The next interview with Teddy is coming in June (2014) as part of the 'Why I Love the Blues' series.
Normally we would post the text of an article concerning Teddy's, but in this instance the photos are as much a part of the article as the text, so we suggest you go visit Johnny Cajon visits Teddy
blog page (from January 15, 2014) instead
LSU returns to Teddy's Juke Joint and still believes the Juke Joint is a great place for local music and spirits
Teddy’s Juke Joint keeps old-time blues alive - Will Kallenborn for the LSU Reveille (March 5, 2014)
To Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson, few things are more important than honoring the past.
Johnson owns and operates Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary, La. Located on Old Scenic Highway, the Juke Joint is a bar, restaurant and funky music venue where both locals and travelers can unite to show their love for traditional Louisiana blues.
Johnson is a local character in Zachary who has been a part of the Juke Joint since birth. He was born in 1946 in the little shotgun house that would eventually become the Juke Joint. Johnson has spent most of his life at the Joint, and plans to remain there for the rest of his days. Since his birth in the building, the Juke Joint has had multiple additions, but the core remains the same. The spot where Johnson came into the world is just feet away from the joint’s stage.
“I try to keep it the same as I set it up from the get go,” Johnson said. “I made it up to make people feel comfortable, like they are doing something they have wanted to do for a long time.”
Johnson cherishes the joint’s old-school style and strongly believes his distinct style makes for a great deal of fun. Teddy’s Juke Joint is covered with fun knickknacks that contribute to its distinct atmosphere. The walls are decorated with Johnson’s guitars and pictures and are covered by his collection of license plates from different states.
The joint mainly plays blues music, but does not limit itself when it comes to music styles. People come from all over to the joint to listen to R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and country music while enjoying food and drink.
Johnson keeps things simple with the menu in his place. His wife and partner Nancy Johnson serves up classic meals like red beans and rice, turkey wings and burgers with white bread instead of buns.
“Our food tastes the same way it would have tasted 80 to 100 years ago,” Johnson said.
Appreciation for the past has always been a huge selling point for Johnson. The respect Johnson shows for history has brought a lot of attention to the Juke Joint over the years. Teddy’s Juke Joint has had guests from all over the nation and more than 18 different countries. Several news sources, including The New York Times, have covered the joint.
“Its funny how many people are interested in this little place,” Johnson said. “You never plan on things like that happening. They just do.”
Though he admits opening up a place somewhere else might be more profitable, Johnson said he could never imagine leaving the Juke Joint.
“If being rich means leaving Louisiana, then I’ll just stay right where I am,” Johnson said.
There is no actual "Juke Joint Trail." However, to be featured in the New York Times is a honor. From the May 17, 2013 New York TimesCultured Driver -- Driving the Juke Joint Trail
By ALEX CREVAR
I expected my juke joint pilgrimage to feel like a peripatetic wake. Decades ago, blues luminaries like Charley Patton, Robert Johnson and Sonny Boy Williamson traveled across the South, guitar or harmonica in hand, from joint to joint for just enough money and food to get to the next one. In doing so they laid the foundation for nearly every form of popular American music that would follow.
But today, juke joints, once too numerous to count, have slipped away as their owners pass on. When I asked Roger Stolle, a founder of the Juke Joint Festival, held annually in Clarksdale, Miss., how many such places still exist, he replied: “With actual real, live blues music at least sporadically? Maybe five.”
Taking a route through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, I set out to find some of these spots and discovered that where juke joints still exist jubilance remains. Traditionally seen as dens of the devil’s music — jook is believed to originate from an African-derived Gullah word meaning disorderly — the surviving joints have become redefined as sanctuaries. Within their ramshackle walls, a sense of community and a love of soul-searching rhythms reign supreme.
On a crisp April day, I drove from Birmingham to Bessemer, about 20 minutes to the southwest. As I parked at Gip’s Place, a sprawl of do-it-yourself structures literally on the other side of the tracks, a car pulled beside me and a clearly relieved man in a fedora stepped out. “GPS doesn’t do much for you here, does it?” he said. “This place almost has to find you.” (And it could, until recently. The Bessemer city government has just shut down the club, citing permit and zoning violations; at press time, the two sides hadn’t resolved the issue.)
While some other jukes have turned to D.J.’s, Gip’s, opened in 1952, offers only live music. Performers like T-Model Ford and Bobby Rush have played on the plywood stage, housed in a festive space about the size of a living room. When the dance floor heaves, the spot’s namesake, Henry Gipson — he gives his age as “between 80 and 100” and owns a cemetery, where he digs graves by day — takes his position at the stage’s edge, clapping his huge, weathered hands and shouting encouragement.
“The soul and spirit of Mr. Gip and his knowledge and memory of where the blues come from is what you feel here,” said Debbie Bond, a 30-year veteran of the Alabama blues scene and leader of that night’s band, Debbie Bond and the TruDats.
