The Soul of Country Music Is The Soul of Shreveport - Bossier and an Inspirational Journey

If you are into Country Music, I highly recommend you “explore" Louisiana North, where you can follow Louisiana’s Country Music Trail through its 29 Parishes. Louisiana North is a place of unexpected treasures with many seasonal, cultural and culinary festivals and itineraries to choose from.

Shreveport- Bossier, where Rockabilly began, might have been a Nashville if there had been an infrastructure way back when. However, after Katrina, the stars aligned, bringing many displaced talents north to Shreveport … jump starting a musical renaissance. Creativity has been awakened and Louisiana’s tax credit program is paving the way for major music labels and film production companies to partner with local talented artists in new state-of-the-art facilities.

Many of Shreveport’s sons and daughters who left to follow their dreams have returned to live their realities, inspire future legends and “keep the music alive”. After 13 years in Sweden, Brady Blade Jr., returned with his Swedish designer wife to build Blade Studios, an 8,000 square foot state-of-the-art recording studio with partner Scott Crompton. They bring symphony composers together with hip hop artists, mixing music electronically for films and a wide cross of cutting edge music projects.  Scott tells me “We have everything here and we hope to crank all this up so the next generation doesn’t have to leave”. 

William (Billy) Joyce, an award winning animator and illustrator, has created Moonbot Studios, a business incubator that creates multi-media video games and I phone films. Working with 31 artists, who have knowledge of color, shading and texture, hand drawn images are fed them into the computer. The process is complex and the results are “magical”.  

On a recent visit to Shreveport,
 I find myself walking in the boot prints of America’s most legendary country music stars, and as if  I was  turning  the pages of a rare and treasured  album, I  am deeply moved by  the far reaching influences of  lives and careers that touched the hearts of  the world   Many were born in Louisiana; and rose from humble or foster beginnings; some who came to fame in Louisiana are buried here, and others like Elvis Pressley and Hank Williams began their accent to stardom in the Hayride Spotlight.  

A tour of Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium, leads me to Elvis Presley’s dressing room; photos of “the king “line one wall. It is a simple room, far from the luxury of dressing rooms he no doubt demanded as his career soared.  I glance at my own image in the mirror where Elvis primped and polished his famous pompadour, and then step out onto the stage. Facing an imaginary audience of 2,500 I gaze up at the original wooden balcony seats and the newer orchestra plastic chairs. I stand in the very spot where 50+ years ago Elvis gyrated and crooned to swooning fans that paid $.60 to hear and see him perform. 

James Burton 
joins us. This  living legend has been “ rockin the house “ with his performances and award winning record labels for decades… is considered one of the most influential guitar players of all time…   loves to talk … has many  “good old days” stories and recollections to share,  and takes great pride in the  long roster of  stars he has played for which :includes:  Elvis Presley,  Rick Nelson,  Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash,  Frank Sinatra, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton  (to mention but a few). James also toured with John Denver for 15 years. To quote George Harrison” “James is the most versatile of all Rockabilly guitarists”. We cross the street to theJames Burton Museum and Foundation.  The foundation and James Burton International Guitar Festival are personally run by James and his energetic dedicated wife Louise. Their mission is to provide musical scholarships, lessons and instruments for children and young adults from all ethnic and economic backgrounds. 

For more info: 

An unplanned drive around town leads to Burnin Spear, an authentic Caribbean comfort food take-out (though there are a few tables). Owner/chef/ musician Gordon Nurse’s cooked-to-order  jerk and curry chicken, shrimp and pork dishes are as flavorful as his spicy personality. Thanks Gordon for your colorful welcome to Shreveport, and your delicious plantains.

Dinner at Noble Savage Tavern is a fun tasting experience as our host orders a wide variety of appetizers and house specialties to titillate and please our palates. On a small raised stage thegroup called Airheart. with Amelia Blake, Dan Garner and Paula O'Neal. strum guitars and sing songs they have written. Their love of performing compliments the chef’s love of cooking.

Thursday morning

The campus of Centenary Methodist College is beautiful. The music department, with three choral groups that tour the world, plays an important role in the community . . . as does the on- campus radio station.

