Bubba Sullivan's 70th Birthday and Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival News by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 8/16/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) On August 7 the Reba Russell Band drove to Helena, Arkansas, home of the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival to celebrate the birthday of Bubba Sullivan, a man who has contributed heavily to the culture of this town and since it's inception, has been instrumental in the town's famous blues festival, formerly known as the King Biscuit. Photo above of Reba Russell and Bubba Sullivan. All of Bubba's friends were at the party, many of whom had driven many miles to wish their friend a happy 70th birthday.

Blanket made of over
2 decades of old King Biscuit Festival shirts.
They actually raffled this gem away.

Pictures of Bubba during his formative years hang on the walls along with many of his "sayings" or Bubba-isms. I particularly like the one where he is flipping off the photographer while standing in front of a 122 Leslie cabinet and a Shure 545d mic... classic.

Bubba Sullivan is the longtime proprietor of Bubba's Place located on Cherry Street just a few feet from the main stage where the big festival is held every year in October. Bubba sells lots of really cool Blues records and other groovy stuff and his wife sells lovely antiques in the adjoining retail space.

Bubba's Blues Corner
105 Cherry Street
Helena, AR 72342


The Rand McNally travel guide says, "If you are into blues, well this is the place for you. Bubba's features one of the best selections of hard-to-find Blues music in the nation."

Pink Pussycat wine was available many many years ago and explained some wild nights across the expanses of Arkansas. It was primary fuel for the financially challenged back in the day.
This aged bottle, displayed in the window of the brand spanking new Blues Bayou Restaurant and Blues Club at 115 Cherry Street where the party was held, has maderized heavily but it started out being a pink liquid...and the makings of a dangerous night.

Blues Bayou Restaurant and Blues Club
115 Cherry Street, Helena, Arkansas
(phone 870-405-4979)

the Blues Bayou gator!

This is a nice, clean, very comfortable club and restaurant. I think they even deliver food to downtown Helena businesses. From what I have heard recently this is a destination for good food and spirits. They have a classy bar, a good chef and two big rooms. Drop in to see them.

Colorful Missouri Street...notice "home of bluesman Frank Frost" sign.

Earlier years-pictures taken with Bubba Sullivan and Reba.

SUN recording artist Sonny Burgess and the Pacers

The night started out with a visit from Sonny Burgess and the Pacers, who had a gig at the Isle of Capri Casino just directly across the Mississippi River on the Mississippi side(Arkansas law does not allow for casinos per se, ok, well, they do have a dog track in West Memphis and horse racing in Hot Springs). Sonny performed Jimmy Rogers "T for Texas" with the Reba Russell Band and we were proud to accompany him. A couple of his band members, the Pacers, also dropped in to wish Bubba well on his birthday. These guys are really talented and could not be more friendly and down to earth. Sonny is a famous SUN rockabilly recording artist.

Bob Harding mingles at the Blues Bayou Bar and Blues Club

One of my best friends Bob Harding and his sweet wife, Carolyn, drove from Memphis to attend. Bob has run all the biggest and best(at least while he was there) clubs on Beale Street and still runs his own club next to Tater Red's Lucky Mojo's and Voodoo Healings called the Black Diamond. My band, the Wampus Cats, had the best times of our lives there and we are currently immortalized with our band picture, including manager Sputnik Monroe, on the wall of the Black Diamond to this day. I truly love Bob and Carolyn. They are as good as human beings get.

...more Bubba.

Sterling Billingsley

My good friend, Sterling Billingsley, who has his own band and is recording a new blues CD in Clarksdale these days. I will be sitting in this year at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage festival with Sterling's band. Sterling is also the President and Music Chairman of the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. Sterling sat in with the band most the night and we had a blast as he and Josh Roberts played guitar harmonies and great solos for hours.

The now 70 year old Bubba Sullivan is one of the founders of the King Biscuit festival. He said, ""When we started the festival in 1986, we didn't know how many people would show up," and man, did they ever show up. It is one of the largest and most successful blues events in the south and continues to grow each year. This year's festival will indeed be a record breaker with the quality of entertainment at an all time high level.

Here's Bubba standing in the middle of the Blues being laid down on the main stage by Dave Riley(who now plays with my buddy Bob Corritore) and the late Sam Carr, who passed away earlier this year. Sam was an awesome drummer and a true Blues legend.

The author and the late Sam Carr. A kinder, more talented old man you will never find.

Also at the party was Munnie Jordan, who is lauded by many as the true underpinning of the festival. Bubba Sullivan commended Jordan’s leadership. “This festival depends largely on Munnie’s ability to generate both the money and the interest in the festival,” Sullivan said.

The Sonny Boy Blues Society members are the owners and producers of the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. Bubba is the Historian of the festival, which is most appropriate.

The night went well, our last set lasting about two and a half hours. We were having fun and the whiskey was flowing at this party. We booked our appearance at Bubba's 100th birthday before we left. Much love to Bubba and all our dear friends in Helena. They are remarkable and are some of the world's finest caretakers and supporters of Blues.

Take a moment to look at this year's festival lineup. It's outstanding. Along with sitting in with Sterling's fine band, I will be there playing on Thursday with Reba Russell and will play twice on Saturday, first with my band, the Wampus Cats, followed by an appearance with Don McMinn and Night Rain. This band features his sons, drummer Doug McMinn, and superb bassist Rome McMinn. Look for more on Don here at the American Blues News as he will be interviewed this week.

2010 Lineup Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival-Helena, Arkansas

Thursday – Main Stage

Heather Cross
SBBS Battle of The Band Winner
Grady Champion
Willie Cobbs
Sterling Billingsley Band
James Harman
Reba Russell
Paul Thorn
B. B. King

Friday - Main Stage

Sherrie Williams
Big Jack Johnson
Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King
Kentucky Headhunters
Hubert Sumlin & Willie “Big Eyes” Smith
Michael Burks
Marcia Ball
Dr. John

Saturday – Main Stage

Preston Shannon
Larry McCray
Bobby Parker
Pinetop Perkins & Bob Margolin
Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets
Walter “Wolfman” Washington
Charlie Musselwhite
Taj Mahal

Friday – Lockwood Stackhouse Stage

Phillip Stackhouse
Andy Coats
Johnny Billington
Bernie Pearl
Spoonfed Blues featuring Mississippi Spoonman
Gwen White
Eden Brent
Mojo Buford
Bobby Rush

Saturday – Lockwood Stackhouse Stage

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Rev. Robert
Austin “Walkin” Cane
John Hammond
Lonnie Shields
Wampus Cats
Don McMinn
Earnest “Guitar” Roy

Payton Clark (Bit of Blues) Stage

David Bernstein
Johnny Billington Blues Academy
Matt Wigler
Homemade Jamz
Payton Clark Memorial featuring The Payton Clark Band

Tickets are available for this 25th Anniversary event:

Just click here for TICKETS!!


© Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms, 2010

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

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