Helena, Arkansas

In downtown Helena, orient yourself to Cherry Street. The historic vibe lends itself to a number of bed-and-breakfasts for overnighting, and creates a pretty frame for shops, restaurants, the Mississippi River and ultimately, the music you’re listening for.

Set the scene at the Delta Cultural Center. Road cases repurposed as listening stations sample Delta musicians like Sonny Boy Williamson, developing your ear for the region’s blues and gospel traditions. Traveling exhibits also come through. For the maximum experience, time your visit with a live broadcast of the King Biscuit Time radio show, weekdays at 12:15 p.m. This longest-running daily radio show in the U.S. (circa 1941) has been hosted by Blues Hall of Famer “Sunshine” Sonny Payne since 1951 and is recognized as the first to bring roots music to a mainstream audience. You can also sit in on a broadcast of the Center’s own Delta Sounds radio show, a showcase of blues, gospel, rockabilly and country (Fridays, 1-1:30 p.m.).

Now, time to party – at the King Biscuit Blues Festival, held annually in early October. The four-day festival stretches through downtown Helena and along the Mississippi River with a range of performances; previous artists have included Bobby Rush, Robert Cray and Greg Allman. Between sets, you might find one of them, or a souvenir CD, at a meet-and-greet inside Bubba’s Blues Corner.