Big Bo

From the blog

Going to Memphis, TN


January 30, 2016: BIG BO – IBC16 – FINALS –

On our last day in Memphis we headed over to the Orpheum to see the Finals of the IBC16. The Orpheum is a huge theatre in classic 20’s style. The finals would take 8 long hours so we didn’t get the chance to see all of the acts performing there when we went outside for some food and do a little shopping, but we saw most part of it.

The Orpheum was almost sold out and we saw The Delgado brothers perform a great set. What I thought would be the winners proved right: The Delgado Brothers won the IBC16 in the band category.

I had high hopes for Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, an incredibly talented duo who played in real traditional style using various traditional instruments such as fiddle, banjo, mandoline and acoustic guitar to win the contest in the category soloists/duos. We really liked what they did. Quality of the acts performing was of high level and though I didn’t quite understand the choice of the jury for 2nd place we were happy to see Ben and Joe win the contest.

Heading for the hotel we looked back on a great time in Memphis. We met a lot of wonderful people and enjoyed the music and atmosphere. The next morning we’d check out of the hotel and head for the airport to go rent us a car and drive south, direction Delta, Clarksdale MS.

Thank you Memphis!


January 29, 2016: BIG BO – IBC16 – SEMI FINALS –

This morning we went downtown to see where I would be playing the Semi-finals of the IBC. At 12 noon they announced the venues and I was happy to see that I was playing at 12 BAR club, a cozy place just upstairs of Jerry Lee Lewis’ venue. I was up last in line, at 11 pm. We went over there to see if all the equipment had arrived (bassdrum and hihatt). Since it wasn’t there I got a little worried so we headed over to the organization to see if it could be arranged. They told me they would do the best they can, but couldn’t guarantee. “This is a challenge, so if itś not there you will need to improvise”… Ok I am good at improvising so whatever happens, it didn’t worry me too much. It was just good to see that finally I got the stuff I asked for.

11 PM showtime and a full house at 12 BAR. Judges were sitting at their tables and we saw some good competitors playing their show. I was up last in line and set up my things. I decided to stick with the same set I played the nights before. We all had 5 minutes extra time so half an hour each. This way I could play some nice soloś too and the gig was superb! I really felt good about my playing that night. Got a great response from the audience, they clearly loved what I did.

Exciting and the moment we all waited for! The announcement of the winners semi-finals!

At 1 AM we all gathered in the Tin Roof venue. The board director Ms. Neuman, of the Blues Foundation then announced the winners.

Too bad, I didn’t make it to the finals, but I was so happy with the result. Imagine out of 2500 bands worldwide having reached the 32 best in place, thatś quite an achievement to be proud of. I been there, done it (and got the t-shirt!). We had a wonderful time in Memphis at the IBC16 and I was so happy to meet all the lovely people and talented musicians there. What a great atmosphere!

Thank you Memphis, thank you Bluesfans, thank you Blues Foundation for making this happen.

Special thanks goes out to THE DUTCH BLUES FOUNDATION for their support. You guys have been amazing!

Tomorrow itś time to go see the finals at the Orpheum Theatre!


 January 28, 2016: BIG BO – IBC16 – QUARTER FINALS – 2nd round

That night we picked up my stuff from the hotel and headed to The Pig On Beale club for the second round of the Quarter Finals IBC16. The joint was already packed when we arrived and the new judges were sitting at their tables. We saw some great artists playing there and the audience was just fantastic paying respect to all the wonderful musicians who performed.

I was up at 9 PM and by that time it was so warm in the venue that I already sweated when setting up my equipment. My fingers got moisty and already in the first song my fingerpicks started to move off my fingers. I had to improvise to get it right but I think I managed to do it in a way that solved the problem by inviting people to clap their hands while I put on my fingerpicks, playing my drums only… Phewwww.

The rest of the set was pretty ok although I felt I played better the night before (I played the same set). Once again the audience reaction was overwhelming. What a great audience. You can feel their passion for the blues and I once again met a guy named Seth, who was so moved by my playing that he had tears in his eyes. He told me he came from the Delta and that I was playing the music he grew up with. I got lots of compliments from the audience and I was humbled to play for them. What a fantastic night!

