Blues Challenge declares hometown victor

by Brian Clarey

Blues Challenge declares hometown victor

Every year the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society holds a throwdown to see who will represent the society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. And every year the gunslingers come out to show the judges what they’ve got. Past winners include local luminaries Allison King and Matt Hill, as well as performers from other parts of the state and its surrounding environs.

But this year the winner is once again a Greensboro act, the Charlley Ward Band, and no, that is not typo — that’s how he spells his name.

Ward, along with bandmates Rodney Hudson (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), AJ Diggs (bass, vocals) and Karim riochardson (drums) will be headed to Memphis on the society’s dime in January.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Ward, a drama teacher at Penn- Griffin School of the Arts, after the judges rendered their decision.

It is not Ward’s first rodeo. In 1992 his bands the Bull City Syndicate won the challenge and the trip to Tennessee.

Second place went to Jake Haldenwang & Hwy 61 ( from Tega Cay, SC, fronted by 14 year-old lead guitarist/vocalist Jake

Haldenwang. The youngsert, according to his mother, has been enticed to play the guitar after listening to Muddy Waters and Albert King. His father John, who owned the blues albums Jake was reared on, plays harmonica and sings with the band.

Third place went to old Greensboro hands Lawyers, Guns and Money, consisting of Terry VunCannon on guitar, bandleader Stan Atwell on bass and vocals, guitarist Rob Slater and drummer Mike Thomas. If you’re a local blues fan, you no doubt recognize these names — in fact Thomas, Slater and VunCannon finished third in last year’s PBPS competition under the name All Blues.

For more information on the acts, the society and the blues, go to the PBPS website,