Walkin#039; in Memphis

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Blue Light Specials helped &#8220tear the house down” during the Sweet Gum Bottom Blues Fest in Greenville last year.

The four-man blues and jam band is getting ready to take on the world - the world of top blues musicians, that is - as it represents the state at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis February 1-3.

Butler County's Jeff Cummings, on harp and vocals, Greenville native William Watson on guitar, Warren Colter on bass and Bill Duke on drums make up the band, which Cummings calls &#8220a true blues band in the purest sense of the word.”

The group won the 2006 Alabama Blues Challenge in Birmingham, which earned the musicians their ticket to perform alongside acts from around the globe next month.

Needless to say, these local blues men are excited.

&#8220To be able to actually perform on Beale Street in Memphis, where so many greats got their start, like Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters and others, is going to be an absolute blast,” Cummings said.

Bands from across the U.S. and Canada will join with performers from far-flung places like Finland, India and Taiwan for the international competition.

It will be a tough challenge, the local musician said.

&#8220All these bands have won either a state or national competition. These are not run-of-the-mill musicians. Groups of eight to ten bands will each be assigned to a particular night spot on Beale Street,” Cummings explained. &#8220Each band gets to perform two shows in front of two different sets of judges.”

According to Cummings, bands will be judged on such factors as blues content, talent, showmanship, originality and entertainment value.

&#8220The top bands from each of the groups will go on to perform Saturday at the Orpheum. There is going to be some great, great music going on that weekend,” Cummings said.

The Blue Light Specials are working to raise funds to help offset the expenses of their trip to Memphis.

&#8220It is causing us to dig into our pockets, when you consider food, lodging, travel expenses and time away from work. We all have day jobs we have to take time off from,” Cummings explained.

That's why the band and some of their musician friends are joining together to present the &#8220Memphis Blues Blast” Tuesday, January 16 at the &#8220It'll Do” Tavern at the Lagoon Park Shopping Center in Montgomery.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the music starts at 6:30 p.m.

&#8220Two outstanding bands are joining us that night and supporting our efforts: The Alabama Gravy Soppers, a great old-style acoustic blues band, and Blues Farm, a rock blues band. They will each perform a set and then The Blue Light Specials will go on at 9 p.m. at the latest. The cover charge at the door will be $5. We will use the funds for our competition expenses,” Cummings said.

Cummings encourages those who can to come and enjoy a night of good blues music January 16 in Montgomery.

&#8220We would love to see lots of home folks there. And we encourage those who can to join us for the competition in Memphis next month. It's going to be a great event for music lovers.”