Category: Human Interest

“Ya gotta live the blues before you play it” – Sunshine Sonny Payne 1925-2018

The Blues Foundation announced today the passing of “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, who had recently suffered a stroke. He was 92.

With permission from The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, we share with you some great history of this phenomenal man’s accomplishments and contributions to the blues community: (1)

Payne was best known as a radio personality who hosted King Biscuit Time at KFFA 1360 in Helena, AR for over 50 years – broadcasting his love for the blues which in turn influenced millions of others throughout his career.

As a teen, he had worked for KFFA 1360 AM radio station in Helena. King Biscuit Flour had a commercial spot on that station and, once, Payne was asked to step in and read some copy over the air. This led to getting to read for some more commercials where he found he had a voice for radio.

At the same time, Payne began learning to play upright bass with a band, the Copeland Cowboys, who often played at the studio.

He joined the Army in 1942 WWII, and during some of that time, he sought out USO clubs where he could play and learn from some of the other musicians.

After getting out of the Army in 1948, Payne toured for a few years with Harry James and Ted Williams, among others. But by 1951, Payne became tired of road tours and went back to the radio station in Helena. He was hired on and began hosting the King Biscuit Time blues music radio program.

That show became the longest running blues radio program in the world and Payne the longest running blues show host.

Payne acquired the nickname “Sunshine” because of his attitude one day while assigned to host a live, remote-location, all-day broadcast in Marianna (Lee County) called “Marianna Calling.” It was a cold, miserable, rainy day, and Helena disc jockey Bill Fury “threw” the live broadcast over to Payne in Marianna. When Fury announced Payne’s name to switch the broadcast over to him, Payne did not answer right away. After Fury’s second attempt to rouse him, Payne grumpily returned the hail over the air, and Fury asked Payne, “What’s wrong with you?” “Nothing wrong with me,” Payne replied. “But it’s cold and rainy here, with ice and snow.” “Well, boy you’re just a ray of sunshine, aren’t you?” said Fury. The next morning, when Payne walked into the Helena station, everyone greeted him saying, “Hey, Sunshine.” It might not have stuck except that Robert Lockwood Jr. kept it going to get a rise out of Payne. ~ (directly quoted from:) The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Payne was the recipient of many awards during his career. He was an inductee of the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame and received the George Foster Peabody Award in 1992 for outstanding achievement in the field of radio and broadcast journalism.

From his perch in the studio at KFFA Radio 1360 in Helena, Arkansas, Sonny Payne ruled his corner of the blues airwaves for over 50 years. Governor Mike Beebe proclaimed Tuesday, May 13, 2014 “Sunshine” Sonny Payne Day in honor of the radio announcer’s 17,000th broadcast of “King Biscuit Time.” (re-printed here with permission from Arkansas The Natural State)

According to a 2014 article in Arkansas The Natural State, musical legends B.B. King and Levon Helm gave credit to Payne as being an influence in their music careers. Music legends Robert Plant and Elvis Costello were among the throngs of legendary musicians who visited with Payne on the set of “King Biscuit Time.”

He has twice received the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award and is the recipient of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association’s Pioneer Award. In 2010, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. On May 13, 2014, Governor Mike Beebe declared May 13 to be “Sunshine” Sonny Payne Day. He also received the 2015 Cecil Scaife Visionary Award, given annually to an individual whose work has helped others achieve careers in the music industry.

In today’s announcement, The Blues Foundation stated:

The Blues Foundation mourns the passing of Sonny Payne, who was a two-time Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipient and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010. He was the host of the legendary “King Biscuit Time” program on KFFA radio in Helena, Arkansas for over five decades. We join the rest of the blues world in sending condolences to his family.

To all the blues fans and musicians out there today who would like to check out some wonderful blues history, and appreciate one of the industry’s most iconic figures, you won’t regret taking a few minutes to have a listen:

 

(1) Full credit is also extended to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture for their information contained within this article. The organization is a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock, Arkansas with major funding provided by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and additional funding from the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the Arkansas General Assembly, the Arkansas Humanities Council, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as donations from individuals, foundations and organizations. Blues Insights extends its utmost gratitude to these entities and individuals which make it possible for stories of our rich history of American citizens to be told for the education and betterment of our society. 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Whatever You Do, Don’t Give Up

This is just a short post and a shout out to all of you out there who have been touched by depression or tragedy in your lives.

Here at Blues Insights, we know how the down and lowest times, when you feel like you are losing someone or when you’ve lost someone or you are facing what appear to be insurmountable problems (there are ALWAYS solutions) or other people are judging  you for living your life and you don’t feel good enough…how those times hurt, so badly.

