Musicians and fans gear up as they prepare for Blues Fest 2022, which will once again honor the Craighead Forest Bandshell. The event is scheduled for next weekend at Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro.
Blues Fest founder Larry Heyl said the music festival, which he founded in 1991, was a local favorite for 25 years until it ended with his retirement from the event in 2016 .
Accordingly, Blues Fest 2022 on October 9 will mark the long-awaited return of the long-running festival after five years, and Heyl also known as “Hairy Larry” will once again perform at the event with his well-known family band, ” Hairy Larry and the Flying Hungarians. He noted that the band, which has almost always been the host band of the music festival, will perform at 2 p.m., as well as his jazz group, the “Bebop Beatniks” at 3 p.m. hours.
“Normally I wouldn’t do back-to-back gigs, but we had to fill the roster,” laughed Heyl, noting how excited he was to play with the family band again.
“We haven’t played together for almost two years,” he recalled, noting how much fun they still have together. Although the band had changed over the years, with many having played with the Hungarians, he said the band now consisted of him on lead guitar and his sons, Carl on bass and Kier on drums. Other children and grandchildren will also be featured, and his wife, Vivian, has been a mainstay of the band in years past, helping with programming and sound management.
The concert will also feature acoustic duo “In The Grey” at 4 p.m. and classic rock band “Anna and the Tanks” at 5 p.m.
This event is free and open to the public, as it always has been, and picnics will be permitted, Heyl said, suggesting fans bring lawn chairs and blankets for their comfort.
So what’s up with the sudden reboot? Well, Heyl said that, like most good things, it happened by accident a few months ago.
“This spring, my grandson Conley and I were settling down to play bandshell music,” Heyl began, “when Doug Butler stopped by to talk to us. Doug, who works at Craighead Forest Park, also plays in a band, “Anna and the Tanks”.
Conley will also perform with Heyl’s band, the “Bebop Beatniks”.
“He said he wanted to play bandshell music,” Heyl continued. “He wanted to do Blues Fest again.”
“I thought that was awesome and promised to help anyway,” Heyl enthused. “I volunteered to open the show with Bebop Beatniks and he contacted a local acoustic duo, In The Gray, to fill the schedule.”
“I was talking to my son, Kier, about it and he suggested we ask Carl to come over from Benton so Hairy Larry and The Flying Hungarians could play,” he continued, “So that wrapped us up. loop, with Hairy Larry and The Flying Hungarians playing Blues Fest, as we have done year after year, for over 30 years.
“We had a lot of big names who volunteered their talent, but the core of musicians who rocked Blues Fest year after year came from Arkansas, donating their talent so everyone could have a great time. nice day at the park,” he said. “We also had volunteers who weren’t musicians sharing the work of setting up, taking down, promoting, photographing and feeding the masses.”
However, he said that after 25 years of Blues Fest, he and Vivian had to call it quits.
“We always loved the music and missed seeing all of our friends every year, but Vivian and I just couldn’t brave the heat week in and week out,” he said. “We’re retired, and it’s a lot of work.”
Blues Fest leads to Bandshell
The Bandshell, which was completed in 2002, provided an excellent venue at the park for Blues Fest and other events, according to Heyl, who noted that at this time, due to the pandemic, it is not playing any way than outside.
In fact, the Craighead Forest Bandshell was literally built for this music festival by the artists and fans themselves, according to Heyl.
“We started the Blues Fest in 1991 at Pavilion 1 at Craighead Forest Park,” Heyl said. “We continued each year on a variety of stages, first for one day, then for an entire weekend, then consecutive Sundays in September for three or four days of Blues Fest each year. We have added a spring program, Sunday In The Park, in May and June.
“We built the Craighead Forest Bandshell in order to have a nice place to hold the Blues Fest and enjoy the music…and not just for the Blues Fest but for all kinds of music and theater as a venue for artists from Craighead Forest Park,” he said.
Heyl said he still remembered the build well.
“The Craighead Forest Bandshell was built by musicians for musicians,” he boasted, noting that 95% of the builders were musicians.
“A lot of musicians from northeast Arkansas at the time were also in construction,” he laughed, recalling Jonesboro’s Delta songwriter and accomplished musician Dennis Mathes as the main contractor. of the project, as well as many other Rock-a-Billy Legends who helped with the bandshell like Sonny Ackerman, who is one of the inventors of the Rock-n-roll guitar and was the lead guitarist in Bobby Lee Trammel’s band working on hits like “Arkansas Twist” in the 60s.
There were hundreds of builders and donors, which included both musicians and fans, he said.
He also recalled that the Bandshell had been recently renovated and noted that the park had kept it in good condition.
“There have been a lot of big names over the years,” he said proudly. “I would love to see even more art and music at the bandstand.”
He said that’s why when Butler approached him at the park to start the festival again, he jumped on board to help.
Back to action
Butler, whose band will also be providing sound for the event, said Wednesday he was also excited to restart Blues Fest.
“I’m a musician and I’ve always been a Blues Fest fan,” Butler said. “So after meeting Larry at the bandstand a few months ago, I explained that I would like to bring him back.”
Butler now plays bass for his new band, “Anna and the Tanks,” which features him and his friend Joseph on lead guitar, as well as Joseph’s wife and lead singer, Anna, and their son. Jason on drums.
According to Butler, they mostly perform classic rock, but they also play worship music.
Although he is now a bassist, he said he has been playing guitar since 1987 when he was just a teenager.
Although he semi-retired from music in 2006, Butler said they started “Anna and the Tanks” in March. Thus, Blues Fest will be their first live performance as a group.
“We were doing a jam session, when Anna started singing and I said well, here’s our singer,” Butler laughed. “It all took off from there and now we have our first live performance at Blues Fest. It’s going to be awesome.”
Butler also said the event is weather permitting and they have already scheduled backup dates for later in October in case of rain.