​The Sonny Award

​The Sonny Award

2017 Recipient: James "Tail Dragger" Jones



The Delta Cultural Center’s Sonny Payne Award for Blues Excellence – lovingly referred to as “The Sonny” – is presented annually recognizing individuals who have strongly influenced the blues music of the Arkansas Delta. The honor is named for “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, longtime host of the Peabody Award-winning “King Biscuit Time” radio program on KFFA-AM 1360. “King Biscuit Time” is broadcast weekdays from the studio at the Delta Cultural Center Visitors Center.

The recipient for 2017 is James Yancey Jones,  known professionally as Tail Dragger Jones. He is an American Chicago blues performer, has performed since the 1960s, and released four albums to date.

Born in Altheimer, Arkansas, Jones was a disciple of Howlin' Wolf and was  given his nickname by his hero because of his habit of regularly arriving late at Howlin' Wolf performances.The Tail Dragger followed Wolf from club- to-club, watching and getting pointers from the larger-then-life Howlin' Wolf for more than 20 years. The Wolf allowed"The Dragger" to perform his blues while Wolf took a break on weekend shows. Soon "The Dragger" was playing his own numerous club dates on the West and South Sides of Chicago.

During the King Biscuit Blues Festival each October, a public presentation is made and “The Sonny” is given to influential musicians. The Center has had the honor of presenting this award since 2002.  The presentation of the award will take place on Friday, October 6, at 7:30 p.m. on the Lockwood stage.


Past recipients of the award are:

2016 - Charlie Musselwhite
2015 - C.W. Gatlin & Larry MccCray
2014 - Big George Brock and Sonny Burgess & The Legendary Pacers
2013 - Willie Cobbs
2012 - The Cate Brothers
2011 - James Cotton
2010 - B.B. King
2009 - Red Holloway
2008 - Bobby Rush
2007 - Hubert Sumlin
2006 - Michael Burks and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith
2005 - David “Honeyboy” Edwards
2004 - Cedell Davis and John Weston
2003 - Sam Carr and Pinetop Perkins
2002 - Robert Lockwood Jr. and Houston Stackhouse (posthumously)

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