Want to help make some blues dreams come true? Here’s your chance!

Each year, the Triangle Blues Society sponsors the Triangle Blues Challenge where local musicians compete to earn a spot at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world. Sponsored by the Blues Foundation, the IBC lasts for almost a week.

The signature element of the Triangle Blues Society’s mission is to raise funds to support their trips to Tennessee. That’s why your membership, donations, and giving at the annual Road to Memphis fundraiser are so critically important.

This year’s Road to Memphis event is set for 1-4 p.m. Sunday, January 7, 2024, at the Blue Note Grill in Durham, and will once again include a guitar raffle, 50-50 raffle, and a silent auction. There’s a suggested donation of $10 at the door.

The Triangle Blues Challenge, like the IBC, is divided into group and solo/duo categories. This year’s winners were Greylan Hall and the Nasty Kings (group) and Eric “E-Train” Manning (solo/duo). Both acts will perform on Sunday.

Help them on their way to the International Blues Challenge by supporting our Road to Memphis event, the final Triangle Blues Society fundraiser to underwrite these life- and career-changing trips. All proceeds will go directly to travel expenses.



Here’s a look back at some of the local acts who’ve advanced to the International Blues Challenge, thanks to your donations to the Triangle Blues Society:

BLUESHAMMER (Duo, 2014): The New Orleans blues of Adrian Duke combined with gospel/blues diva Theresa Richmond and some of the best musicians from North Carolina to form a soulful and funky band to celebrate Southern blues. BluesHammer won the 2014 Triangle Blues Challenge, then went on the participate in the 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

BULL CITY BLUES BAND (Group, 2018): Charlley Ward and John Fussell provided complementary styles of lead and slide guitars. The rhythm section consisted of the dearly departed Eddie Werz on bass and Dana Thalheimer on drums. Together, they laid down a tight, driving groove.

CHICKEN SHACK (Group, 2019): Led by Andrew Dillon, Chicken Shack consisted of a talented violinist / bassist and vocalist, with a gifted keyboardist, two rhythm and blues guitarists, two powerful vocalists and a funky drummer. Chicken Shack was breaded in blues, fried in funk and smothered in soul.

CORY LEUTJEN AND THE TRAVELING BLUES BAND (Group, 2020): Performing more than 200 dates a year across the southeastern United States, Cory Leutjen and the Traveling Blues Band wowed and won the 2019 Triangle Blues Challenge with his band and went on to represent TBS in the International Blues Challenge.

E-TRAIN (Solo, 2024): Eric “E-Train” Manning’s songwriting blends a cornucopia of styles into a unique approach to storytelling. Playing his first love, the acoustic guitar, Eric captured the solo/duo title of the 2023 Triangle Blues Challenge and will be headed to Memphis to compete in the 2024 International Blues Challenge.

FABULOUS NITE-LIFE BOOGIE (Group, 2023): Swingin’ sounds of the 1940s through the ’60s and beyond, with a flair for West Coast jump and classic rhythm and blues. The Fabulous Nite-Life Boogie offers a nightly love letter to a sound that keeps toes tapping and fingers snapping.

FAT BASTARD BLUES BAND (Group, 2010 and 2016): Led by Carl Wetter, the Fat Bastard Blues Band had held just three rehearsals over two weeks when they played the Triangle Blues Challenge in 2009 – and they won it all. Fast forward to 2016, and the now-seasoned pros in the Fat Bastard Blues Band won the challenge all over again.

FRANK GREATHOUSE (Solo, 2018): Runner-up Frank Greathouse represented the Triangle Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in place of Logie Meachum, a late local legend who won the solo/duo competition but was forced to drop out while dealing with health issues. Meachum was one of the founders of the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society, and an active member of the Triangle Blues Society. Formerly of Screamin’ and Cryin’, Greathouse is a multi-instrumentalist who sings traditional, modern and original songs with a Piedmont slant, humor and intensity.

GOOD ROCKING SAM (Group, 2017): Winners of the 2016 Triangle Blues Challenge, Good Rocking Sam took a dash of West Side Chicago blues, added a splash of Memphis soul, some spices from Texas and New Orleans, and then combined it to make a soul stew. (Drummer Ed Mezynsky is also deeply missed.)

GREYLAN HALL AND THE NASTY KINGS (Group, 2024): While boasting deep roots in blues and rock music, Greylan Hall and the Nasty Kings also dip their notes in colors of country, jazz, funk and fusion. They won the 2023 Triangle Blues Challenge with Greylan on guitar, Jacob Seyle on Hammond B-3, Matt Grady supplying the low end and Ethan Prindle on drums.

JASON DAMICO (Group, 2015 and 2023): Another two-time TBS representative, Jason Damico combined high energy, deep and powerful baritone vocals and blistering guitar riffs to claim top honors at the 2014 Triangle Blues Challenge. He was runner-up in 2022, but advanced to Memphis when Crones of Anarchy couldn’t make the trip.

JON SHAIN (Solo, 2009 and 2018): Jon Shain learned the Piedmont blues directly from several of North Carolina’s legacy players, including Big Boy Henry and John Dee Holeman. He won the Triangle Blues Challenge in 2008 and earned a finalist spot at the subsequent International Blues Challenge. He then returned for the 2019 IBC, and won it all.

KELLY HOWERTON (Solo, 2016): Later a member of the Herded Cats blues band, Kelly Howerton won the Triangle Blues Society’s solo/duo competition in 2015 then advanced to the International Blues Challenge.

MIGHTY LESTER (Group, 2007): Now leader of the Fabulous Nite-Life Boogie, Lenny Terezi won the Triangle Blues Challenge while fronting Mighty Lester. They rose to the finals in the 2007 International Blues Challenge, and also won the best self-produced album award for We Are Mighty Lester.

RUTH WYAND AND THE TRIBE OF ONE (Solo, 2017 and 2020): Ruth Wyand is another two-time Triangle Blues Challenge champion, having advanced to the International Blues Challenge in both 2017 and 2020. She made the IBC finals in 2017.

2004 – Rev. Slick Ballinger (Group); Waymon Meaks (Solo/Duo)
2009 – Valentino and the Piedmont Sheiks (Group)
2010 – th’ Bullfrog Willard McGee (Solo/Duo)
2011 – Harvey Dalton Arnold Blues Band (Group); Rick Tobey (Solo/Duo)
2012 – The Rusted Rails (Group)
2013 – Rhonda Robichaux Band (Group); Sherman Lee Dillon (Solo/Duo)
2014 – Red Dirt Revelators (Group)

2024 Road to Memphis image

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