Remember, your life does matter and there is hope ALWAYS.

We want to give out a link to a song that is being so generously share by the young blues band: Southern Avenue. Just go get this free download from their site: “Don’t Give Up” We are also going to share it here, right now:

 

Hey, you, yes…we are talking to YOU: Listen up…

You matter. You have a purpose.

More people love you than you think. In times of hardship, you may often underestimate how many people count on seeing you and interacting with you because you make their days better and brighter.

If you feel like you have no one right now, then remember that there is someone out there waiting for you to find them in the future. Yes, there is. You are here to make a difference for another person or many.

Your life is working out exactly as it is supposed to.

Did you make a mistake? EVERYONE makes mistakes. So don’t judge your insides by everyone else’s outsides. People who judge other people and point fingers at other for making mistakes have often made the most mistakes themselves.

Can you take a moment to write down your hopes for the future? Chances are you have already achieved some of those goals already – so give yourself credit for how far you have come.

Wherever you are and whatever you do: Don’t Give Up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life is a Perpetual Luau: Patrick Recob – CD Release Party at Knucklehead’s Saloon

When the Universe conspires to push you into your purpose, you answer the call. It was when the venerable James Harman didn’t take no for an answer that pushed seasoned Kansas City bassist Patrick Recob to get up in front and sing at BB’s Lawnside BBQ one night.

“Nah, James, I ain’t gonna sing no songs.” Recob recalled telling Harman. But Harman wasn’t listening…he was already conspiring, as if an ESP moment had descended upon him – and the scene of Recob’s next career move had just unfolded in front of him. He insisted not only that Recob sing…but also start writing songs and come to California and make a record.

As Recob entertained a crowd at his Perpetual Luau CD release party Oct. 11, 2017 at Knuckleheads Saloon, he provided proof of his songwriting and entertainment chops with diversity that ranged from deep blues in “Dark Night of the Soul” to the love song “We Have Got It Going On.”

Let’s have a listen to how Patrick recalls the Harman encounter (he’s going to follow his story with “Frustration Blues”) from his CD Perpetual Luau:

When an artist writes from the heart, anything and everything can happen. When he pulled out “We Have Got It Going On” – a love song he wrote for his wife, Lisa – Recob rolls out that youthful love feeling, producing a catchy, foot-tapping retro beat reminiscent of the very early blues emergence later termed “Rock and Roll” – stuff that came out the 1950s Sun Records in Memphis with the likes of Kings of Rhythm and Elvis Presley.

Have a listen:

More to come about this artist as we interview him going forward about the distribution of this tasty collection of songs from heart of a true Kansas City bluesman bringing us the pleasure of Perpetual Luau.

Gift of the Grinters: Acres of Happiness at Tonganoxie Farmers’ Sunflower Utopia

Small Town Tonganoxie Family & Friends Set the Pace for Visitors Seeking a Quiet Reprieve

As the cool air of autumn slips through the closing door of summer, plumes of dust rise along a narrow country road just outside the town of Tonganoxie, KS.

Rows of vehicles from distant counties and towns have their turn signals on for the same turn off, pointing their now-dust-powdered grills at a set of gentle slopes plump with thick nubby green stalks shoring up massive heads of bright yellow sunflowers.

The mostly-city-folks who pull into remarkably neat rows of parking in one of the five mowed spots around the sunflower fields, saunter slowly towards various accidental gaps between the yellow-headed stalks – wandering in and disappearing to no place in particular, sometimes stopping to take pictures and sometimes ducking and squealing at the urgent buzzing of  pollen-laden insects diving into the blooms.

They’ve arrived to capture the fleeting pleasure of a gentle brush with nature at the sunflower fields of Grinter Farms

The cooperation level among the visitors is something in itself to behold. There is no competition or me-first attitude to be seen anywhere this particular day. Visitors will spend the next hour or two not thinking much about what they left behind them – only the fact that they are surrounded by acres and acres of what some feel is just…sunshine and happiness.

DSCF5550
The heads of sunflowers bloomed in the field of Grinter Farms on Saturday, Sept. 2, near Tonganoxie, KS (©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair)
DSCF5608
Powdered with yellow pollen, bees, along with other insects feasted on the fat sunflower blooms. (©2017 Peggy Stevinson-Bair)
_DSC7610
Kourtni Freemyer, longtime Tonganoxie resident and student at St. Mary University in Leavenworth, KS, worked to assist visitors with water and t-shirts Sat. Sept. 2, at Grinter Farms. (©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair)
_DSC7626
©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

A Family Tradition Born Out of an Oil Crisis

Every story has a beginning and this one started with Tonganoxie farmer Jim Grinter, who had a vision for making alternative fuel to run his farm. His daughter-in-law, Kris Grinter, shared what Jim started out to try and do during the 70s to fight the cost of rising gas prices:

When the idea of using sunflower oil for fuel became impractical financially, he decided to keep growing them anyway, which, as Kris Grinter said, over the years, turned into a family tradition.

