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King Biscuit Time
Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 362
Helena, Arkansas
Thursday, October 6, 2016

Y'all, Pass Da Biscuits
'cause it's King Biscuit Time along the Mississippi River in Helena, Arkansas!

It looks like a beautiful weekend in the making, cool and clear. And whew-whee! Great lineup!

The King Biscuit Blues Festival starts today at 12noon with Mississippi Bigfoot. See below for full schedule and other related events. Quapaw Canoe Company Helena Outpost will be open every day from 9am-5pm for visits, rentals, guiding & outfitting. Last building in town going towards river. Located perched on the edge of the levee at 107 Perry Street.


The music starts at noon Thursday with Mississippi Bigfoot on the Main Stage. Later, headliner Sonny Landreth and special guest Roy Rogers perform at 8:30 p.m. on the Main Stage. On Friday the music s at 9 a.m. and headliner John Mayall performs at 8:30 p.m. on the Main Stage. The music begins again at 9 a.m. Saturday, with headliner Charlie Musselwhite taking the Main Stage at 8:30 p.m.

The three days of music includes more than 60 acts playing on five stages. Most of the music is free. Only the Main Stage performances require a ticket.


The King Biscuit Blues Festival includes blues from Wednesday afternoon until late Saturday night, but the festival is not all about music.

The Flour Power Run in Memory of Kenneth Freemyer, held in honor of the race director of the run who was killed in a car wreck in 2000, is a 5K (with 10K option) that s at 8 a.m. Saturday. The race, a benefit for Freeman Playground, is along the mighty Mississippi River and through historic downtown Helena-West Helena.

To register and for more information, visit

The King Biscuit Blues Festival presents its sixth annual "Call and Response, The Blues Symposium" at the Malco Theater on Cherry Street in downtown Helena-West Helena on Saturday. Thefeatures blues artists talking about their craft.

Part One is 10:45-11:45 a.m. with moderator Roger Stolle, owner of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art store in Clarksdale, Miss. Part Two is noon-1 p.m. with Don Wilcock, a blues journalist with nearly 50 years of experience.

BBQ & Blues on the Levee, a Kansas City Barbeque Society sponsored cook-off, is Saturday during the festival along two blocks of Walnut Street. The competition includes $6,000 in prizes in categories such as chicken, pork ribs and beef brisket. Some teams will take part in the People's Choice Contest.


A three-day ticket to the 31st annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena is $75. Single-day tickets are $30 apiece. Children under 6 get in free with a paying adult. Tickets are available via or at the festival.


Thursday, October 6:

• Main Stage Opens: The Main Stage kicks off at 12:00pm

Friday, October 7:

• Bit-O-Blues Artist on the Main Stage: Performances from 9:00am until 10:45am.

• Front Porch Blues Bash at the Miller Annex: Performances from 12:00pm until 5:45pm.

• Lockwood/Stackhouse stage: Live Music from 12:00pm until 9:00pm at Cherry and Rightor Streets.

• VIP Party: Any sponsors contributing $600 or more are welcome to enjoy a party in the VIP Tent in front of the DCC Depot from 5:00pm to 9:00pm.

Saturday, October 8:

• The Flour Power 5K Run: in memory of Kenneth Freemyer and benefiting Freeman Playground; starts in front of the courthouse on Cherry Street at 8:00am.

• Bit-O-Blues Artist on the Main Stage: See Friday (above) for details.

• Front Porch Blues Bash at the Miller Annex: Performances from 12:00pm until 6:00pm.

• Call and Response Blues Symposium: At the Malco Theater on Cherry Street from 10:45am until 11:45am and 12:00pm until 1:00pm.

• Gospel Performances: At the Malco Theater on Cherry Street from 5:15pm until 10:10pm.

• Lockwood/Stackhouse stage: Live Music from 11:00am until 9:00pm at Cherry and Rightor Streets.