Fueled by the drained invigoration that follows a night “out jukin’,” the next day I drove southwest to Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary, La., just north of Baton Rouge. After seeking out Lloyd Johnson Jr., a k a Teddy, I asked him where he was born; the 67-year-old pointed toward the stage, where he said a bed once sat. As a guitar player began fingerpicking, patrons filed in amid mismatched booths and tables, a disco ball, Mardi Gras beads and a sign that read “Welcome: All Sizes, All Colors ...All People.”
“You’ve got to have the want, the love, the upkeep, the will, and the desire to keep it going,” said Mr. Johnson, perched at the bar. “After these are gone, children aren’t going to have any idea what a juke joint was. It’s important because it is the culture of America.”
The next morning, I traveled north through the alluvial plain wedged between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers — to some the true home of the blues, having produced stalwarts like Muddy Waters, Elmore James and B. B. King. Today, their legacy forms the skeleton of the region’s tourism draw, and its backbone is Highway 61, known as the Blues Highway.
Juke aficionados from around the world seek out Po’ Monkey’s in Merigold, Miss., just off 61, open Thursdays only. The owner, Willie Seaberry, 73 — he responds to either Po’ or Monkey — has run the joint since he was 16. During the day, he still farms the fields that surround the building, an Escher-like layering of tin, bricks and rough-hewed planks.
“There used to be juke joints all around here,” Mr. Seaberry said as we stood outside, watching the sun set. “Well, a lot of young folks didn’t know how to act, and they just had to close them down.” He looked out across an infinite Delta horizon. “But all my people like the blues.”
At dusk, we followed his people into the joint for $3 canned beers under black-plastic ceilings adorned with a sea of stuffed monkeys and Christmas lights. As the D.J. found his groove with a soul number by the band Chairmen of the Board, a group of regulars arrived, tilting the crowd from majority white to black. Strangers sat at community tables and danced with one another’s dates; the clubhouse mood never changed.
“Po’ Monkey’s is like what the Delta is at its best,” Will Jacks, a photographer from nearby Cleveland, Miss., told me. “It’s more than just a place to have some beer and relax for a night. There’s this magic that happens between people.”
If the Delta is the body of the blues, Clarksdale, 30 minutes north of Merigold along the Sunflower River, is the heart. Markers pay homage to hometown heroes like John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner and Sam Cooke. And this town of 18,000 is the site of the famous “crossroads,” where Highways 61 and 49 meet and where Robert Johnson legendarily sold his soul.
It was the eve of the 10th Juke Joint Festival, and Clarksdale was already humming with the string-bending melodies of impromptu curbside performances. Hundreds of blues fans milled about with their programs to locate the fest’s various music locations. About 7,000 fans would eventually descend on the compact grid of streets to witness longtime bluesmen — some in their 70s and 80s — as well as a new generation of standard-bearers.
The next day, evidence of Clarksdale’s singular focus was everywhere. At one end of town, on the grassy front quad of the Delta Blues Museum, teenagers, college students and families lounged in the sun and listened to live bands. In the town’s center, the esteemed guitarist and singer Robert (Wolfman) Belfour, 72, in a three-piece suit and Panama hat, was finishing a set. Across the street, Marcus Cartwright Jr., 19, who goes by Mookie, also wearing a Panama hat, sat on an amp on the sidewalk and drew bigger crowds with every old-school song he played.
“One of the concepts of the Juke Joint Festival is to highlight the fact that we have these incredible venues that really only exist in one part of the world,” Mr. Stolle said. He is apparently bullish on the state of the festival: next year’s is already scheduled for April 10 to 13. “It gives you that whole sense of the fact that it’s not just a genre of music — it’s a living, breathing culture that happens to have a voice.”
The most obvious bricks-and-mortar example of that commitment to redirect the juke-joint-culture trajectory is the Ground Zero Blues Club. The relative newcomer of the group, it was opened in 2001 by the actor Morgan Freeman and Bill Luckett, a local lawyer, in a converted cotton warehouse, with all the gritty trappings of a great juke: graffitied walls, strings of lights and a down-home front porch with couches. Live acts perform Wednesday to Saturday.
But if you ask musicians and locals to name the best joint in town to experience music, nearly all will send you to Red’s Lounge, which stages blues-only acts Friday to Sunday, run by the beloved and cantankerous Red Paden, 60, a juke owner for 40 years. Inside, space is tight, the ceiling low, and the music as well connected to the original bluesmen as the room’s red-neon glow is seductive.
I’d saved Red’s for last. Apparently so had everyone else — the place was packed. Seated in a folding chair on the floor-level stage, Mr. Belfour moaned, tapped his foot and played his twangy country-blues style — proving why the blues and juke joints are not yet ready for a museum’s glass case.
Hours later — around 2 a.m., as the night’s last band was winding down — Mr. Paden came out from behind the bar, waving his arms through the haze of cigarette smoke and alcohol-fueled revelry. “That’s it, everybody,” he said. “I’m tired.”
