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story.lead_photo.caption Headliner Ruthie Foster plays the Main Stage today at the 34th Annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena. Courtesy King Biscuit Blues Festival

For the 34th consecutive year, blues lovers will gather on Cherry Street in downtown Helena-West Helena for the King Biscuit Blues Festival.

Starting today, more than 70 acts will perform on six stages, and there will likely be jam sessions breaking out on street corners, sidewalks and anywhere else the blues compels someone to start getting down.

34th Annual King Biscuit Blues Festival

Through Saturday, downtown Helena-West Helena

Main Stage admission: $55 single day, $93 three days

Free admission to all other stages

(870) 572-5223

Headlining the Main Stage at the south end of Cherry Street will be Ruthie Foster, who performs today at 8:30 p.m.; Delbert McClinton plays on Friday and Kenny Wayne Shepherd takes over on Saturday.

Texas native Foster was recently nominated for the Blues Foundation's 2019 Koko Taylor Award for best traditional blues female artist of the year. She performed at the 2015 iteration of King Biscuit.

Describing her music in a news release, Foster says "It's my story as a woman that's grown up with gospel music. It's really all these different types of genres being raised in Texas. I look at music as in the beginning it really was healing for me in a lot of ways."

Delbert McClinton will perform Friday at the King Biscuit Blues Festival. Courtesy King Biscuit Blues Festival
Delbert McClinton will perform Friday at the King Biscuit Blues Festival. Courtesy King Biscuit Blues Festival

McClinton is another festival veteran, having performed in Helena-West Helena in 2011 and 2014. He is a Grammy winner and had a Top 10 hit in 1980 with "Giving It Up for Your Love."

His latest album, Tall, Dark & Handsome, was released earlier this year and is a collection of swinging blues rockers that finds McClinton in fine form and backed by his band, the Self-Made Men.

Guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd will close out the King Biscuit Blues Festival with a headlining set on Saturday. Courtesy King Biscuit Blues Festival
Guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd will close out the King Biscuit Blues Festival with a headlining set on Saturday. Courtesy King Biscuit Blues Festival

Louisiana guitar wizard Shepherd has been performing since he was a teenager and is making his first King Biscuit appearance. His second studio album, 1997's Trouble Is ..., included the rock radio hit "Blue on Black." His most recent record, The Traveler, dropped in May and is a workout in electric blues, Americana and Southern rock.

Among the other acts scheduled to appear at various stages today will be the Cedric Burnside Band at 1:10 p.m. and Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues at 7 p.m. Also today, the Front Porch Blues Jam hosted by Brotha Ric Patton starts at 1 p.m.

Performers set for Friday include Anson Funderburg & the Rockets, who have appeared at every King Biscuit festival since the first one in 1986, at 5:35 p.m.; Blues rocker Paul Thorn at 7:10; and the Jimmy Burns Band at 8. McClinton closes the night with a set that begins at 8:45.

On Saturday, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith, Bob Margolin & Bob Stroger perform together at 1:10 p.m.; The Cate Brothers at 2:35; Blind Boy Paxton at 3; the A-1 Gospel Singers at 5:50; Tyrannosaurus Chicken at 6 p.m.; Oxford Allstars at 8 and headliner Shepherd at 8:40.

All of this is just scratching the surface of music on offer, which runs the gamut from acoustic country blues, full-on Chicago-style electric blues, gospel and everything in between, including Mississippi Spoonman, who has been known to light his spoons on fire as he plays them. See for the full lineup at all of the stages.

And for those who are looking to add a little fitness to their blues experience, the 5K Flour Power Run starts at 7:30 a.m. in front of the Phillips County Courthouse, 622 Cherry St. The Tour da Delta bicycle ride, which has six routes ranging from 12 to 55 miles, departs at 9 a.m. from the American Legion Hut, 409 Porter St.

Registration information for both events is at

Sonny Boy Blues Society historian Bubba Sullivan will return to host the Main Stage proceedings, and this year will introduce not only one of his friends and favorite performers but also his co-writer.

Reba Russell, who returns to the festival for an appearance on the Main Stage at 4 p.m. Friday, will perform "Pink Pussycat Wine," an ode to a raucous annual summer cookout Sullivan and his friends hosted in Phillips County in the '70s.

Sullivan was telling Russell about the party and they ended up writing the song — a first for the 79-year-old Sullivan.

"She's going to do it during her set at the festival," he says. "She told me they've been playing it at her gigs and people are loving it."

Weekend on 10/10/2019

Print Headline: 34th King Biscuit Blues Festival ready to get down


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