About the Detroit Blues Challenge

2016 Solo/Duo winner: Paul Joseph Miles

2016 Band Winners: The Good, The Bad, and The Blues Band

The Blues Foundation and
The International Blues Challenge

International Blues Challenge
The 33rd (2017) International Blues Challenge will be held in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee in the Beale Street Historic District.

2017 International Blues Challenge will be January 31-February 4, 2017. The International Showcase will open the event on January 31 with competition rounds February 1-4 in venues located on historic Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Tickets sales for the 33rd International Blues Challenge are officially open!


The basic pass grants general admission to:

  • Tuesday Night International Showcases
  • Wednesday Friday Beale Street Competition Venues
  • Youth Showcases Friday on Beale Street
  • All daytime seminars and workshops
  • IBC Orpheum Finals on Saturday, February 4, 2017


Donate To The IBC Travel Fund
This donation fund is for our Detroit Blues Challenge winners and their travels to Memphis in January. 100% of all donations go directly to our winners. Please donate today.

"I just got home from being a Judge at the DBS Blues Challenge Finals at Callahan's. So difficult for we judges to decide between an incredibly talented and diverse group of players and bands, but so gratifying yet again to experience the power of Detroit music. I love this town!"
John Penney - American Music Research Foundation

What The Winners Are Saying

Sweet Willie Tea
First of all, thank you DBS for the opportunity to represent you in Memphis. It was indeed an honor. One of those road trips that you never forget.
If any DBS members have never been to the International Blues Challenge (IBC), run don't walk to next year's event. It is an experience that every blues lover should have, at least once in their lifetime. Memphis during IBC week is perhaps the ONLY time and the only place on the planet where there are nearly 200 blues acts all performing within walking distance of each other. You won't see many "headliners" performing in the clubs this week, but you will see acts that are the best "undiscovered" artists that the world has to offer. Yes, I mean the world, from Europe to the far east, the Americas, the near east, EVERYWHERE that blues is loved.
The artists range from solo performers like myself, to big bands like Lady Sunshine, and everything in between. These are not amateur acts, these are not your corner bar band. These are truly world-class artists and believers delivering their best stuff. And believe me, their best stuff will knock you out!

If you love traditional blues (Delta, Piedmont, etc.) or electric Chicago or Memphis style bands with the full compliment of instruments (horn sections, harp players, piano and organ, bass drums, guitars, singers) or any genre of the blues, you can sample it all just by walking a few blocks from one end of Beale Street to the other. You can even take a side trip to Graceland, or Clarksdale, or visit Sun Studios. And don't get me started on the great food!
As an artist, the IBC offers a rare opportunity to see up close what your peers from around the globe are doing. A chance to compare notes, visit, and maybe learn a few licks from artists to whom English may be a second language, but who speak fluent blues. And believe me, the INTERNATIONAL Blues Challenge proves that blues is spoken everywhere.
The "competition" part is exciting (and perhaps not easy for delicate egos), the grand prizes are great, the label showcases are awesome, and the workshops are informational and inspiring, but the contest for first place is just a small part of it. What you really win at the IBC is a chance to be surrounded by folks who share your appreciation of an art form that is alive and well thanks to the hundreds of musicians, music fans and volunteers who are pouring their hearts into it, and standing right next to you on famous Beale Street.
The event is truly a marathon of organization run by dedicated volunteers that treat you like blues royalty even if you are a "nobody" like me! I met so many good people both in front of the mics and behind the stage that helped, supported and showed me so much love that it confirmed what I believe: The blues is important.

Rick Humesky - Lady Sunshine and the X Band I just wanted to send you a heart-felt thank you for all the support the DBS gave us in the Detroit Blues Challenge & the IBC's. We all had a blast, in fact, Friday, at the semifinals, I celebrated my birthday, and got to beat up my strat for a third night in a row! That third night, even though we got a crappy draw going first, I felt that L.S. & the X Band absolutely TORE it up, out best set EVER. The judges saw fit to move another act on to the finals, but nevertheless, I was still satisfied, because I knew we truly gave it our best. Proud to have represented the D!

Kyle Marker The Deals
It was absolutely amazing! I don't really know where to begin but there was just so much talent there. Knowing that every club was packed with fantastic blues musicians and fans that truly appreciate the blues made it feel like being a kid in a candy store! Many thanks to the Detroit Blues Society, Cherie Lowe, Christine Owoc Murray, Tommy Nieman for his incredible driving abilities, The Brendel's for letting us use the Brendelmobile, The Biven's family for producing John Bivens, and all of our fans, especially those who attended the fundraising event, for giving us the experience of a lifetime!

