Local blues band won People’s Choice Award for the ‘Road to Memphis IBC Challenge’
The Marty Stokes Band was presented with the People’s Choice Award for the “Road to Memphis International Blues Challenge” on Aug. 7. The competition was held at the Rhythm House in Fort Myers and was sponsored by the Southwest Florida Blues Society.
Now, the band is set to compete at the 33rd annual International Blues Challenge Jan. 31 through Feb. 4, 2017, on historic Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn. The competition is the largest gathering of blues musicians at one time in the world.
“We got between now and February to put together a winning strategy. I’m not going up there to not win,” said Marty Stokes, who is the guitarist and lead vocals of the band.
Along with Stokes, the band is comprised of Jennifer Mazziotti (saxophone), Daryl Best (guitar) and Carveth Clauson (drums).
Stokes has strong ties to Sanibel and Captiva. He grew up in Sanibel and his family goes back eight generations. His grandfather, Jake Stokes, was the first fishing guide, wildlife officer and deputy on Sanibel. His other grandfather was the first person to bring an automobile to the island.
Stokes has played guitar since he was 10. As a child, he moved around quite a bit due to his father being in the military. By age 15, he was playing at teen clubs in Germany with his band, 6th Street Exit. He moved to Germany three times before coming back to America.
“Being in Germany that much, I had an opportunity to get a lot of musical influence. The Germans and Europeans love American music, so we had an audience even as a teenager,” Stokes said. “I had a lot of blues influence. Eric Clapton came through, so I was able to get on a train and go to Frankfurt and see Clapton. A lot of good bands traveled through and I would go out and hang around the clubs. I wasn’t supposed but I still did,” he said, and laughed.
Mazziotti has played saxophone for 27 years. She grew up in Centerville, Ohio, and attended college at the University of North Texas where she received her bachelor’s in jazz studies.
“It’s the largest jazz school in the world, it always has been and I’m sure it always will be,” Mazziotti said. “I’m happy that I can work through Marty and use my knowledge. Marty writes amazing. It’s not just the poetry of the lyrics, it’s the music and putting everything together, it’s amazing what he does. It’s an art form within an art form.”
The band, which was formed seven years ago, will put out its third CD in October.
“It turned out really well. I think it’s going to be the best one yet,” Stokes said.
Four months ago, they were signed to Lakehouse Records which is based in Orlando. Recently, the band has been enjoying a lot of airplay in Europe, particularly France and the Netherlands. A few weeks ago, they earned “Album of the Week” on England’s No.1 blues podcast.
“They love American blues music. I have a sound that they like that’s a little bit different than the status quo,” Stokes said.
Another surprise for the band was the Sanibel Captiva Optimist Club asking them to headline the innaugural Sanibel Jazz and Blues Festival which will take place Nov. 6 from 12:30 to 7 p.m.
For better exposure, Stokes suggested that a different band should headline. The Optimist Club agreed to hand over the entertainment to him. Stokes booked Matt Schofield, a prolific blues guitarist and singer who hails from England.
“He’s already among the top 10 blues guitarists in England of all time. He’s a phenomena, you don’t see too many guys like him. I’ve seen him perform three times and it blows me away every time I’ve seen the guy,” Stokes said.
Another international figure, JP Soars and the Red Hots, will also be headlining the festival. Stokes described him as very original, very raw and one of the best guitarists he has seen live. Soars even laid down some tracks on the band’s upcoming CD.
Right now, Stokes is in the middle of putting together a jazz quartet that will open the festival which will take place behind Bailey’s General Store. The funds from the concert will go towards giving kids scholarships for college.
To volunteer at the festival, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Marty Stokes Band, go to martystokesband.com.