SHERIDAN — The kinds of blues music performed across the country vary as much by region as by taste, much like barbecue fare in Texas differs from that found in Kansas City.
You have Memphis blues — the style associated with Beale Street and musicians like Frank Stokes and Sleepy John Estes. Then there is Chicago blues, an urban sound centered around the electric guitar and harmonica. The Delta blues is one of the earliest styles of the genre that is known for featuring the slide guitar.
“I think our view of blues in Wyoming is very, very narrow,” Butcher said. “We only hear one or two blues bands on a regular basis and that blues band probably plays a particular style of blues, but there is such a broad spectrum.”
She added that styles performed in the competition ranged from New Orleans style to vocal blues and soul blues to jump blues.
“I learned to take a broader view of the blues,” Melissa Butcher said of her and the Melissa B Band’s recent trip to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge.
The Melissa B Band — composed of Gary Small on guitar, Fred Serna on drums, Jobe Jennings on bass, Rick Davis on the harmonica and Butcher as the lead vocalist — had two nights to show judges their skills in Memphis. The band — and eight others — took to the stage at Flynn’s restaurant and bar Jan. 27-28. But, approximately 260 bands in 11 clubs around Memphis performed before judges. The top four bands from each club moved on to the semi-finals, which included performances in eight clubs in the city. The finals took place at the Orpheum Theater.
Butcher said the Melissa B Band performed incredibly well the second night, but weren’t spot-on during the first night of the contest. She noted that had the Melissa B Band been as on the first night as the second, they believe they would have made it to the next round.
But the contest wasn’t the only reason the band attended.
Butcher noted that she received a powerful piece of advice while in Memphis: You’re not here to win a contest. You’re here to show your skills, network and get gigs. You have to think of it like a conference.
So while the Melissa B Band didn’t win the recording session, the tour dates and the publicity, the band members walked away with so much more.
“It’s no small thing if you win, but forget about winning, the experience of going and being immersed in that culture for a week was absolutely life-altering,” Butcher said.