Marty Stokes
Marty Stokes

FORT MYERS - Anticipation is building for this year’s Regional International Blues Challenge to be held Sunday, Aug. 26 as musicians from all over southwest Florida descend on the Rhythm House in Fort Myers for the chance to compete at the national IBC in Memphis in January. Among them is 2016’s winner for best band, the Marty Stokes Band who went on to represent the region at the national competition in 2017.

Led by vocalist and guitarist Marty Stokes, the band is comprised Daryl Best on bass guitar, Jennifer Mazziotti on saxophone and keyboards and drummer Chicago Dave Murphy. Hot off the release of their fourth album “Down On My Knees,” and with great reviews the band is expected to set fire to the stage with originals and covers drawn from the deep well of blues history.

Marty Stokes, a true island native who was raised on Sanibel and Captiva, has been enamored with the blues since he was a kid and counts guitar greats like Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Alvin Lee, Peter Green, B.B. King and Muddy Waters among his inspirations. Stokes possesses an ear for innovation and a talent for improvising searing, original guitar riffs and deep, heartfelt vocals that grab audiences by the throat.

A fan favorite, the Marty Stokes Band is a three-time winner of the Southwest Florida Blues Society’s People’s Choice Award and has placed in competitions for the South Florida and Suncoast Blues Societies. With performance roots in Germany, Stokes and his band bring the gospel of the blues to venues all over southwest Florida as well as numerous festivals, such as Ave Maria Blues Festival, the Bonita Blues Festival and the Sanibel Blues & Jazz Festival.

Stokes also lends his expertise to the Sanibel Blues & Jazz Festival as consultant recommending talent for the event, which is set for November 4. Now in its third year, the festival has featured blues greats like Matt Schofield, Elvin Bishop and J.P. Soars as well as talented locals like Johnny Jensen and The Florida Gulf Coast University Jazz Combo. This year’s line up has yet to be announced but promises to be stellar.

Tickets to the Regional International Blues Challenge, which is presented by The Southwest Florida Blues Society, are $5 for SFWBS members and $10 for non-members. Tickets can be purchased on the day of the competition, which will run from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m., at The Rhythm House, 16440 S. Tamiami Trail, #11, Fort Myers. For more information about the event and to become a member check the SWFBS website at www.swfbs.org.