BY JAMES COOK
BUCKLEY — Phil Coryell is aiming for a three-peat.
The blues musician will be participating in Saturday's Northern Michigan Blues Challenge at the Southside Hideout in Buckley.
Coryell has been involved with each of the past two winners — Sub-Prime Blues Band two years ago and the Bacon & Eggs Blues Band last year. This time around, he's with the Lou Thunder Blues Band — and hoping for a third straight trip to Memphis to represent the region in the International Blues Challenge.
"Bacon & Eggs' keyboard player was a younger guy, and he couldn't get time off of work," Coryell said. "The Bacon & Eggs Blues Band is a band I played with a few years back, and I was pretty familiar with players and the music, so they called me up and said, 'Can you do this in a pinch?'
"Having been there once, I couldn't turn down the opportunity to go back. I'm hoping for a third year."
The event starts at 3 p.m. — although that could be moved up if additional acts are added — and is slated for a 1 a.m. close. Admission is a suggested $5 donation.
NMBS representative David Fox said the group — which just got the name back after operating as the Mid-North Michigan Blues Society for years — is hoping to eventually have memberships and education opportunities.
"Something I've been a strong advocate for is to have a strong education program so we keep educating the younger kids as to what the blues is and its history," Fox said. "I'm a life member of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society out of Davenport, Iowa, and they're very big in their education programs — very active writing grants."
The event will pit six bands and nine solo/duo acts against each other for the right to go to Memphis.
The bands entered are the East Bay Blue Band, Lou Thunder Blues Band, Standing Hamptons, 12 Year Reunion, Oliver & Friends and Wild Sullys. The solo/duo acts include Calvin Manus, Hipps & Ricco, Jack Elliott, Robert Abate Solo, Laren Corie, Coyote Slim and Fred Dragon, SweetWater Blues, Kayla Jo and Bob Fawcett. The winner in each category goes to Memphis.
Coryell said he immensely enjoyed his previous two trips to Memphis. Regional winners are guaranteed two performances at the IBC, and he said the acts frequently hang around afterward to jam together on stage.
"I'm a harmonica player, and some of my most favorite and influential harmonica players got their start in Memphis," said Coryell, a retired Benzie Central grade school teacher who lives in Onekama. "It was pretty neat to play and walk the same Beale Street that they did years ago."
Southside will also offer a Blues BBQ menu for the event, which runs from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.