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Thursday Night Music: Blues jams offer distraction from COVID in Dover

Andre Lamar
Dover Post

Next Thursday marks a little over a month since the Central Delaware Blues Society’s weekly blues jams returned to Dover, where it’s getting closer to finding its groove since the pandemic started.

President James Martin said the CDBS Thursday blues jams have seen a good turnout over the last month at the Walter L. Fox American Legion Post 2.

Although the Central Delaware Blues Society is back to hosting blues jams in Dover, the pandemic has forced them to cancel three national acts this year, including Chris Duarte (pictured).

Now that they’re up and running again, guests are required to wear masks and socially distance. Tables have been spaced apart to help keep guests safe, Martin said.

Although the blues jams, which resumed on Oct. 1, are back on schedule, everything isn’t perfect.

Membership for the CDBS has dropped from about 250 members to 200. Martin said some folks didn’t renew their memberships since they weren’t sure when the blues nonprofit would return with live music.

The pandemic forced the organization to cancel three national acts: Chris Duarte, Dustin Arbuckle & Damnation, and Harper and Midwest Kind. Not only did the CDBS lose money on those shows, it also wasn’t able to sell merchandise like T-shirts, license plates, hats and magnets.

“When we hire the national acts, that's the only time we can try to look forward to making any kind of cash. [Without national acts], unless we sell merchandise, we make absolutely no money to put in our bank accounts,” Martin said.

Martin added they won’t be able to bring in national acts anytime soon because they’re restricted from selling tickets for full capacity, due to the state of emergency guidelines. National artists are more expensive, he explained, so they need to bring in more heads to make a profit on those shows.

Meanwhile, hosting the weekly blues jams  affords the organization an opportunity to keep its name out there so that they won’t suffer a greater decline in membership.

The pandemic has been problematic for musicians in the blues scene around the country, including the postponement of the International Blues Competition. It’s a prestigious contest in Memphis that attracts over 200 artists from around the world, and it was delayed to 2022.

Martin said postponing the IBC is a big deal because many blues societies host their own blues contest and then send the winner to compete against the best of the best at the Memphis competition.

“It's the gateway for getting different blues acts started,” he said. “Most of these guys start in the IBC. Once they make it to the finals, if they win, they’re set.”

Martin is interested in hosting a blues festival next year behind the American Legion Post 2 when the weather gets warmer, if COVID-19 infection rates don't prohibit it.

“Hopefully, I can negotiate a contract deal with the Legion and we can do a nice little festival, because we've got the room out there,” he said. “Their outside is pretty big enough. The parking over there in the Old Blue Hen parking lot is where everybody would park. They could be bused over if they didn't want to walk.”

Meanwhile, Martin is focused on the next blues jam on Thursday featuring The 55’s.