MEMPHIS - John "JT Blues" Thompson came up short Saturday in his bid to win the solo-duo division at the International Blues Challenge.
The Bellefonte-based pianist-songwriter's efforts in the event were impressive, nonetheless
He becomes only the third act - and first solo performer - sponsored by the Billtown Blues Association to make it to the final round of the competition.
Bellefonte-based pianist-songwriter John “JT Blues” Thompson performs Friday night on Beale Street in Memphis during the semi-finals of the International Blues Challenge. Thompson won the semi-final round, qualifying him to compete in the challenge finals in the solo-duo category on Saturday.
"I feel very honored the Billtown Blues people chose to send me (to Memphis) and I feel I represented them very well," he said Sunday.
Earlier in the week, Thompson said he was attending the challenge as much to make friends as to take a shot at the first place prize.
In that context, the week was more than a success, he said.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Sun-Gazette reporter David Thompson is in Memphis preparing to compete this week in the International Blues Challenge with his band Miz Ida and the All-Nightas. Thompson and his band mates are representing the Billtown Blues Association at the competition.)
"It didn't feel like a competition. There was a great sense of comraderie with all the musicians here," he said.
Thompson said his strong showing was all the more special because it happened the year the Billtown Blues Association was presented a Keeping the Blues Alive Award by the Blues Foundation.
The award was presented in recognition of the association's more than two decades of promoting blues music in the region.
"I feel like it was a nice double whammy for the association to receive that and have one of the guys in the finals," Thompson said.
Thompson echoed my own feeling when he said, "I had a great time. I hate to leave."
It would be hard to pick a highlight in a week that had so many highlights, he said.
One of those highlights, for me, has to be the semi-final round set that propelled Thompson into the finals.
For 30 minutes, Thompson had a packed house at Silky O'Sullivan's on Beale Street on the edge of their seats, drawn not only by his talents as a musician by also his timing and sense of humor.
There were plenty in his corner, including officers of the Billtown Blues Association, members of Miz Ida and the All-Nightas and other local fans who made the trip to cheer him on.
Thompson also has a talent for making friends.
Others who were on hand to offer him their support included members of the Voodoo Blues Crew, a New Orleans-based blues association, and John Stilwagen, a pianist who also was competing against Thompson at the venue as part of the duo Big Jim Adam and John Stilwagen.
Also on hand for the show were 2006 IBC solo-duo winner and Yellow Dog Records recording artist Eden Brent, and legendary harmonica player Lee Oskar, who recorded hit records in the 1970s with the band War.
"The Billtown Blues Association is extremely proud of how well JT did at the International Blues Challenge," said Thomas Butler, a past vice president of the association. "We congratulate him on his great showing."
Those who haven't seen a JT Blues show will have a chance to do so from 8 to 11 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Bullfrog Brewery.
He also will be accompanying Ann Kerstetter and Her Band of Cronies during the Pennsylvania College of Technology Blues Fest from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday at the College Field House, and with just Ann Kerstetter from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Skeeter's Pit BBQ, Selinsgrove.