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Durham Musician Takes First At International Blues Challenge

Mike Traister
Jon Shain

Durham singer-songwriter Jon Shain placed first in the solo or duo category at last weekend’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis, a contest organized by the Blues Foundation that features around 200 acts from around the world.

Shain’s win came with a $2,500 cash prize and, more importantly, exposure. He says he’s overwhelmed by the number of gig offers he’s now receiving. 

"The funny thing is right now, I’m self-represented," Shain said. "I don’t have a booking agent. And I think I’m going to need one really soon to kind of help navigate all of this."

Shain has been playing professionally since the late 80s, when he moved to Durham from his native Massachusetts to attend Duke University. He’s released a dozen albums since then.

Now, at 51, he feels like he’s entering his prime years.

“In the world of bluegrass, and folk music, and blues music people respect older musicians,” Shain said. “In a way it feels like I’ve arrived or I’m being validated after all these years, almost like now I’m old enough to be doing this.”

Shain does not have any shows booked for Charlotte yet, but he hopes to get here soon.

Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.