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Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival
-- by UJ Miller --

UJ MillerWell, it was an experience not only performing at the festival but just taking it all in as a fan of the blues as well. While I’d try to catch performances at scheduled times, there’s just too much to offer a fan of the blues down there. The numerous street performances were really enjoyable and the unplanned jam sessions that took place at various locations were just great. I thought I was in heaven.

A stroll through the festival not only provided sites and sounds but a chance to get up close and personal with the artists themselves. Homemade instruments, unplanned performances in store fronts, artists autograph sessions and of course the myth and stories of Robert Johnson. While I thought about finding the gravesite of this legend and many others, there was too much music to enjoy and squeeze into the two days I was there. The photo of 119 Missouri Street is a building that is vacant at that address on the left and houses a salon on the right. They were cooking out front for the festival. The storefront on the left is the old home of the Kitty Kat Club, where it is a fact that Robert Johnson played while in Helena back in the day, according to local Blues resident Bubba Sullivan. Bubba is pictured here inside of his antique and record shop, and provided musicians a place to gather and jam. Fruteland Jackson sat in while I was there and I also had a chance to visit with the one and only Pinetop Perkins.

While strolling back towards my vehicle to head out of town, I stumbled upon an unscheduled performance by Robert Belfour, whose music and playing I’ve enjoyed for years. I sat and watched his performance and then visited with him afterwards. He said "oh, I just love playing and could play forever if they let me, but they said I only got an hour". He also spoke of how he wrote his lyrics and then just heads into the studio and plays whatever comes natural and lays it down on his recordings.

It was a real treat to be a part of it all.

UJ Miller

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