Up and at ‘em! It’s Day 2 for King Biscuit Blues Fest in Helena, Arkansas!
To save some time, we decided to stop by Mickey D’s for breakfast. We just need something to tide us over until we can get some lunch. The place was busy with all kinds of folks. There were the older gentlemen in their suits who looked as though they had just come from church. They were very snazzy looking. I swear one of them had on a zoot suit. They even had their fedora with them.
There were kids and families in the play area. I looked in to check out the nice big area they had to run around in. I noticed a table with a display shining on it for a board game. How cool was that. The group of kids around the table were having a great time playing.
After finishing up, we headed down the road to Helena. This time, we went in the front way and not along the side road on the river. At the bridge going up, my stomach did a couple of little flips. I really have a hard time with heights.
Traffic was light as we got into town and turned to head toward the center of the old side of town and the levee. The young ladies were in place to rent out their parking lot. We pulled in and paid our $5 to park in the best spot in town.
We immediately loaded up the wagon and remembered to bring out jackets this time. The daytime temperature was supposed to be sunny and 79 with a light breeze off the river. Tonight’s temperatures would promise to be even chiller than the previous night. It was to be around 58 after the sun went down. It was a little warm for long pants, but too cool tonight for anything but that.
We decided to go to the left side of the stage and set up today. We found a spot on the tracks that was not too far off center and afforded a great view of the performers. After getting set up, we went down to the town to see what was going on. It was just after 11:00 in the morning and the symposium had started in the Malco Theater. The first hour, Roger Stolle from Cat Head Music was leading a panel with some of the current Bluesmen out of Clarksdale. Unfortunately, Red Paden would not be attending. Red is the local philosopher in town. He is not to be missed, if you ever get a chance to hang out.
Sean “Bad” Apple, Mark “Muleman” Massey, Hezekiah Early and Robert “Lil Poochie” Watson were the members on the panel. Roger was having the panel describe how they each got into the blues and became musicians in the Delta. Sean was the only member not born in the area. Their stories were interesting and varied. Roger had Lil Poochie describe his meeting Sir Paul McCartney. Apparently, Paul was a fan and had someone go to Mississippi to get Lil Poochie and bring him to LA for a meeting and to record. How great is that!
After the panel discussion, we wondered up the street and back down again. Just as we went by the theater, Hezekiah and Lil Poochie were coming out. I went over to tell them how much I loved hearing their stories and that was the great thing for me. They appreciated that we even cared to hear them and thanked us. No, thank you guys for being willing to share your time with us. We promised to come by and hear them playing at one of the side stages this afternoon.
Back at the main stage, we settled in to listen to the Peterson Brothers on stage. These brothers are 17 and 19. We heard them at the Chicago Blues Fest about 5 years ago. They were awesome then and have only grown in style. For someone so young, they are quite the masters of sound and style. They had a couple of percussionists on stage with them. The four of them were putting on quite the show and we had a great time watching them.
After their set, we headed down to check out the food selections for lunch. We decided on our picks and went by Bubba’s to purchase a new Peterson Brothers’ CD and get it signed. While we waited in line, we got to watch the boys. They are shy, but seem to like the attention. Rich stepped up and got signatures from all of the guys. He explained we had been watching them for a while now and hoped to continue to see them out and about. One the way out the door, we stopped to talk to their folks. They are really nice.
Now it was time for that food. I got loaded frito pie and Rich got crawfish etouffee. Back at our chairs with a couple of beers, we listened to Kathy Guillen and the Girls. It never fails to impress me how this festival finds new talent to bring to this stage. These girls had the licks and delivered the blues. I was impressed.
Bob Margolin, Bob Stroger, and Kenny Smith were on stage next. Bob Stroger was one of the best bassist in Blues back in the day. Bob Margolin had played with Muddy Waters. Kenny Smith grew up in the blues as his father, Willie Smith, was a bluesman and a pal of Muddy Waters. They talked about blues and played songs from different eras in blues. It was a fun show to listen and learn from.
Then a real treat came on stage. The program said Kevin Naquin. Who the heck was this? Never heard this name before. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the crew to set up the stage and run the sound checks. In this time, we got to check out the people milling around the stage. There was a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and keyboard player. Then there was some other guy messing with different accordions. This could be interesting. Sure enough, it was. Kevin Naquin and the Ossun Playboys was a Cajun band that can swing and party. We had a great time.
