Burgess & Pacers, Big George Brock to receive 2014 Sonny Awards

Burgess & Pacers, Big George Brock to receive 2014 Sonny Awards


Burgess & Pacers, Big George Brock to receive 2014 Sonny Awards

HELENA-WEST HELENA – Two veteran acts will receive the 2014 Sonny Payne Award for Blues Excellence, presented annually each October by the Delta Cultural Center during the King Biscuit Blues Festival in historic downtown Helena-West Helena.

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.

Sonny Burgess & The Legendary Pacers, members of the first generation of rockabilly cats who melded blues, rhythm and blues, country, and gospel fervor into something new and century-changing at Memphis’ Sun Studio, will be awarded with the Sonny Award at mid-day Thursday, Oct. 9, on the festival’s Lockwood-Stackhouse Stage. The performance is slated at 12:40-1:25 p.m.

On Saturday, Oct. 11, veteran bluesman Big George Brock will be presented with the Sonny Award prior to performing with his House Rockers at the DCC’s Miller Annex at 1:15-2 p.m.

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), and Willie Cobbs (2013).

“We are proud to be honoring two Delta acts who have championed the music of the region throughout their lives,” said Thomas Jacques, deputy director at the DCC, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Big George Brock, who was born May 16, 1932, at Grenada, Miss., and spent much of his youth in and around music-rich Clarksdale, Miss., embodies many aspects of Delta life and blues entertainers of the mid-20th century. His young years were a hard-scrabble existence; his survival was dependent upon the long hours he spent at field labor; boxing and blues brought satisfaction and a few extra dollars.

Like many, young Brock turned his hopes to the economic promises of life in the North, settling in St. Louis where he would become a nightclub owner, but never lost his own desire to step into the spotlight as well. Brock built a strong reputation as a fearless, extravagant showman who introduced new audiences hard-driving Delta-based blues. He and his band, the Houserockers, would be St. Louis mainstays for decades; Brock would also release a series of well-received albums in the 2000s on the Clarksdale-based Cat Head Presents label.

Sonny Burgess & The Legendary Pacers arose out the Newport, Ark., nightclubs of the early 1950s, first as a country & western dance band, and then as pioneers of the new rockabilly the would sweep the Mid-South and soon explode across America as rock and roll. The music Burgess and The Pacers would make at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records Studio beginning with 1956’s “We Wanna Boogie” is a sound of youthful exuberance, of born entertainers rocking hard and fast in search of excitement and audience adoration. A half-dozen kids decked out in loud Lansky Brothers suits, Burgess and the boys delivered blazing renditions of rhythm and blues tracks, as well as their own compositions and those of producer Jack Clement -- songs like “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” “Ain’t Got a Thing,” “Sadie’s Back in Town,” “Fannie Brown,” and “Red Headed Woman.” And word soon got around that they were one of the wildest stage acts out of the Sun stable. Over a half-century later, Sonny Burgess & The Legendary Pacers continue to delight audiences around the world, bringing their unique Delta sound to fans new and old.

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.

Gallery hours at the DCC Visitors Center at 141 Cherry Street and the nearby DCC Depot at 95 Missouri Street are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday. Admission is free. “King Biscuit Time,” the nation’s longest-running blues radio program, is hosted each weekday at the DCC Visitor’s Center by “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. “Delta Sounds,” hosted by Jacques and Payne, is broadcast each Friday from 1 to 1:30 p.m.

For more information, interested persons can call the Delta Cultural Center at (870) 338-4350 or toll free at (800) 358-0972 or visit the DCC online at www.deltaculturalcenter.com.

The Delta Cultural Center shares the vision of all seven agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage – to preserve and promote Arkansas heritage as a source of pride and satisfaction. Other agencies within the department are the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Arkansas Arts Council, and the Natural Heritage Commission. 

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