3-day wristbands are $75; 1-day wristbands are $30 each. For more information or to purchase wristbands, contact the KBBF office at 870-572-5223 or visit


Thursday, October 6th

Mississippi Bigfoot

12:00 p.m. to 12:50 p.m.

Sterling Billingsley

1:10 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Heavy Suga & The SweeTones

2:35 p.m. to 3:40 p.m.

Reba Russell

4:00 p.m. to 5:10 p.m.

Johnny Sansone

5:30 p.m. to 6:40 p.m.

Eric Gales

7:00 p.m. to 8:10 p.m.

Headliner: Sonny Landreth with special guest Roy Rogers

8:30 until

Friday, October 7th

D.R. Diamond & Birthright Blues Project

9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

Carson Diersing Band

10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Blind Mississippi Morris

12:00 pm. to 12:55 p.m.

Henry “Gip” Gibson

12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Stephen “The Bluesman” Duncan

12:00 p.m. to 12:40 p.m.

Guitar Mac MacKnally

1:00 p.m. to 1:40 p.m.

Spoonfed Blues featuring Mississippi Spoonman

1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

Mike Wheeler

1:10 p.m. to 2:10 p.m.

Brotha Ric Patton

:00 p.m. to 2:40 p.m.

Robert Finley

2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Kenny Neal

2:30 p.m. to 3:40 p.m.

Ben Wiley Payton

3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

C.W. Gatlin Band

3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Bill “Howlin’ Madd” Perry

4:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Cash McCall Band

4:00 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.

Mike Zito

4:00 p.m. to 5:10 p.m.

Kenny Brown Band

5:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Wampus Cats

5:10 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets

5:30 p.m. to 6:40 p.m.

Lonnie Shields Band

6:20 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Rebirth Brass Band

7:00 p.m. to 8:10 p.m.

Linsey Alexander Band

7:50 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Headliner: John Mayall

8:30 until

Saturday, October 8th

Delta Blues Museum Band

9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

Marcus “Mookie” Cartwright

10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Dallas Alice

11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Peterson Brothers

12:00 p.m. to 12:55 p.m.

Richard “Rip Lee” Pryor

12:00 p.m. to 12:40 p.m.

Sean “Bad” Apple

12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Mark “Muleman” Massey

1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

Robert Kimbrough, Sr. Blues Commission

1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

Katy Guillen & the Girls

1:10 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Robert Lee “Lil Poochie” Watson & Hezekiah Early

2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Willie Cobbs

2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Kenny Smith with Bob Margolin & Bob Stroger

2:35 p.m. to 3:40 p.m.

Sam Frazier, Jr. & Albert White

3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Vasti Jackson

3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith Band

4:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Kevin Naquin

4:00 p.m. to 5:10 p.m.

Phillip Stackhouse Band

4:00 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.

Front Porch Youth Jam

5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues

5:10 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Chris K

5:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Andy T. & Nick Nixon

5:30 p.m. to 6:35 p.m.

Phillips County Quartet

5:55 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins

6:20 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Anointed Men of Standard

6:25 p.m. to 6:55 p.m.

Toronzo Cannon

6:55 p.m. to 8:10 p.m.

The Dixie Wonders

7:05 p.m. to 7:25 p.m.

Angelic Voices of Clarksdale, MS

7:35 p.m. to 8:05 p.m.

Charles Wilson Band

7:50 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Hughes Singers of Helena, AR

8:15 p.m. to 8:35 p.m.

Headliner: Charlie Musselwhite

8:30 until

Spiritual Keyes

8:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.

Lumpkin Singers

9:25 p.m. to 10:10 p.m.