After the set, Rich went down to buy a CD. While he was there, he talked to Kevin about Cajun and Lafayette area, where the band was from. Rich came back with a CD and some stories. Kevin says to look them up if we are ever in the area again. We will definitely do that. I’d love to see them in their own environment and experience one of the Cajun clubs there.
While we were listening to the music, our neighbor came back to his chair. This guy was from Memphis, TN and down here on his own to listen to the blues. This was his 19 consecutive year in attendance. He brought his camper down and stayed at the Helena campground. They provided a shuttle service back and forth. I had a feeling he was going to need that by the end of the night.
Our neighbor (never did get his name) recommended that we get tamales from Pasquale’s on the main street. He said that Pasquale had a restaurant in Helena for a lot of years before retiring from that business. Now he only did a food wagon at festivals in the area. Turns out, Pasquale is like 85 years old, or something like that. I did hear that this was the best place for tamales.
We headed down to hear Hezekiah and Lil Poochie play at the Lockwood Stage. They were already on and playing when we arrived. We found seats on the curb and in the shade. You could tell they had been together for a long time. They don’t really finish their sentences and yet they know what they are going to play. Lil Poochie seemed to forget the words now and then, but he could still play guitar. It was great to hear from some of the old guys with a lot of history.
On our back in to the mains stage, we stopped by and got a pack of 3 tamales. Rich got some chicken wings as well. The neighbor was not wrong. These were some of the best tamales I’ve ever had. Oh my gosh. I did take a few minutes to talk to Pasquale since there was no one else in line. He was a great talker and quite the salesman. I told him his tamales come highly recommended. He agreed and said he recommended them, too.
We ate our finds of the evening as we listened to Andy T and Nick Nixon, minus Nick. Apparently, Nick had not been well and was out of commission for a while. In his place, Andy T brought in Alabama Mike. This guys was quite the crooner. He had a way with song and we enjoyed the set.
Best Tamales so far! I really enjoyed these. Wow! The neighbor said his daughter had gotten him a dozen for Christmas. They came frozen. He pops one into the microwave when he feels like having a real treat. Hmmm. There’s an idea for a Christmas gift.
Then on to the stage comes Toronzo Cannon. We’ve heard Toronzo about 5 times now. He is a Chicago bluesman with a great sound and I love his storytelling in his songs. He had a new CD come out on Alligator Records, which is Rich’s favorite label. Toronzo did not disappoint us. He put on a great show. The crowd loved him.
After the set, Rich went down to pick up the new CD and talk to Toronzo. Like I said before, that’s the beauty of these things. You get to actually talk to the performers and get them to sign the covers. When Rich got his turn to talk to Toronzo, Mr. Cannon exclaimed that Rich’s hat was a Dobbs. Apparently, Toronzo loves Dobbs hats. They talked hats, blues, and a little bit of everything. Rich even got his picture with Toronzo.
As Rich was waiting in line, the people around him were talking about Toronzo. So Rich had to fill them on what they didn’t know and what they should know. He was selling Toronzo to the novices. That’s how it goes. You talk to fans and wannabe fans all around you. Everyone likes to share their stories.
By this time, the sun was down and it was getting chilly. We had our jackets and I had my blanket. Unfortunately, we had a group of 40 something women up the hill from us who had been drinking most of the day. One of them had quite a cackle when she laughed, which was a lot. They were trying to talk over the music and laughing. If you want to talk, go to the VIP Tent. I’m sure they would appreciate you.
We managed to get through Toronzo with them. It was cigarettes and cigar that got me the most though. Four people in front of me were smoking away at one point and I had to get up and get out of the cloud. I don’t mean to be militant about the cigarettes, but my allergies just get worse and worse with age. I’m surprised I haven’t developed asthma with it. Lucky so far, I guess. Rich was getting bothered by the cigar smoker a couple of seats down from him. Now, he does have asthma and I was worried we were going to have to leave. Sorry, but just because it is outside doesn’t make it alright to light up and smoke with so many people around you.
Charlie Musselwhite was the last headlining act. He is quite the harmonica player. He started out in 1966 and has only been getting better. He told stories between the songs and played some great blues for us. It was awesome. I’ve heard Charlie for a while and he was one of the reasons for coming out this year. For his encore, he played Rich’s favorite song. That was a great way to top off the evening.
The cold kept us from lingering too long after the show. We got back to the car and unloaded the wagon. Time to head over the bridge and back to our warm hotel room. First things first though. A nice hot shower to wash away the smoke and warm up. That just made me sleepy. I still had a couple of blogs to write. After the second entry, it was time to read a bit and then drift off to sleep with all that wonderful blues music playing through my dreams.