Cotton Boll Grill, 
with its nostalgic décor, is a great place for breakfast or lunchThey have beenserving their famous grits and daily specials since the 1930’s. Our day continues with a tour of the Strand Theatre where we meet Danny Fogger, Executive Director and Lois Robinson, Executive Director of the Shreveport Symphony.  Later that evening, we sit at a long wooden table on Herby - K‘s expanded patio. This hole-in – the- wall gem has been a local tradition for 75 yearsOwner Janet Bean tells me the chef is a descendant of the restaurant’s original cook. The menu is mouth watering; everything tempts me, and I order their famous onion rings, crab claws and Shrimp Buster. …a dish made with large shrimp that are pounded flat, fried and then layered over buttered French bread with a side of spicy buster sauce. Torrential rain pounds the tin roof, harmonizing with the bass, guitar and vocals of Grammy nominated blues guitarist Buddy Flett, Ted Lindsay, who wrote Crystal Gayles number one hit, "Too Many Lovers," and Danny Wilder, a local guitar hero. The trio was invited to play for us as a special surprise.  It is a delicious and festive taste of laid back Shreveport at its talented best.

Friday morning, 
part of our group heads out to explore other Parishes. 
Their itinerary will include: overnights at the Comfort Suites in Vidalia,: lunch at Raffi's in Ruston … and visits to  the Jackson Parish Museum  in  Jonesboro, Jimmy Davis’s home place, the Bowie Relay Station,  Delta Music Museum, Jerry Lee Lewis Family Museum and the Frogmore Plantation. They will meet instrument maker Von Manchester and song writers Tommy Polk and Byron Hill.   

I stay in town, and spend the day with Brandy Evans from the Shreveport- Bossier Tourist Bureau.We lunch at Big O’s, in Bossier, a culinary find for me. Chef/owner Odis Johnson‘s blackened fish, plump fried shrimp (served with his secret tartar sauce; the recipe came to him in a dream), fluffy dirty rice and assortment of veggies were cooked to perfection. Loved his tangy potato salad and special coleslaw. Odis is yet another local treasure. 

The Saturday Farmer’s Market
 is a “not to be missed” treat. I mingle with locals, and sample Hanky Panky’s succulent spicy boudin, Margarita’s tamales, lasagna made by Mama Guilia’s four daughtersShirley’s soft and sweet tea cakes, Cajun pickles, hot peppery pretzels … and a Woo Hoo Whoopie on a stick.  

At night I join International Country Music Star and Shreveport native Robert Mizzell, for his induction into the Greater Shreveport Walk of Stars, followed by his concert under the Red River Bridge. Robert, who lives in Ireland; has won many awards, working alongside such artists as George Jones, Randy Travis, Crystal Gayle, and Charlie Pride. His ballad "Mama Courtney" was named 2010 Song of the Year by the ECMA. His visit to Shreveport is part of Mizzell’s guided “Homecoming Tour” for 96 Irish fans. It is a humble honor to be part of “Robert Mizzell Day” as declared by the mayors of Shreveport and Bossier. Mizzell who has personally led nearly 1,000 Irish fans on tours of the southern U.S. tells the audience “It is the people of Ireland who are responsible for me being here today”. For more:
Photos of  signs walk of fame and elvis presley

Sunday morning I meet with Brian Alexander, executive chef of the Eldorado Casino Resort. It is a challenging position, to say the least, to communicate with his staff of 121 and put them in the right positions to get things done, feed 700 to 1,000 employees a day, and to purchase and supervise preparation for four restaurants and the catering department. Brian’s dedication keeps standards high. “Our food has to be bold flavored and seasoned very well to be close to Sunday dinner at home; we want our guests to experience food at its best”. 

Before leaving for the airport, I discover The Barnwell Memorial Garden, Conservatory and Art Center. It is a unique place where art exhibits, classes and horticulture blend to create unforgettable experiences.   

Elvis, Hank Williams and Huddie Ledbetter may be playing in heaven, but their music (and some say their ghosts) live on.  

Music will be a “big part” of Louisiana’s Centennial so I highly recommend you hitch a hayride up to Louisiana North.

Our thanks to Johnny Wessler, Executive Director Louisiana North for planning such a richly rewarding visit and to Brandy Evans, Chris Jay , Kelly  Wells and Kathy Melancon  from the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Visitors Bureau. for their support and help 

For more info on Louisiana North Partnership:
For more on Shreveport-Bossier: 

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