A blog entry from December 19, 2012 on Eateries, Dives, and Juke Joints
One of the Baton Rouge area’s best-kept secrets, Teddy’s Juke Joint, is making an internationally renowned mark on the local music scene. The Juke Joint, located on Old Scenic Highway, is no ordinary venue. It exposes students and the Baton Rouge community to the world’s top musicians and enables an interactive, enlightening experience. It’s a place where all patrons, from rookies to experienced musicians, can get up on stage alongside internationally acclaimed artists and work what they’ve got, guaranteeing even the most unfamiliar of customers a true understanding of blues.
Owner Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson Jr. said everyone is welcome to come out and learn to play blues. “I had a young man from LSU who played violin and came and learned to play blues,” he said. “Anyone can do it. If they play rock and they want to be exposed to something different, they can come out here and learn to play blues.”
Though Johnson said customers shouldn’t expect classroom-like lessons, the musicians he brings to the venue are more than willing to help out newcomers, especially Dixie Taylor, who plays in the Dixie Rose Acoustic Circle and open mic on Wednesday nights.
“Most of the musicians that come here will give you different pointers,” he said. “But when we have the acoustic circle and open mic, Dixie’ll take time and try to help [new musicians] out as much as she can.”
Johnson said he is in touch with more than 1,000 artists from across the globe and that just by observing, visitors walk away from the haunt with a better understanding of blues.
“I have people from all over the world that come and play here,” he said. “People can learn a whole lot just by coming out and being exposed, observing in person.”
Many of the performers who come out to the venue have played with big-name artists and are award-winning artists themselves, Johnson said. “Just to name a couple of people who play here – I got Gregg Wright, who played with Michael Jackson on the Victory Tour,” he said. “Kenny Neal – he’s the first man to put blues on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and he’s played in every Jazz Fest except one since it started up.”
Alex V. Cook, Baton Rouge author and journalist, is including Teddy’s Juke Joint in his upcoming book published through LSU Press. “I’m writing an anecdotal type of guide book to Louisiana juke joints, dance halls and honkey tonks,” he said. “Teddy’s actually inspired me to write the book.” Cook said the juke joint is the real deal, adding: “Blues keeps itself alive through this place because it’s the legitimate thing,” he said. “Teddy was actually born in the house, and it’s one of the only real juke joints left in the area since Tabby’s Blues Box closed.” Along with providing a sense of blues music tradition, the haunt is also the quintessential vision of a classic juke joint, Cook said. “If you’ve got any concept of what a juke joint is in your mind, that’s what it looks like,” he said. “It’s just a good time. It’s one of my favorite bars ever.”
Nancy Johnson, the owner’s wife, said she’s proud of her husband for expanding the musical horizons of all the venue’s visitors. “I think what he’s doing is absolutely fantastic,” she said. “It’s been a terrific ride for me. He’s dedicated, he’s a good man, he enjoys the lessons, he really helps everybody and he does a great job doing it, too.”
Nancy Johnson said her husband’s dedication comes from his heritage. “It’s in his roots,” she said. “He’s always been involved in music ever since he was a little boy, and once he opened this bar, it was just a natural course for him.” She said students should come to Teddy’s Juke Joint because the musicians give individual attention to all interested patrons. “Teddy has fantastic people come out here,” she said. “They’re not just good musicians – they’re good folks.”
Only thing rarer than a visit from the Advocate to the Juke Joint is a visit to the Juke Joint from the Times-Picayune. This time being led around by Alex V. Cook.Backwoods club preserves the culture
- Alison Fensterstock (May 1, 2012)
We could have taken the freeway almost all the way to Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary, but author Alex V. Cook directed us instead straight through North Baton Rouge.
"It's the scenic route," he explained.
Driving down Plank Road parallel to both I-10 and the old Highway 61 on Easter Sunday, it was scenic indeed. We passed seafood markets and barbecue joints and bright-painted cinderblock nightclubs with names like Raggs, Romeo’s and the Boss Lady Lounge.“It’s the scenic route,” he explained.
Beside us on the road in the late afternoon were a notable number of classic cars, with candy-colored paint jobs and elaborate rims — cruising, maybe, till the Boss Lady decided to open up for business.
Cook’s new book, “Louisiana Saturday Night: Lookin’ For a Good Time in South Louisiana’s Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks and Dance Halls” (LSU Press) is all about the scenic route. A frequent contributor to publications such as Offbeat, the Oxford American and Baton Rouge’s 225 magazine, Cook pulled the book together from a series of columns for the magazine Country Roads, which celebrates the gems of regional American culture that can still be found far off the beaten pathways.
“Louisiana Saturday Night,” part guidebook, part travel journal, compiles Cook’s observations on several dozen mostly unmapped South Louisiana hot spots. Flipping through descriptions of a Henderson dance hall with airboats in the parking lot or a “rustic swamp bar” in Pierre Part where swamp-pop legend Don Rich still holds court each Wednesday night, it’s hard not to jump in the car.
