BEST BETS: Central Delaware Blues Society hitting a Soul Patch

Members of Tom Craig and the Soul Patch Band, from left, keyboard player Eric Johnson, tenor sax player Vince Gleason, bassist Rando Branning, drummer John O’Connell, lead singer and guitarist Tom Craig and baritone saxophone player Sklyer Hagner, will perform at Sunday’s Central Delaware Blues Society fundraiser to help them pay for a trip to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. (Submitted photo)

Not many outsiders would think of tiny Delaware and especially the middle part of the state as a hotbed for blues music.

But they probably haven’t asked Tom Craig.

Mr. Craig, leader of Tom Craig and The Soul Patch Band from the Philadelphia area, is headed to the prestigious International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, Jan. 31-Feb. 4, helped in part by the Central Delaware Blues Society.

Having learned only a few months ago about the IBC and the opportunity it offers bands to win prizes, including cash, studio time and booking into major music festivals, Mr. Craig searched for a blues society that would help him and his 2-year-old group.

The search bore fruit when he came upon the CDBS and its October Battle of the Bands.

They competed against four other groups for the chance and came out the winner at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia.

Blues fans will get to hear his band and more Sunday at Jonathan’s Landing in the third annual International Blues Challenge fundraiser starting at 12:30 p.m.

Mr. Craig said he found the local competition extremely gratifying.

“I remember pulling into the parking lot and getting butterflies. I don’t usually get those at this point,” said the longtime singer and guitarist.

“The people we met that day were just incredible. Charlie Rickner, of Barrelhouse Blues Band, played just before us and said to me ‘I’m going down to Memphis either way, so good luck.’ I felt the same way. I was going down either way too.

“We gave each other a big hug since there was no sense in being adversaries. It was a very friendly day and that blues society does everything right from the sound to the enthusiasm of the crowd.”

Four blues experts judged the competition and declared Mr. Craig’s band the winner.

“It was really exhilarating. We really appreciated being welcomed as we were. We were outsiders. Any of the local bands could have won but they picked us,” he said.

Barry Pugh, the president of the Central Delaware Blues Society, said the band deserved the victory.

“It was a very close competition. All four bands were all really good but they were best that day,” he said.

“They have representation of horns and a Hammond organ, great singing and guitar playing and all-around great musicians. I believe they are going to do very well in Memphis.”

Along with Barrelhouse, the Soul Patch Band competed against the Blues Reincarnation Project and The Billy Pierce Band.

Mr. Craig and drummer John O’Connell have been partners in blues and roots music for the past decade.

For this band, they’ve teamed up with Eric Johnson on Hammond organ, tenor saxophonist

Radka Kasparcova will perform Sunday at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia. (Submitted photo)

Vince Gleason, bass guitarist Rando Brannon and baritone saxophonist Skyler Hagner. All are from Philadelphia, South Jersey or the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, area.

They are influenced by classic Memphis soul by the likes of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Al Green, as well as retro R&B music from James Hunter and Mayer Hawthorne.

Although he’s played a variety of genres, including jazz and classic rock, Mr. Craig said he’s always been a blues guy.

“My very first record when I was 11 was ‘Bobby Blue Bland and B.B. King Live at the Copa.’ That was the first year I got a guitar. Once I heard that record, I knew that blues was going to be a big thing in my life,” he said.

“I also saw the Blues Brothers at the Mann Music Center and they would mention other blues acts and I went to Sam Goody to buy as many blues albums as I could.

“I remember once being in Guitar Center with my son and seeing pictures of Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix and pointing to the picture of Clapton and saying ‘He’s the guy who taught me how to play the guitar’ and then pointing to Jimi and saying ‘He’s the one who taught him how to play the guitar.’ When you trace the roots back like that, it’s pretty cool.”

About 275 acts play the four-day IBC. The Central Delaware Blues Society is contributing $2,000 to the band’s cause while they have raised another $2,800 themselves.

Mr. Craig said they are in it to win it.

“Our goal is to take it as far as we can and do the Central Delaware Blues Society proud. I want to make sure I enjoy the experience but we definitely want to take advantage of all it has to offer,” Mr. Craig said.