The Front Porch Blues Bash -- Delta Cultural Center Miller Annex

The Front Porch Blues Bash will be held Friday, October 7 through Saturday, October 8 at the DCC Miller Annex – Some of the best blues music during the King Biscuit Blues Festival will be performed in the Delta Cultural Center's Miller Annex, and it's at no cost. The line-up is as follows:

Friday, October 7:

• 12:00pm – 12:40pm: Stephen “The Bluesman” Duncan

• 1:00pm – 1:40pm: Guitar Mac MacKnally

• 2:00pm – 2:40pm: Brotha Ric Patton

• 3:00pm – 3:45pm: Ben Wiley Payton

• 4:00pm – 4:45pm: Bill “Howlin’ Madd” Perry

• 5:00pm – 5:45pm: Kenny Brown Band

Saturday, October 8:

• 12:00pm – 12:40pm: Richard “Rip Lee” Pryor

• 1:00pm – 1:45pm: Robert Kimbrough, Sr. Blues Commission

• 2:00pm – 2:40pm: Willie Cobbs

• 3:00pm – 3:45pm: Vasti Jackson

• 4:00pm – 4:45pm: Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith Band

• 5:00pm – 6:00pm: Front Porch Youth Jam

For a complete list of exhibits and other events at the Delta Cultural Center, go to For more information, contact the DCC at 870-338-4350.


What is the King Biscuit Blues Festival?

The King Biscuit Blues Festival, is one of the nation’s foremost showcases of blues music. Held for three days annually in October, tens of thousands of blues enthusiasts converge on historic downtown Helena, Arkansas to hear stirring and uplifting performances of an American art form on the banks of the Mississippi River.

As the home of “King Biscuit Time,” the longest running radio show ever, Helena became legendary in the Delta. Sonny Boy Williamson and other musicians played live on KFFA every weekday, pausing for King Biscuit Flour commercials and announcements of their next nighttime performances.

Jim O’Neal, the editor of Living Blues Magazine at the time and an authority on blues history, said, “The King Biscuit hour was the thing that really crystallized blues music in this area. Muddy Water and B.B. King would come home from working in the fields every day just to listen to the King Biscuit hour.

In an interview with The Daily World in October of 1986, harmonica wizard James Cotton expressed the feelings of many Delta blues musicians who chose to “come home” to Helena for the first King Biscuit Blues Festival. From original King Biscuit Time artists such as Robert Jr. Lockwood and Pinetop Perkins, to younger performers such as Anson Funderburgh, a wide range of blues stars were thrilled to be a part of Helena’s celebration of its musical roots.

Artists, too, remember a time – the 1940’s and 1950’s – when the town was filled with music.

Pinetop Perkins, a King Biscuit regular, said in the Daily World that 1940s Helena “aint’ nothin like it is now. I used to play all night long at a club called the Hole in the Wall. We got paid $3 a night plus all the whiskey we could drink. We’d play all night and then go home and sleep until it was time to play again. Those were the days.”

But by the mid-1980s, Helena had changed from a jumping town to a community in danger of dying. Businesses were closing and people realized the downtown area was decaying, but no one knew what to do to save it.

Experienced Main Street directors recommended community festivals to get local people back to town and, at the same time, promote tourism. The group, which would later form the Sonny Boy Blues Society, became the core of the first King Biscuit Blues Festival planning committee.

Helena’s musical heritage was largely unknown even to hardcore blues fans. The King Biscuit Blues Festival was an effort by local blues lovers to establish Helena’s rightful place in the Delta’s musical history.

The King Biscuit Blues Festival did not run into any problems until 2005 when the festival became the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival.

It wasn’t until the festival’s 25th Anniversary that festival supporters began to look into getting the King Biscuit name back, and they finally discovered that its current owner is Wolfgang’s Vault, a vast archive of live music performances and recordings in San Francisco that includes the King Biscuit Flower Hour.

As soon as Wolfgang’s Vault understood the history of the blues festival in Helena, they allowed the King Biscuit name to be used again. Beginning in 2011 the festival name was restored to the "King Biscuit Blues Festival."

Bobby Rush: True to the Blues

King Biscuit Blues Festival opener Bobby Rush says his love for the form of honest-to-goodness music keeps him going at 82

by Shea Stewart

Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Oct 2, 2016

The blues is truthfulness.

So says Bobby Rush, who, at 82, is one of the last original bluesmen standing.