Which is how we wound up at Teddy’s with Cook as our drinking buddy and guide, driving way down past the edge of Baton Rouge, past the jail and the refineries, just off a lonely two-lane stretch of the Old Scenic Highway.
You can’t see Teddy’s Juke Joint from the road. You’ve got to look out for the smallish white sign – also festooned with a drawing of a bear – that marks the turnoff into a grassy clearing that reveals the club, a couple of out buildings, a covered patio with picnic tables and buckets for cigarette butts and at least half a dozen cats that slink around the property.
Teddy Johnson is a bear of a man, born a little over 70 years ago in the house that’s now his namesake club. On Easter Sunday, he was resplendent in a white suit and hat and a pale-pink shirt, a gold teddy-bear charm hung around his neck, with tiny garnet-colored jewels for eyes. When we wander in, he’s taking the air with a couple outside; immediately, he introduces them to Cook and tells them about the book.
Inside, Christmas lights, Mardi Gras beads and other ornaments dangle from every available surface. Johnson’s wife, Nancy, is in the kitchen cooking up chicken wings and red beans and rice. The jukebox is loaded with electric urban blues and soul – lots of Johnnie Taylor and Denise LaSalle – but it’s off, since Teddy has slipped into the palatial DJ booth to spin some raunchy R&B sides while the night’s entertainment, Lil Ray Neal, sets up. There are only four or five of us in the place this early in the evening, so everyone gets a personalized shout-out on the mike.
When Cook wrote the entry for Teddy’s in “Louisiana Saturday Night,” which he used as the book’s prologue, he noted that what surprised him most about visiting it for the first time, in 2006, was not that it exists, but that, after many years living in Baton Rouge and writing about its music scene, he’d never heard of it. It’s about a 15-minute drive from his house.
“Louisiana Saturday Night” is full of such under-promoted spots, and the book could easily function as a guide for your own summer Saturdays (or your days between New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival weekends, should you be at leisure). None of its destinations is more than a three-hour drive from the greater New Orleans area. To readers with no plans to visit, though, its value is in Cook’s vivid travelogue and deft observations as to what these gathering spots mean to Louisiana culture: The way we eat, drink and dance tells stories about who we are.
Descriptions of dark nights on dirt roads looking for a tavern’s lights make a reader feel he can almost see the bayou or the sugar cane in the moonlight, out the passenger-side window; a sentence about cicadas and tree frogs twittering in counterpoint to a zydeco band put you right there, under the stars at an RV park in Eunice. A brief essay about an ultimately fruitless search for a blues club called Emma’s in Port Allen wonders, subtly, at the strange de facto segregation that still exists in the rural music scene.
As he notes in the book’s introduction, “Breaking down Louisiana culture into atomic parts is tricky because subcultures intermingle and mutate: black meets white, affluent meets impoverished, town meets country, Cajun meets Indian meets French and so on.
“The place where those interactions can best be observed,” he continues, “is on countless wooden dance floors and smoky bars tucked away in neighborhoods, at the end of dark country roads.
“Louisiana’s nightclubs are not the places where we carve out our future but where we play out our present, often in the shadow of our past.”
Cabs, Covers, and Cocktails - Part 2
Katie Pate returns to Teddy's, with her mom, to catch Lil' Ray Neal in this March 11, 2012 article
Louisiana Blues Music at Teddy's
The first time I went to the juke joint, there was no live music, just Teddy and his records. On Sunday, I brought my mother to hear Lil’ Ray Neal play classic Louisiana blues guitar.
Like so many blues musicians, Raful “Lil Ray” Neal III is a virtually unknown outside of the blues community. However, he is considered one of today’s finest blues guitarists. His band consisted of drummer Oliver Well, brother Darnell Neal on bass guitar, “Ray” from New Orleans on the saxophone and a keyboardist, whose name I missed (sorry keyboardist! You were also a great singer!).Just driving up to Teddy’s makes you feel you’ve discovered something special and secret. The little shotgun home that houses the juke joint is where owner Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson was born. Inside is a sprawling collection of blues memorabilia covering every wall and window with a small stage in the front where Lil’ Ray and his band performed.
The music was soulful and luxuriating. It seemed to spread over us like the fragrant steam from a pot of home cookin’ spreads throughout a kitchen. The crowd was small but enthusiastic, encouraging lyrics with a shout, clapping and dancing.
Lil’ Ray Neal told us about how he was the one of ten children raised by a musical father (blues harmonica player Raful Neal Jr.). “He raised ten children playing music, and I can barley raise three!” Ray, sometimes called the “gentle giant of the blues” told us of his travels with various other blues musicians around the nation. But always returned to Baton Rouge to play with his father.
“Playin’ with my Daddy made me a better person,” he explained, remembering the night he had to go play a gig with his father instead of attend the prom.
