One-man-band makes stop at Old North State Winery

Jessica Johnson Civitas News Service

January 9, 2014

MOUNT AIRY — Old North State Winery’s support of local and regional musicians continues with a Thursday night event that will serve to help send one-man-band Owen Poteat to Memphis, Tenn., to compete in The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge. Thursday night’s concert is free, but tips are encouraged, which Poteat will use to help him travel to the international competition later this month.

Poteat finished on top with his one-man-band show in the Charlotte Blues Society’s Solo/Duo challenge — and the winner gets the chance to compete against blues musicians from all over the world, as well as chapter winners from all across the country, in Memphis.

Playing three instruments at once, four when counting the voice as an instrument, Poteat entertains with an act that Joel Woodson of Old North State Winery said is a “must see.” Poteat plays a full set of drums with his feet, while also playing guitar, harmonica, and singing.

This is Poteat’s third time participating in the International Blues Challenge, which brings together blues acts from all over the world. Last year he placed in the top 12 at the competition. Poteat is from the Wilkes County area.

The competition includes winners from each country, such as Germany, Italy, and Spain, as well as the winners from each chapter in the United States.

The first round of competition is the quarterfinals, which lasts for two days, with performances on a Wednesday and Thursday night, then semi-finalists perform on Friday, with the final round of competition on Saturday, Poteat explained.

“There are concerts all week in the bars and juke joints on Beale Street in Memphis. The WC Handy Juke Joint [Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall], the oldest juke joint in the world is there, and it’s just so cool to be there and be a part of it. I played two shows there last time, then the finals were at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. That is my goal this time, to get to the Orpheum, make it into there.”

“It’s not like an American Idol competition,” Poteat said, of the International Blues Challenge. “The judges mail scores and judging notes to us three months after competition. Everyone is judged based on originality, vocal performance, instrumental performance, and how professional you are on stage,” Poteat explained.

“I’ve been doing it for a long time,” Poteat said. “A friend of mine, Reggie Harris, got me started….there are not that many of us in the world and when people see it they say it’s pretty cool. Plus, I get a good workout,” Poteat said.

As a professional musician performing more than 200 shows per year, Poteat said he really enjoys “meeting folks from all over,” and loves to share the experience with his wife Lynn, who travels alongside him.

“For me, the best thing in the world is that I’ve made friends for life, people who would be pallbearers at my funeral, just by performing at these places. It’s been really cool.”

Poteat said he was headed to Mount Airy after a send-off party in Charlotte at the Double Door Inn, then after competition at the end of January he would head south to warmer weather for his annual stint in the St. Petersburg and Gulfport areas in Florida.

With digital downloads seemingly taking over the music industry, Poteat said he was happy to still offer CDs, and was pleased they are still selling well. He has released eight CDs.

Poteat said he began playing music when his parents bought him his first guitar at age ten, “driving mom and dad crazy in the basement,” and by the time he was 12, he started a band with his friends. After that, he began performing solo, then played with several bands, including a Contemporary Christian touring band for three years, and also performed as a duo act for two years.

By that time his family was on its way, and with three kids, he concentrated on “raising children and doing local stuff,” but now that there are no kids at home, Poteat and his wife enjoy taking his one-man-band act on the road. He also enjoys writing music and recording in his home studio, and was pleased to say he had just signed his first publishing deal for one of his songs.

Poteat’s live CD called “Live at Mule Ass Holler” which was recorded near Elkin, was just released on Jan. 1, as well as a new studio CD, “Gaterland.” More information about Poteat’s music is available at owenpoteat.com

Poteat and his wife also found a way to help others through his concerts, after meeting “hundreds of homeless people” while performing on the boardwalk at Myrtle Beach for 12 weeks, two summers ago. “After a week of being there on the boardwalk, we were taking food with us to help feed them, and had people on vacation started bringing clothes, food donations, and money to help the homeless. We had a chance to help out, and we took it. We got to know a lot of the homeless folks there and my last CD “Some day I will be the Man Again,” from 2012 was kind of like a collection of their theme songs, 11 songs about what these guys shared with us”

“We have had an opportunity to get closer to people through the music, and I love that. That’s what I’m most proud of so far, from everything we’ve done, is having people who love you and care about you — it’s more important than anything else.”

Owen Poteat, the one-man-band, will perform at Old North State Winery this Thursday at 7 p.m. There is no cover, but Woodson said he wanted to remind everyone there would be a tip jar, and all tips would be used by Poteat in his travels to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge. “He is just a jewel,” Woodsen said. “We love to have him here…someone who can play all three instruments and sing too, it’s a rare thing and we want to support it.”

For more information about Thursday’s concert, visit oldnorthstatewinery.com or call 789-9463. For more information about The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, visit blues.org.

Reach Jessica Johnson at jessicajohnson@civitasmedia.com or 719-1933.