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Arkansas Blues FestivalYou Know You’ve Got The Blues When They Take Your Name Away

HELENA, AR (August 06, 2005)—Sonny Boy Blues Society (SBBS) Board of Directors announces as of today, the name of the annual blues festival will be called Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. The festival will remain the same; offering its uniqueness in its location in historic downtown Helena, the same quality line up of blues artists, and will remain under the production and ownership of the SBBS.

The decision to change the name from the King Biscuit Blues Festival to the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival comes after several years of negotiating behind the scenes between the King Biscuit Entertainment (KBE) Group based in New York City and the SBBS in Helena, AR. KBE owns the trademark of the name “King Biscuit” so every year since 2001 (the year the ownership of the festival was

transferred from Main Street Helena to SBBS), SBBS has had to get KBE’s permission to use the name for the festival. Permission had been issued and accepted between both parties until this year. SBBS was presented with a proposal earlier in the year asking for a large fraction based on the festival’s income, not profit. After all the requested percentages based on merchandise sales and monies raised through sponsorships, the total was looking to be close to $15,000 just for SBBS to get to use the name “King Biscuit” in the festival name. The festival, on a good year, barely profits that much so that amount was not feasible to the society. A counter offer was sent to KBE offering a more reasonable amount for the small non-profit organization to pay for the name usage. “We offered to pay a license fee, provide recognition for the radio program, which KBE produces, and other benefits to establish an ongoing relationship, but evidently the KBE Group thought it was not enough” says Wayne Andrews, SBBS Director.

On August 10th, the KBE Group faxed a letter to the festival office in Helena advising the society to cease using the King Biscuit name, effective immediately, in all advertising, promotional materials, merchandise, signage, etc. The letter came just fifty seven days before the twentieth annual KBBF-one of the largest blues festivals in the country. Since that time, seeing it was so close to this year’s festival, SBBS officials have tried to have a dialogue with KBE to grant its permission to use the name just for this year’s event, but their efforts came to no avail. “It is hard to understand how a group from New York which did not start business until 1973 can end up owning a name for a radio show that has been on the air in Arkansas since the 1941. The King Biscuit name has over 60 years of business and music history in Helena and now the festival, which is something that was started in Helena will have to change its name because of a company in New York.” added Andrews.

The King Biscuit Blues Festival was launched to preserve the music traditions of the Delta. The name of the festival came from King Biscuit Flour which was produced in Helena, and sponsored the first blues radio show in the country, “King Biscuit Time” which is still broadcast weekdays on KFFA.

The Society had made plans in the event that the counter-offer wasn’t accepted by the KBE Group and had a special-called board meeting on July 29th to decide on a proper name to fit the festival. Wayne Andrews, SBBS Director and Festival Director, began the proper paperwork to trademark and copyright the new name. A graphic artist is currently creating a new logo as well.

The impact on the festival was summed up by Andrews: “I don’t think it will affect the attendance; as many people come for the experience not because of the name. A large financial burden will be placed on the non profit organization due to the last minute change of merchandise with such a short time before the big event.”

“Nothing about the logistics and offering of the festival will change. The only things changing are the name and logo; everything else will remain the same” says Andrews. Rayne Gordon, SBBS President, adds: “We hated to be put in this position because of the history of the festival, and took the situation very seriously. We feel, in the long run, the new name will be best for the festival. We hope everyone in the community and in the blues community will help us spread the word of the name change and are looking forward to celebrating the Twentieth Annual Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival on October 6th - 8th.”

The Society is moving ahead with plans for this year’s celebrated event by recently hosting a “Listening Party” announcing the line up of entertainment for this year’s festival and the official poster unveiling is set to take place on September 15th at First Bank of the Delta’s downtown branch at 502 Cherry Street beginning at 5:00 p.m. For more information on this event or the festival in general, call the festival office at (870) 338-8798.

About the Sonny Boy Blues Society:

Formed in 1987, the Sonny Boy Blues Society is named after Sonny Boy Williamson, one of the primary performers on the legendary King Biscuit Time radio program. The organization consists of members from over forty states and ten countries and is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization managing and producing the annual Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (formerly King Biscuit Blues Festival), BluesAid, and Blues in Schools program. The society began with a mission and is proud to be a leader in the blues world to honor that mission to this day; to preserve and promote the rich heritage and art of the traditional delta blues.

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