Some songs performed were “talk too much” about a chatty woman; “two dollars,” with the chorus “one for my bus fare and one for the juke box. Play me some blues!” Songs were slow and fast, playful and serious. The one thing they all had in common is they were GREAT!
We only stayed for the early set from 6 pm until 8 pm, but we did receive a fried chicken dinner for free around 7 p.m. (Blues plate special?) The crowd was older, which might be why the show started around 5 p.m. Hey, that’s alright with me. I get pretty sick of arriving at a show that “starts” at 10 p.m. and the main act does not take the stage until 12:30 a.m. Gimmie a break!
If you like the blues, go to Teddy’s. If you love the blues, you probably already know about Teddy’s. And if you are just curious about the blues and authentic Louisiana music, go to Teddy’s. You won’t be disappointed!
Cabs, Covers, and Cocktails - Part 1
Katie Pate first *discovered* Teddy back in September, 2011. It was a quiet night so she recorded as I talked...
Blues Philosophy at Teddy's
On a lonely, quiet road in Zachary, there is a small shotgun house decorated with red Christmas lights and a sign guiding whomever might be driving by to stop at “Teddy’s Juke Joint.” Although humble on the outside, the inside of Teddy’s is a blues Graceland, crowded with memorabilia, mardi gras beads, instruments, photos and plain ol’ nick-knacks.
However, the night I arrived at Teddy’s, it was anything but crowded. I stopped by the same night as an LSU football game, which keeps the juke joint pretty empty. In fact, it was just me and my two buddies, along with owner Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson Jr., his wife Nancy, and the doorman Dirk. The music playing in the background was stellar: old and new blues, loud, crisp and clear. Teddy has a throne for DJing, but since it was just us, he sat by the bar and told us about life.
“Louisiana doesn’t want the kids doing blues. It’s a cultural thing. They want to keep the good things away from the black man. But Mississippi, they have acknowledged what the black man has done.Teddy started playing music when he was five years old; he is now 65. He believes that true blues musicians need to spend time in both Louisiana and Mississippi. As he explained it, Louisiana is not as prideful of it’s blues tradition as Mississippi.
“Can you think of a single radio station in Baton Rouge that plays blues? The blues man makes less money than any other musician in America. Yet the blues is the only original American musical genre. A rapper can go out and make a million dollars by using someone else’s (sic) music.”
This is just a tiny taste of Teddy’s philosophies on life, debt, education, politics and race he shared with us that night.
Regular players at Teddy’s include musicians Slim Harpo, Henry Grey and Tabby Thomas, whom were also inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame this past weekend. These musicians recorded with the Blues greats: Buddy Guy, Howling Wolf and B.B. King. But you’ve probably never heard of them, I hadn’t. Henry Gray, famed blues pianist, also plays for the lunch crowd at the Piccadilly on Government St.
It seems that blues music is filled with these kind of oppositions: national recognition and local obscurity; jubilant melodies expressing despair; rebirth from destruction. Dirk, the “doh man,” told me that many people come to Teddy’s while on their “Blues Odyssey,” a trip that blues aficionados take through Louisiana and Mississippi to learn and understand more of the genre. “They say blue is the only color you can feel,” Dirk tells me, flicking a cigarette on the porch outside, “people wanna get some on them.”
Although I was the only patron at Teddy’s that night, I would recommend a trip to Zachary to anyone who appreciates music. Teddy was born in the house that is now is juke joint, a holy grail for blues fans and a lucky find for anyone else who manages to stumble in.
Kids. Wear something colorful and they want to see what you are all about.Jayme visits the Juke Joint
- From June 18, 2011
We love it when students from LSU or Southern come up to the Juke Joint and write about us. This article was published in the LSU Reveille on Sept. 22, 2010www.lsureveille.com/entertainment/local-venue-introduces-novices-to-blues-music-1.2339454
Local venue introduces novices to blues music
By Cathryn Core
One of the Baton Rouge area's best-kept secrets, Teddy's Juke Joint, is making an internationally renowned mark on the local music scene.
The Juke Joint, located on Old Scenic Highway, is no ordinary venue.
It exposes students and the Baton Rouge community to the world's top musicians and enables an interactive, enlightening experience. It's a place where all patrons, from rookies to experienced musicians, can get up on stage alongside internationally acclaimed artists and work what they've got, guaranteeing even the most unfamiliar of customers a true understanding of blues.
Owner Lloyd "Teddy" Johnson Jr. said everyone is welcome to come out and learn to play blues.
"I had a young man from LSU who played violin and came and learned to play blues," he said. "Anyone can do it. If they play rock and they want to be exposed to something different, they can come out here and learn to play blues."
Though Johnson said customers shouldn't expect classroom-like lessons, the musicians he brings to the venue are more than willing to help out newcomers, especially Dixie Taylor, who plays in the Dixie Rose Acoustic Circle and open mic on Wednesday nights.
