It’s my second consecutive year attending the King of the Blues finals in Hollywood, and each year it keeps getting better.
This year’s review was published in Guitar Edge magazine. The magazine is no longer in circulation, but I kept a copy of the article for your viewing pleasure.
by Pauline France
The pursuit for the nation’s greatest undiscovered blues guitarist has come to an end. Out of five, highly skillful bluesmen, Guitar Center crowned Randy Scott from Hacienda Heights, California, as its 2010 King of The Blues during its fourth annual competition.
The sold-out event was held at the House of Blues in Hollywood, California, on Thursday, September 2, and was gracefully hosted by blues-rock guitarist, Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The venue was packed with music industry heavyweights and blues aficionados from all over the country, who came to see performances by the nation’s finest, undiscovered blues guitarists.
The event kicked off with a performance by the 2010 Ernie Ball Play Crossroads Contest winner, Ryan McGarvey. At only 23, this rising blues star has received more accolades than many successful guitarists combined. McGarvey, who, at 23, has already received a large number of accolades for his fretboard acrobatics, shared the stage with Chris Frazier (former Whitesnake drummer) and fretless monster, Tony Franklin, on the bass. The powerhouse blues-rock trio was later joined by last year’s King of The Blues finalist, Josh Gooch, to close out an already explosive opening set.
Mississippi Delta blues legend Honeyboy Edwards followed with a captivating set, and gave the young guns in the audience (and onstage) a lesson in the history and evolution of the blues. Edwards was accompanied by harmonica master, Michael Frank, who also happens to be his manager, booking agent, and biographer. At 93, Edwards is the oldest Delta blues guitarists to still be touring.
After Edward’s performance, it was time for the contestants to display their chops for the audience and the judges. Each of the finalists had five minutes to perform on both electric and acoustic guitar for the celebrity panel, which included blues virtuoso, Joe Bonamassa; Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World, Brad Tolinsky; Grammy award-winning producer, Pete Anderson; blues-rock guitarist, Kenny Wayne Shepherd; Elliot Easton of The Cars; Jimmy Vivino, of the Tonight Show Band and the Fab Faux; Honeyboy Edwards, and Michael Frank. Anderson also backed each of the contestants during their performances.
The first runner-up was Joey Pinkl from Arlington Heights, Illinois. This young, 20-year-old bluesman displayed some serious skills during the electric portion of his performance, and brilliantly incorporated Delta blues elements into his acoustic act. The crowd responded well to his brand of pure, organic blues.
After Pinkl, 2009 King of the Blues finalist, Roosevelt Collier, from Kissimmee, Florida, returned for a second chance to be crowned as the King of the Blues. Collier busted out his wholesome, bluesy licks on a Dobro resonator guitar, and displayed significant stylistic growth compared to last year. For the electric portion of his performance, the blues ace took to the pedal steel route, setting him apart from the other finalists. Collier’s stage presence was dynamite, and it should be noted that it’s not exactly easy to pull a Chuck Berry move while seated.
Randy Scott took over after Collier, and stood out immediately for a number of reasons. For one, his G&L Comanche electric looked especially striking; secondly, he had a remarkable stage presence throughout his set. Scott’s hybrid picking technique was nearly flawless, and he displayed great taste in the licks chosen for his solo. Collier quickly became the front-runner of the evening following his set.
Pinecone Fletcher, from Johnson City, New York, had no problem matching up. He captured the audience’s attention from the get-go with his ZZ Top look, his cigar box guitar (with his name imprinted on the fretboard, no less) and his dynamic performance. The open G tuning he used for his acoustic portion made for a sublime experience of foot-stomping, head-nodding, heavy and chunky blues.
The last contestant, Dustin Garrett, brought a touch of Southern flair all the way from Lubbock, Texas. For his acoustic act, the Garrett used an open D tuning, bringing out a full and vibrant sound that went hand-in-hand with his masterful use of the slide. Garrett’s high-powered performance was the best way to bring the contest to a closure.
After the contestants did their part and the judges carefully determined the fate of these five extremely talented guitarists—judging their performances on originality, authenticity, style, technique, stage presence, and overall performance—Kenny Wayne Shepherd crowned Randy Scott as the 2010 King of the Blues winner.
Randy Scott received $25,000 in cash; endorsement deals from Gibson, Ernie Ball, Boss and Egnater; a feature in Guitar World; a Gibson 1960 50th Anniversary ES-335; an Epiphone 1965 Elitist Casino; an Egnater Renegade full-stack amplifier; a Boss GT-10 Guitar Multi-Effects Processor and Boss effects pedals.
And just when the audience thought the show was over, the Derek Trucks Band made a grand entrance to the stage, treating the House of Blues to an energetic finale. At one point during the band’s set, Trucks began playing a hybrid style of reggae-blues, which was a reminder of just how innovative he is, and a keen lesson on what it takes to distinguish oneself in the music business. For Randy Scott, and the other King of the Blues finalists who were able to see it up close, it’s a lesson they definitely won’t forget.
The 2009 King of the Blues review was published in the I Heart Guitar Blog. Click here to read that, too.
Can’t wait to hear who’ll be the guest artist for next year’s competition. Be assured that I’ll be covering next year’s grand finals, too!
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