Then it was off to the hotel to bring back the equipment and then head to Club 152 to wait for the announcement of the winners for the Semi-finals. There was a great band playing there, followed by a superb jamsession. It is good to see all the artists chatting, playing together and jam! Good atmosphere!

Then a big guy with a paper in his hand walked up to the stage. He had a long list of winners and announced them… Big Bo and Phil Bee’ s Freedom band representing the Dutch Blues Foundation are going to the Semi-finals! Whoa!

You can only imagine how we partied that night until early morning. I am feeling honoured and filled with pride for making it to this point. What a night!

Tonight will be the semi-finals, I will be playing in the 12 Bar Club, just above Jerry Lee Lewis’ Club. Exciting!

Keep on keeping on!



This afternoon we had some time to kill to we headed over to the 2nd floor above the Rum Boogie Cafe. From there Vinnie Marini runs a small mobile radio station, presenting his programme “BLUES ON THE COUCH”. Vinnie is a very nice and devoted guy who puts his heart into the music. I t was fun to meet him, sitting on his couch for an interview.

Entering the room it feels like you are walking right into a vintage bluesclub, with old posters and pictures on the wall of musicians and blues shows. It is just like stepping into an old Mississippi Juke Joint, a great atmosphere and I had a warm welcome by Vinnie who introduced me on his show.

We talked about how I came to play the Blues and I told him how my father used to play all these old bluesrecords at home when I was a kid. The first time I touched a guitar I was already trying to figure out how to play this strange music. The Blues hit me hard back then and I felt it was the music from the heart, to touch other people’ s hearts. We talked about my new cd: Traveling Riverside and about by trip alongside the Mississippi River a few years ago, and that we are going to head back to Clarksdale next week to feel the vibes of the Delta.

Vinnie thanked me for the interview and played one of my songs: The Devil Got My Woman. I signed his board and Vinnieś assistant was taking a few pictures.

I was honoured to appear on Vinnie’ s show that evening. We headed back to the hotel and picked up my guitars for the show that night at the Pig On Beale, starting 9 PM. We had a great dinner at a place called Friday’ s (great restaurant, I loved their spicy shrimp!) and then walked to the venue for my show that night.

I am ready as anybody can be!


January 27, 2016: BIG BO: IBC16 – QUARTER FINALS ROUND 1

Time for the quarter finals at the PIG ON BEALE. The Pig is a nice restaurant on Beale St. serving the best ribs in town. It also got a nice stage for live music and a good sound system. All musicians in the category Soloist/duoś gathered to sign up for the first round of the IBC. My show started at 6:30 PM, I was the third in line to perform. Setting up a full one-man-band in just 5 minutes (strictly according to the rules) was hard carrying a drumset, and 3 guitars around, but I managed to set it up in time. The professional Jury was sitting right in front of the stage and behind that a packed crowd of audience.

I played 7 song (25 minutes rule), had some trouble amplifying my dobro guitar, but the soundguy fixed it fairly quickly.

My setlist that night:

-Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning

-Pony Blues

-Catfish Blues

-Traveling Riverside Blues

-Devil Got My Woman

-Pick A Bale Of Cotton

-Grinnin’ In Your Face

I could clearly see the judges enjoy my set and that gave me confidence. The audience reaction was overwhelming; clapping their hands to the rhythm and applauding, cheering. What a good set! I enjoyed playing there!

When I was finished (and I never seen them doing it the whole night) one of the judges walked up to me and said: “This is what we want to hear at the DBC. This is the blues and the way it should be played, you are doing a fantastic job, I really enjoyed your music”. Wow, I am so honoured!

Tonight I will be playing the 2nd round Quarterfinals, also at Pig On Beale. My show starts at 9 PM. Right after these rounds we get to hear who made it to the semi-finals so stay tuned!

Keeping the Blues alive folks!




Showcase on Beale Street. Blues Hall is one of Bealeś finest Bluesclubs and a great place to play. I was up at 6 PM and had to play a 1 hour show. It is nice to get a good warm-up before the IBC contest tomorrow! The place slowly poored with people and as I played my show I got a great response from the audience. They really liked what I did and the gig went very well. It is good to see the Memphis audience reaction.

