Teen Blues Players Take On The Nation

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Gus Harless, a 19-year-old musician from Payson, is taking his talents on the road this month to try to win a national blues competition.

This is the third year the young musician, guitar teacher and harmonica maker has competed in the Arizona Blues Showdown in Phoenix.

In 1998 and '99, Harless was the only teenager in the competition, but his unique brand of blues, which he performed as a solo act, earned him slots in the finals.

Harless will once again represent Payson at the event, but this time he will be joined by drummer Travis Riemersma. The duo will perform as "The Smokedogs."

When asked how he would classify the music the two perform, Harless said, "We're a rock band trying to let the jam ooze out."

The duo will perform in the playoffs next week at the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School Road in Phoenix. If they advance through the playoffs, they'll perform Sept. 14 in the finals.

The grand prize is $3,000, a recording contract and a national tour. Harless said he and Riemersma are putting in many hours of practice to get ready to rock the shoes off the judges.

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