Unique film footage of two blues legends performing live on tour for the renowned “King Biscuit Time” radio show is available through the University of Georgia Libraries, thanks to a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Award Collection received a $5,770.00 grant in 2008 to preserve two reels of home movies showing touring performances for “King Biscuit Time”, and one reel showing a walking tour around Ralston Purina’s Research Farm in Missouri. The films were donated to the Brown Media Archives by the family of the late UGA English professor Rayburn Moore, whose father, Max, started Interstate Grocery Co. in Helena, Arkansas. Interstate Grocery created King Biscuit Flour and was the original sponsor of KFFA radio’s “King Biscuit Time”. On the air since 1941, it was the first program to bring roots music to a mainstream audience and is the longest running daily radio show in history. In 1992, the program was recognized with a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting for continuing its all-Delta-blues format and for preserving an “original American art form.”
“Dr. Moore had hoped to write a history of his father’s business and sponsorship of ‘King Biscuit Time’, and we know he wanted to preserve the footage. We received 34 reels of both Max and Rayburn Moore’s 8mm silent home movies and have preserved them. The family’s papers and Max Moore’s business records were donated to the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library,” said Ruta Abolins, Director of the Media Archives,
Two of the silent, color home movies depict “King Biscuit Time” live performances during Saturday bus tours in Arkansas and Mississippi. The first, shot circa 1942, is believed to be the earliest known footage of Delta blues legends Robert Lockwood, Jr. (1915-2006) and Sonny Boy Williamson (1899-1965) performing together. They appear with KFFA manager Sam Anderson on the front porch of a typical Southern country store. A large crowd of African-Americans are gathered to listen and even pose for Max Moore’s camera. The second reel depicts a 1952 tour for the radio program. Abolins says, “It is less a performance reel than a broader documentation of a tour: images of the new bus advertising ‘Sonny Boy Cornmeal’ and the radio show’s daily air time, performers in costume singing and dancing, even a fire-eater.”
In addition to those films, there is also film of a walking tour around Ralston Purina’s Research Farm buildings and barns in Gray Summit, Missouri.
About this Collection
During the summer of 2007, the family of the late UGA English professor Rayburn Moore donated his archives (papers and film) to the UGA Libraries. Rayburn Moore had diligently kept his father, Max Moore’s, business records; Max Moore lived in Helena, Arkansas, and founded Interstate Grocery Co. which created King Biscuit Flour. He died in 1979. Max was the longtime (40 years) sponsor of the KFFA radio program, “King Biscuit Time” beginning in 1941. The radio program is still on the air and in 1992 received a UGA Grady School of Journalism George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting (UGA Libraries maintains the Peabody Award Archives). Rayburn had planned on writing a history of King Biscuit Time, but that was never completed. His widow's trustee has signed an unrestricted Deed of Gift of the materials to the UGA Libraries. The papers are preserved in the Hargrett Rare Books & Manuscripts Library, the films in the Media Archives.