Traveling with intention pays dividends when music is the goal, and your road trip ties north and central Louisiana together along U. S. 49.
Scenery, lodging and cuisine blended the tunes for me, singing as I roamed from Shreveport to Alexandria.
If you’ve ever heard me sing, you’d take your trip separately.
Fill your ears to overflowing if you go in late May for two annual festivals. Mudbug Madness along Shreveport-Bossier’s Red River fills four days and nights with bands, art and food while Alexandria stages the lively one-day Little Walter Music Festival on the river’s banks to the south.
Louisiana means music
Since music defines Louisiana, find plenty anytime, knowing you can always also count on “savor-every-bite” slow food kind of eating.
Elvis Presley Avenue is the place to linger any visit to Shreveport, especially if you’re a believer in memories and enduring influences.
On the sidewalk of 700 block you can fill your gaze with the art deco Municipal Memorial Auditorium, 1920s intricate brickwork introducing the lavish interior.
Dedicated on an important American day: Nov. 11, 1929, this national treasure formally honored veterans, launched musical careers and now is experiencing a renaissance with new patrons holding solid ties to the musical past.
Louisiana Hayride memories linger
Recall the Louisiana Hayride? 1948 – 1960 live performances on this stage, broadcast on radio station KWKH weekly, then monthly. Think of life with no television.
Elvis Presley started here with an $18 a week contract. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, George Jones . . . you and I can start a lot of long lists with musical discoveries at the Louisiana Hayride.
Johnny Horton invited Texas teenager Margaret Lewis to perform and today, after a country and rockabilly singer-songwriter career in Nashville, she’s the patron bringing the music back to the Auditorium.
Keeping history alive
The city is a big player too, and Margaret is now known as Maggie Warwick, passionately declaring, “If we don’t pass on this history, this building and the music, who will?”
Stand on Elvis Presley Avenue humming tunes and musing about the lives shaped on the Auditorium stage. Turn around and experience another icon.
This one comes with an annual August guitar festival and year-round music classes for kids and young adults. Gifts of guitars, too, to children of Wounded Warriors.
“Play it James”
The James Burton Foundation building provides sound studios for new young guitarists to master the art of recording, and a little gallery of memorabilia and items for sale for visitors like me.
The big story is Burton himself, age 75, performing still and appreciating his teenage guitar-playing launch on the Louisiana Hayride.
Ever notice Elvis saying “Play it James” in his concerts from 1969 until his death in 1977? Burton is that James.
Head of the block on Elvis Presley Avenue in Shreveport-Bossier is Oakland Cemetery, started in 1842. Plenty of fodder for recollection there too.
Drive 20 minutes from Shreveport listening to another Louisiana musical great. “Good Night Irene” leads my list of Lead Belly tunes.
With Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery as your musical goal and Huddie Ledbetter on the 12-strong guitar as your pleasure, visit his gravesite.
Sometimes musicians who appreciate him are there too. If you’re lucky, find Grammy nominee singer/guitarist Buddy Flett. He’s considered a foremost authority on Lead Belly and a headliner at the Little Walter Music Festival in Alexandria.
Music and musicians, fans and patrons, travelers and admirers intersect happily in Louisiana.
2015 dates for more music:
Mudbug Madness are May 21 – 24 in Shreveport-Bossier
Little Walter Music Festival May 23 in Alexandria/Pineville