King Biscuit Name In Jeopardy
King Biscuit Time, the first blues radio show, took to the airwaves in December 1941 on KFFA radio in Helena, Arkansas. Initially sponsored by King Biscuit Flour, a local company, the program has remained on the air ever since and is still hosted by veteran broadcaster "Sunshine" Sonny Payne. It has also spawned one of the nation’s leading blues festivals, held every October in downtown Helena.
Now King Biscuit Time, Delta Broadcasting Inc. (KFFA’s parent company) and the King Biscuit Blues Festival are being sued in federal court for trademark infringement and unfair competition practices by the New York-based King Biscuit Entertainment Group, owner of the nationally syndicated radio program, King Biscuit Flower Hour, which debuted in the early ’70s.
Delta Broadcasting has launched a countersuit, claiming that King Biscuit Entertainment Group is actually the party infringing Delta’s trademark rights. "We feel that we are in the right," Delta Broadcasting co-owner Nancy Howe told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "We were there first, we had the name and everything in between is inconsequential."
"We feel that the longevity of the name and the program means that they can’t take the name away from us," co-owner Jim Howe adds. "We’re fighting this battle for the town, for everybody."
Visualizing the Blues Exhibition and Symposium Set for Memphis
Visualizing the Blues: Images of the American South 1862–2000, a photo exhibition and symposium, will be held at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis from October 8–December 31, 2000. The exhibition will explore the historical, cultural and visual foundation of the blues through photography by world masters and important young artists whose work shows the life, landscape, ambience, people and history that gave birth to the blues.
The images in the exhibition feature the work of photographers Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Matthew Brady, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Gordon Parks, Eudora Welty and many others in what Dixon Gallery Director Jay Kamm calls "an evocative celebration of Southern life" from the Civil War to the present. Organized by Kamm and guest curator Wendy McDaris, Visualizing the Blues will tour nationally and internationally following its Memphis premiere.
The Dixon Gallery will publish a full-color catalog with essays by Ms. McDaris, Peter Guralnick, Debra Willis and others, and will augment the exhibition with lecture and concert series, an academic symposium, a blues film series, and performances by the Memphis Black Repertory Theatre of the stage presentation, Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil.
The blues symposium, to be held November 2–4 at the Dixon Gallery under the sponsorship of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Blues Foundation, will offer discussions on topics including "Historical Origins of the Blues," "Evolution of Blues Instruments," "Influence of the Blues on American Culture" and "The Blues Today and Tomorrow." Participants will include Guralnick, Dr. David Evans, Edward Komara, John Ruskey, Howard Stovall, Bill Malone and Vicki Goldberg, photography critic for the New York Times.
Contact Pierre Magness at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, (901) 761-5250, for information on the exhibition and Jane Faquin to request a program and/or register for the symposium.
Chicago Blues Community Fights Maxwell Street Demolition
The Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition went into Chicago Federal District Court in August to argue for a last-minute temporary restraining order against the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois to stop the demolition of historic buildings in the old Maxwell Street area.
Judge Ronald Guzman ordered the University of Illinois-Chicago to suspend the demolitions until further hearings could be held and pertinent UIC documents surrendered to the court. Crews hired by UIC had demolished several buildings in the area despite numerous requests that the demolition be postponed until the Keeper of the National Register for Historic Places could decide whether the neighborhood is a National Historic District. A ruling by the Keeper was expected in early September.
Meanwhile, Maxwell Street musicians and their supporters held a 48-hour Blues Vigil August 25–27 at the Juketown Community Bandstand. Music was provided by Joe Patterson & the Cut Rates Blues Band, Motivation, Lajune, blues DJ Frank "Little Sonny" Scott Jr. and. Maxwell Street blues legend Jimmie Lee Robinson, who began a "Save Maxwell Street" hunger fast August 18th.
The 69-year-old Robinson, author of "The Maxwell Street Tear Down Blues," remembers walking "hand in hand" down Maxwell Street in 1930 with his great-grandfather and his grandmother, Celia "Little Mama" Jackson.
"It feels like the UIC has cut off one of my hands and one of my feet," Robinson lamented. "Just like our bodies is the Temple of our Soul, these old buildings remaining on Maxwell Street and on Halsted Street are the temples of the Souls of Chicago Past. The aura of the past is still in these buildings.
"There is over 40 historic buildings left. I will fast until Washington. DC, puts Maxwell Street on the National Register."
"This neighborhood is very important to me," adds 74-year-old Little Sonny Scott. "In the 1940s and on, anyone who was about blues came to this street. It was a great meeting place and shopping area. I met my wife here.
"Something this sacred you honor and respect. The people, rich and poor and black and white, still need this place. It’s where we can meet."
"We want to send a message to the world to stop this insane destruction," concludes blues singer and harmonica player Mr. H. "You don’t bulldoze away the blues. I want to keep this music rolling."
For more information visit the website of the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition at http://www.openair.org/maxwell/preserve.html.
Clifford Antone Sentenced to Prison in Texas Marijuana Case
Austin, Texas, legend Clifford Antone, convicted of being involved in distributing an estimated 15,000 pounds of marijuana in the early ’90s, was sentenced in May to serve four years in federal prison, fined $25,000, and ordered to perform 750 hours of community service in East Austin upon his release. Although he pled guilty to the charges, Clifford continues to maintain his innocence and is supported by many friends and business associates.