This will be Mr. Pugh’s fourth year in Memphis.

“It’s really a chance for a band to take their act on the road and give them an opportunity for recording time, festivals and if they play their cards right, they will be making a full-time living at this, which is the goal of any band,” he said.

Acts play 20-minute sets the first two nights and then see if they qualify for the next two nights.

“I really think these guys can take the next step to Friday night without any issue and then hopefully the final night on Saturday, which is at the Orpheum Theater,” said Mr. Pugh, who will also be in Memphis to scout and book talent for upcoming CDBS shows at Jonathan’s Landing.

Sunday’s fundraiser will feature 18-year-old Radka Kasparvova, from Collegeville, Pa., as well as local acts Garry Cogdell, Bad Juju, the Joey Fulkerson Trio, Barrelhouse and finally Tom Craig and the Soul Patch Band starting at 5:30 p.m.

As they will in Memphis, look for the Soul Patch Band to perform songs off their first album of original material called “Get Ready for Me,” due for release very soon.

A Joe Bonamassa guitar will also be raffled off. The society has been selling tickets for the last five months and tickets will be available until about 6:35 p.m. Sunday. There will also be a “Chance Raffle” with items suitable for Christmas gifts.

Jonathan’s Landing, in conjunction with June Jam, is also supporting the Toys for Tots program and will have a gift barrel for donations of an unwrapped toy.

Cash donations will go to the blues society to help get the Soul Patch Band to Memphis and also to produce the summer Roadhouse Bluesfest, which next year will take place on July 22 at Jonathan’s Landing.

Tickets for Sunday’s event are $10 for blues society members and $15 for nonmembers. Jonathan’s Landing is at 1309 Ponderosa Drive, Magnolia. For more information, visit centraldelawareblues.com.

Firefly fodder

Folks from the Firefly Music Festival announced this week an expansion of fan engagement and interaction. Through a variety of consumer-focused initiatives including fan surveys, votes and contests, Firefly has become the first fan-curated music festival.

Firefly organizers will be incorporating fan feedback into major decisions and changes for the festival going forward. Examples of fan voting options include the lineup, merchandise designs and products, attractions, cocktails and food and camping and festival amenities.

“We couldn’t be more excited to further evolve the roots on which Firefly was built: the fans,” said Christiane Pheil, director of Creative Programming at Red Frog Events.

“We’ve always emphasized the importance of producing a festival for our guests, and now we’ll be the first festival to truly give fans a voice and the ability to guide the future of Firefly.”

The 2017 edition of Firefly Music Festival will take place June 15-18 at The Woodlands of Dover. Ticket sales and the lineup will be announced in early 2017, officials say. Four-day General Admission passes will go on sale at the initial price of $289 and VIP at $699. General tent camping will start at $169.

To create a profile and begin voting on a variety of attractions and topics for Firefly 2017, fans can head to FireflyFestival.com and view the Community Page

Getting a Jump

Annie Jump Cannon, the renowned astronomer from Dover, will be getting a special honor Sunday at Parke Green Galleries at 331 S. State St., near The Green in Dover, as the South Gallery will be named for her.

Linda Chatfield, in the guise of Ms. Cannon, will be on hand to talk about the astronomer’s life.

Despite a hearing impairment, Ms. Cannon spent her life naming the stars. The Wesley College graduate was born in Dover on Dec. 11 and first saw the stars up close with her mother in their State Street home. Her home was recently placed on the Register of Historic Places and a bronze plaque was installed this year for all visitors to easily locate her residence at 34 S. State St.

“Miss Cannon” will arrive at Parke Green Sunday at noon with a 2 p.m. dedication. She will do a short talk at 2:15 followed by a 2:50 grave visit. Her home will be open to the public at 3 p.m. and then cake at Parke Green Galleries at 3.

For more information, call 674-1787.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the comedy “Office Christmas Party,” the suspense-thriller “Miss Sloane” and the romantic comedy “The Bounce Back.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the superhero-laden “Suicide Squad,” “Miss Pergrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” “Bridget Jones’ Baby” and Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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