SUNDAY – SEP 18 2022 @ 1-6PM
Lefty’s Live Music, 2307 University Ave, DM
2022 Iowa Blues Challenge

Congratulations to the 2022 Iowa Blues Challenge champions: Tom Spielbauer (solo/duo) and the Ronley King Blues Band (band)! Both acts will represent Iowa at the 2023 International Blues Challenge to be held January 24-28, 2023 on historic Beale Street in Memphis, TN!

Join us for the 2022 Iowa Blues Challenge on September 18 at Lefty’s Live Music in Des Moines, IA. Cover charge at the door is $5. This year’s challenge consists of four Solo/Duo acts and four Bands. The performance schedule is as follows.

1:00-1:20 BAND
Avey Grouws Band

1:35-1:55 SOLO/DUO
The Beggars Bargain

2:10-2:30 BAND
The Neighbors

2:45-3:05 SOLO/DUO
Frank Strong & Cindy Grill

3:35-3:55 BAND
Buckmiller Schwager Band

4:10-4:30 SOLO/DUO
Tom Spielbauer

4:45-5:05 BAND
Ronley King Blues Band

5:20-5:40 SOLO/DUO
Dewey Cantrell

Participating acts will be vying for a prize package that includes cash, opportunities for paid gigs (including but not limited to the 2023 Winter Blues Fest) and travel expense stipend for the 2023 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, presented by The Blues Foundation.

The Central Iowa Blues Society is an Affiliate of the Blues Foundation, which produces the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. The International Blues Challenge will be held January 24-28, 2023.




1:00-1:20 – BAND
Avey Grouws Band

Avey Grouws Band formed along the Mighty Mississippi River on the Iowa side of the Quad Cities. Though the members of the AGB have wide and varied backgrounds in music, they come together in their love and admiration for blues and roots music. Sophomore album, “Tell Tale Heart”, was recorded in Nashville, TN with Grammy award winner, Casey Wasner (Keb’ Mo’, Taj Mahal) during the pandemic. Released September 2021, “Tell Tale Heart” debuted #7 on the Billboard Blues Album chart. Avey Grouws Band also hit #10 on the Billboard Blues Album chart with their 2020 debut album, “The Devil May Care”. Called “one of the Midwest’s hottest acts” by Nashville Music Guide, Avey Grouws Band hit the mark with their gritty sound, crafted songwriting and powerful, engaging show.

1:35-1:55 – SOLO/DUO
The Beggars Bargain

Two piece band that was founded in 2021. Joe Bach and Micah Spurlock started playing music as soon as Micah moved to Des Moines from Texas. Since then, they have put together a mixture of covers and original music and enjoy performing around the Des Moines area. The Beggars’ Bargain have their own sound rooted in blues, folk, and rock n’ roll.

2:10-2:30 – BAND
The Neighbors

The Neighbors play upbeat blues and classic rock music. Our main objective is to play music that will get our audience grooving and smiling while we have fun making music together. Come party with the Neighbors!

2:45-3:05 – SOLO/DUO
Frank Strong & Cindy Grill

“Hot Tamale” Cindy Grill is a well-established blues singer with many years of fronting her Blues band as Hot Tamale and the Red Hots. Cindy has performed throughout the United States in many venues including the Apollo Theater in New York City. Cindy has performed with many other great Blues musicians.

“Freight Train” Frank is a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. Frank is a member of the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame. Frank found his love of the Blues when he was a small child. Frank performs frequently at restaurants, schools, and festivals. For the past 17 years, Frank has coordinated the Botanical Blues concert series at the Des Moines Botanical Garden.

3:35-3:55 – BAND
Buckmiller Schwager Band

The Buckmiller Schwager Band has been busy playing across Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota. They’ve played the staged at the Des Moines Arts Fest, Earlham Levitt Music Series, Fresh Air Fest, Bondu Blues & Brews Fest, and have opened for Paul Nelson and Shannon Curfman. Their new CD “To Memphis and Back” was nominated for a Blues Blast Award for “Best New Artist Debut”. After winning the 2021 Iowa Blue Challenge as a duo, Buckmiller and Schwager advanced all the way to the semi-finals of the International Blues Challenge on Beale Street in Memphis TN.

