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The Chicago Blues Challenge

The Chicago Blues Challenge (CBC) is a musical competition for Chicago area blues musicians. The winner of this competition represents the Windy City Blues Society in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) every January in the Beale St. Historic District.


The winner of this competition
will be announced Nov. 8
at  CBC competition @ Legends.

NOV. 8 @ 530pm
Buddy Guy’s Legends

THE BANDS (each will play 25 minutes)

  • Charlie Love and the Silky Smooth Blues Band
  • Doug James and the Pocket
  • Katz Sass
  • Kevin Purcell and the Nightburners
  • LaJa’
  • Marty “Big Dog” Mercer
  • Mz Peachez and Her Casanovas
  • R.C. and the 3rd Shift
  • Street Jaxkson Band

Steve Temkin
from WNUR, the Northwestern University radio station

The bands are listed above in alphabetical order. The order that they will play during the competition will be determined by random drawing the day of the show. We will not have a Solo/Duet competition this year, but Bo Ricketts will open the show with a 20-minute set and Bill Grady will close the event with a 20-minute set.

WCBS supports the winning musicians by sponsoring them at the IBC. WCBS will provide a portion of the musician(s) travel expenses to Memphis for the Band and Solo/Duo competitions.


The WCBS will help the winning band in each division get to Memphis to represent us at the International Blues Challenge Jan. 26-30, 2016. If you do well in Memphis, some fame and possible fortune will likely follow. If nothing else, you’ll have a great time in another great blues town.


There is a $25 entry fee and you must send in both the application form and the parental consent form (see links below).

The 2015 Chicago Blues Challenge Youth Showcase
Tuesday, Nov. 10 @ 8 pm
Columbia College (1014 S. Michigan, Room 411).
Seated is very limited

NOTE: You must download the form and save it to your computer before you can fill it in.


ENTRY FEE: $25.00


Send your check to:
PO Box 7389
Chicago, IL 60680-7389

The Windy City Blues Society is not responsible for lost, stolen, damaged or delayed mail.

QUESTIONS? windycitybluessociety@gmail.com



To compete in the annual Chicago Blues Challenge, your band must:

  • be based in the Chicagoland area or perform regularly in the Chicagoland area. The WCBS defines the Chicagoland area as within a 150 mile radius from the intersection of State and Madison in Chicago
  • commit to go to Memphis to represent the Windy City Blues Society and Chicago at the 31st International Blues Challenge, Jan. 20- 24 in the Beale St. Historic District. Tickets available for the IBC in early October.

Performers can:

  • only compete as band leader in one division
  • can be a sideman with more than one band, but the sideman must disclose that they are working with more than one band to each bandleader and the WCBS

Winners may NOT compete as the same musical act if they have already won two years in a row. This rule mirrors the Memphis IBC rule.

This is a live music competition. Therefore, performers who play to “backing tracks” of recorded music during their live performances will not be considered for competition.

Winners of any division of the any previous Chicago Blues Challenge Finals are eligible to compete in the 2014 CBC.

Performers are not eligible if they have ever won or been nominated for a Blues Music Award (formerly the W.C. Handy Award).

Scoring Guidelines

The Chicago Blues Challenge is a timed and judged event.  Musical acts play 30-minute sets and are scored from 1 – 10 in each of five weighted categories:

  • Blues Content (multiplied by 4)
  • Vocal Talent (multiplied by 3)
  • Instrumental Talent (multiplied by 3)
  • Stage Presence (multiplied by 2)
  • Originality (multiplied by 2)

1 – 3 Typical of a beginning blues band

4 – 5 Typical of a local weekend band

6 – 7 Typical of an advanced local band not yet ready to headline major blues club.

8 – 9 Typical of the quality of blues artists who headline major clubs.

10 Typical of bands on the main stage at major blues festivals (such as Chicago or King Biscuit)


2014 Wrap-Up

The Windy City Blues Society was proud to send two of Chicago’s finest down to Memphis to represent us at the International Blues Challenge Jan. 20-24.

Charlie Love and the Silky Smooth Blues Band won the 2014 Chicago Blues Challenge and made it into the semi-finals at the IBC.

We also sent Will Tillson to the IBC Youth Showcase.


The Black Oil Brothers
Charlie Love and the Silky Smooth Blues Band
The Gary Stratton Blues Band
Jamiah “On Fire” and the Red Machine
Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama
Larry Taylor Blues and Soul Band
LT McGee and the Homewreckers





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