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Teen Shredders Advance in Nationwide King of the Blues Competition

Just 17, Joshua Vasquez has an award-winning axe to grind.
Just 17, Joshua Vasquez has an award-winning axe to grind.

In June, two guitarists from San Diego advanced to the district finals in the nationwide King of the Blues competition sponsored by Guitar Center. Of them, 17-year-old Joshua Vasquez of Chula Vista eliminated Scripps Ranch shredder T and a handful of others to win district honors. “It basically means I’m the representative for Southern California,” says Vasquez.

Vasquez has played guitar for less than five years and says this is the first contest he’s ever entered. “I just wanted to try it out.” When asked how much practice time he puts in every day, he says, “It’ll span from an hour to a lot more than that.” His mom says she sometimes hears him playing at three in the morning.

Are young axemasters rediscovering the blues? “I started playing when I was in sixth grade, and at the time I was learning stuff that was popular to my generation, like Green Day,” says Vasquez. “I got bored really, really fast.” He dug deeper and came up with Jimmy Page. “It took me a while to master ‘Stairway to Heaven.’” Then, he ferreted out American roots artists like Chuck Berry. “The blues, you know, is where rock and roll started.”

If he makes it through the next round of eliminations in July and advances to the grand finals, Vasquez has a shot at $50,000 in cash and prizes. But he may find the competition is stiff. A much higher-mileage Texas blues master named Kirby Kelly (he opened for Eric Clapton at Crossroads last year) was named King of the Blues in 2009.

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Just 17, Joshua Vasquez has an award-winning axe to grind.
Just 17, Joshua Vasquez has an award-winning axe to grind.

In June, two guitarists from San Diego advanced to the district finals in the nationwide King of the Blues competition sponsored by Guitar Center. Of them, 17-year-old Joshua Vasquez of Chula Vista eliminated Scripps Ranch shredder T and a handful of others to win district honors. “It basically means I’m the representative for Southern California,” says Vasquez.

Vasquez has played guitar for less than five years and says this is the first contest he’s ever entered. “I just wanted to try it out.” When asked how much practice time he puts in every day, he says, “It’ll span from an hour to a lot more than that.” His mom says she sometimes hears him playing at three in the morning.

Are young axemasters rediscovering the blues? “I started playing when I was in sixth grade, and at the time I was learning stuff that was popular to my generation, like Green Day,” says Vasquez. “I got bored really, really fast.” He dug deeper and came up with Jimmy Page. “It took me a while to master ‘Stairway to Heaven.’” Then, he ferreted out American roots artists like Chuck Berry. “The blues, you know, is where rock and roll started.”

If he makes it through the next round of eliminations in July and advances to the grand finals, Vasquez has a shot at $50,000 in cash and prizes. But he may find the competition is stiff. A much higher-mileage Texas blues master named Kirby Kelly (he opened for Eric Clapton at Crossroads last year) was named King of the Blues in 2009.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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