Reba Russell is a perennial favorite at the King Biscuit Blues Festival. Her song "Heaven Came to Helena" is the unofficial theme song of Arkansas's annual celebration of its blues heritage:
I saw people dancing in the mudRejoicing in the holy flood.I saw Sonny Boy's spirit on Frank's faceWhen the waters long prayed for covered the placeHealing the earth and healing our souls. Well, the sky opened up, but the music kept flowin'.
About Helena, Arkansas, Russell says, "I don't even know how to describe it, but this place is where all this music is born and kept going by people like Bubba Sullivan and appreciated in spite of good times or bad times. And that's kinda what my song is about."
Russell's soulful vocals and wrenching delivery have made her a fixture on Beale Street, where her credits include background vocals for U2 at Sun Studio. As a young singer, she was baptized by Rufus Thomas, who told her, "I think you have something special, and I hope you'll keep doing it and don't give up."
Still frame from Pryor Center video interview with Reba Russell 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