African American Roots Music in Arkansas
This selection from the holdings of Special Collections and the Performing Arts and Media Library celebrates the importance of African American Arkansans in the creation of musical roots whose influence has spread throughout the United States and the world.
In Arkansas music is everywhere: it rolls down from the hills, flows through the river valleys, and seemingly seeps from the swampy soil of the river delta, all along the way nourishing the roots of the state's cultural heritage. This selection from the holdings of Special Collections and the Performing Arts and Media Library celebrates the importance of African American Arkansans in the creation of musical roots whose influence has spread throughout the United States and the world.
Pioneers of Blues and Jazz, W.C. Handy and Scott Joplin were principal figures in the creation of two original American musical forms. Arkansas was the birthplace and home of several later Blues greats such as Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Howlin' Wolf, Jazz masters such as Louis Jordan, and Gospel and Rock and Roll innovators such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The King Biscuit Time radio program began broadcasting from Helena, Arkansas, on KFFA in 1941, featuring Williamson, Robert Lockwood, and other seminal Blues figures. It is the longest running radio program in history and influenced generations of Blues musicians and music lovers through its broadcasts across the Mississippi Delta region.
Many Arkansas Jazz and Blues musicians became celebrated recording artists who spread their music to cultural centers such as New York and Chicago, where they sometimes achieved financial success and fame. Eventually, the influence of Arkansas's African American musical innovators spread to international locations such as London and Paris, where Blues and Jazz were embraced by millions of new devotees and changed the world's musical landscape forever. Back in the United States, after Jazz and Blues had receded as dominant forms of popular music, cultural revivals beginning in 1960s kept traditions alive. Festivals offered opportunities to recognize the contributions of older giants as well as the successes of emerging young artists. The King Biscuit Blues Festival was created by residents of Helena in 1986 and now attracts more than 100,000 people annually.
Find more information at http://libraries.uark.edu/specialcollections/.