Just like the blues flows through the mid-south, so does the history of rockabilly music. Of course, the birthplace of the style is typically regarded as 706 Union Avenue- the address of Sun Records. But, in Helena, Arkansas – not too far away from the town where that history was made, there will be a celebration of that musical style, as well as the artists that made it thrive, with the 3rd Annual Arkansas Delta Rockabilly Festival.
Set for May 10-11, the event is very close to the heart of its' organizer, Bubba Sullivan.
"This is the third one we've done," he told Billboard. "I helped to start King Biscuit Blues Festival here about 28 years ago. Sonny Burgess had been after me to do a rockabilly festival, so I talked to a couple of my friends, and we put up the money. The first year, all the floods came, and then last year we had rain, so we're hoping to have a good year this year."
Sullivan is very excited about the lineup that they have this year – ranging from Linda Gail Lewis and Ben "Cooter" Jones from the "Dukes Of Hazzard" to CMA winners the Kentucky Headhunters, as well as the legendary Wanda Jackson.
"Sonny told me that people overseas would kill for a lineup like this," he said. "They usually have one or two main artists, where we were lucky to get all these acts to come and play for us."
While Helena and the area around it is mostly known as a blues town, the area does have a linkage to the early days of rock and roll. "When Carl, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny, and Roy would all do that southern circuit, Helena was one of the places they played. Then, you had Conway Twitty, who is from here. Lonnie Hawkins from up at Fayetteville."
As part of American Music Museum, Inc, Sullivan hopes that n time he can shine the spotlight on all the musical genres that have influenced the Delta area. "Around here, they have every kind of blues museum you can think of throughout Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. I was talking with the sister of one of the Kentucky Headhunters, and we started talking about the music from here. I got a 501c3, and got the Headhunters interested in it. Money is so tight around here, as it is everywhere, but that was the basis of it. I would love to do a museum here to honor all kinds of music."
Though the rockabilly festival is only three years old, Sullivan says that he hopes he can take what he has done with the King Biscuit Festival, and grow it accordingly.
"I've been in the blues business for so long, and we draw anywhere from 80-100,000 people for the week here. The way Sonny went out and sold the rockabilly festival to the people -- he said 'Look, I might be dead and gone, but you look at what King Biscuit started back in 1986. Maybe ten or fifteen years from now, the rockabilly festival might be just like that. I think from the feedback and inquiries we're getting this year, this is going to shape up to be a great festival."