FEBRUARY 1, 2006 - Posted at 1:36 p.m. CST
HELENA, AR - Fans of the Helena-based blues festival formerly known as the "King Biscuit Blues Festival" have started a grassroots effort to "Keep the Biscuit" in Helena after a New York company and Memphis-based Performa Entertainment forced the non-profit event to stop using the name.
"The grassroots effort started with personal letters to the two businesses from talent agents and artists," stated Wayne Andrews, director of the Helena festival. "But now the fans are angry and have started an on-line petition to alert music fans to the confusion about the name and it's move to Memphis." The petition has quickly circulated and has now reached Europe with more than 2,000 names and comments.
The King Biscuit name started in Helena when a local flour company sponsored the first blues radio show (King Biscuit Time) to feature African-American performers, on KFFA-AM radio. The show introduced the blues to a wide audience and made many of the blues legends that are now considered household names. In the 1980s, a non-profit group launched the "King Biscuit Blues Festival." "The town thought they had the right to use the name after signing a contract with the radio station that broadcast the King Biscuit radio show," said Andrews. But a New York company acquired the name through purchases and court action against the Helena radio station owners and stopped the festival from using the name after failing to reach a licensing agreement.
The Helena blues festival, always held in October, is billed as the world's largest free blues festival. Performa, meanwhile, has announced plans to launch a "King Biscuit" festival in Memphis in October, as well as a restaurant using the King Biscuit name.