The KBT Radio Show
King Biscuit Time is the longest running daily radio show in history, and continues to be broadcast daily on Delta Broadcasting’s KFFA 1360 AM in Helena, Arkansas. First broadcast on November 21, 1941, King Biscuit Time featured legendary Blues artists Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Jr. Lockwood playing live in the studio. The show was named after the locally distributed King Biscuit Flour.
The distributor agreed to sponsor a radio production for Sonny Boy and his band if they agreed to endorse the flour. The agreement was made and the show has been broadcast ever since.
The original band, the King Biscuit Entertainers, often included boogie pianist Pinetop Perkins and James Peck Curtis on drums. It was the first regular radio show to feature blues, and influenced four generations of Delta blues artists whose sounds are based on the raw energy of Sonny Boy Williamson’s blues. In keeping with its tradition of broadcasting live music from the studio, King Biscuit Time still welcomes artists in the studio almost weekly.
Award-winning Sunshine Sonny Payne has hosted the show since 1951, and has been a presence on the program since its inception in 1941. By continuing to focus on a Delta blues format, King Biscuit Time has become a real anomaly true to its heritage. It has been so recognized with a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award, presented to the station in 1992 for outstanding achievement in the field of radio and broadcast journalism through its continuous support or ‘an original American art form.’ Sonny Payne has received an impressive array of awards and accolades, including the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive” award for lifetime service and the Arkansas Broadcasters Association’s Pioneer Award.
The direct influence of the show can be found throughout the music industry. Examples of this include the syndicated rock show, King Biscuit Flower Hour, and the largest free blues festival in the south, the King Biscuit Blues Festival. First organized in 1986, the festival annually welcomes blues fans to Helena, AR, from around the world to a three-day event that features several stages and showcases veteran blues performers along with today’s rising stars. The festival in Helena continues today, but has changed its name to the Arkansas Heritage and Music Festival.