The Grinters have profitable row crops of corn and soybeans – although, for a few lucky years, there was enough demand that the family grew more acres of them. Apparently, in spite of Kansas being known as “the sunflower state,” it’s actually the Dakotas that grow the majority of sunflowers.

The family currently have about 40 acres planted in sunflowers (that’s still about three million plants, according to Grinter Farms worker Curt Somers.) Kris Grinter, known also as “the farmer’s wife,” explains:

Feeding the Masses

Besides a great walk through the sunflowers, visitors this year can also enjoy home made pies, cookies, and cinnamon rolls thanks to the new food kitchen that was added this year. It’s first come, first serve though – on Kris’s baked goods – and they sell out fast by 10 a.m., depending on the crowds. (Food trucks with additional lunch options have been added this year, though. Check Grinter Farms for serving times and details)

On his most recent visit out at Grinter Farms September 8, Blues Insights’ videographer Terry Bair happened upon Ted out among the sunflowers and had a chat with him about how the operation is going now and how it has evolved this year from previous years:

New this year also is the addition of food trucks. We caught up with Debbie Robinette, a longtime friend of the Grinters, (who grew up with Ted), as she manned one of the new concessions. She said that this year, more fields were mowed for visitors to have places to park and more workers were on hand to help visitors get oriented and provide them with water – so visitors will have an easier time doing what they came to enjoy.

Local Artisans at The Store

The store has been expanded and is a place where local artists and vendors have their wares for sale – leather crafts, quilts, metal craft, jellies, and local honey. Friends and family pitch in to help keep the operation running smoothly for the two or three weeks of blooming season. And Ted knows plenty of friends:

Paul Van Cleave sells some of his exotic jellies (Cabernet, Champagne, Sunflower) at the Grinter Store during the sunflower blooming in the first couple of weeks of September. Van Cleave, who grew up on a farm in Tonganoxie, KS, is one of the many local artisans selling their wares to visitors at the farm prior to the seasonal sunflower harvest. Van Cleave owns and runs Imbibe Jam’s LLC. Local artisans sell their wares in the Grinter Farms Shop.

Happiness and Hope

For one visitor at Grinter Farms this year, the sunflowers represented more than a family outting. Not only was it a place for Isabella Gamino’s senior pictures, but it is a place that represents happiness …and hope. Gamino, 17, who lives in Topeka and traveled to Grinter Farms with her mother Tracy Gamino for the photo session, said she is now at ease discussing the depression she struggled with as a young teen.

Isabella
As a young teen, Isabella Gamino, 17, suffered from depression and spent years working with medical teams to recover and regain a positive lifestyle, she said recently, while visiting Grinter Farms. The sunflowers, said Gamino, represent hope and happiness. (Sept. 5, 2017 © Peggy Stevinson Bair)

She advocates for young people to talk more openly about how they are feeling and being honest about their intentions with their families to get the help they need for depression.

“I’ve had a lot of struggles throughout my entire school life. And just thinking about how the sunflowers come back every year, their faces look up towards the sun…they are always so positive…it’s just something that I really relate to and feel within my heart. [Sunflowers] are happiness…positive…very much an optimistic thing.”

 

 

This weekend, as we visited, many blooms were just starting while many others were beginning to wither. The crowds were still strong but the fields are still far larger than the number of people visiting. As the sun lay down at the edge of the hills below a pink and purple sky,, and the last of the day’s visitors packed up and headed home, a peace and calm settled over dotted landscape. (©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair)

 

 

The sunflowers are in full bloom right now at Grinter Farms and, according to the website, the blooming season is about 2 weeks or less before the heads get heavy with seeds and start to droop. Harvest is at about Halloween. The photos for this article were taken September 2nd, 5th and 8th – for more information and store, bakery and food truck hours, contact: Grinter Farms

©2017 copyright Blues Insights LLC @Peggy Stevinson Bair ©Terry Bair All right reserved.

Please share this link with your friends to share the story of hope and happiness with the world: Acres of Sunflowers
Continue reading “Gift of the Grinters: Acres of Happiness at Tonganoxie Farmers’ Sunflower Utopia”

For Small Towns in Midwest, Eclipse Brings Together Family, Friends, Fun – and Science

There may have been some who were disappointed about cloud cover during the much-publicized and hyped solar eclipse – but from the optimist’s point of view, the planning, preparation and excitement was a day for science to earn a place in the hearts of everyday people.

