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Blues Society of WNY and the Todd Eberwine Band

Keeping the blues alive.  That’s the objective of the Western New York Blues Society,
887 members strong since 1992, and growing.  In addition to promoting the blues genre and blues bands in
and around Buffalo, the society holds an annual competition and sends the
winner to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN, coming up this
February.

The Todd Eberwine Band won this year’s “Memphis Bound”
competition, held at the Lafayette Tap Room this past September.  A young, dynamic band, Eberwine and
crew were up against some stiff competition for the win, but they excited the
crowd and the judges with their blues with a twist.   Out of nearly 20 regional bands The Todd Eberwine Band
emerged victorious, and people who were there know why. 

This is the first competition the band has ever entered, and
Eberwine suggests that even though he has every faith in the band’s abilities,
he was pleasantly surprised by the win. 

“Oh we’re the blues–but more like the blues on a lot of drugs,” Eberwine joked.  We’re talking steroids and muscle
here.  “We’re very high
energy–bordering on rock–and because of that, the win was a huge surprise.  Generally, in a blues competition,
they’re very strict about guidelines for the genre.”

Even though he received varied opinions on the band’s fit
into a typical style of blues, Eberwine says he has no intention of altering
what his band does best–not for Buffalo, and not for Memphis.  “There were mixed reviews; some
people said the blues are starving for something different, while purists said,
‘They’re going to eat you alive.’ 
We’ll just see what happens. 
We’re an original band, and we do what we do.”

Eberwine says the competition calls for at least 2 original
tunes and 2 cover tunes, but he’s planning on going further. “We’re going
to play all original songs to show versatility.  It may be brave, but our focus in Memphis is more on being
spotted rather than winning.  We
want to get in front of the right people, and showcase our original
songs.” 

Not just original, but gutsy.  “The way it works down there, before your first song
they read the band’s bio, and then introduce you.  We wrote a song just for that–went for the loudest, biggest,
in-your-face, 10 seconds to captivate them.” 

Starting in 2000, Eberwine spent time in Texas, playing in a
band that he toured with out of Houston, but he moved back to Buffalo to be
near family.  The Todd Eberwine
Band has been together for just 2 years, and Eberwine says it took a while to
get the right mix of people together. 
With him are Dave Herr, bass; Shannon Street, drums; Tom Scime,
keyboards; and Quinn Murphy, lead vocalist. 

Dave Walker, president of the Blues Society of WNY is
pinning high hopes on the band. 
“They’re going to be going up against bands from all over world–16
countries!” Walker says. 
“The competition takes place in 12 to 15 venues all up and down
Beale Street.  Each band competes
for two nights, and the judges rotate in and out.  It’s one big party!”

Walker explained that the winners from each Friday venue
will meet for the finals the next day at a theater very much like our
Shea’s.  “They get a 20-minute
set, and at the end of the competition, the band that is chosen gets to cut a
CD in a national recording studio. 
We definitely have a shot at getting into the finals with Todd.  This is a guitar-driven competition,
and Todd is great, and he has the good sense to have a fantastic singer.”

Though Walker says his main task is keeping the blues alive,
he also recognizes that music evolves. “And it should,” he
asserts.  “The BPO might play
a classical piece with a slight twist, and it’s the same with blues–there’s a
constant evolution.  It’s the
younger musicians that will put their own little nuance on it.  We want people to remember that blues
came from plantations, went to Chicago and lived through hard times, while
traditional blues continued on and had an offspring in rock.  We want to appreciate and respect
changes, while keeping tradition alive.” 

In an effort to raise young musicians up on the blues, the
society is helping another area band, The Infinity Blues Project, get to the
IBC as part of the youth showcase division.  Placers in the September contest, the band comes from the
Infinity Performing Arts Program in Jamestown, New York, and members range in
age from 14 to 19–but they pack a grown-up blues sound and style. 

infinityblues.jpg

They’ll be holding a benefit to raise funds for the trip on
January 25th, 2PM at the Tralf, with the Patti Parks Band.  Infinity Mentor Ron Graham says,
“We’re just so proud of these kids. The opportunity to go to Memphis is
priceless, and they’re going to come away with so much.”

And Walker has a cadre of blues fans behind him, hoping to
see great things happen in Memphis. “As poor as this area may be–with our
problems and our taxes–the WNY Blues Society has more members who return their
$20 check every year than any other blues society in the country.  We’ll be around forever,” Walker
promises.

The Todd Eberwine Band will hold a fundraiser for the trip
on January 17th, 6PM, at the Lafayette Tap Room.  The $15 ticket (sold at the Taproom or on Eberwine’s website
below) will include an entry into a door prize drawing, entertainment and food.
“The best part is the three other bands that are donating their time to
play with us that day; The Blues Hounds, Mark Winsick and Beautiful
Bones,” Eberwine says. “We’re all friends but never get a chance to
see each other play, so this is going to be fun.”

And what about prize money for the Todd Eberwine band?  “They get a thousand dollars when
they get back from Memphis,” Walker
said.  He quickly added, “We
learned our lesson.”

Todd Eberwine: teband.com

WNY Blues Society: wnyblues.org

Infinity: infinityperformingarts.org

 

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