Later that night I jammed at another club with some young guys from the US and the rhythm section of Phil Beeś Freedom. That was fun. A great first night in Memphis on Beale!

Tomorrow the IBC contest will start. I will play in Pig On Beale at 6:30 PM!


January 26, 2016 BIG BO: A 36 HOUR TRIP TO MEMPHIS

This wasn’t quite what we expected. This trip surely gave me the blues folks… Right on the day before we left we noticed that in the flight schedule we had to do 2 plane changes instead of just 1. But thatś ok, as long as we made it to Memphis in time. Surprisingly we shared the same plane with the Phil Bee’ś Freedom band, that was fun! Crossing the Atlantic Ocean went smoothly and we had clear skies over the north-east coast of the US before landing in Philedelphia. It was nice to see the snowy landscape from the plane window. Changing planes in Philly went well, so then it was off to Miami. When we got on the plane to Memphis there seemed to be a problem. The co-pilot appearantly didn’t show up and we waited for more than 1,5 hours. We already knew we were going to miss our flight to Memphis enough to give us a bit of panic. Getting in Miami we didn’t know where to go and nobody could tell us anything or explain. We had to wait in line for 2 hours to get information and rebook the flight. They told us we had to spend the night over at the airport on some field beds and it was cold there. After 3 hours of sleep we checked in on a plane to Dallas and from there go to Memphis. Thatś another 7 hour trip. When we finally arrived in Memphis I was really unsecure if my guitars and equipment would have arrived in Memphis too. A few hours of excitement before finally the cases arrived at the airport! My goodness I was happy to see those flightcases, I can tell you that! Because of the cold in the luggage room the neck of the dobro was a little bent, but I managed to fix it so it doesn’t rattle. We made it to Memphis and had to get ready for the showcase performance that night, checked in the hotel and had 3 hours left to prepare for the show! 



January 23, 2016: BIG BO – PACKING BAGS and bit of a techy guitar blog

Getting excited and looking forward to IBC16, Memphis! Today, me and Vera (who is my partner, manager, PR representative and moral support) started packing our bags. Going over our checklists every hour we can only hope we didn’t forget any crucial luggage or paperwork. This is not like a regular holiday when you just throw some clothes in a bag, take your passport and hit the road. We had to make sure all the equipment can come aboard the plane, weighing cases and bags, stay in touch with people from The Dutch Blues Foundation and the Blues Foundation USA for whatever equipment I need that I can’t bring on the plane. Doing all the paperwork can be quite confusing at times… but I think all is arranged for, must be good old artist lament  🙂

Some good news already came in from Beale Street! I am doing a showcase on Tuesday at the Blues Hall, Beale St. at 6 PM. This is one of Memphis’ finest blues clubs and I am so proud to play there again, after jamming with Brandon Santini there a few years back! This is gonna be fun!

The actual Blues Challenge will start on Wednesday. I hope I can appear in Vinnie Marini’s ‘Blues On The Couch’ live radioshow which will be held above the Rum Boogie Cafe.


Guitars, guitars… now this was a bit of a pain. I didn’t want to bring 8000 USD worth of guitars on a plane to see them end up in a luggage space at -40 C and see grumpy airport employees throwing them around. This would surely have ruined my precious instruments. So I decided to stick with some older guitars I still have, a Cort Parlor model (actually a very nice guitar that sounds pretty good and appeared to be in healthy condition) and a Airsi Tricone which I bought second-hand for 500 USD. I am taking my Cigar Box Guitar as hand-luggage so no worries there. In the Tricone I installed a pick-up but it sounded terrible, so I decided to buy a Highlander active Tricone pick-up and replace it. Had to have it fly in from the USA. When I installed it, it even sounded worse than ever, but it appeared that the top of the pick-up touched the T-bridge (where the strings run over). It’s supposed to have a gap there about 1,5 mm. between the bridge and pick-up. This is purely a constructional issue, so I had to adjust the guitar without damaging it or changing string height. I didn’t quite get it right the second time either after doing a test at a live show. I still have to look at this more closely tonite or tomorrow. Pfffff last minute work!

