By Big Dave and Kim 'Two Dat' Welsh
It’s the feeling you only seem to get by a total immersion into the history and the legendary places and people that make up the Blues. STLBlues did just that musical adventure, in the form of Street Teamers ‘Big Dave’ Beardsley, Jim ‘Jimbo Elvis’ Mills, and Kim ‘Fest Junkie’ Welsh converging from St. Louis, Memphis, and Louisiana respectively to the Mid-Delta city of Helena, AR. and the 25th Anniversary of the King Biscuit Blues Festival.
2010 Arkansas Blues Heritage Festival is no more....it's now official, the BISCUIT IS BACK! From here on out, the name King Biscuit is again the title of this 'one of a kind' event (in this writer's mind, it always was the Biscuit). This year the KBBF turned 25 years old, a milestone for any fest to achieve, and the weather was spectacular! This earned the 2010 King Biscuit a solid 5 on the STLBluesometer!
There's something about the King Biscuit that's a
magical music magnet, pulling music fans from the
farthest reaches of the globe. From the main stage
to the street musicians busking everywhere, the atmosphere
taps into the rich blues history of the area, which
spawned legends like Sonny
Boy Williamson, or 'Sunshine'
Sonny Payne of KFFA radio - still on the air today!
The former Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival,
once again known as 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, AR to hear
stirring and uplifting performances of
an American art form on the banks of the
in 1986, the first festival was a one-day
event, with a small gathering of local
residents and a flatbed truck as a stage.
Since then, the festival has grown to
a three-day event, with three stages
and several activities, such as the
Kenneth Freemyer 5K Run, the Blues in
Schools program, and the Tour da’
Delta bicycle tour
STLBlues Street Teamer Jim 'Jimbo Elvis' Mills even performed on the emerging artist stage! The highlights were endless, with B.B. King giving one of his best performances, Taj Mahal 'painting his mailbox blue', and Dr. John spreading his voodoo mojo. Paul Thorn, while not strictly a blues talent, was amazing in his storytelling performance. 97 year old Blues patriarch Pinetop Perkins looked exceedingly dapper as he once again graced the main stage, while Deak Harp worked his harmonica magic all along the streets of Helena and Clarksdale. If you’re feelin’ lucky, and you should since you are at the premiere blues fest, while taking in the sights and sounds you could enter raffles to win a gem of a quilt made of over two decades of old King Biscuit Festival shirts. Or you could try your luck at winning an old gas-guzzling Cutlass in need of restoration or a camouflage golf cart. You could indulge in any part of a pig you desire from snoot to toot barbequed to perfection, eat a turkey leg like a Neanderthal, have a Gyro, fried fish, or you could have grilled corn on the cob if you are conscientious. Saving the best for last, dive into a deep fried Twinkie or some funnel cake! Top it off with a beer and maybe head back to your chair to soak in more blues drenched music.
If you use the analogy of an amazing 3 ring circus, the King Biscuit is certainly ring #1 of this blues experience. Make sure you include ring #2, which is a visit over
City, where Mayor Mike oversees a fun-filled group
of campers, RV'ers, and countless campfire jams
featuring so much talent. 3am is not hard to do there, be forewarned! You may not know that Michael
Burks creates as much pleasure from his grillmaster
skillls as he does his music, but the residents of
Tent City know! While you're in Helena for the fest, wander down Cherry
St. and visit 'Sunshine' Sonny Payne of KFFA Radio fame, and
take in a live radio show at the Delta
Cultural Center. Also saunter over to Bubba’s Blues Corner and browse through some vintage blues vinyl while chewing the fat with Bubba Sullivan, the proprietor and a man who has contributed heavily to the culture of Helena and has been instrumental in the Biscuit since it’s inception. You’ll be sure to bring home some “Bubbaisms” because he has a way with words and some unique sayings tacked to the walls and spilling out of his mouth. Next door, the new Blues Bayou Restaurant and Blues Club presented some jam sessions after the last notes were played on the stages.
What's ring #3, you ask?
That would be a trip over to Clarksdale, MS.
for some stops you must make - The
Riverside Hotel and 'Rat', the Delta
Blues Museum, Ground
Zero Blues Club, Red's
Juke Joint, The
Depot Blues Club, Sarah's Kitchen, Cat
Head, Abe's BBQ, the famed Hopson Plantation, the list goes on and on. The
base of operations for STLBlues is just outside of
Clarksdale at the Cotton
Gin Inn, part of the historic Shack Up Inn -
featuring the Juke
The adjoining Hopson Plantation
is also where they hold Pinetop's Homecoming the Sunday after fest, for those who need one more day of music.....like us. There you can enjoy the grounds, rock on the front porch of a shack and gaze out at the bottletrees, go to the Commissary to hear Bob Margolin, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, the Peterson Brothers, Diddley Squat, La La Craig, and many other special guests who come to honor the man who once drove a tractor on this historic plantation. Or stroll over to the Juke Joint Chapel to sit in a pew and take in a little Cedric Burnside, Lightning Malcolm, and Anthony "Big A" Sherrod. As they say in Tent City, “It’s ALL good!”
Make your plans now for the 2011 King Biscuit Blues Fest! This years photo gallery is just below, and here are past years for your enjoyment :: 2009