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Sonny Award Given to Charlie Musselwhite

Delta Cultural Center - Friday, October 14, 2016
Blues harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite was presented with the Delta Cultural Center’s 2016 Sonny Payne Award for Blues Excellence during the final evening of the King Biscuit Blues Festival in historic downtown Helena-West Helena. The presentation took place immediately prior to his headlining performance on the festival’s Main Stage.
The DCC’s Sonny Payne Award for Blues Excellence – called “The Sonny” – recognizes individuals who have strongly influenced the blues music of the Arkansas Delta. The honor is named for “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, longtime host of the Peabody Award-winning “King Biscuit Time” program broadcast each weekday from the DCC Visitors Center at 141 Cherry Street on radio station KFFA-AM. The DCC is a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.
Previous recipients of the “Sonny” include Robert Lockwood Jr. and Houston Stackhouse (posthumously) in the award’s inaugural year of 2002, Sam Carr and Pinetop Perkins (2003), Cedell Davis and John Weston (2004), David “Honeyboy” Edwards (2005), Michael Burks and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (2006), Hubert Sumlin (2007), Bobby Rush (2008), Red Holloway (2009), B.B. King (2010), James Cotton (2011), the Cate Brothers (2012), Willie Cobbs (2013), Big George Brock and Sonny Burgess & The Legendary Pacers (2014), and C.W. Galin and Larry McCray (2015).
Musselwhite, born at Kosciusko, Mississippi, soaked in the sounds of Memphis in his youth and deepened his education as a musician on the South Side of Chicago, learning the trade from Big Joe Williams, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells, Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, and Sonny Boy Williamson. His recording career began in 1966 and continues into the present as one of contemporary blues’ leading lights. He is a member of the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, a multiple Grammy nominee, the recipient of numerous Handy Awards, and the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.
He is also a long friend of the King Biscuit Blues Festival and “King Biscuit Time.”
The Sonny Award is traditionally given to musicians with distinguished status and a lengthy career, and additional consideration is given to those with ties to Arkansas and the Delta region.