2019 Telluride Blues Challenge Finalists Announced

Over the past few years, the Telluride Blues Challenge has risen to become one of the most distinguished music competitions in the Southwest! Musicians from all over the country submit their best songs for the chance to make the top six and earn an invite to the Blues Challenge Finals held at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival. Presented by Telluride Music, Telluride Blues Society and the Colorado Blues Society, the Telluride Blues Challenge gives up-and-coming artists the chance to advance their careers, win a 20 minute set on the festival Main Stage, a spot on the 2020 Durango Blues Train, a premium Martin guitar and a cash prize.

Every year, the Challenge entries impress, with an abundance of high-quality, stunning submissions. This year, 41 entries poured in from around the nation and selecting the finalists was not an easy task. The specialists at Telluride Music narrowed the list down to the top six. The following six finalists will compete at the Telluride Elks Lodge during the Blues for Breakfast event on Saturday, September 14 from 9:00 am to Noon. Below Telluride Music's Tom Nading weighs in on each finalist.

2019 Finalists

Cary Morin - With authentic Piedmont Blues fingerstyle chops and smooth, smoky vocals, Cary Morin sent us a dynamite submission for this year's competition. We're excited to hear his bluesy licks and soulful lyrics in Telluride.

Cousin Curtiss - Making his second appearance on the Challenge stage in two years, Cousin Curtiss will be bringing the heat with energy, strong vocals, and harmonica like you wouldn't believe. Even early on Saturday morning, Curtiss will be guaranteed to get the Elks' Lodge stomping!

Johnny Boy Kunk - With tasteful slide chops that will make his resonator growl, Johnny Boy Kunk's sound will make you feel the blues all the way to your toes. Paired with strong vocals, Johnny Boy's interpretation of the blues takes us down to the crossroads.

Mike Tolle - Smooth, practiced chops and lyrics blue to the bone make it clear Mike Tolle is adept in the blues tradition. If it's in the bones, it's in the bones.

Reverend Freakchild - Reverend Freakchild's brand of the blues is greasy, raw and steeped in the Delta tradition. When you hear his resonator and harmonica ring out, you'll know you're at the revival!

Trent Grabert - Trent Gabert's smooth style and polished vocals deliver an interpretation of the blues that shows a deep appreciation for generations of blues greats. What impressed us most is his versatility—drawing on the classic vibe of our delta heroes, but performed with the style and finesse of modern blues icons. 

How to Watch

The Telluride Blues Challenge Finals will be held Saturday morning 9am - Noon, September 14 at the Telluride Elks Lodge (472 W Pacific Ave). The contest happens as part of "Blues for Breakfast", complete with a breakfast spread and full bar including breakfast cocktails during the event. Breakfast will include a traditional breakfast spread featuring classics like black bean sauté, scrambled eggs, pancakes, hash browns, toast, bacon and sausages. Coffee, juice and breakfast bar drinks will also be available. Admission is free! Breakfast for adults will be $15 and Kids 10 & under are $5, Bloody Mary’s, Mimosas, and other breakfast bar drinks are extra. Admission is free!

This event is a great way to see up-and-comers in the blues genre while starting your Saturday morning off before the Grand Tasting and music starts in the festival grounds. Watch as competitors perform 20 minute sets that will be judged on the quality of their overall live performance, instrument use, vocals, and presentation.



  • A premium Martin guitar provided by Telluride Music Company

  • 20 Minute set to perform on the Main Stage at the 2019 Telluride Blues & Brews Festival

  • A full 60 minute set to perform on the Blues Stage at the 2020 Telluride Blues & Brews Festival

  • 2 nights to perform on the 2020 Durango Blues Train

  • $300 cash prize

Runner Up

  • $200 cash prize

  • A performance set for the 2019 Sunday Blues for Breakfast event

Don’t miss what is sure to be an epic 2019 Telluride Blues Challenge!