Taking inspiration from Freddie King, Albert Collins and Little Walter — to name a few — blues band Fistful of Bacon performed on the historic Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, last month.

It was the second time the band of Brown County and Bloomington musicians participated in the International Blues Challenge. Nine hundred musicians and 250 bands participate in the concert and contest staged annually on the street which is credited as one of the birthplaces of the blues.

“The first time we went in 2015, I would say we were pretty much a cover band that had an original song,” said drummer Eric Gaylord.

“We got schooled. We were like, ‘Oh, that’s how you do it.”

Upon return, the band went to work on a laundry list of lessons they learned from observing other acts, Gaylord said. They took the year to concentrate on multiple categories used to award scores including original music, stage presence and musicianship.

“This year when we went, we owned that stage totally. We were totally comfortable and had a very good time,” Gaylord said.

In addition to Gaylord, the band features guitarist and singer Marvin Druin, guitarist Matt Boat and bass player and singer Jeff Shew. Their manager is Nancy Gaylord, who is married to Eric.

Even though the band did not make it to the semifinals, they are proud they accomplished the goals they set, like engaging the crowd more.

“I really do feel like we were one of the most energetic bands at IBC,” Shew said. “The crowd was loving it, they were singing along and dancing. To me, that was a win in itself.”

Bands can only participate in the IBC two years in a row, so Fistful of Bacon will sit out 2017. But the band looks forward to supporting the southern Indiana representative who will play in the contest next year.

Nancy Gaylord is also president of the South Central Indiana Blues Society, an affiliate of the Blues Foundation, which hosts the IBC in Memphis. The society will send a band to the 2017 competition.

Contests will be held this summer or fall to find that representative, she said.

Players at the pub

Fistful of Bacon began at the regular Tuesday night blues jam at Player’s Pub in Bloomington.“Some of the better players said, ‘Hey, want to start a band?’ I said ‘Sure, let’s do it next Tuesday at the next jam.’ That’s how it started,” Gaylord said.Druin joined the band in 2011, followed by Boat. The original bass player passed away in March 2014, and that’s when Shew joined.

Druin used to work at the Player’s Pub. He ran sound for Shew while he performed. Shew had originally been in the Bottom Road Blues Band, but after he decided to join Fistful of Bacon full-time, that band broke up.

“It’s honestly been probably the best group of musicians I have ever played with. It’s been a lot of fun,” Shew said of Fistful.

At first the band played blues rock, but that slowly faded. “What we play is pretty much like Chicago blues with a little bit of Memphis influence in there,” Druin said.

They’ll play a little R&B every now and then, he said.

“Now with the two vocalists, we are no longer doing covers. We’re generating a lot of original material,” Gaylord said.

The crowds, the friendship and the music are what keeps Fistful of Bacon going year after year.

“It’s definitely a great outlet and just a lot of fun. It’s getting to hang out with your friends, sometimes making some money and being able to play the music you love,” Shew said.

“I love to perform. I love being on stage. It’s what I live for, so being in a band with guys that can play like that, it’s incredible and more than I can ask for. Every time I get to play with these guys it’s a treat,” Druin said.

Catch Fistful of Bacon

7 p.m. March 5 at Chateau Thomas Winery on South Van Buren Street in Nashville

8 p.m. March 19 at the 19th Hole at Salt Creek Golf Retreat on State Road 46 East

10 p.m. March 26 at the Big Busted Bar above Big Woods Pizza in Nashville

Albums: “Memphis Bound” and “Back to Memphis,” sold on CDBaby.com and coming soon to Amazon, iTunes and Google Music

Learn more: reverbnation.com/fistfulofbacon or on Facebook under “Fistful of Bacon”

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.