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Arts and Entertainment

Local Blues Band Wins Big at International Blues Challenge

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Norman Jackson Band

The Soul Machine, the Madman, Slow Motion, and the Boogieman walk into a bar…No, it’s not the start of a joke, but it is the start of a Blues performance that has gained international recognition. Competing in the International Blues Challenge put on by the Blues Foundation earlier this year, The Norman Jackson Band from Springfield placed third against thousands of bands from around the globe.

Rick Shortt, or the “Madman of Blues” as he’s known in the musical circuit, plays saxophone for the group.

“We’re just humbled unbelievably and the journey is hopefully just starting, so hopefully we’ll represent Springfield in a lot more ways.”

For over 30 years, the International Blues Challenge is a gauntlet for professional musicians to show the world what they have to offer to the musical genre. For bands to qualify, they must first win a regional competition, which thousands of bands complete in. With each round of the competition, the numbers grow smaller until the finals, where eight bands perform at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee.

Winners possess a combination of skills ranging in the authenticity of the content they play to vocal and instrument prowess, and stage presence. However, the most important element that set the Norman Jackson Band apart was their individuality, says Shortt.

“We don’t just stand and play, you know? You’ve got me doing the craziness I do, but then you’ve got this banter between Norman and myself and the drummer Boogie. He’ll say something and we’ll kind of give him a hard time back. The point of our show is that, yeah we want you to get down on some Rhythm and Blues and some Funk, but we also want to make you laugh and we want to stimulate your emotions. We just were ourselves.”

Shortt shares that the group’s sound is a product of the complicated lives they’ve lead and the sorrow they’ve experienced along the way. While some members draw emotion from a struggle with drugs and alcohol, others have pain from family troubles that spikes their blues with visceral feeling. That feeling can be articulated as any point on the emotional spectrum, clarifies Shortt.

“Blues is the purest definition of emotion that can be expressed through music. That can be sad, but it can also be happy, it can be scared. Anything you can feel can be Blues.”

That emotion, says Shortt, is also filtered through a unique Springfield blues scene that adds a varied texture to the band’s sound. Although the band’s members come from different states, they all identify Springfield as the beacon of belonging; a home they can be proud to be a part of.

The Norman Jackson Band, made up of Norman Jackson, the “Boogieman,” Danny Williams, and Rick Shortt will resume local performances starting April 1st.