"Most of the musicians that come here will give you different pointers," he said. "But when we have the acoustic circle and open mic, Dixie'll take time and try to help [new musicians] out as much as she can."
Johnson said he is in touch with more than 1,000 artists from across the globe and that just by observing, visitors walk away from the haunt with a better understanding of blues.
"I have people from all over the world that come and play here," he said. "People can learn a whole lot just by coming out and being exposed, observing in person."
Many of the performers who come out to the venue have played with big-name artists and are award-winning artists themselves, Johnson said.
"Just to name a couple of people who play here - I got Gregg Wright, who played with Michael Jackson on the Victory Tour," he said. "Kenny Neal - he's the first man to put blues on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and he's played in every Jazz Fest except one since it started up."
Alex V. Cook, Baton Rouge author and journalist, is including Teddy's Juke Joint in his upcoming book published through LSU Press.
"I'm writing an anecdotal type of guide book to Louisiana juke joints, dance halls and honkey tonks," he said. "Teddy's actually inspired me to write the book."
Cook said the juke joint is "the real deal."
"Blues keeps itself alive through this place because it's the legitimate thing," he said. "Teddy was actually born in the house, and it's one of the only real juke joints left in the area since Tabby's Blues Box closed."
Along with providing a sense of blues music tradition, the haunt is also the quintessential vision of a classic juke joint, Cook said.
"If you've got any concept of what a juke joint is in your mind, that's what it looks like," he said. "It's just a good time. It's one of my favorite bars ever."
Nancy Johnson, the owner's wife, said she's proud of her husband for expanding the musical horizons of all the venue's visitors.
"I think what he's doing is absolutely fantastic," she said. "It's been a terrific ride for me. He's dedicated, he's a good man, he enjoys the lessons, he really helps everybody and he does a great job doing it, too."
Nancy Johnson said her husband's dedication comes from his heritage.
"It's in his roots," she said. "He's always been involved in music ever since he was a little boy, and once he opened this bar, it was just a natural course for him."
She said students should come to Teddy's Juke Joint because the musicians give individual attention to all interested patrons.
"Teddy has fantastic people come out here," she said. "They're not just good musicians - they're good folks."
I can't find an exact date as to when the following was written (or posted), but it looks like it was around the first of December, 2009.
At least we (here at Teddys') now know who to thank for getting us in the Louisiana state tourism guide the last two years...www.shannonlane.com/my-three-best-travel-secrets/
My Three Best Travel Secrets
by Shannon · 9 comments
There’s a meme going around called “My Three Best Travel Secrets” and I’ve recently been tagged by Gray Cargill of SoloFriendly.com. Gray, by the way, not only has a fantastic blog, but she has one of the coolest names. From what I understand, the game was started by Katie of Tripbase.com. Smart marketing, Katie
The purpose is to highlight lesser-known venues or share a special place with readers. I’ve traveled the globe, but I’ll share three places in Louisiana that I personally enjoy:Dancing at Teddy’s Juke Joint: This little dive is so close to my house that I could walk there if I really put my mind to it. Those that don’t know about this hidden little place will miss it as they drive down Old Scenic Highway in Zachary. For you non-locals, this would be Hwy 964. Teddy’s serves up some Baton Rouge Blues along with delicious and pocket-friendly soul food. I support this local venue so much that I wrote about it in the 2008 Official Louisiana Tour Guide. It may be holiday season right now, but at Teddy’s the Christmas lights are up 365 days a year. If you want a taste of the REAL Louisiana, Teddy’s food choices include such items as turkey wings, hot sausage, gumbo (seasonally), and pork chop sandwiches. Visit the last surviving roadside juke joint in the area and put on your dancing shoes. Check out Teddy’s Juke Joint website and be sure to let me know if you make a visit. I just might meet you there.
Drinking a beer at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: Located at Bourbon and St. Phillip in the French Quarter, Lafitte’s quite possibly is my most favorite of all favorite places to enjoy a cold beer. This is the oldest bar in the United States and still holds the historic grit of when it posed as a front for the Lafitte Brothers’ smuggling business. Anyone who visits New Orleans with me is obligated to stop in Lafitte’s and sit down for philosophical ponderings of life and travels.
Eating Risotto at Besh Steakhouse: Risotto, when prepared correctly, is a culinary offering that I would ask for with my last meal. Inside of Harrah’s Casino is Besh Steakhouse, a high-end restaurant that serves delicious Louisiana inspired meals and fine wine. One thing you won’t find on the menu is the risotto. However, if you tell your waiter, “Shannon Lane said I MUST try the risotto,” then you’ll learn all about my third and final travel secret.
Now that I’ve shared just a few of my many secrets, I hope that if you experience any of these places that you stop back here at ShannonLane.com and tell me if you loved it or hated it. The offer always stands (if I’m around) that I’m always glad to join travelers and show them the places I love.
More references to Teddy from Alex Cook and 225 Magazine.http://225batonrouge.com/news/2009/oct/01/whats-jukebox/
What’s on the Jukebox?
