High School who both share a passion for guitar playing. Taylor Newville is a Portland native and got to enjoy the local music scene as a young child and into her adulthood. She’ll be accompanied by George Bishop on rhythm guitar.

She began her musical career at age six playing ukulele and through the years learned to play the acoustic and electric guitar. Taylor has been a student of Ethos, School of Rock, Rock N Roll Camp For Girls and Roosevelt’s High school Jazz band. She has played at several venues around the city including Berbati’s Pan, Satyricon, Memorial Coliseum, Hawthorne Theater and The Crystal Ballroom.

Norman Sylvester (The Boogie Cat) the Northwest icon of blues has been one of Taylor’s idols and she has been fortunate to have the opportunity to take lessons from and play with him and The Norman Sylvester band at the Cathedral Jazz festival. Taylor is a blues fan and as of late has been jamming with the best around Portland. Her fellow teacher George Bishop is a High school history teacher for Roosevelt High school and when he has some spare time, loves playing the guitar. (George has been playing the guitar for 20+ years but who’s counting!)


Kivett Bednar Band

Originally from Austin, Kivett Bednar grew up steeped in the southern tradition of the blues. He arrived in Portland 10 years ago and has been playing guitar up and down the west coast from Los Angeles to British Columbia.  A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Kivett designs and builds his own audio circuits in addition to being lead technician at Benson Amps. Kivett has a powerful voice that can inspire you, or bring you to tears.

Joining him on bass is Calen Uhlig, a Portland native and fan favorite who has backed up everyone in town from Tevis Hodge Jr. to Ben Rice. On drums is one of Portland’s finest in-demand players Edwin Coleman III. A generational musician who has inherited a legacy, Edwin combines Second-line and Zydeco with deeply rooted blues grooves to create something that is simultaneously unique and yet familiar at the same time. Edwin has toured with some of the best Soul and Blues musicians in the world, including LaRhonda Steele and Lloyd Jones.

Kivett’s voice and solos, Calen’s melodic bass lines, and the foundation of Edwin’s groove for this band will take you on an emotional journey.

Billy D and the Hoodoos

Billy D & the Hoodoos is fronted by Blues Rock singer, guitarist & songwriter extraordinaire Billy Desmond. His life experience has given him the strength to write his brand of “Bluzy Rock” with a passion that only comes from living it. Heavily influenced by Chicago blues, Rock & Roll, and “Backbeat Roots” music of all types, his songs reflect the tough lessons of his past and show his love for Mother Blues and her first-born, Rock & Roll.

Born on the south side of Chicago, Billy Desmond grew up surrounded by the Blues and early Rock & Roll— a powerful combination. He started playing professionally at the age of fourteen, primarily for teen dances and parties; and by eighteen, he was sneaking into the blues clubs of Chicago to hear such greats as Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and James Cotton. Within a few years, Billy would be working with blues legends Junior Wells, Big Time Sarah, and Detroit Junior.

The Hoodoos is made up of seasoned and talented Portland/Vancouver based rhythm section John Cavanaugh on bass and Scott Van Dusen on drums.