The Paul CruiZe Blues Crew on Their Trials and Triumphs at the International Blues Challenge

Categories: Blues

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B.B. King's joint in Memphis.

Besides his issues with the judging, Cruize also dealt with a stomach virus and freezing weather while in Memphis for the IBC. The first night of the event, for instance, was 18 degrees with 40 mile per hour winds and it was several days before the temperature would rise above 30 degrees.

"The streets were empty," he says. "With 255 bands playing you would think the streets would be busy but it was so cold everybody was staying inside."

Nevertheless, Cruize says the experience of participating in the IBC and being in Memphis was amazing.

"I felt the presence of all the great musicians who have played [there] -- Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King," he says. "It had that flavor of all the greats and a lot of places had the memorabilia."

Cruize adds that the people were friendly and the blues camaraderie was great. The IBC was held at a multitude of clubs along the famous Beale Street, all within blocks of one other. He and his bandmates was able to watch performances at Rum Boogie, Hard Rock Café, Orpheum Theater, Blues City Café and Club 152.

Cruize says that every one of the 200-odd bands that competed in the IBC were above average, even if they weren't purely blues, such as an ensemble from Poland performing '50s sock hop boogie.

"They were good, but they weren't bluesy enough for some," Cruize says.

His favorite band, however, was Kevin Purcell and the Night Burners from Chicago.

"They had a great fiddle player. It was traditional Chicago blues with a fiddle," Cruize says.

The experience of being at the IBC was worth going through the process of winning the Arizona Blues Showdown, which is put on every fall at the Rhythm Room by the Phoenix Blues Society and determines which local band will represent the state. The society also held fundraisers to help get the Paul CruiZe Blues Crew to Memphis, including covering everything but their hotel.

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The Paul CruiZe Blues Crew performs at the Arizona Blues Challenge in October.

"We thank them for their support," Cruize says. "Not just the money. They gave us a lot of well wishes and atta boys. They kept up with us the whole time and we are grateful for their help."

Jim Crawford, president of the society, wrote in one of the organization's more recent newsletters that Cruize's band "flat had 'em dancing in the aisles."

"Congratulations on a job well done," Crawford added.

Next up for Cruize and company is a gig at the society's annual Blues Blast in early March in downtown Phoenix before hitting the festival circuit. The band also plans to have a CD out by the summer.

For now, he and his bandmates are enjoying looking back at the IBC.

"It was a lot of fun and laughter," Cruize says.

The Paul CruiZe Blues Crew is scheduled to perform during Blues Blast 2014 on Saturday, March 8, at Margaret T. Hance Park.

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Margaret T. Hance Park

1134 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

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