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10 feet off of Beale

Two South Sound blues bands prepare to go to Memphis

The Randy Oxford Band is one of two groups chosen to compete in Memphis. Photo credit: Facebook

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Culturally, America has nicked a lot of its favorite arts from around the globe. As a relatively new country, this isn't so much of a surprise; inventing and nurturing homegrown modes of expression is something that takes time and care. And, being a melting pot of a nation, the stewing together of a multitude of inspirations is part of what makes our country so eclectic and invigorating. All this being said, we can take absolute pride in and ownership of a few arts, two of which being jazz and blues.

Rooted in a time before audio recordings were commonplace, blues music developed as a sort of riff on the oral tradition, with standards being passed around along with the encouragement to riff and grow upon established structures. As with any genre of music, though, blues music has gone through a number of evolutions, incorporating different styles and influences. What began as one of the simplest genres of music has branched out to cover a broader range of stylistic expression. Still, tradition remains a fundamental aspect to the life of the blues, and it's one that the annual International Blues Challenge looks to uphold.

Every year, over 200 blues bands from around the world gather in Memphis to compete in front of industry professionals. For the South Sound's part, two bands have been chosen to head down to Tennessee: The Randy Oxford Band and Groovy Voodoo. Jazzbones will be holding a fundraiser, dubbed the Back to Beale Street Blues Challenge, to help raise money to get these bands to the competition. Gary Grape, the CEO and president of the South Sound Blues Association (SSBA), spoke to the importance of the event.

"Musicians selected to represent their affiliates in Memphis are among some of the finest blues artists in the world," said Grape. "They perform in front of record producers, festival buyers and club owners from across the country. Winners receive cash prizes, various instruments, invitations to major blues festivals and professional promotional packages, among other opportunities. Networking in Memphis is invaluable, and this kind of interaction and business opportunity cannot be achieved by performing at local venues."

The Randy Oxford Band won their spot in Memphis by besting 11 other local bands in competitions earlier this year. Meanwhile, Groovy Voodoo, a youth showcase band, was brought in by the Puget Sound Music for Youth Association.

"It is the mission of the South Sound Blues Association to preserve the American art form known as ‘the blues,' said Grape. "What better way in keeping the blues alive than introducing this music to the younger generation of musicians?"

In addition to performances from the Randy Oxford Band and Groovy Voodoo, Sunday's fundraiser will feature a cavalcade of local talent, including Loose Gravel, back to performing after a hiatus of several years. Regardless of whether the two bands chosen to participate in the International Blues Challenge win or lose, this is a priceless experience for them. For those who can't attend the fundraiser, or who just wish to help out more, donations to the cause can be made to SSBA via PayPal, or mailed directly to SSBA.

Back to Beale Street Blues Challenge, w/ the Randy Oxford Band, Groovy Voodoo, Loose Gravel and New Roads, Blues Redemption, Maia Santell and House Blend, Anthony Corso, and Moore Blues, Sunday, Nov. 6, 4 p.m., $10 general, $8 SSBA members, Jazzbones, 2803 6th Ave., Tacoma, 253.396.9169,

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