On an overcast, humid afternoon at the Waterfront Blues Festival, the Cascade Blues Association held its 17th annual Journey To Memphis finals.

In early June, eighteen bands began the competition to select the Cascade Blues Association’s representative for the International Blues Challenge next January in Memphis. The Rose Room hosted two hard-fought evenings of music where CBA judges determined the four finalists to perform during the Waterfront Festival.

One thing was certain, all four finalists were prepared to amaze our judges and delivered some of the very best performances ever seen in our competition. The Thunder Brothers started things out with exactly that — a thunderous set that set the pace for the day’s entire festival. Then the Beacon Street Titans brought a swinging show that had the dance floor moving. Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers then mesmerized the crowd with her soaring voice and muscular big band. Closing the competition was the Ben Rice Band showcasing his guitar prowess and vocals with a knife-sharp performance. This was an unbelievable combination of acts, and each band had the talent and musical ability to represent CBA in Memphis and make us proud.

Given this incredible collection of talented musicians to evaluate, the judges definitely had the toughest job of the day. Scoring each act separately on blues content, vocals, instrumentation, originality, and stage presence had to be tough as all four acts brought the goods. Huge kudos to our trio of judges, entertainment attorneys Bart Day and Peter Vaughan Shaver and Reno Blues Society board member Sherrie Clay, for taking on this role. Many thanks!

Rae Gordon and the Backseat Drivers - photo by Cherie RobbinsWhen the dust cleared and all acts were finished, the scores came back hailing Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers as the winners of the day. This will be Rae’s second time representing the CBA in Memphis and her third trip overall. Her last trip found her reaching the semi-finals, let’s hope to see her go even further if not all the way to the top this time!

Joining Rae in Memphis will be this year’s solo/duo winner David Pinsky, making his second appearance for the CBA, having represented the organization with Phil Newton two years ago. Also, young guitarist Timothy James will head back and participate in the Youth Showcase. We’d love to see a large grouping of CBA members and local blues fans head back to the International Blues Challenge to cheer our performers on. It’s well worth the experience if you can to see the future of the blues today.

Good luck to Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers and David Pinsky!

Journey To Memphis Competition 2022

July 4 at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival — you know it’s going to be packed to the extreme. People coming for the great musical line-up and the fireworks staking their claim of space in the bowl right from the gate’s opening in the morning. But once you have found your ground for the day, make it a point to head directly to the far north end of the festival, to the Front Porch Stage, to witness one of the greatest and most fun happenings of the festival every year, the Cascade Blues Association’s competition, Journey To Memphis finals. Four bands will be competing to claim the right to travel to Memphis Tennessee this coming January to take part in the world-renown International Blues Challenge, which can lead to international recognition and prizes including spots at many high-profile festivals and venues.

The 2016 Journey To Memphis began in early June when eighteen acts performed before a set of judges at The Rose Room over two nights. And those acts fielded one of the strongest line-ups in the history of this event. They were: Beacon Street Titans, Ben Rice Band, CD Woodbury Band, David Brothers, David Pinsky, Eric Sugar Larsen Group, Holfar Blue, Joanne Broh Band, JT Wise Band,  Julie Amici, Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers, Randy Morrison’s Party Bus, Rogue Rage Duo, The England Trio, The Thunder Brothers, Tim Connor, Timothy James, and William “Froggy” Hyland. Each played twenty minutes with the top two highest scores from each night moving on to the finals at the Waterfront Blues Festival.

Photo Jun 05, 3 31 16 PMThe event mimics the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in its structure, with each act being scored in five categories: blues content, talent – vocals, talent – instrumentation, originality, and stage presence. Our judges for the first round were three adept individuals with a wealth in backgrounds of music education, theory, promotion, teaching and performance: Darlene Solomon-Rogers (aka Blacque Butterfly), John Jaqua, and Herb Kanne.

Beacon Street Titans

Beacon Street Titans

Starting at 11:30 am on July 4 on the Front Porch Stage, the four finalists will perform twenty-five minute sets before three new judges. Each act has its own distinct style and all are powerful and exciting. They are: Beacon Street Titans, Ben Rice Band, Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers, and The Thunder Brothers.

Ben Rice Band

Ben Rice

Congratulations to David Pinsky, who will represent the Cascade Blues Association in Memphis as our solo/duo entry. Each affiliated blues society of The Blues Foundation is allowed to send a band, a solo/duo and a youth act to the International Blues Challenge. As our highest scoring solo/duo act over the two nights at The Rose Room, David has won the right to participate in Tennessee. Timothy James as the only under-age act of the competition has been invited to take part in the Youth Showcase in Memphis.

Rae Gordon

Rae Gordon

This will be the Cascade Blues Association’s eighteenth year been sending acts to the International Blues Challenge for eighteen years and holding the Journey To Memphis competition for seventeen. A few of the acts that we have sent include Junkyard Jane, Robbie Laws, Bill Rhoades & The Party Kings featuring Michael Osborn, Franco Paletta & The Stingers, Ty Curtis Band, multi-Blues Music Award nominee Karen Lovely, and two –time Blues Music Award winner Lisa Mann.

Thunder Brothers

Thunder Brothers


Set times for this year’s Journey To Memphis Finals are as follows:

11:30 – The Thunder Brothers

12:10 – Beacon Street Titans

12:50 – Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers

1:30  –  Ben Rice Band

Have you ever wondered just what kind of attention participating in the International Blues Challenge can draw? Just take a look at this year’s Blues Music Awards. Four acts who have participated in the IBC combined to win six of the awards handed out this year: Lisa Mann, Cedric Burnside, Mr Sipp, and the biggest winner of the year, Victor Wainwright, who took home the BB King Entertainer of the Year and Best Band honors. Aside from those four, these former IBC acts also received nominations: Fiona Boyes, Karen Lovely, Brandon Santini, Jarekus Singleton, Sugaray Rayford, and Jason Ricci. All received international attention through their appearances at the IBC.

But, to perform at the IBC, all acts are required to go through regional competitions held by affiliated members of The Blues Foundation, such as the Cascade Blues Association. So, for the seventeenth year, the CBA will be holding the Journey to Memphis competition to select our representatives in Memphis next January.

The applications are in, the dates confirmed, and the sets have been scheduled for the opening nights of this year’s Journey to Memphis. This is going to be one of the largest fields ever to participate in our competition. Nineteen acts will appear in twenty minute sets, ten each night, on Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4. The Rose Room, 8102 NE Killingsworth, will host the event, and admission each night is $10.00, which is the base for our prizes for the overall winning acts. Four acts, the two highest scoring from each night, will move on to the Waterfront Blues Festival on Monday, July 4, on the Front Porch Stage.

This year’s entries are:

Friday, June 3:
7:00 – Joanne Broh Band
7:30 – William “Froggy” Hyland
8:00 – Julie Amici
8:30 – CD Woodbury Band
9:00 – David Brothers
9:30 – The England Trio
10:00 – Beacon Street Titans
10:30 – Tim O’Connor
11:00 – JT Wise Band
11:30 – Ben Rice Band

Saturday, June 4:
7:30 – Franco Paletta Band
8:00 – Timothy James
8:30 – The Thunder Brothers
9 :00 – Rogue Rage Duo
9:30 – Randy Morrison’s Party Bus
10:00 – Eric “Sugar” Larsen Group
10:30 – David Pinsky
11:00 – Holfar Blue
11:30 – Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers

Please note: schedule times are subject to change. We have had acts drop out prior to the event in the past, which can cause rearrangement of set times and dates. We will keep you informed of any changes on our Facebook page.