(WEST MEMPHIS, ARKANSAS) — An unprecedented partnership between the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas, and the Highway 61 Blues Festival in Leland, Mississippi, offers an opportunity for blues enthusiasts world- wide to plan September 29-October 6 for a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Delta Blues.
Announced today at the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism, this pairing will enrich the experience for the thousands of blues fans expected to attend the festivals this fall.
The King Biscuit Blues Festival, held on Columbus Day weekend for 27 years, is named for Helena’s renowned live blues radio program, “King Biscuit Time.” It celebrates the heritage of the town where blues greats like Sonny Boy Wil- liamson and Pinetop Perkins once played every night of the week.
Featuring authentic Delta blues musicians and headliners that have included B.B. King and Keb’ Mo’, the King Bis- cuit festival draws visitors from all over the U.S. and many European countries.
“They come because they love our music, and while they’re here, they want to soak up as much blues and as many other aspects of Delta culture as they can,” said Munnie Jordan, Executive Director of the King Biscuit Festival. “Pairing of these two festivals and reaching across state lines is an unprecedented venture. It is a partnership that is built on our love of the music and our blues fans who return every year.”
The Highway 61 Blues Festival will kick off the two-state celebration Saturday, September 29, in Leland, at the historic musicians’ corner beside the legendary blues highway for which the festival is named. Like Helena, Leland was once an entertainment hotbed, frequented by musicians who included guitarists Eugene Powell (Sonny Boy Nelson) and Charlie Booker.
Sunday, September 30, the celebration continues at the Holly Ridge Jam, site of the final home of the “founder of the Delta Blues,” Charley Patton. Fans will have the opportunity to visit the graves of Patton and blues singers Willie James Foster and Asie Payton.
Highway 61 Blues Festival Chairman Bill Johnson foresees many benefits in the back-to-back events. “Partnering with King Biscuit is a win-win for the festivals and the fans,” he said. “Fans will have two weekends of music to count on with a week of blues activities—across the Delta in both Arkansas and Mississippi delta—in between.”
“We know our annual international blues visitors stay in the Delta for 7 to 10 days,” noted Wesley Smith, Executive Director, Greenville-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Why not give them more to do while they’re here and more reasons to come back next year? We will be able attract more blues artists and keep them in the region longer; smaller communities gain the opportunity to schedule extra performances. We’re on the path to providing the every day experience blues fans expect when they visit the Delta,” Smith said.
The 2012 King Biscuit Blues Festival will be held Thursday through Saturday, October 4-6, with the “over-the-top” headliner and line-up to be announced May 9, according to Jordan. She and Smith predict the partnership will boost visits to other tourist spots in both states, from Native American burial mounds to Civil War sites to attractions along the Mississippi River.
“Fans may come here for the blues, but they always fall in love with the Delta.” Smith said.
For more details, contact Smith at 662.334.2711 or Jordan at 870.572.5223. For updates on King Biscuit Festival and Highway 61 Blues Festival go to their websites: www.kingbiscuitfestival.com and www.highway61blues.com Also, find King Biscuit Blues Festival and Highway 61 Blues Museum on Facebook.