Antone opened his famous Austin blues club in 1975 and played host to a brilliant array of blues stars for more than 20 years. Sunnyland Slim, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Albert King, Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds were regular visitors to Antone’s stage, and he built his Antone’s Records imprint into one of America’s leading blues labels.
Antone’s Records will continue under the aegis of the Texas Music Group, distributed by RykoDisc, with initial album releases by Barbara Lynn (Hot Night Tonight) and Pinetop Perkins (Live, Volume 1), plus an anthology of archival material, Cliff’s Picks, selected by Clifford Antone. Recordings by Guy Forsyth, Damon Bramblett, Lazy Lester, Sue Foley and Toni Price are scheduled for release before the end of the year.
Zoo Bar Changing Hands
BA contributor B.J. Huchtemann reports that Larry Boehmer, founder and for 27 years owner of the world-famous Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska, will retire in November and move to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, turning the blues stronghold over to sons Jeff and Tim Boehmer and the bar’s current manager, 17-year employee Pete Watters.
"I just kind of reached a point where it seemed like I’d done it too long, and it was time to do something else," Larry Boehmer told Catharine Huddle of the Lincoln Journal Star. "I’m going to paint."
The Zoo Bar has been a second home for Chicago bluesman Magic Slim, whose incendiary 1980s performances there have been released on a series of CDs. Luther Allison, Albert Collins, Charlie Musselwhite and a long roster of blues stars have appeared there over the years, and the new owners plan to continue the club’s blues tradition. Jeff Boehmer plays bass for Li’l Slim and the Back Alley Blues Band, the popular local outfit led by Magic Slim’s son.
The ownership change will likely take place on or before November 1, when the
bar’s liquor license comes up for renewal. Larry Boehmer and his wife, Rosalie, plan to say goodbye to Lincoln with a big Halloween blues bash at the Zoo.
"Blues Highway" Project Blazes Millennium Trail
The "Blues Highway," a physical and conceptual heritage trail linking American communities where our nation’s blues heritage was born, nurtured and still thrives today, has been designated as a Community Millennium Trail by the White House Millennium Council. Millennium Trails is a partnership between the White House Millennium Council, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, the National Park Service, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the National Endowment of the Arts and other public and private partnerships.
The "Blues Highway" follows the Mississippi River and Highways 61 and 49 from New Orleans through the Mississippi Delta to Memphis and St. Louis and Chicago, branching off to pass north through Louisville and Cincinnati to Cleveland and Detroit, east to the Piedmont region and up the Atlantic Coast to Washington and Philadelphia and New York City, west to Houston and Dallas, Kansas City and Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland — the routes traveled by blues men and women from the days after Emancipation to the modern-day touring blues acts, and the communities and cities where they brought the blues with them.
The New Orleans Blues Project (NOBP) will function as the managing organization for the "Blues Highway" Millennium Trail. NOBP Director Sally Stevens was elated when the White House informed her that her brainchild had been endorsed by Millennium Trails "in recognition of [NOBP’s] efforts to bring the community together to ‘Honor the Past [and] Imagine the Future,’ by developing a trail that connects people to their land, their history and their culture."
The "Blues Highway" launch event is scheduled to take place at the Praline Connection in New Orleans on September 22 during the Cutting Edge Music Business Conference and Roots Music Gathering held in conjunction with the International Festival & Event Organizers convention September 20–24.
For more information on the "Blues Highway" Community Millennium Trail, contact the New Orleans Blues Project, 1112 Ninth Street, New Orleans, LA 70115, (504) 895-0739.
Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s 11th annual Pioneer Awards, held in New York City in early September, honored pianists Johnnie Johnson and Huey "Piano" Smith, composer/producer Clyde Otis, singers Sylvia Robinson and Betty Wright, and singing groups the Chi-Lites and the Impressions. Stevie Wonder was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Second Annual Legacy Tribute Award went to Marvin Gaye.
The ceremony, hosted by Smokey Robinson, also honored Atlantic Records co-founder, producer and composer Ahmet Ertegun with the First Annual Founders Award, recognizing the record executive for his years of dedication and service.
Ertegun and Atlantic Records donated the initial seed money to start the R&B Foundation in 1989, and he’s been an active board member for the life of the Foundation.
Dew Drop Inn Radio Documentary Available
Meet All Your Fine Friends: The Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans, a radio documentary of the historic Central City nightspot written and produced by BA contributor David Kunian, premiered in August on WWOZ-FM, where Kunian hosts a weekly Late Night Jazz program. The briskly-paced, well-researched program features interviews with Dew Drop habitues Ray Charles, Allen Toussaint, Earl Palmer, Eddie Bo, Dr. John, Earl King, Deacon John, Gerri Hall, Milton Batiste, Tex Stephens and Cosimo Matassa,, among others, mixed with music by Edgar Blanchard & the Gondoliers, Lloyd Lambert, Lee Allen, James Booker, Earl King, Esquerita, Guitar Slim, and a host of New Orleans blues and R&B stars who frequented the Dew Drop during its heyday between the late ’40s and early ’60s. Kunian is offering the program to radio stations and broadcasting outlets and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.