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South Helena-West Helena
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King Biscuit Time

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In the 1940s when blues began to spread along the Mississippi River, Helena served as the launching point thanks to in great part to “Sunshine” Sonny Payne. Payne’s live broadcast of the King Biscuit Time Radio Show began in 1941. His was the first regular radio show to deliver blues daily to mainstream America. Homes were filled with the unique sound of Sonny Boy Williamson, Pinetop Perkins and Robert Lockwood Jr. From small-town Helena the foundation was laid for today’s music—blues, rock, pop, and hip-hop.

SONNY PAYNE, King Biscuit Time

Seventy-three years later, Payne continues to broadcast each weekday on KFFA from his Delta Cultural Center studio on historic Cherry Street. Yes. Seventy-three years later. King Biscuit Time is the longest running radio show in history.

HISTORIC CHERRY STREET, King Biscuit Time

King Biscuit Time is open to the public. Stop in. Listen to a live broadcast. Payne regularly welcomes musicians into the studio. Even I ended up on the radio!

See the huge microphone in the next picture? That was my microphone. I promise you, Payne never meets a stranger.

KING BISCUIT MICROPHONE, King Biscuit Time

Musical greats have passed through this river town, and still do particularly during the annual King Biscuit Blues Festival held each year on Columbus Day weekend. People, this is a BIG deal, a three day blues extravaganza attracting hundreds of thousands of blues enthusiasts from around the country.

This year’s event (October 8-11, 2014) will command six stages with live music from over fifty musicians. Headliners include Sonny Landreth and Roy Rogers (Thursday), Delbert McClinton (Friday), Jimmy Vivino & The Black Italians (Saturday). Three day even tickets are $50. Single day tickets are $30. Buy tickets HERE.

King Biscuit Blues Festival, King Biscuit Time
 Photo courtesy of Visit Helena

In addition to music, the festival will include a 5K/10K along the river and through downtown Helena, as well as a Call and Response Blues Symposium on the origins of blues which will be held in the historic Malco Theatre. Visit www.kingbiscuitfestival.com for more information on the weekend festivities including tips for planning your visit, where to stay, etc.

Soak up music and food and the rhythm of the Mississippi River. Helena is a unique town devoted to preserving and sustaining the blues culture. You will leave inspired with a greater appreciation for the rich musical heritage of the Delta.

HELENA SIDEWALK, King Biscuit Time

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Talya Tate Boerner is the author of two award-winning books—The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee and Gene, Everywhere. A fourth-generation farm girl and native of Mississippi County, Talya lives in Fayetteville where she is self-proclaimed nature lover and book hoarder. Talya blogs at Grace Grits and Gardening and writes a quarterly column for Arkansas Farm Bureau’s Front Porch Magazine called Delta Child. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing in her garden.

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