It's up to the blues artist to provide that honesty, says Rush, who learned the music growing up in the '30s and '40s in north Louisiana and southeast Arkansas.

"Any song should have [truthfulness] in it," he says. "Either what happened to you or what happened to someone else.

"Be true. It may not hit everyone, but even if it didn't happen to you, you can understand it and relate to it."

And it's Rush's version of the truth that will kick off the 31st annual King Biscuit Blues Festival on Wednesday in downtown Helena-West Helena. After his performance comes three days -- Thursday through Saturday -- of honest blues music along the Mississippi River, a mass of swirling brown water that has long flowed with the music.

"The festival is just a showcase of the authentic blues," says Munnie Jordan, executive director of the festival, which ed in 1986. "We like to be true to the genre of the blues. We like to keep our niche as a blues festival. ... We don't ever want to lose our purpose and our roots, what we are a part of, which is authentic blues."

Rush delivers an interpretation of blues that is half tent revival in the boondocks and half

backroom of a big city bar, a Delta hootenanny meets metropolitan excess. His hypersexual blues, filled with R&B, soul, funk and rock 'n' roll, is not thinking man's music. It's hip-moving music. Get down, throw worries away and dance, just dance.

And if the music of this Louisiana-born, electric-boogaloo musician doesn't get one going, his shake dancers certainly will. Their jerking and shaking from the stage as Rush bares his soul are the conductor's wand of a Rush show, guiding music and audience together as one in this joyous occasion that is laced with bawdy humor.

Rush is an old hand at the blues, but his music and his show never get stale. Instead, Rush is always using both to celebrate not just the blues but also life. His newest celebration is his latest record, the 12-track Porcupine Meat, released Sept. 16 on Rounder Records.

"I'm just enthused, still working and still doing what I do," says Rush, who got his in long-gone juke joints and clubs in Arkansas. "As long as I feel good I'm going to keep doing it. As long as God gives me strength and keeps my mind focused."

Rush's blues will be followed by other variations of the genre, like the slide guitar mastery of Sonny Landreth, the Thursday night headliner and a musician whose blues include a hint of zydeco, the blues' south Louisiana brother.

For the Friday headliner there's the barn-burning yet gentlemanly blues rock of John Mayall, an English singer, guitarist and organist whose sidemen have included such musicians as Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Jack Bruce, Paul Butterfield and three guys who later founded Fleetwood Mac: Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (though McVie was a few months behind).

Closing out the festival on Saturday night is the electrified harmonica blues of Charlie Musselwhite, a Mississippi man who got ed playing the Chicago blues.

In all, the festival is more than 60 musicians across five stages and nearly 50 hours of concurrent music.

"If you come to this festival and don't have a good time, man, it's your own fault," says Bubba Sullivan, the owner of Bubba's Blues Corner in downtown Helena-West Helena. "It's a little bit of something for everybody. It's a very unique experience."

Sullivan has been involved with the festival since he helped it in 1986. Every year he attends, and every year he walks away after the festival knowing he has seen some of the best blues music around.

This year, he's excited about seeing Mayall. But Sullivan also is interested in seeing Memphis-bred blues rock guitarist Eric Gales on Thursday evening and New Orleans second-line funk/soul/jazz outfit Rebirth Brass Band on Friday evening.

Gales is similar to Jimi Hendrix, Sullivan says, performing a form of the blues scorched with white-hot guitar theatrics. "I think he's going to blow people away," Sullivan says of Gales, who plays the Main Stage at 7 p.m. Thursday.

And, of course, Sullivan is ready to see his old friend Rush, who headlined the festival last year and has played it several times over the decades.

"If you haven't seen [a Rush performance] -- I've probably seen it 50 times and it's something a little different every time that I see it -- he's got such a feel for the crowd," Sullivan says. "He makes everybody feel like they're special. He's a great guy. He's got that new CD out called Porcupine Meat. Only Bobby Rush would have a title like that."


