2019 Iowa Blues Challenge

SUNDAY – JUN 16, 2019 @ 4:00PM
Des Moines Social Club, 900 Mulberry, DM
2019 Iowa Blues Challenge – FINALS

2019 Iowa Blues Challenge Participants

CEDAR COUNTY COBRAS
(4:30 – 4:55) Solo/Duo

THE BROTHERS RUCKUS
(5:05 – 5:30) Band

FREIGHT TRAIN FRANK
(5:40 – 6:05) Solo/Duo

MATT PANEK & THE ELECTRIC KOOLAID TRIO
(6:15 – 6:40) Band

GENERATION OF BLUES
(6:50 – 7:15) Solo/Duo

AVEY/GROUWS BAND
(7:25 – 7:50) Band

BILLYLEE JANEY
(8:00 – 8:25) Solo/Duo

TOM BUCKMILLER & THE TONE TAILORS
(8:35 – 9:00) Band

For the 26th year the Central Iowa Blues Society, with the cooperation of the Southeast Iowa Blues Society, presents the Iowa Blues Challenge, a blues music competition in two categories: Bands and Solo/Duo acts. The four bands and four solo/duo acts entered will compete for a prize package that includes cash, recording time, paid performance opportunities, and entry into and travel expense stipend for the International Blues Challenge, to be held on historic Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee in January 2020.

The doors will open at 4:00 with the competition beginning at 4:30 in the Prairie Meadows Courtyard (weather permitting) or alternately inside the Kum & Go Theater. Lawn chairs are recommended in the courtyard as outdoor seating is limited. Food & drinks will be available from the Social Club. Advance tickets will be available at www.cibs.org for $15. Admission at the door will be $20.

2019 Iowa Blues Challenge Sponsors

Budweiser, Exile Brewing, Iowa Public Radio, Junior’s Motel,
Rieman Music, Des Moines Social Club, VividPix & Design,
Southeast Iowa Blues Society and Central Iowa Blues Society

2019 Iowa Blues Challenge Participants

Cedar County Cobras
(4:30 – 4:55) Solo/Duo

Cedar County Cobras play American roots and blues music from the last century. The music takes on an “old time” blues feel that would most likely be found in a juke-joint down a gravel road in rural Iowa. Tom Spielbauer is behind the boot-stompin blues sound produced by the duo and has over twenty years of playing blues and rock across Iowa and the Midwest. The authentic sound of his music comes from a career of pouring concrete and working construction. In 2005, Tom was diagnosed with advanced macular degeneration at a young age and declared legally blind. Following in the footsteps of blind blues musicians such as Blind Willie McTell & Alan Wilson, he eventually traded his concrete tools for a guitar and a foot drum to play the blues full time.

Also an Iowa native, his music partner April Dirks started playing mandolin with the Cedar County Cobras in 2014. Before working with Tom, she often performed as a professional bluegrass musician with a unique “gypsy” sound that she brought to any performance or music jam. Early in the project, April discovered she had a talent for playing the upright bass and the duo naturally gravitated to playing American Roots and Delta Blues Music. April now plays the doghouse bass that gives the duo the boot-stompin boogie sound that makes the music really move. Over time, the Cobras have performed as a duo or a trio and played hundreds of shows across Iowa and parts of the Midwest.


The Brothers Ruckus
(5:05 – 5:30) Band

The Brothers Ruckus was founded in January of 2019 in the heart of the Midwest… the beautiful city of Des Moines. This funky quintet is without a doubt, the premier blues outfit in the state of Iowa. Featuring Dante Ware on the drum kit and Emeal Myles on bass guitar; a more solid rhythm section cannot be found in the Midwest. Add to that mix keyboard wizard Justin Appel, 2019 Iowa Blues Hall of Fame inductee and guitarist extraordinaire; Jeff Banks and 2005 Iowa Blues Hall of Fame inductee and one of the finest front men on stage anywhere; Steve George on lead vocals and you have one serious blues juggernaut! The emphasis here is on greasy, funky, down and dirty blues with a take no prisoners attitude. The Brothers Ruckus play all original material written by Mr. Banks and will be releasing a new record in the fall of 2019.