By Alex V. Cook
Thursday, October 1, 2009
A few years ago I was sitting at the bar at Phil Brady’s one evening after a band had finished, and the jukebox filled with local blues favorites kicked in. It made me think of great jukeboxes from my young adult life in Baton Rouge: the one packed with punk rock and Frank Sinatra at The Library (now North Gate Tavern); the swamp pop and oldies on the massive one that once dominated one wall of the dining room at the Pastime Lounge. There was a time when part of the ambiance of a bar or restaurant was judged by the contents of its jukebox and how the music intersected with the clientele.
Now Phil Brady’s uses an Internet jukebox, their classic machine long gone. Many clubs, if they don’t simply pipe the music in from satellite services, are opting for the same. These give customers the whole of vast media catalogs to choose from. But while they solve the maintenance issue of keeping the music in a jukebox fresh, they decouple the music and the place.
For me, perhaps the city’s best jukebox, in terms of matching a room to the tunes, is at Fleur de Lis. The Government Street pizza joint’s juke is loaded with 45s and doesn’t look like it has been updated since the early 1980s. While waiting for my Round the World to arrive, I overheard a man at the next table explaining to his teenage daughter how the jukebox worked while he fished quarters out of his pocket. “But what if I don’t like the song once I’ve put my money in?” she asked.
“That’s part of the fun. It’s a little bit of a gamble,” her dad said. She selected Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Blue Bayou,” which seemed to make everyone in the room happy.
The same can be said for the jukebox at Red Star Bar. It is carefully loaded with a mix of indie rock classics from bands like the Clash and Joy Division and more contemporary fare that reflects the young, music-obsessed crowd that frequents the bar. Teddy’s Juke Joint has a great jukebox as well, loaded with regional blues and R&B, though it doesn’t get a whole lot of use—because Teddy, a knowledgeable record spinner, is always around.
Dearman’s, the venerable hamburger and malt shop in the Bocage Shopping Center, still has its jukebox holding court over the ’50s-themed décor. Unfortunately, it works only “sporadically,” employees say. It is mostly there for nostalgic decoration.
Deejay Rob Payer’s personal jukebox is one of the few left in Baton Rouge.
My good friend Rob Payer is production manager at KBRH/WBRH and host of the Rhythm Revue, the classic soul program that provides the weekend soundtrack for much of Baton Rouge. That night at Phil Brady’s, I turned to Rob and asked him where the city’s best jukebox is. “That’s easy, “ he told me. “At my house.”
In a prominent place in Rob’s living room sits a gorgeous vintage jukebox packed with his own collection of 45s. He didn’t want to take out the old jukebox labels, so he created his “Captain’s Log,” a notebook detailing what song is in each slot. After a listening awhile, we put the log aside and took a similar gamble to that of the teenage girl at Fleur de Lis, punching in random numbers and riding through great songs of yesteryear. Occasionally he has to pop the thing open and repair a skip. I imagine this act with light pouring out of the jukebox like it was Indiana Jones’ lost Ark of the Covenant.
And as the blinking lights illuminated the room, the bulbs pulsing in time with the music, Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” came rumbling on. Sometimes, that one right song at that one right moment sounds perfect on a jukebox, and that feeling radiates out to everyone listening.
Where as all the articles below deal with Teddy and the Juke Joint directly, this particular article had an indirect reference to Teddy. This is a review of the album that Teddy's houseband, Super Cooper & Teddy's Sharecroppers made "for Teddy" earlier this year. Review: Selwyn Cooper Super Cooper & Teddy’s Sharecropper Band
By Alex V. Cook
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
It can be argued that Baton Rouge blues is too homogeneous, but on his first album as Super Cooper & Teddy’s Sharecropper Band, Selwyn Cooper is looking to expand that definition. Cooper has played with Buckwheat Zydeco since 1971, when they were called Buckwheat and the Hitchhiker’s R&B Band. He has played alongside Big Mama Thornton, Beau Jacque, and Rockin’ Dopsie, and is a Wednesday night regular at Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary. He and trumpeter Dwalyn Jackson repaired to the A/C Recording studio in New Iberia to lay down a mix of blues, jazz and soul, to capture some of that Wednesday night energy for this CD.
Against a backbeat of drum machine and synthesizer, Cooper lets his tasteful guitar licks unfold with his relaxed vocal delivery on mid-tempo boogies like “Crazy Life” and upbeat numbers like “Teddy Joints.” But after that the disc takes off on several tangents. “Sonny” and “Smooth Mood” are straight-up silky-smooth jazz. “Gotta Get Over Your Love” is reminiscent of the disco-jazz crossover tracks that were popular when Teddy opened his club in 1979.