Rush, born Emmet Ellis Jr. in Homer, La., in 1933, learned the blues from his father, a pastor in north Louisiana and south Arkansas. When the family moved to Pine Bluff in the 1940s, Rush ed playing the blues.

"I was really drawn to stories and my first love of playing was my Daddy. And then it was Louis Jordan," he says, mentioning he was entranced by the Arkansas native's version of "Straighten Up and Fly Right."

"My Daddy taught me how to do what I'm doing," Rush says. "He never told me to sing the blues, but he never told me not to."

Later in the 1950s, Rush moved to Chicago, where he learned more from such fellow blues legends as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Jimmy Reed.

"You can see in my music that there are plenty of people who I love their music and what they are doing because when you hear my music you'll hear a little Stevie Wonder, you'll hear a little Ray Charles, you'll hear a little Bobby Bland, a little B.B. King," Rush says. "When you put them all together, you got Bobby Rush."

In 1971, Rush's artistry and hard work paid off when he recorded his first hit, "Chicken Heads." He moved to Jackson, Miss., in 1983 and since then has released album after album, earning three Grammy nominations as well as 10 Blues Music Awards. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis in 2006.

Over the years Rush has perfected his live show, too, picking up "this funky kind of thing like James Brown" and curating his live show with bits of Sammy Davis Jr. and Broadway, too. Still, the two biggest influences on a Rush live show, he says, are the preaching style of his father and Rush's own translation of the live show of Cab Calloway, the big bandleader and jazz singer whose shows were a sensation during the 1930s and '40s.

In all, Rush's blues career is 64 years of the truth, across some 277 recordings and countless live appearances. He's still at it.

"Most guys my age repeating what other people do," Rush says. "They'll be singing 'Hoochie Coochie Man' to 'Sweet Home Chicago' forever. There's nothing wrong with those songs, but we as a people should always try to create and take it to another level and keep things going strong in your life.

"I'm mixed up in all of this. I love Louis Jordan and I also love B.B. King. I also love Prince and I also love Snoop Dogg. I'm not saying everything they do, especially the rap stuff, but I respect it. And I'm still learning from a lot of areas in life."

Porcupine Meat is so titled after a lyric from the title track, "It's like porcupine meat. Too fat to eat; too lean to throw away."

It's an old saying, Rush says, but a bit of truth people can relate to. "It's like you're in love with someone that don't love you, yet you can't turn them loose because what they do to you is so nice. They ain't good for you, but, hell, they good to you.

"You can't live with it; can't live without it."

The swamp blues track, filled with sensuous Fender Rhodes piano and Rush's rich harmonica playing, follows the album's lead-off track, the swamp rocker "I Don't Want Nobody Hanging Around." All 12 tracks were recorded earlier this spring at The Parlor Recording Studio in New Orleans, a studio used in the past by the likes of The Rolling Stones, T-Bone Burnett, Trombone Shorty and Galactic.

The complete album is an exhibit of what the blues can be in the hands of a master such as Rush. There's the injustice blues of "Got Me Accused," the big-city electric blues of "I Think Your Dress Is Too Short" and guest appearances by Joe Bonamassa, Dave Alvin and Keb' Mo'.

Rush is proud of Porcupine Meat, saying "you can tell when you got a hit record," but he's prouder still that he gets to go out and perform the music he loves to adoring audiences. Even at 82, Rush is going strong, playing more than 200 shows a year, from clubs and theaters to festivals.

And while Rush's career has taken him out of the South -- his early years of touring earned him the title of "King of the Chitlin' Circuit" -- and around the world, he's always happy coming back "home" to the King Biscuit Blues Festival.

"King Biscuit has let me be myself," Rush says. "When I say 'be myself,' I have crossed over with a white audience, but I haven't crossed out the black audience. There are many artists who have crossed over and crossed out. I've been so blessed to cross over. I got one foot over here and one over here. Man, I'm loved from both sides of the fence. I don't know where it comes from. I'm just thanking God for it.”

From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette