SHERIDAN — The Melissa B. Band has the blues, and they couldn’t be happier about it.
After winning the Wyoming Blues Challenge in Casper last month, the local blues band will be heading to the heart of the blues world to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, in January.
The five-piece band is made up of Gary Small on guitar, Fred Serna on drums, bass player Jobe Jennings, Rick Davis on harmonica and Melissa Butcher as the lead singer.
“We are a really tight ensemble,” Butcher said. “Skill level, we have guys who are second to none in Wyoming.”
The Melissa B. Band earned its way to the national competition after winning the state challenge. Going up against some of the top blues musicians in Wyoming, the group took first in the band category of the competition.
In January, they will head to the competition in Memphis. There, they will be given two nights to play in front of live audiences.
If their music impresses judges, they will then advance later into the week until a champion is crowned. The competition takes place on the famous Beale Street, where blues greats like Louis Armstrong and W.C. Handy perfected the genre.
“The competition is going to be fierce, but we are going to just go and have fun,” Butcher said. “Just getting to play in these amazing clubs and watch these incredible acts play… even if you don’t get to the finals, it’s still great to just be there.”
The biggest challenge the band will face will be coming up with their own material. A large portion of how bands will be judged includes originality. After going to the regional competition with primarily cover songs, the Melissa B. Band will work on constructing original songs and style to set them apart from the competition. Recently, Butcher attended a week-long songwriting school and the rest of the band is hard at work coming up with new songs as well.
“(Small and Davis) are old hands at writing songs, so we have great folks to work with to come up with material,” Butcher said.
Blues buries its roots in the Southeast, but it’s a style of playing that has reached all corners of the globe. Butcher hopes a great performance from her band at an international competition will be a chance to expose blues enthusiasts to the growing blues movement in the Rocky Mountain West.
The Melissa B. Band will be playing various gigs this fall throughout the Sheridan area in order to hone their skills and fundraise for their trip to Memphis.
“We are working on putting some stuff together around here so folks can come out and hear us play,” Butcher said.