North Louisiana's deep music roots
Elvis Presley got his start in Shreveport, and the region became a nurturing ground for blues and rockabilly. Learn more about the region's music history and where to hear great live music still today.
From Elvis Presley to Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter to big-time guitar sideman James Burton, North Louisiana’s musical roots are deep and soulful. All three men are among the artists featured in the Stage of Stars and Legends Museum in Shreveport's Municipal Auditorium. Take a tour of the museum and auditorium and stand in the footsteps of music legends, admire the building's Art Deco architecture and perhaps coax a ghost story or two from your tour guide.
In the museum, discover stories of the area’s legendary people and places that have influenced the American music scene, with displays featuring memorabilia from the heyday of the "Louisiana Hayride" – a radio show broadcast from the Municipal Auditorium from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. Many of country music's greatest icons performed on the show, including Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Hank Williams and George Jones.
It was on Oct. 16, 1954, that the "King of Rock-'n'-Roll," Presley, made his first of 50 appearances under the contracted pay rate of $18 per show for the first year. As a matter of fact, that familiar phrase “Elvis has left the building” was coined in Shreveport, first uttered at Hirsch Coliseum by "Louisiana Hayride" producer Horace Logan to quiet screaming teens.
In 2004, on the 50th anniversary of Presley’s first broadcast, a larger-than-life bronze statue was placed on the steps of the Municipal Auditorium. To his left is an equally impressive bronze statue of his guitar band mate and Shreveport native James Burton. Burton started as a house guitar player for the Hayride and later became a member of Elvis’ TCB Band. He also was voted one of the top 100 guitarists of the century.
In recent years, Burton, who still performs and records regularly, has become known for the James Burton International Guitar Festival he has hosted in Shreveport. The event has drawn scores of big-name musicians to entertain and raise money for the James Burton Foundation, which provides music training and guitars for children around the country. (The next festival is planned for 2012.)
A statue also honors blues and folk musician Lead Belly at Texas and Marshall Streets in downtown Shreveport. He's shown pointing toward Ledbetter Heights, an area named in his honor. Lead Belly, whose best-known compositions were “Goodnight Irene” and “House of the Rising Sun,” was born on a plantation in 1889 in nearby Mooringsport. He died in 1949 and was buried near Shiloh Baptist Church, also in Mooringsport.
The days of the Hayride may be over, but there are still many opportunities to hear live music in Shreveport. Check out Riverdome at the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel for a diverse mix of national touring acts.
Noble SavageTavern is something like a blue-collar gastropub, featuring an adventurous menu for diners, a selection of over 30 single malt scotches, and a crowd that appreciates the live music played nightly. Jazz, blues, and acoustic folk are the styles of music you’ll encounter here. There is arguably no more authentically Shreveport experience than jazz trumpeter Dirty Redd’s jam session every Thursday night until midnight.
From rock and country to New Orleans brass bands and reggae, Fatty Arbuckle’s boasts one of the most eclectic slates of live music offerings in all of Shreveport-Bossier. Recent performances have ranged from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to Robert Earl Keen, and everything in between.
If you’re looking for the kind of place where shaggy young musicians are as likely to congregate at the bar as on the stage, it’s Bear’s on Fairfield. The average night’s musical line-up is likely to yield indie rock, alt-country or singer-songwriters.