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Winning blues act headed to Memphis competition

September 25, 2018

HUNTINGTON — The smooth sounds of blues music resonating from a local Huntington club Sunday afternoon was enough to melt the rainy woes away as eight musical acts battled for a chance to perform at an international music competition in the blues capital of the world.

The fourth annual Huntington Blues Challenge, held at the V Club, featured music groups performing facing off with their best tunes in 20-minute slots.

For Huntington Blues Society Vice President Mike Lyzenga, the challenge was more than a competition — it’s about making sure blues remains heard throughout the Tri-State.

The blues society was created about five or six years ago with a group of friends gathering to do just that, Lyzenga said.

“We really didn’t have a plan, but as it evolved over the first year and we started bringing in local bands to come play for us, we thought, ‘Well, we’ve got something here.’ People loved the blues, and we would pack the house.”

That popularity now allows the nonprofit group to pay it forward and grow, and for that, winners Jeremy Short and Three’s Company Blues will be forever grateful.

The solo and band winner received $500 in prizes and a sponsorship to the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, which includes $500 in travel expenses to represent the Tri-State in the biggest blues competition in the world in 2019.

The prize money came from a combination of all the shows performed by the Huntington Blues Society All-Star Jam Band over the past year, Lyzenga said.

“That’s what we are here for. That’s what we do. Nobody is getting rich on the blues,” he said. “We do like to spread it around town. All that money we make goes right in the bank just for this event, basically. We all donate our time.”

Performing at the challenge were solo acts Jeremy Short, Paula Davis Stewart, Zack McGlone, Tony Harrah and Black King Coach, as well as the bands the Toadliquors, Three’s Company Blues and Juke Joint Johnnie and the Shack Busters.

The acts are far from amateurs. Each has played on the V Club stage before, whether it be through the society’s monthly jam shows or playing shows across the region. Lyzenga said Short and a couple other acts had won the challenges and went on to Memphis in previous years.

“Every one of them has played on this stage, so they’re comfortable and familiar,” he said. “Some of these guys and girls have played the stage many of times.”

Lyzenga said the society appreciated the help provided club owner Patrick Guthrie and his father, Pat Sr.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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