Blues man Lonnie Shields, now living in Pennsylvania , remembers living in Helena , Arkansas, as a child in the late 19 60s and seeing native son Sonny Boy Williamson on the street. “There was gambling houses and a lot of drinking and a lot of partying. This town is so unique because it’s right on the water. It’s like a little sleepy town where nobody knows anything about it until they come here. People came from all over just to be in Helena and have a good time.”
Blues drummer Sam Carr convinced Shields's mother to let him go on the road at age sixteen with the Jelly R oll Kings by bringing her set tubs full of fish. Raised in the Baptist c hurch, Shields's music reflects gospel influences . “I was called to be a minister. My brother ' s a minister, and I didn’t deny being a minister, but I feel I could do more by going into clubs singing the gospel and relating to people on the road, trying to get people aware that there’s a second coming.”
Portrait , Shields's best known album , was a six-year effort that began as the first recording session at Rooster Blues in Clark s dale, Mississippi . In 1993 t he label’s president and founding editor of Living Blues magazine , Jim O’Neal , wrote an article in King Biscuit Time magazine in which he called Shields “the brightest star to come out of Helena since the old King Biscuit Time days of Sonny Boy Williamson.” Shields has performed at nine of the first eleven King Biscuit Blues Festivals.
Still frame from Pryor Center video interview with Lonnie Shields at Bubba's Blues Corner during the King Biscuit Blues Festival; Helena, Arkansas, 2016
© Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History, University of Arkansas