Grammy Winning Drummer to Headline Front Porch Blues Bash

Delta Cultural Center - Thursday, October 01, 2015

Grammy Winning Drummer Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith 

The Delta Cultural Center in Helena is gearing up for this year’s King Biscuit Blues Festival with a great lineup at their Front Porch Blues Bash stage. Musical styles run from Louisiana Swamp Blues to Folk Blues, and everything in between. Award-winning drummers, top-rated harmonica players, and outstanding guitarists will perform at the DCC’s Miller Annex at 223 Cherry Street on October 9 and 10, beginning at 11:00 a.m., both days. Half of the artists this year are performing on the Front Porch for the first time. Headliners this year are award-winning artists Selwyn Cooper and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith.

All events of the DCC, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, are free of charge. The public is invited to attend.

Kicking things off on Friday, October 9, is Lee Chester “L.C.” Ulmer, a native of south Mississippi who has played all over the country for over 50 years, before returning home to the Ellisville area in 2001. Although he is a multi-instrumentalist who performed for many years as a “twelve piece” one-man band, today he plays mostly just guitar at live performances.

Next, Louis “Gearshifter” Youngblood brings his talents to the stage, performing a unique blend of styles, including country blues and modern soul-blues. Raised in a musical family, Youngblood was influenced by renowned blues artist, Tommy Johnson. After years of performing with bands, Youngblood decided to go solo and easily found work as a left-handed acoustic blues guitarist and singer.

Terry “Big T” Williams of Clarksdale, Mississippi, takes the Front Porch stage next. Born in 1960, Williams grew up hearing stories about famous blues musicians and listening to them on the radio. At the tender age of twelve, Williams hit the road with the Jelly Roll Kings, an electric Delta band made up of blues greats Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost, and Sam Carr. Having travelled extensively over the years, today Williams prefers to play closer to his home of Clarksdale.

Following Williams is four-time winner of the prestigious Blues Music Award for Drummer of the Year (2010-2014), Cedric Burnside, widely regarded as one of the best drummers in the world. The grandson of legendary R.L. Burnside and son of drummer Calvin Jackson, Burnside has played music all his life. A dynamic and passionate performer, Burnside collaborated in 2010 with his brother, Cody, and uncle, Garry, to create The Cedric Burnside Project. The result was a new genre of music, infused with Mississippi Hill Country blues, funk, R&B, and soul.

Taking the stage next is Blind Mississippi Morris who, like many others, came for a talented lineage and was raised around music. He has been described as the embodiment of the Delta bluesman, and is considered one of the best harmonica players performing today.

Finishing out the lineup for Friday is headliner, Selwyn Cooper. Cooper has a long list of credits to his name, included playing on two Grammy-winning CDs, playing on soundtracks for the movies, “The Big Easy” with Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin, and “Delta Heat” with Mickey Rourke, and opening for blues master B.B. King countless times.

Having played in several Zydeco back-up bands, Cooper eventually decided to stick strictly with the blues, but with a twist. His brand of blues has a distinct Louisiana flavor, with a big, funky sound, played with lots of passion. Festival-goers can expect to hear an eloquent, hard driving, and deeply soulful sound with this band.

Saturday’s lineup begins at 11:00 a.m. with Mississippi-based blues guitarist Vince “Vinnie C.” Cheney of Tupelo. Cheney, a popular festival entertainer, performs at many of the clubs and juke joints around the Delta, exploring many of the musical ideas of the North Mississippi Hill Country. Cheney is noted for his research contributions to a better understanding of blues history.

The soulful voice of Veronkia Jackson provides a stark contrast to Cheney’s music. She carries forth the African American traditions that go back to the spirituals, gospel, blues, and soul, while singing music influenced by some of the great folk musicians like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Jackson is a singer/songwriter who performs original, as well as classic songs, but shies away from the usual blues repertoire that is typical of the genre.

New to the Front Porch Blues Bash is Leo “Bud” Welch, who entered the blues scene at the ripe old age of 81. Welch played blues and gospel for many years in churches and for family gatherings, and is well known in the African American gospel world around his hometown of Sabougla, Mississippi. He remained under the radar in the blues world until he was secretly recorded in April, 2013, while performing at a birthday party for his current manager. Welch is an excellent guitarist and a consummate showman who gives you the old blues going back to the 1940s.

Another newcomer to the Front Porch is Garry Burnside, son of legendary R.L. Burnside, and uncle to Cedric of the Cedric Burnside Project. Burnside was born into the North Mississippi hill country blues, and was raised playing drums, guitar, and whatever other instruments were available. At the age of 13, he was playing bass and rhythm guitar with Junior Kimbrough at his juke joint, and on tour. He loves to take the hill country songs he grew up on and add a harder edged rock and roll sound.

Popular performer and headliner Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith returns to the Front Porch this year, bringing his Grammy winning talent to the stage. Smith grew up in the same house where Muddy Waters once lived in Chicago. During his childhood he was surrounded by Waters and his friends, including his own father, Kenny “Big Eyes” Smith, who played drums for the Muddy Water’s Band.

Smith is a world famous, multi-award winning, blues drummer extraordinaire who has been honored all across the globe for this exceptional achievements. Nominated for Grammy Awards, Living Blues awards, and Blues Music awards, Smith performed at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008 with Koko Taylor and B.B. King during a tribute to actor Morgan Freeman.

In addition to being recognized as an outstanding performer, Smith also has a stellar reputation as a studio musician, having performed with an extensive range of artists and, is credited on numerous music albums with top blues artists.

Rounding out the lineup for Saturday is the exciting Front Porch Youth Jam, where some of the younger blues performers show up, and show off!

A full schedule of the DCC’s musical events at The Miller Annex during the fest can be found on the DCC’s website at or the King Biscuit Blues Festival website at