Cory Luetjen On The International Blues Challenge, Delbert McClinton & Grassroots Marketing

Cory Luetjen On The International Blues Challenge, Delbert McClinton & Grassroots Marketing

You guys know that I write mostly about country music and classic rock. After all, these are my areas of “expertise.” However, I like all kinds of music. So, when I woke up Sunday to find a Facebook invitation to go catch a blues band that I was unfamiliar with live in Greensboro, I was all about it. Blues? Yes! Go experience all the music, I say. So, my friend Ronda and I rolled down to Greensboro to catch Cory Luetjen and the Traveling Blues Band, and they were really great! And, I have to say, the suits they wore while they played – quite dapper. Is that a blues thing? If so, I dig it. I got to talk to Cory at the show and realized that he has a really interesting story to share, too. Read on to learn more.

Cory Luetjen On The International Blues Challenge, Delbert McClinton & Grassroots Marketing

Cory Luetjen: I have a little bit of voice left. I actually played like 5 nights in a row last week so my voice is used up and I had to have a couple days off to get my voice back a little bit before Friday.

Eat Play Rock: Perhaps you need some hot tea with honey or something like that.

Cory Luetjen: Yeah, you know I use it and abuse it pretty bad, anyways. I do about 4 or 5 shows a week. I’m in the right genre. You know, you can be a little raspy and it actually helps things out I guess. The biggest thing is to just have enough voice to make it in the show. The worst thing is if we start disappearing on you. But I’ve been doing it long enough, those vocal cords are pretty strong, so it works out.

Eat Play Rock: Stevie Nicks has a raspy voice and it works out for her, so…

Cory Luetjen: Yeah, there it is. That’s the one you want. And it was a pleasure meeting you [at the show].

Eat Play Rock: I gotta tell you, I’ve interviewed tons of people over the years and I have been to probably hundreds of concerts but I have never had someone go into a Facebook group and randomly invite me to a show. That’s really good marketing. And that’s why I went. I was like, “That’s cool. Let’s do this!”

Cory Luetjen: Well, you know, it’s kind of one of those things. I’m truly a one man band as far as that goes. My guys, the sax player and the bass player are like tech guys and they got the website up and running. I kind of tell them what I want on it and they take care of that. I’m not that good on the tech part of it. But the thing is, I do know with marketing in general, it’s just, the first thing I do is have a good product. And then once you have a good product you just got to get people to come view the product or use it or whatever it is. We’ve got a good product.

That’s the thing. If you want blues, if you want a good band, if you want to be entertained we have that. We have exactly what you are looking for. I mean, you know, if you like modern country, we’re not the right band. But if you like blues and blues rock, we’re exactly what you are looking for.

So, then it’s just a matter of turning as many heads as you can. It’s one thing to put up a little flyer or post something but if you can force somebody to look at it for just a second then they can make their own decision. So, I guess that’s kind of why I do it. Sometimes I guess it comes off as aggressive but when it comes to marketing you have to be aggressive nowadays because everyone has so much information thrown at them. They have things on their phone, things pulling them in a thousand different directions and you got to be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. So I guess that’s why and how it’s worked out so far.

Eat Play Rock: I think that was a really good idea and I think you should definitely stick with that. I had went to a concert the night before and I had just rolled out of bed and I was looking at my Facebook, trying to figure out what I was going to do for the day. And I saw that and I contacted Ronda and I was like, “Let’s do this!” So that was pretty cool.

Cory Luetjen: Well that is very very cool. I have checked out your blog and there’s a song, “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man” and it sounds like you have. You’ve checked out a lot of artists and experienced a lot of music, so I appreciate you taking time out of your day to come check us out.

Cory Luetjen On The International Blues Challenge, Delbert McClinton & Grassroots Marketing

Eat Play Rock: Yes, it was my pleasure! So, when I met you yesterday, you told me all about your band. If you could share that with my readers, that would be fabulous. I also really want to know about the contest that you are going to be going to in Memphis.

Cory Luetjen: Sure. Absolutely. The band formed about 3 years ago. I started playing guitar when I was about 16. I picked it up. I actually went to The Blind Tiger back when it was a smaller, little bar over on Walker Avenue. Then they moved to the big place on Spring Garden. I had just broken up with a girlfriend, or actually I should say she had just broken up with me. It was puppy love I was in, in high school or whatever and I was 15, 16 years old. I dated her for 8 months so, you know, it was a lifetime and it just broke my heart. It just broke my little puppy heart…

Eat Play Rock: Awwww…

Cory Luetjen: …and my dad, I don’t know why he thought it was a good idea, but he did, he brought me out to a bar. It was to see this blues band. I had liked music and stuff but I had never really done anything with it. And, Chris Carroll, he’s a good friend who just passed away in May, he was a phenomenal bass player and kind of a local legend in the Greensboro music scene. He was playing in a band called the Tim Betts Band and they played “Old Love” by Eric Clapton. And it was exactly how I felt. It was the first time I was like, “Oh my God, this song is speaking to me,” you know? And I just remembered feeling that and thinking, “Man, I want to do that. I want to make people feel something like that.”

At the time I didn’t sing at all and I figured it would be easier to play guitar than it would be to sing. And my dad kind of played some and I went home that night and he got me started and showed me some chords. And I basically, before Youtube, in the early 2000s, I guess, I had a little book in there, “Learn The Blues,” and I just locked myself in my bedroom and learned the damn blues. I went out to a bunch of local blues jams in the High Point and Greensboro area and all these really wonderful players took their time with me and I learned from them and jammed with them.

