Journeys of Discovery: Swamp blues, juke joints & the Baton Rouge Blues Festival

Apr 18, 2019

The Baton Rouge Blues Festival has been an annual affair for 25 years. The two-day event attracts more than twenty thousand passionate fans, and as a metaphor for the community’s engaged spirit, it’s free of charge. 

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer as he visits with locals including blues singer April “Sexy Red” Jackson; Maxine Crump, CEO of Dialogue on Race Louisiana; Kim Neustrom, executive director of the Baton Rouge Blues Festival Foundation, and board member Bill Bryan. Topics explored include the history and definition of juke joints, the Swamp Blues tradition, and the evolution of the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and Foundation.

Stay tuned for the next Journeys of Discovery podcast from Baton Rouge, where we visit with local legend Lloyd Johnson Junior, owner of Teddy’s Juke Joint in rural Zachary, Louisiana. In the past, juke joints were typically just a sparsely-decorated front room of a sharecropper’s shack where friends congregated to sing the blues, dance the night away, and down a pint or two.

These havens for sharecroppers at one time dotted the rural countryside throughout the Deep South, but there are just a handful still operating. Lloyd Johnson says one reason for the demise is young people balk a paying a cover charge—just to cover the cost of the band. He says he's happy if he makes enough from beer sales to pay the utilities.

You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel show podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast DirectoryApple Podcast, the NPR One App & Twitter: TomCWilmer. Instagram: Thomas.Wilmer. Member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Underwriting support provided by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.