4:10-4:30 – SOLO/DUO
Tom Spielbauer

Tom Spielbauer is a delta blues musician who plays a foot drum and slide guitar in the style of musicians such as Elmore James and R.L. Burnside. He is a prolific songwriter and is known for playing boot-stompin blues boogie as the lead player in the Iowa roots band Cedar County Cobras and recently has played as a solo act in Clarksdale, Mississippi and several Midwest venues and festivals. He has over twenty years of playing blues and rock n’ roll 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. For more on Tom and his other projects find him online at

4:45-5:05 – BAND
Ronley King Blues Band

Ronley King is a guitar player and singer based out of Central Iowa. While he has played for many different types of acts locally, and regionally, his heart and playing style has always been centered in the blues. After longing to get back to playing this style of music for many years, in 2021 he formed the Ronley King Blues Band. Backed by seasoned musicians; Ethridge Netz on bass, and Kaleb Ferry on Drums, they bring a variety of musical influences to the table while honoring the spirit and traditions of the blues.

5:20-5:40 – SOLO/DUO
Dewey Cantrell

Dewey Cantrell is a blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter from Des Moines, IA. Originally influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter, along with the British invasion of blues influenced guitar rock of the 60s and 70s, he first picked up a guitar more than 50 years ago and has never put it down since. He loves blues and blues-based rock but has really embraced
finger-style acoustic blues over the last decade. Dewey’s songwriting covers the spectrum of emotion and life experiences–from good times to pain and loss, to sentimental, to tongue-in-cheek humor.

Call for Acts

The Central Iowa Blues Society is seeking acts for the 2022 Iowa Blues Challenge. This competition will decide who will represent Iowa in the 2023 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN where up to 250 acts from around the world converge on Beale Street to perform before music industry pros searching for new talent, with the chance to win prizes, notable gigs, and make career-changing contacts!

Iowa Blues Challenge applications are available now. We will begin accepting submissions on a first come first serve basis beginning July 1st. NOTE: We cannot accept applications prior to the July 1st date. 

  • Application AVAILABLE NOW download above
  • Application SUBMISSION begins July 1, 2022 (do not submit before July 1st)
  • Application DEADLINE is August 15, 2022

NOTE: the application is a fillable PDF. You will need to save to your
device and then complete it and SAVE again to retain the information.
Once completed and saved, submit with your high resolution photo.

Please contact the Iowa Blues Challenge Chair with questions.
Julie Spong — 515-401-8495 or

How to Compete – Important Information

  • Up to FOUR Bands will be chosen to participate
  • Up to FOUR Solo/Duo acts will be chosen to participate
  • There must be three entries in each category to hold the competition
  • Only Acts with a COMPLETED application will be accepted; meaning all sections of the application must be completed and photo submitted
  • Completed applications should be emailed to Julie Spong at


  • An act may enter the IBC a maximum of three times after which they are no longer eligible
  • An act may not participate In the IBC three consecutive years
  • Acts are limited to the state of Iowa

Performance Categories

  • Band: any act with more than two members
  • Solo/Duo: any act with only one or two members

Equipment Provided

  • A PA system, mic, drum kits and throne
  • Drummers may bring their own throne, cymbals, snare, and kick pedal

Time Limits

  • Each act is allotted 20 minutes for their performance. Timing begins when the first note is played
  • Please review all rules and scoring criteria at


Acts in the Central Iowa Blues Challenge perform for a panel of independent judges and are scored using the same criteria used by the Blues Foundation at the IBC. You can find the rules and criteria at: The highest scoring act in each category will be our representatives.

Prize Packages