In Dearborn, Mo., a sleepy little town off I-29 on the way north from Kansas City to St. Joseph, Mo., Mike and Susie Lyon stood out on their front step in downtown Dearborn and caught the first glimpses of the eclipse as the moon appeared to slip in front of the sun. They wore their eclipse glasses they got from attending a class earlier this month from a local astronomer. “I’m just waiting ’til it’s totally dark so I can take a nap,” quipped Mike.

DearbornCouple.jpg
Mike and Susie Lyon watched Monday, Aug. 21, from their front steps in downtown Dearborn with their special eclipse glasses as the moon began its path of blocking out the sun. “To see it happening, it’s awesome, amazing,” said Susie. “It’s once in a lifetime.”

A bit further down the road, in downtown Plattsburg, what looked like a class of amateur astronomers was actually retired aerospace engineer Tom Killgore and his family and friends from Tulsa, OK, staked out in front of a home he rented for the event.

“I’ve been planning for this for 10 years,” said Killgore.  Over a period of years, Killgore purchased enough telescopes and setup for the group to be able to individually enjoy the experience. “We found the house about a year ago and rented it.”

Killgore3.jpg
Connie Rush, left, and her husband Tom Killgore, right, rented a house in Plattsburg, MO. over a year ago, as part of a plan that Killgore started 10 years ago to view and record the total solar eclipse Aug. 21, 2017 with family and friends. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

His own setup included several cameras on tripods, but a special setup involving a telescope that automatically recorded timed captures for a time-lapse sequence and a wide angle bubble-front lens that took in a super wide scene of its entire surroundings.

Killgore2.jpg
Friends and family of Tom Killgore and Connie Rush, right, manned their viewing stations in front of telescopes  set to track the total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 from the front lawn of a home they rented in Plattsburg, Mo. for the event. The group is from Tulsa, OK. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

His wife Connie Rush and her friend Diana Barbee helped the grandkids and the rest of the group keep their equipment setup – and protected when some rain droplets fell during the coming and going of cloud cover.

Killgore5.jpg
Tom Killgore keeps a watchful eye on the floating cloud cover as he monitored his carefully designed recording setup designed to fully capture the total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Plattsburg, MO. Killgore, a Tulsa native, started making his plans for the event 10 years ago. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
Killgore4.jpg
Tom Killgore, a retired aerospace engineer and astronomy enthusiast, supervised equipment and viewing experiences for his family and friends staying in Plattsburg, MO for the Aug. 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
Killgore6.jpg
Diana Barbee, friend of the hostess, Connie Rush and Tom Killgore, all of Tulsa, OK, watched as the moon eclipsed the sun Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, from a spot Killgore rented in downtown Plattsburg, MO. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

Killgore explained his telescopic photography setup:

Killgore also had a cool project he created, which he explains here:

Killgore7Killgore8

Killgore9
Tom Killgore, left, and his wife Connie Rush (second from left), posed for a picture Monday, taken with his super fisheye lens setup that captured their place in the historical event of the 2017 total solar eclipse from their spot in Plattsburg, MO. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
the Windsors Eclipse.jpg
Dorothy and Richard Winsor travelled all the way from Waterloo, IA to at least one pitstop on Hwy 116 near Plattsburg, MO, chasing after a glimpse of the total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, undeterred by the on-again-off-again sprinkles and cloud cover. The couple was among hundreds of motorists who lined the rural roads in and around Plattsburg, MO on Monday afternoon during the eclipse. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
JimKrest.jpg
At a party in Plattsburg, MO, Jim Krest, of Kansas City, MO, used a sextant to view the eclipse. Krest and his wife, Robin, lived full time on a sailboat for three years where they learned to use the navigation device – and decided it would be useful for viewing Monday’s solar eclipse. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

 

NatTerryEclipse4
Natalie Banks, left, hosted an eclipse party for friends and family at her farm near Plattsburg, MO. That’s my husband, Terry Bair, using the nerdiest glasses ever invented to try and catch a glimpse of that tiny crescent during the Aug. 21, 2017 total solar eclipse event. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

trafficEclipse

Today, we witnessed license plates from as far away as Idaho, Texas, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin – to name only a few – who came to Missouri to be a part of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse event here.

Everywhere we went, we observed people in good spirits, joining together in parking lots and camping sites…enjoying not only a fun science event, but also a peaceful human event.

For a day or two…a few hours or so…a powerful and wondrous event in the sky seemed to bring us all together with one word in common:

“Wow.”

It’s not Om, but…

Close enough.