HELENA-WEST HELENA, ARK -- A trio of short lectures slated by the Delta Cultural Center during the 2014 King Biscuit Blues Festival will focus attention on aspects of the museum's continuing "Songs From the Field" exhibit, looking at the growth of modern American music from the Delta fields of slavery and sharecropping.

The exhibit-related educational programming will be held at the DCC’s Miller Annex at 223 Cherry Street as part of its larger Front Porch Blues Bash musical schedule over the three days of festivities. All events of the DCC, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, are free of charge. The public is invited to attend.

On Thursday, Oct. 9, Mississippi-based blues guitarist Vince “Vinnie C.” Cheney of Tupelo will perform and instruct on the making of cigar box guitars, providing an informative look at the “do-it-yourself” nature of musicianship in the rural slavery and sharecropping eras during which money was scarce or nonexistent, and entertainers created their own instruments. Cheney’s presentation will be held at The Miller from 3:00-3:45 p.m.

Cheney, a popular festival entertainer, is a native of Amory, Mississippi, who performs at many of the clubs and juke joints around the Delta, exploring many of the musical ideas of the North Mississippi Hill Country. As Vinnie C., he recently released the “Homemade Quicksand” album. Cheney is also noted for his research contributions to a better understanding of blues history.

On Friday, Oct. 10, noted banjo authority, educator, and instrument maker Clarke Buehling of Fayetteville will discuss the roots of the banjo in America. The stringed instrument is today associated closely with bluegrass and other “mountain” music, but its origins cross the ocean to the African continent, and its early use in the United States is closely associated with enslaved musicians, minstrel performances, and the rural string bands of the late 19th century.

Buehling’s 2007 CD, “Out of His Gourd: Early American Gourd Banjo Instrumentals and Songs,” was noted not only for its collection of mid-to-late-1800s material, but for Buehling’s performance on handmade gourd banjos he constructed. In addition to his solo performances and lectures across the United States, he is also a founding member of The Skirtlifters string band, which features Buehling’s finger-picking in a period-authentic band setting. The Thursday program is slated from 11:00-11:45 a.m.

On Saturday, Oct. 11, rock and roll forefather and Arkansas Delta native Louis Jordan will be the topic of a lecture by music writer Stephen Koch, host of the weekly "Arkansongs" on Little Rock public radio station KUAR 89.1 and author of the newly-published biography "Louis Jordan: Son of Arkansas, Father of R&B."

The Stuttgart, Arkansas-born Koch will focus his talk on Jordan's early years, starting from his Brinkley, Arkansas, youth. The presentation is scheduled for 10:00-10:45 a.m.

Jordan was one of Arkansas’s brightest musical stars, ruling the World War II era rhythm and blues charts with hits like “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t (My Baby),” “Beans and Cornbread,” and “Saturday Night Fish Fry.” The shuffle rhythm sound of Jordan and his Tympany Five combo is now widely regarded as a principle ingredient in the creation of rock and roll, though Jordan himself would be one of the many veteran jazz and R&B musicians whose careers dipped with the coming of the Rock Era. Though he continued to be a draw at nightclubs and other venues in the U.S. and abroad, Jordan never returned to the charts after the early 1950s. He died on February 4, 1975, at Los Angeles.

Today, his songs are found on contemporary movie soundtracks, in advertising, and are at the core of the hit musical “Five Guys Named Moe.” Performers including B.B. King, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Ray Charles acknowledged their debt to Jordan and his music. He was posthumously welcomed as a pioneer into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987; in 1999, the hall focused its American Music Master program on his life and music. Jordan was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in 1998 and into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005.

In addition to special World War II performances for troops and numerous Armed Forces Radio Services appearances, Jordan was among the select artists asked to make “V-discs,” special recordings sent to wartime GIs overseas. Another aspect of his popularity was his starring role in several black cast motion pictures, and singing roles in mainstream Hollywood releases. These included the highly successful “Caldonia” short, his cameos in “Follow the Boys” (1944) and “Swing Parade of 1946,” and three full-length features for Astor Pictures: “Beware!” (1946), “Reet Petite & Gone” (1947), and “Look Out Sister” (1948). The DCC has several artifacts of Jordan’s film career in its collection.

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

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 Saturdays. “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 DCC Assistant Director Thomas 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.

Other agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage are Historic Arkansas Museum, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas Arts Council and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. 

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