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By Big Dave and Kim 'Two Dat' Welsh

B.B. KingDeep Blues
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.

The 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!


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 Mississippi River.

Founded 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

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!

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 to Tent 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 Joint Chapel!
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 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

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