I bet you didn’t know that Arkansas is a great place to catch the Blues. Many say that Arkansas, Helena to be specific, is one of the best places in the South to hear real blues music and the best time is during the King Biscuit Blues Fest, formerly known as the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. In 2018 the blues fest will be held on October 3-6. Admission is $85 for the weekend or $45 for a day.
What is the King Biscuit Blues Festival?
It’s when Delta Blues fans head on down to Helena, AR for 3 days of the best Blues in the Delta.
The King Biscuit Blues Festival began in 1986 as a one-day musical tribute to the Blues roots of Helena and the man at those roots, Sonny Boy Williamson. The “King Biscuit” in its name stems from the fact that Sonny Boy Williamson was a founding performer on King Biscuit Time, a live Blues program on the radio. The program was sponsored by King Biscuit Flour.
What started out as a small festival has gained a reputation throughout the nation and always draws a big crowd. Despite all the growth, the festival organizers have remained loyal to their roots. The festival is still dedicated to the Blues as performed by the musicians that were directly or indirectly influenced by Sonny Boy and his contemporaries. These artists include Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Billy Branch, Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets featuring Sam Myers, Charlie Mussellwhite, Frank Frost, Sam Carr and a host of others.
The festival has four stages and it is estimated that over 100,000 people will be in attendance this year. They have dozens of Blues musicians and even a Gospel stage.
Hotels Close To The Festival
You probably want to book well in advance.
- Magnolia Hill B&B: This 19th-century Victorian style mansion turned B&B gets great reviews.
- Edwardian Inn: 1904 mansion that’s now a B&B. Great reviews.
- Best Western: Well kept. Good reviews for a budget hotel.
If you can’t stay in Helena, West Memphis and Tunica are nearby.
Places to Eat
The festival has food, but if you get there early, there are great restaurants up and down the street. Some of my faves are Granny Dee’s Homestyle Cooking and Roadkill Grill.
You can make a day trip and check out some Little Rock restaurants or head over to Memphis for some great BBQ.
Places To Visit
- The Delta Cultural Center is in downtown Helena. It has some great exhibits on the history of the blues in Arkansas.
- The Louisiana Purchase State Park and the Delta Heritage Trail are both only about an hour from the festival. If you like nature check them out.
- Helena Confederate Cemetery is a great site to learn something about the American Civil War. Most of those buried are soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. The “the Stonewall Jackson of the West” is buried there.
- If you’re in town for a while, Beale Street in Memphis is just about an hour and a half away. It’s a must see for music lovers. Graceland is also in Memphis.
- Tunica is the Southern home of casino gambling. It’s only about an hour and a half away.
- Little Rock is about 2 hours away from Helena. You can visit us in the capital city if you have some time.