Christian Brendel The Deals
It was really cool, we really appreciate the blues society helping us get down there. It was an amazing experience, we saw Lady Sunshine and they were amazing. I would like to thank you again on behalf of The Deals. We appreciate you helping us get down to Memphis and Don for taking pictures and checking out our show. And thank you for your support of local musicians and your dedication to the blues!

John Bivens - The Deals
Thanks Again for sending us Deals to Memphis and giving us the opportunity. It was a wonderful time!

All acts should read this:

"What is it like to win the International Blues Challenge?" That's what friends and acquaintances ask, it the opening question in radio interviews an it's a question I have asked myself daily. From the time that my band competed at the local level, and at Memphis, there was a clear message. It was on the Blues Foundation website and we heard it the first day in Memphis at orientation, "Don't go to Memphis and expect to win - you should go there to network." I remember thinking that I just did not understand the business well enough to grasp what was really meant by that. It seemed to me like going there to win was the only reason to go.

Well, it happened to us and it has been an amazing year. The Legendary Blues Cruise through the Caribbean was beyond belief, the Festival experience was a blast, and we have sold LOTS of CDs. The Washington Blues Society, our sponsor, after having worked tirelessly to promote the Blues in the Pacific Northwest, has been rewarded for their efforts. It has been a great ride and so it seemed to make sense that I should have been, "in it to win it." But the other phrase kept popping back into my head, "It's not about winning, you go there to network."

I resisted that voice for a long time. Then something started to dawn on me. Underneath all of the great things that have happened, there was an underlying theme. I think it's because I just didn't connect with the idea of networking. Once I replaced that with the idea of making friends, it worked for me. The whole point of this challenge is to get us all up and out of our comfort zones. It's to get us to travel to new places, make new friends, and to use our passion to build the Blues community around the world.

When we first competed to go down to the International Blues Challenge, we entered the South Sound Association's competition in Tacoma, Washington, about 60 miles south of our North Seattle comfort zone. We made it to the finals, but did not win. The real story, the part I remember best, was sharing the moment before the winner was announced with the band that did move on. It was a success for us because we were out of our home town playing our music in a town we hadn't played in before. I suppose you can call that networking, but I really liked the people I got to hang out with. I wondered what it was like in the next town . . .

Competing in the Washington Blues Society's regional competition the following year, we not only made it to the finals, we won and the Washington Blues Society was sending us to Memphis. One band that shared our venue was a band from Florida called the Pitbull of the Blues Band. We became immediate friends. Hey, that's networking, right? But again, I really liked these people. It was more than just getting phone numbers for potential gigs. There is a whole world of great musicians great friends, out there.

Then came last year's challenge. we walked up to our venue in Memphis and looked up at the arching front of the famous Historic Daisy Theater. We were up against our friends from Florida again, the Pitbull of the Blues Band. They came back bigger and better than the year before and we got to see our old friends again. They had driven up from Florida in their van this year with new zoot suits for every set.

Like it or not, I had to come to the conclusion that, regardless of how you fare at the International Blues Challenge, the rewards are there for everyone. By entering the Challenge, you are reflecting on what you do and who you are as an entertainer. You are setting the standards higher for yourself and that makes you a better act. Because once you travel to Memphis, you have accepted that what it's really all about is traveling to new places and meeting new people who share a love of the Blues that reaches across all borders.

I learned that you need to travel and play music somewhere else and then come home again. What difference does it make if the costs are covered? Just go somewhere and come back. You'll have amazing stories to tell. Isn't that what this is all about? That road trip you took will happen again and again. That night at the Orpheum in Memphis when we had realized we had won . . . we were looking out at a theater full of friends.

When I think of the Blues Hall of Fame that we all working together to build, I think of the countless towns that were visited by those Blues greats we hope to honor. These towering figures mad Blues fans one person at a time. I realized that as I saw Bobby Rush handing out donation forms one at a time to contributors on the Legendary Blues Cruise. If Bobby Rush can do it, we can all do it. This is your call to action. Come to Memphis and spread the word about this American art form we call the Blues and . . . NETWORK.

Written by The Wired Band - 2012 IBC Band winner


Detroit Blues Society
2006 Recipient for Best Blues Society

The Detroit Blues Society (DBS) is a registered federal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, education, and advancement of the blues tradition, as it relates to the Metro-Detroit area. It has as its primary goals, to promote a wider appreciation for the Blues by the general public and to serve the members of the Society.