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Local Blues History of Arkansas

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Blues History of Arkansas ..

Arkansas Blues

By Mike Dollins mike@mikedollins.biz

The Mississippi River is the state line between Arkansas and Mississippi. The infamous Blues Highway 49 crosses the Mississippi River, and winds up in the historic blues city of Helena, Arkansas home to King Biscuit Floor Power Blues KFFA Radio, and the King Biscuit Blues Festival.

They can’t call it the King Biscuit Blues Festival anymore, as some New Jersey carpetbaggers legally stole the name wanting thousands of dollars for usage. The kind folks in Helena, AR had to start calling the festival the Blues & Heritage Festival. I know, sounds like real Nazi crap, but that is the way the laws are written apparently.

The reason Arkansas didn’t get on the blues map back in the turn of the 20th century, is the Smithsonian Institute in their quest to record American Folk Music starting in 1902, headed down the Application trail, wound up in Tennessee and then on down Mississippi to New Orleans.

They never crossed the Mississippi River, heading westward, and thus Kansas City Blues, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Blues, Oakland Bay Blues, San Francisco Blues, Seattle Blues and Arkansas Blues didn’t make the grade. From there anyone trying to make a buck on blues starts at Clarksdale, stops in Memphis, and winds up in Chicago.

You can get that info on any album liner notes, or blues mag. Don’t get me started, and enough said for the moment. Today, I am focusing on Arkansas Blues – You know, the west side of the Mississippi River Valley and Delta.

The Arkansas River joins the Mississippi River, just South of Helena, Arkansas and Blues Highway 49, a little ways Southwest from Clarksdale, Mississippi. Welcome to Arkansas Delta Blues: Keep on jammin’ them blues, it’s music to my ears.

Arkansas Blues Legends: www.bluesguitarnews.com/ArkansasLegends

Blues Guitar News: www.bluesguitarnews.com

Blues Guitar News Ning: http://bluesguitarnews.ning.com (Interactive)

Blues Guitar News FaceBook: www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Blues-Guitar-News/130791946935789?ref=mf

Arkansas River Blues Society www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=100001082993923&ref=ts

Become a Member of the ARBS: a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. Arkansas River Blues Society Membership: $10 for single or $15 for family. Send check to Arkansas River Blues Society to P.O. Box 128, Alexander, AR 72002 Barbara "Babs" Bearden - President, Deb Moser - Vice President, Therese Free - Treasurer, Bonnie Parker - Secretary, Leadra Orr, Jeff Weeden, David Bogard, Mike Dollins – Board. Contact Babs: bearden599@aol.com

Ozark Blues Society: www.ozarkbluessociety.org

Ft. Smith Arkansas Blues: www.riverfrontbluesfest.org

Arkansas Blues & Heritage: www.bluesandheritagefest.com/sbbs

Arkansas Delta Cultural Center: www.deltaculturalcenter.com/education_programs

Spa City Blues Society: www.spacityblues.org

Arkansas Blues History: www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=599

Arkansas Blues on WikipediA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkansas_Delta

Arkansas Musicians in the Blues Hall of Fame ® : www.blueshalloffame.com/Local_Blues_Talent/Local_Blues_Talent_of_Arkansas.html

Arkansas Blues Radio: www.kabf.org - www.kffa.com - www.kasu.org - www.kuaf.org

Arkansas Delta Boogie: www.deltaboogie.com

Arkansas Blues DJ’s: Queen of Arkansas Blues DJ’s Deb’s, Blues House Party: http://www.facebook.com/search/?post_form_id=bdfb03ea4bf896719df7c38fe714f8e1&q=kabf&init=quick&ref=search_loaded#!/profile.php?id=100000656863994&v=info&ref=search

Paul Kelso on KAUF: http://www.facebook.com/search/?post_form_id=bdfb03ea4bf896719df7c38fe714f8e1&q=kabf&init=quick&ref=search_loaded#!/profile.php?id=560134626&v=info&ref=search

Arkansas Blues Highway 49

Blues Highway 49 begins at Gulfport, Mississippi, which is 20 miles West of Alabama, 20 miles East of Louisiana, and about 50 miles from New Orleans. Gulfport, Mississippi is a true delta city, which is on the Gulf of Mexico, in the most southern part of the United States.

For those of you that have never had a plate full of Turnip Greens, Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread, here we go: Traveling north, the first big town is Hattiesburg, MS, but north of that is Mississippi’s main major city; Jackson, Mississippi, home to some of the worlds best, and most famous Gospel groups, and Gospel and Blues radio programming also.

North of Jackson, is Yazoo City, a much worn out Blues word. Highway 49 splits at Yazoo with 49 West heading Northwest, and 49 Northward. They join again at the crossroads of Hwy 49 and Hwy 3 in the middle of nothing but cotton fields as far as you can see.

The closet small towns are Rome and Dublin miles away. After passing the crossroads, you will enter Clarksdale, Mississippi, which lays claim to be the epic-center for Blues worldwide. So be it.

Leaving Clarksdale you are on joint Highway 49 and 61, and they split in ten miles with the closest little berg being Rich, Mississippi.

Highway 61 continues north, crosses the Mississippi State line into, Memphis, Tennessee. I was in one of the worst thunderstorms of my life on this stretch of highway back in 1996.

Highway 49 turns West and crosses the Mississippi River, into Helena, Arkansas. This is home to the King Biscuit; KFFA historic Sonny Boy Williamson Blues Radio Show.

We are still in fertile cotton, and farming country. We didn’t really call it delta when I was a kid, but referred to it as bottomland or river bottom.

Traveling North, you pass West Memphis, Arkansas by about 20 miles, and head into Jonesboro, Arkansas. My daddy was born in house along side Highway 49 back in 1913, and he was raised on a cotton farm between Jonesboro, and Paragould, Arkansas.

From here if you stay north on 49, you will cross Arkansas into Missouri around Moark, Arkansas. 49 and 67 are joint highways in Missouri for a few miles. 49 will branch off around Williamsville, Missouri, and Highway 49 will continue to the North, and finally end at the historic Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri, which is now Interstate 44. Highway 67 continues Northeast and eventually joins Interstate 55, just south of St. Louis, Missouri, which is some odd 200 plus miles Southwest, away from Chicago.

For those of you that got some interest out of America’s Blues Highways, there is a MapQuest Reference below for you. America’s music Highways are Route 66, Highway 49 & 61. Although the Interstate system has fragmented the old Highway system, many parts of these old Blues roads are still there, where Southern and Union Pacific Railroads crisscross them continuously.

I’ll talk about blues trains in a future article. Now you know the rest of the story about blues highways in America.

MAPQUEST: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?

Wikipedia, encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Highway_49




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