Uptown’s 3rd Street Blues Band made the trip from Third Street to Beale Street … and beyond

On Jan. 17, 2018, at 11:30 p.m., the Uptown Music Collective’s van pulled out of the parking area behind the nonprofit music school on Third Street and headed south. Packed inside were the members of the 3rd Street Blues Band, who were on their way to take part in the International Blues Challenge’s Youth Showcase on historic Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.

The 3rd Street Blues Band, which was formed 2016, was put together with the goal of teaching the members to play the Blues the old-fashioned way. By studying the music of the masters, and then performing it regularly in front of live audiences, all under the watchful eyes of the Uptown Music Collective staff.

Little did they know that they would learn their lessons so well that they would earn the opportunity to travel down to Memphis, and Clarksdale, Mississippi, and perform what they worked so hard to learn in front of Blues fans from all over the world. Let alone have the opportunity to meet and play for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Miami Steve Van Zandt, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, who evaluated their Beale Street performance at the Legendary club, the Rum Boogie Cafe.

“Connecting today’s youth to that tradition is extremely important to our organization, both as a way of preserving the history and as an important touchstone in the continuing evolution of our music,” said UMC founder and executive director, Dave Brumbaugh. “The Blues is the key ingredient in the melting pot of American music. Without its crushed notes, its mournful cries, and joyful celebration of life’s hardships, American Music wouldn’t be what it is today.”

The journey took the group first to Nashville to visit UMC Alumni Torey Harding for a conversation and a tour of Starstruck Entertainment, which manages the careers of Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson among others. There they also had dinner with up and coming country singer and UMC Alumnus Morgan Myles, before pushing on to Memphis where they performed at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street.

While in Memphis, the members of 3rd Street got to meet and chat with blues legend B.B. King’s daughter and fellow blues performer, Shirley King. Known as the “Daughter of The Blues,” Ms. King imparted wisdom and encouragement to the band before their Youth Showcase performance. The group also received a more traditional education, by touring the Rock and Soul Museum, Stax Record Museum, Sun Studios (where Elvis recorded his first record), and visiting the Lorraine Hotel (where Dr. King was assassinated) before heading down to Clarksdale, Mississippi, the epicenter of the Blues and visiting bluesman, Robert Johnson’s gravesite.

The trip was capped off with a visit to Red’s Night Club, one of the last of the traditional Mississippi Juke Joints, where the group brought smiles to the faces of the locals and tourists alike when they performed on the sacred ground of Red’s stage, and jammed with Red’s regulars Mark “Muleman” Massey and Grammy Award Winner Billy Earheart.

The group then spent the night in the Riverside Hotel, famed for providing lodging for Blues artists such as Robert Lockwood Jr., Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and many more.

“The purpose of all of our programs at the Uptown Music Collective is to make a lasting visceral connection between our students and music,” said Brumbaugh. “I can’t imagine a stronger connection than the one formed during this epic Blues journey. It’s a cause set in motion by the generous donations of our community and the support of the Billtown Blues Association, without whom this trip would not have been possible, and to whom we are extremely grateful.”

The 3rd Street Blues Band is made up of Williamport Area High School Junior Shayne Williams, vocal and bass); Jersey Shore Area High School Sophomore Cade Palmatier, guitar; Williamsport Area High School Senior Justin Warrender, guitar; Williamsport Area High School Freshman Izzy Brumbaugh, keyboards; and Danville High School Junior, Tate Berkey, drums.