*UPDATE* Tricone didn’t work out the way I wanted to. I am afraid I will have to bring my good old Dobro, pray for me to have it arrive safely…

Tomorrow it is one last show to go in The Netherlands, before we fly on Monday. Getting ready for Beale Street and I am so excited to go!

Take care and keep the Blues alive!



Hey guys!  I won the Dutch Blues Challenge in October 2015. It is a great honour to me that I can represent my country in the category soloists/duo’s on January 26-30, 2016 during the INTERNATIONAL BLUES CHALLENGE in Memphis, TN. Preparations have already started. Got the tickets for the flight and the hotel was booked, a pretty close walk from Beale Street, where it is all going to happen. Filled in all the papers we are going to need and arranged for visa. Set up a new website and recorded a new cd too! We are working on new promo material such as posters, flyers and T-Shirts. What a busy month it has been. I am looking forward to meet all the people in Memphis down on Beale Street and play my shows there!

Some additional dates will be booked in and around Memphis, please stay informed through this blog post.

Ohhh and I still need to test some cheap guitars to bring on the plane. I hope they come out unharmed… More of that in a very techy guitarist post later!




  1. Was een leuke set gisteren in Calypso! Veel succes in de VS straks! Gr. Martin (Iron Maiden shirt, 1ste rij vooraan..)

  2. Hey Bo, ik wens je veel suc6 in de States, maak er wat van. Maar dat is jou wel toebedeeld. We hebben je lang geleden geboekt in Grolloo bij de Roots on the hIll meetings, daar bracht je een eerbetoon aan Son House d.m.v. Grinning in your face, begeleid door jezelf op twee staafjes ijzer, splendid man. Grote groet, Albert (dokterblues)

    1. Bedankt Albert, dat was inderdaad een mooie avond toen! Ik ga mijn best doen in Memphis! Groeten, Bo

  3. Heeeeeeeeeej ouwe Rocker……….Ik houd je blogjes in de gaten. Heel veel plezier en rock’n Roll in Amerika. Oma greetje heeft je CD misschien al wel 100 X opgezet…….was een goede zet.
    CU on the flipside brother!

    Rock on!


  4. Mooie verhalen Bo in je blog. Fantastische ervaring opgedaan in Mempis. Als je later oud zit te worden in een verzorgingshuis heb je het er nog over. Mind my words. Fijne reis nog met Vera en tot ziens weer ergens in NL. Arie Verheul, BluesinWijk.

  5. Gefeliciteerd Bo met je behaalde succes in Memphis. We hebben jouw verslag van je optreden en jullie reisverslag met plezier gevolgd.
    We zijn trots dat een landgenoot het zo ver gebracht heeft.
    Bedankt ook voor je geweldige optreden bij ons
    groet Aly en Gerrit

  6. Vandaag de cd binnen gekregen van Bo Traveling Riverside.
    En hij is awesome zoals ze zeggen in de States. Wat een geweldige artiest ben je Bo.
    Ik ben al een tijdje fan van je sinds ik je voor de 1e keer op Jazz in Duketown heb gehoord en gezien. Ik ben ook trots op het feit dat je in mijn stad woont. Ook je muziek met Slow Blow Fuse kon ik zeer waarderen. Hoewel je goed gewaardeerd word in de blues-scene zou je wat mij betreft nog wel meer op een voetstuk geplaatst mogen worden. Dank voor de fijne luister minuten op je laatste cd. .

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BIG BO - General information - short biography


Dutch bluesman Bo Brocken (stage name: Big Bo) plays his Blues from the heart and soul. He has been around for quite a while now, touring Europe and the world for almost 30 years, playing his traditional style Blues. Performing as a one-man-band, using a full foot-operated drum set, acoustic and electric guitars, resonator guitars, Cigar Box Guitars and harmonica, he plays traditional blues in Delta, Piedmont, Misissippi Hills and Ragtime style. (Photo: Jos de Jong) Solo: 1987-now: Big Bo: vocals, guitars, harmonica, foot-drums Bands: 1990-1999: Big Bo and Mr. Bas 1998-2008: Slow Blow Fuse 1999-2010: The Mercymen 2000-2002: Bo and Boiré 2016- now: Big Bo and his Voodoo Machine

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