Freight Train Frank
(5:40 – 6:05) Solo/Duo

“Freight Train” Frank Strong was born in Council Bluffs, which was the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad. Frank began to play the guitar and harmonica at age 18, and for his entire career, the trains have influenced his music. As a VSA Arts of Iowa artist, Frank has developed a residence and performance program around the historical, economic and cultural impacts of the building and operation of the railroads, including the development of “Railroad Songs.” Frank and his wife, Jeanette, operate Southside Music Studio where he teaches harmonica. He has also served as a clinician for CIBS’ Blues in the Schools program. Frank has been a regular competitor in the Iowa Blues Challenge Solo/Duo Competition and has performed at CIBS monthly membership meetings. He can be seen playing the blues throughout the city. Since 2007, Frank has produced the Botanical Blues Series at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens, bringing the blues to one of Des Moines’ most beautiful settings, providing opportunities for scores of musicians to perform and exposing thousands to the music he loves.  Frank is a Class of 2019 inductee into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame.


Matt Panek & the
Electric Koolaid Trio
(6:15 – 6:40) Band

The Electric Koolaid Trio was formed in 2010 as an offshoot of BF Burt and the Instigators. Featuring three of the original members of the iconic eastern Iowa Blues band, they have expanded their repertoire to include more rock and Jam Band influences while still staying rooted in classic electric blues and soul. After a couple of years of honing their live shows they went into the studio released their self-titled CD in 2012. Featuring a mix of original music with covers of Otis Rush, Los Lobos, The Grateful Dead and others, the record was well received and played regularly on local blues radio shows.

In 2015 Matt took a gig as the rhythm guitar player in the Grateful Dead tribute band, Winterland, where he met Josh Weiner. Shortly thereafter, Josh was added to the lineup. Frequently The Trio performs with Iowa Blues Hall of Fame member Tommy T-Bone Giblin on keyboards. While not an official member of the group he joins in when he is available and he is featured on a handful of tracks on the CD.
The Electric Koolaid Trio is Matt Panek on Guitar and Vocals, John Lane on Bass Guitar & Joshua Weiner on Drums and Vocals.


Generation of Blues
(6:50 – 7:15) Solo/Duo

Though both Hal Reed and Kent Burnside were both raised in separate areas of Mississippi, both of their journeys have somehow brought them together in the state of Iowa.
Blues harpist, singer, and educator, Hal Reed currently lives in Davenport, IA, but he was born just a few miles from the Mississippi Delta and grew up surrounded by legends of blues music. His playing brims with the stamp of authenticity, having a triple-fisted influence of Mississippi, Gospel, and Chicago style blues pumping through his heart.  His first exposure to blues music was when he heard his grandfather Lucious Smith play—a southern folk-blues artist who taught Reed insightful glimpses into early 20th century African-American music culture. Also passing down generational natural talent was his father, James T. Reed, and his grandmother, who was a devout member of the local Pentecostal Church, and his uncle, the great Lester “Big Daddy” Kinsey.
Kent Burnside, now living in Des Moines, IA, was also hereditarily born into the blues. Though he was born in Memphis, TN, Kent Burnside was raised in Mississippi with a horde of musical influences. Kent is the grandson of legendary blues man R. L. Burnside, who began teaching him to play guitar when he was just 9-years-old. It is his genetic drive to pursue music and continue his family line of great musicians, not only because of his grandfather’s influences, but Kent is also the nephew of blues musicians Duwayne and Dan Burnside, and the cousin of blues performer Cedric Burnside.  Kent learned from the masters.

It’s a perfect partnership. These two bluesmen are passionate about the history of their art form and striving to keep the blues alive by sharing their vast musical roots, while also adding their own version of the family blues form.  Before passing, R.L. and gave Kent a piece of important advice: “You gotta take a groove and just keep on driving it ‘til you come up with your own style.” And that’s exactly what Generations of Blues is attaining to do.


