Local blues and R&B ensemble Lil Red & Big Bad won the second annual New Orleans Voodoo Blues Challenge on Friday at Rock ’n’ Bowl, earning a spot in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., in February.
Photo by Matthew Schlenker
Lil Red & Big Bad vocalist Nancy Gros, at right, accepts a check after her band won the New Orleans Voodoo Blues Challenge at Rock ‘n’ Bowl last weekend.
The Voodoo Blues Krewe New Orleans Blues Society staged the challenge, which was broadcast live by WWOZ. Judges included Grammy Award-winning musician and actor Chris Thomas King, pianist and Rabadash Records founder John Autin, and pianist, singer and songwriter Leslie Smith.
Lil Red & Big Bad, consisting of singer Nancy Gros, guitarists Charlie Hermann and Jeff Ruello, bassist Sandy Maillho, drummer Willie Panker, saxophonist Marc Ballard and keyboardist Greg Villafranco, prevailed over the Danny Alexander Blues Band, Ernie Vincent & the Top Notes and Joe Simon’s Big 3.
Lil Red’s winning set included Junior Wells, Roosevelt Sykes, Slim Harpo and James Brown covers, as well as an original composition, “Shoes for My Blues.” “I’m trying to get to the next level,” Gros said. “I’m blessed to work with these guys. I’m really happy and proud.” As winners, they received $1,000 to help cover expenses for the trip to Memphis.
In August, Owen “Big Daddy O” Tufts won the solo/duo category of the Voodoo Blues Challenge; he’ll also travel to Memphis in February. Tufts performed as a special guest at last weekend’s contest, as did Little Freddie King. Both the city and state honored King with proclamations, and he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Additionally, the Voodoo Blues Krewe presented King with its Snooks Eaglin Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lil Red & Big Bad perform Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. at the free Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival in Lafayette Square downtown. Owen “Big Daddy O” performs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at the festival.