And before you know it, I got to be pretty good and I started touring with a country group called The Corey Hunt Band. We toured for about 3 years. He was like a Texas country guy and he’s still going. I did that for about 3 years, through like 2013, I guess. I used up my 20s doing it, basically. I got off the road one time and I just said, “You know what? I want to be the guy. I want to go play blues.” And I started my band about 3 years ago and when I started it I didn’t know if it was just going to be me and the bartender in the room but I was going to go do it because I like it. And I hope people like it. I had a lot of people tell me that it wasn’t going to work out because, “Blues is dead,” and, “Nobody wants to hear that shit anymore.” And I just said, “Well I do. I want to play it.” So I went and did it and here we are 3 years later and we’ve had quite a bit of success. We play about 200 shows a year. I play about 4 nights a week.

We released an album in August called, “6 Pack of Blues, Beach and Funk.” It’s available on iTunes, Google Play and CD Baby. And we had a #1 Roadhouse Blues and Boogie Top 40. It was a #1 hit on their chart and it’s right now #9 on the beach charts for them. The song is called, “Do It For Me,” and it’s the 2nd track off that album. And Fessa’ John Hook’s radio show, we’ve enjoyed some success there and we picked up quite a bit of stuff from the beach because of it. We’ve been playing a lot at Carolina Beach and Myrtle Beach in addition to all over the state in Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee. And that’s kind of the band’s sound.

Cory Luetjen On The International Blues Challenge, Delbert McClinton & Grassroots Marketing

I really like Delbert McClinton. He’s kind of that beachy, bluesy, little hint of country artist. I’ve always liked his stuff and when I put my band together I kind of modeled it after that. And I guess it’s been a bit of a success so far.

As far as the International Blues Challenge, so we released our CD in August. And in October there is an annual competition in the Piedmont put on by the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society, the Piedmont Blues Challenge. We competed against other bands in a battle of the bands type thing at The Blind Tiger and ended up winning it. And what it really does, it kind of gives you like a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket for your entrance into the International Blues Challenge in Memphis and that’s what we are going to next week, January 16th-20th. There will be 250 other blues bands from all over the world: Canada, France, Germany, Japan and us. And we are representing the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society of the Piedmont in North Carolina as the best blues band, the best they have to offer, to go compete against the world, the other blues bands. It’s a notable thing, I mean, Susan Tedeschi competed in it, Sean Costello, Watermelon Slim. I mean, it’s kind of the Super Bowl of the Blues industry. A lot of record execs are out there, a lot of cruise ship people, casino guys, booking agents. To win it would be amazing, to just get in the finals and turn a few heads can be career changing enough.

Eat Play Rock: So, let me go back to something you said earlier. Myrtle Beach is one of my favorite places to go. When you go there and play, where do you play?

Cory Luetjen: Deckerz Bar and Grill. We are actually playing there at the end of the month, January 26th-27th.

Eat Play Rock: So you have a really busy month.

Cory Luetjen: Oh yeah, and that’s every month. The name isn’t just a catchy name, it’s the truth. It’s Cory Luetjen and the Traveling Blues Band and we travel. We get in that band van and we get it done. If it pays, we play.

Eat Play Rock: Do you all travel together? Do you go in separate vehicles?

Cory Luetjen: We actually lost a member of our band, our Big Red Band Van. It passed away on us coming home from a gig earlier. It only had 232,000 miles on it. But we wore that one out and we got another one. We got a Traveling Blues Van. We are located pretty centrally in Asheboro, North Carolina. Deon McNeill is on drums. He’s from Asheboro, NC. Jonathan Link, on saxophone, from Thomasville. Scott Marvill, on bass. He’s from Kernersville. And Earl Austin is on organ. He’s from Greensboro. And I am Cory Luetjen and I’m from Asheboro, NC. Typically I go pick up Deon and we all meet in Asheboro or something like that. Or we get a central location and run from there. If it’s something local like at The Blind Tiger, we just meet in Greensboro. But for the ones that we travel out of state [for] and what not, we figure out the best route, the best way to kind of pick everybody up and drop everybody off, like a bus route, if you will. And it just seems to work out pretty well.

Cory Luetjen On The International Blues Challenge, Delbert McClinton & Grassroots Marketing

Eat Play Rock: What’s one of your all time favorite places that you have played?

Cory Luetjen: All time favorite place? I’ll tell you, my hometown bar is a really cool place. It’s called Lucky’s Burger-n-Tap. It’s the place we’re playing this Friday. It’s the perfect thing for a bar. It’s small. It’s located in a Walmart shopping center where you don’t think a bar should be. You go in and it’s awkwardly shaped. But because of the characteristic of it, because of where it is, it’s like the little Cheers of Asheboro. And when people are there, it’s always a good music crowd. It’s always just a neat little place. People get into it. And I think that place holds 100, but if you can get 30 in there, man, you can have a really, really good time.

Check out Cory Luetjen and the Traveling Blues Band’s tour schedule here and you can donate to their GoFund Me page to help them get to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis here.

Get Social With Cory Luetjen

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About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.


  1. Loved this article!

    In addition to being a great musician, Cory is a fantastic person. He’s quick with a laugh and very gracious to younger artists. If you like to see good people experience success, you should be thrilled with the opportunity Cory and the others in the Traveling Blues Band have with the International Blues Challenge.
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