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Once again the call of the Blues drew the faithful way down south, to the Delta land of Helena, Ark. Anticipation of this event kept this writer restless the night before, a feeling reminiscent of Christmas as a child. An early departure on a beautiful fall day showcased the natural beauty of Missouri, with the many shades of orange and red emblazoned across the land. As the miles passed, and the cotton began to turn the landscape into a sea of white, the feel of the Delta began to emerge. At a fuel stop in Memphis, I'm sure it was Elvis I spotted working behind the counter. Continuing on for a short drive down Hwy. 61 brings you to Clarksdale, Ms., a town steeped in Blues history. It's here that you'll find the site where WC Handy lived, right next to the Delta Blues museum, and so much more. Just next door to the Blues museum you'll find Ground Zero, the Blues Club owned by actor Morgan Freeman, who happened to be there all weekend. As you drive along Sunflower on your way back from the Blues Musuem, on your right you'll pass the Riverside hotel, where Bessie Smith spent some of her last days.


Back on Hwy. 61 heading north, you'll soon see the turnoff for Helena, and before you know it, you're over the Mississippi and in the land of "Da Biscuit". Things seem to stay unchanged in this sleepy little river town. The liquor store that burned several years ago is still standing, as is the architectural beauty of the Edwardian Inn just down the street. A few blocks down the road will bring you to the banks of the Mississippi levee that gracefully create the main stage ampitheater. Just a few years ago, as we sat on the railroad tracks that pass along these levee banks, David "Honeyboy " Edwards entertained me with stories of his early Helena days.

Thursdays fest entertainment began with Billy Lee Riley telling the crowd "my gal is red hot, your gal ain't doodely squat! Following Billy Lee Riley to the stage was a band called "The Rockin' Highliners", one of Canada’s top recording and touring acts! A special event that Stlblues was invited to this year was the Sonny Payne tribute. Sonny, who has been on the air with KFFA since the original King Biscuit Flour Hour radio show took to the airwaves with little known artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Lockwood Jr., was honored and roasted by all his friends who showed up to pay tribute. Bobby Rush, Little Milton Campbell, and Anson Funderbergh were just a few who were on hand for this event! Meanwhile, back over at the main stage, Larry McCray was letting the crowd know that it "ain't no use in your cryin', cause your cryin' won't help you none"! Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers were up next on the bill. You can never go wrong with this band, between the Texas style guitar of Anson and the gravel & grit of Sam's vocals. Sam remarked to the crowd "ladies, I want you all to know I'm single again", and then dedicated a song to Robert Lockwood Jr., whom he affectionately referred to as "Baldy". A great ending for the day!

Friday began with blue skies, and the forecast of approaching rain and winds. A quick trip to WalMart for some weather gear, and then we were soon fest bound. Sure enough, blue skies turned to grey, and the rain soon followed. By 3 pm the stages had to close, but not before Guitar Shorty did his patented guitar magic (ala Hendrix), and sang "roll over baby, roll me like you used to do". The dedicated fest staff of the KBBF weathered the first wave of storms, and soon had the main stage back in business. The media party was in full swing by 5 pm, so we ducked in for some warmth , food & fun, with great music provided by Oreo Blue. Emerging from that party around 7 pm, we found mother nature hadn't quite finished! The Festgrounds had emptied in our absence, and so we decided to call it a day. Unfortunately for us, we later found that the Marcia Ball act hadn't completely cancelled, she just moved her show to the Sonny Boy hall, where we hear she played until the wee hours!

Saturday morning greeted us with clear skies and a cool breeze, with a hint of warmth on the way. A side trip to Friars Point was decided upon, and so our days journey began. Friars Point is a historic Ms. river town, and as the locals told us, Robert Johnson used to sit and play guitar on a bench along main street. Hopefully that story is true, otherwise the locals certainly enjoyed watching the silly tourists taking pictures of a nondescript wooden bench. Arrival at the fest brought us the sounds of a very humorous Larry Garner, followed to the stage by Gary Primich and his exceptional Austin harmonica sounds. Featuring a great rockabilly guitarist, Gary also shared the stage with Billy Boy Arnold, adding a nice dimension to his act.

Once again a strong St. Louis showing was there in force. Paul & Vicky, Lou & Julie, Ken & Pat, Rebecca & Paul, and many more! Festival bro Dr. Fultzenstien even came up from New Orleans to once again participate in one of the finest fests to be found! Sadly, all Blues Fests must end, and the journey begin back to our daily lives. As I headed back to St. Louis, news of the retalitory attack on Afghanistan blanketed the airwaves. The very fact that we are at war makes an event like the King Biscuit all the more special, and a great way to celebrate America!

Stlblues wants to extend a heartfelt thanks to Jerry Wenzel, Jerry Pillow, Bubba Sullivan, Liz Harrison, Vinyl FM, and all the staff and volunteers who give of thier time to make this event as spectacular as it is, thanks for everything! A special thanks to the Sonny Boy Blues Society, who this year assumed managment for the first time in the 16 year history of the King Biscuit Blues Festival. And of course, we all owe a thanks to the artists who carry on the Blues tradition! See you next year...at Da Biscuit!

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