Avey/Grouws Band
(7:25 – 7:50) Band

Avey/Grouws Band hits hard with their gritty take on Blues, Blues Rock & Americana. After meeting at a blues jam in the Quad Cities, they formed and won the 2017 Iowa Blues Challenge. AGB started 2018 by making it to the semi-finals at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis and releasing their EP, “Road to Memphis”. It’s been a busy year for the band, including festivals such as Boogie, Blues & Brews in Yuma, AZ, Port Charlotte Chili, Brews and Blues Festival in Punta Gorda, FL, Bowlful of Blues, North Liberty Blues Fest, Smokin’ in Steele, Blues on the Chippewa and many more. With a deep connection to the Quad Cities and the music of the Mississippi River, AGB is proud to be taking the main stage at this year’s Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Passionate, powerful and always playful, Avey/Grouws Band is here to make music…and to have a good time doin’ it. Avey/Grouws Band is Chris Avey, Jeni Grouws, Bryan West, Randy Leasman and Nick Vasquez.


Billylee Janey
(8:00 – 8:25) Solo/Duo

Billylee recorded his first record in 1972 and another in 1973 which included “Pontiac Blues” by Sonny Boy Williamson.  In 1975 he recorded a full-scale album titledNo Rest for the Wickedwith his blues-rock trio Truth ‘N Janey which has achieved near-cult status internationally. The group would go on to record two more records.  Additionally Billylee has performed in numerous other groups over the years, including: the Driving Wheel Blues Band, Enoch Smokey, the Billylee Janey Group, Dennis McMurrin & the Demolition Band, the Janeys (a ma/pa/son trio), Blue Janey, Molly Nova & the Hawk, the Ernie Peniston Band, Billylee Janey’s Compact 3, and as a special guest of the Blue Band.

Billylee has had the occasions to perform with blues luminaries Buddy Guy, Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, Bo Diddley, Kenny Neal and the Kinsey Report. He’s toured with Leslie West.  A few of the festivals he’s played at include: Bellevue, Chicago Blues Fest, Court Avenue Blues Fest,  Living History Blues Fest, Rollin’ on the River, Mississippi Valley Blues Fest, Iowa City Jazz Fest, Sturgis Falls and Bluesmore.

Billylee was inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Association’s Hall of Fame for his work with Truth “N Janey.  He is a Class of 2012 Inductee into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame.  His recordings have been reviewed in Living Blues, Blues Reviewand Blues Access.  He’s performed on Iowa Public Television.  He spent time both as a music promoter in the early ‘90s and as a stage hand working shows by Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Thorogood.  He’s recorded with Carol Thomas as well as with fellow IBHOF inductees Sam Salomone, Bob Dorr and Patrick Hazell.  He’s been teaching blues guitar at West Music for the past 13 years.


Tom Buckmiller & the Tone Tailors
(8:35 – 9:00) Band

Tom Buckmiller and the Tone Tailors is a 6-piece band from the west metro of Des Moines. Tom Buckmiller, guitar and vocals, teaches a Blues class at Drake University and is the song writer for the group. Dr. Sarah Ling is a family physician in Dallas-Center and has recorded 2 previous CDs. She is a member of band Jimmy the Weasel and is the lead singer.  Lead guitar duties are handled by Brian Schwager who is from West Des Moines and a graduate of Mcnally Smith College of Music with a specialization in trumpet. Jim “Jive” Willits has been playing drums in a band for 50 years and now drums with Jimmy the Weasel.  Marian Martuello plays sax for the group and on most weekends can be found playing with Stark Raging Madge. She has a BA in music education from UNI.  Eric Smidt works from the Ames School district, owns a photography/videography business, and plays bass for Jimmy the Weasel.


PLEASE NOTE: Because of the limited number of acts registered for the blues challenge statewide, ALL previously scheduled preliminary rounds were cancelled and all acts will compete at the FINALS only.