King Biscuit Time

From Academic Kids

King Biscuit Time is the longest running daily radio broadcast in history and the most famous live blues radio program.

The first broadcast of King Biscuit Time was on 21 November 1941 on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas and featured the legendary blues artists Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Jr. Lockwood. Williamson and Lockwood played live in the studio and were the key musicians in the original studio band, the King Biscuit Entertainers. Other musicians who joined the original band were Pinetop Perkins on piano and James Peck Curtis on drums. Williamson left the program in 1947 but returned for a stint in 1965 just prior to his death.

The 15 minute long live radio show is broadcast at 12:45 every day and was named after the local flour company, King Biscuit Flour. The local grocery distributor financed the show at the behest of Williamson in exchange for endorsements and naming rights. KFFA was the only station that would play music by African-Americans and it reached an audience throughout the Mississippi Delta region and inspired a host of important blues musicians including B.B. King, Robert Nighthawk, James Cotton, Ike Turner and Levon Helm. The show's 12:45 time slot was chosen to match the lunch break of African-American workers in the Delta.

The popularity of the program made Helena a major blues center. Helena became a stopping point for blues musicians on their way from the Delta region to the Chicago blues nightclubs and was also convenient to Memphis, Tennessee and its lively blues culture. Several blues musicians came to Helena and made it their home, such as Little Walter Jacobs and Jimmy Rogers.

King Biscuit Time was also a major breakthrough for African-American music in general. The popularity of the program and its reach into the untapped African-American demographic gained notice and spawned a host of imitators. By 1947 the first black disc jockey in the South, Early Wright, had been signed at WROX across the river. WDIA in Memphis soon became the first radio station in the South with an all black staff (including deejay B.B. King) and musical format based on the success of King Biscuit Time.

King Biscuit Time has been broadcast more than 14,000 times, more than the Grand Ole Opry and American Bandstand. Since the 1960s the program has been hosted by the award winning Sunshine Sonny Payne who opens each broadcast with "pass the biscuits, cause its King Biscuit Time!". Over the years the biggest names in blues have been associated with the program and important blues artists continue to perform live.

The King Biscuit Flour Hour is a one hour syndicated rock and roll program that took its name from King Biscuit Time. In 1986, the first annual King Biscuit Blues Festival was held in Helena, attracting thousands of blues aficionados from around the world. A magazine spin-off, King Biscuit Time, has won several awards from the Blues Foundation and features interviews and biographies of major blues personalities.

King Biscuit Time is broadcast from KFFA, whose studio is now located in the Delta Cultural Center in Helena. The program has won the George Foster Peabody Award for broadcasting excellence.

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