Day 4: January 23, 2010
The Best of the Best is Good
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It was around noon when I reached Beale Street. It was fairly clear of people but still blocked off and a young performer/entrepreneur was taking advantage of that. Every few minutes he would cover about a half block of Beale with hand-springs, back-flips, and such then make the rounds with a small metal bucket.

IBC finals take place at the Orpheum Theater. It's a thing of beauty built, according to a star on the corner, in 1928 on the site of an 1890 opera house lost to fire. Brass stars fill the sidewalk around the theater with the names of some of the famous who have visited the Orpheum. Harry Houdin's star is next to Dorothy Hammill's.

Here are some pretty bad pictures of a glorious interior. I just wasn't equipped to photograph the huge spaces though I believe the theater is capable of shining through my shortcomings. Built for vaudeville and converted to movies, the place, like many great theaters, suffered from major neglect through the middle of the twentieth century. A friendly usher told me that its restoration in the 1970s included clearing the main floor with a bulldozer.

The downstairs lounge area is lined with photos of many of the people who have performed here. That includes Cab Calloway, John Phillip Sousa, Ginger Rogers, and Burns & Allen. That's a 1987 version of Jay Leno on the wall.

Each venue sends one performer to the finals. The solo/duo category isn't as well stocked as the band category which means some folks get here who might not exactly belong. That is, of course, only my opinion. I haven't posted pictures of all eight solo/duo finalists but have included in this panel an equal number of those who obviously deserve it and those who might not. Without identifying which of those groups I think they belong to I've included pictures of Ken "The Rocket" Korb, Tom Walbank & Arthur Migliazza, Alphonso Sanders & Bill "Howl-n-Madd" Perry, and Becky Boyd & Tim Matson.

This is Matt Anderson, a guy who definitely belonged. Besides his talent, his enjoyment in playing clearly showed. Quotes included "This is a lot more fun with people around." and "It was in tune when I left Canada, I swear." He deserved to be finalist and he deserved his win.

This is the NIT of the IBC. Beale Street club owners select ten bands who didn't make the IBC finals to compete for the title "Beale Street Blues Kings". I did not attend the whole thing and can't even report the winner. Levee Town and Selwyn Birchwood are pictured only because that was who was playing while I was there.

Then it was back to the Orpheum for the big show. Dennis got there way ahead of me and saved me a seat just two rows in front of the judges. David Fricke's hair looked marvelous.

Knowing two of the acts in the finals made picking just one impossible so we rooted for them both equally. Our man Sonny opened the show with a bang. He was followed by Jackie Scott & the Housewreckers, Mojo Theory, and the Jesse Greene Band. Mojo Theory is from Pomeroy, Ohio, which meant three buckeye bands made the finals.

The Big Boy Little Band, the Karen Lovely Band, and R&K Brew Co were next. Then it was time for our girl Cheryl.

Labron Lazenby and LA 3, the Avey Brothers, and Grady Champion finished things off.

Judging is by formula so results can be tallied and made available not too long after the last cymbal has stopped vibrating. The top three places are announced in reverse order and the first name heard was Cheryl Renee with Them Bones. The home town outfit earned third place honors. Al was the last of the group to find the stage and Larry used the PA to ask where Little Al was. Apparently someone asked, "Don't you mean Big Al?" and it was quickly explained that Little Al is how he's known. Who's going to argue? Second place went to the Karen Lovely Band and first to Grady Champion. He certainly deserved to be in the finals but he wasn't my pick for a top three finish. Judging is the toughest job in town.

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