When Frank Latorre and the King Bees head to Memphis Jan. 20 to represent the Long Island Blues Society in the 26th International Blues Challenge, they will be rocking extra hard, in part, because Long Island has already represented for them.

"None of us have a lot of money," says Latorre, who adds that he unexpectedly ended up sinking much of his life's savings into purchasing the Art and Soul Gallery in Eastport to save it from closing. "It costs a lot of money to compete in Memphis, and we've been getting donations from our fans and from local businesses, from people who don't have a lot of money. It means a lot to us."

The band, which recently released its new "King Bee Boogie," also has picked up sponsorships from local businesses, as well as national sponsor Disc Revolt.

The International Blues Challenge features more than 200 acts from 13 countries vying for the annual title. For Latorre, the sponsorship money is a way to improve on the band's last International Blues Challenge experience in 2003. "We went in 2003 and got a judges' score of 9 for the music and 2 on appearance," he says. "We just didn't have the look down to compete with the other bands from the South. They have a whole different kind of showmanship."

With that experience under his belt, though, Latorre believes the band can have a better showing with its 25-minute sets. He is especially hopeful for the band's new song, "The Bright Side," about suffering through today's tough economy by believing, "You gotta have faith. It can only go up from here."


Frank Latorre and The King Bees play the Eastport Luncheonette, 497 Montauk Hwy., Eastport, at 7 p.m. Friday.


Contact Long Island Sound at glenn.gamboa@newsday.com or follow @ndmusic on Twitter.

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