Each March thousands of music fans flock to Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW music festival; but Blues fans travel to Memphis.


Beginning January 16 Blues music fans and musicians will meet in Memphis, Tennessee for the 34th annual International Blues Challenge for five days of music, master classes, documentary movie screening, a memorabilia auction, a Blues Hall of Fame memorabilia unveiling and expert panels.

There is also a music competition with awards for best band, best solo or duo act, best band guitarist, best solo or duo guitarist, and best harmonica player.

The showcase takes place in the historic Clayborn Temple with the competition held in various venues along Beale Street. The finals being held at the Orpheum Theater.

Guests at the festival include John Oates of Hall and Oates who will be signing autographs of his book and discussing his various projects, Little Steven Van Zandt is a part of the “Blues and Social Action” panel, Eric Gales, LaDonna Gales, Doug MacLeod, and Lance Lopez.

Mike Kappus, Jim Pugh, Dr. Janice Johnston, and author Marie Trout are also among the panelists scheduled to appear.

Members of Lonnie Brooks family will be on hand as the Blue Hall of Fame accepts Baker’s guitar and hat into their collection.

The featured documentary planned for screening is “Shake ‘Em on Down: The Blues According to Fred McDowell”.

Bob Margolin, Bob Corritore, Danny Banks, and Russell Jackson will all be holding master classes.

Tickets to events are $10 and $15 for WednesdayThursday, and Friday. The competition finale at the Orpheum is $55. Festival passes are $100. Tickets (wristbands) are available at www.blues.org or via phone at 901-527-2583.