Two tracks delve daringly into uncharted waters for local blues. “Johnny” is an Isaac Hayes-style, half-narrated, half-sung orchestral tribute to Johnny “Guitar” Watson that rides on a hypnotic slow trumpet groove. Even more out there is “Country Boy,” an upbeat R&B variation of the zydeco standard. Cooper’s take is less zydeco proper, but more a song about zydeco, with Cooper telling the story of how the music spread. Hopefully future efforts will include live drums and a horn section, but Cooper is to be applauded for opening up the stylistic spectrum of the blues in Baton Rouge. Here’s hoping others follow suit.
Essential tracks: “Johnny,” “Sonny,” “Crazy Life”
Recommended if you like: Isaac Hayes, Kenny Neal, Teddy’s DJ sets during band breaks
A blogger's review of Teddy's Juke Joint, evidently written after our 2009 4th of July celebration.Teddy's Juke Joint - the last real Juke Joint in Baton Rouge
, by Lisa Stanbury
If the house is rockin', be sure to come knockin'. Teddy's Juke Joint, the last self-proclaimed juke joint in the Baton Rouge area, is still going strong with fantastic live music blaring from the simple wooden stage inside a 2 room bar off Old Scenic Highway north of Baton Rouge.
As you are driving on Old Scenic Highway toward Highway 61 in Zachary, Louisiana, you'll pass a non-descript white building set far back from the road. If you slow your car down a bit, you might hear the live rhythm and blues music vibrating it's way out of the juke joint shack, and if you're really lucky, you'll turn left and park it for a few hours at Teddy's.
It's easy to miss the joint...and that's why the Teddy's Juke Joint white painted sign is something to watch closely for if you head out that way. It's really just a small wooden building with a stage, 10 or so tables, a couple of leather banquettes, a long bar, and various Teddy paraphenalia propped and hung for decorations, including Christmas lights, 50 year-old working disco balls, old wooden scooters, water pumps and 1950s lineloeum chairs. A huge Teddy Bear is propped in the corner behind the make-shift stage. Just step inside the dark room for a few minutes, and Teddy will tell you all about every piece deocrating the place, how his Grandmother bought the land in the 1920s, even where the leather booths rested last, and he does all the 'splainin' from the microphone in the D.J. booth at the back of the bar.
If you are hungry when you head that way, you can try the red beans and rice for under $6.00 or maybe opt for the Turkey Wings. The rest of the menu is simple fare, and cheap, albeit more fried food that I wanted to sample.
We went for the live music and I was thrilled with what we found. We heard the Circuit Breakers play, an Austin-like rock-a-billy band and I've never heard a guitar player cover a Chuck Berry tune as well as I did that night. The Sharecroppers opened the evening with classic R&B, and were just as enjoyable a group. Teddy sat down with us for awhile and listened...he is the biggest live music fan in the place.
It's one of those places you just gotta' go, and when you do, bring some friends, your dancing shoes and a map -- just in case you pass the white sign a little too fast....
Another newbie comes to Louisiana (State University) and learns about Juke Joints. From April, 2009From L.A. to La, a jewish california girl learning about the south
Teddy's Juke Joint
This past weekend I went to Teddy's Juke Joint
with a friend. What's a juke joint you ask? Well I'm not quite sure myself, but luckily we have wikipedia, "Juke joint (or jook joint) is the vernacular term for an informal establishment featuring music, dancing, gambling, and drinking, primarily operated by African American people in the southeastern United States." After reading that it makes a lot more sense than the explanation the boy gave me, "Juke like a jukebox, its just a bar that plays popular music." It fits pretty much all of the wiki definition, except I didn't see any gambling going on there.
First, getting there was an adventure in itself. We met up with some friends and followed their car out of town. I decided to drive, since neither one of us really trusted any one else who was going to drive and not drink. The place was outside of Baton Rouge, technically in a city called Zachary. Although really it was in Rural Zachary, which is a nice way of saying in the middle of nowhere. We drove down this poorly lit road in the middle of nowhere (in the pouring rain I might add) and of course drove past it. Which meant we had to turn down a little side street to turn back around. What should have been a nice 3-point turn turned into a 12 point turn for me. Like most places in Louisiana instead of having sidewalks next to the road there are huge ditches. My worst fear is driving into one of them and not being able to get my car out. So I was overly cautious turning around and managed to do so successfully.
We do finally get to Teddy's and park in their gravel parking lot. We ran to the door to try to stay somewhat dry in the downpour. (Kind of silly because one of us forgot our id, so we had to run back out to the car.) Once we were id-ed and ready to go in we had to each pay a $10 cover. The guys who we had followed arrived a few minutes before us and they didn't have to pay the cover. Call it bad timing, because the bouncer was only there about half of the night because the bar itself was so tiny.
Teddy's was really just a wooden shack. When I got there I started to say it was kind of ghetto, and while that would have worked as a classification in California, here in Louisiana you would say that it was kind of country. There were probably 20 people inside the bar, of which 15 were there for the same birthday party as us. Considering what I hate most about going out is being somewhere where there isn't enough space to move, I love that this had more than enough space for everyone.
They had a live act playing on the stage most of the time and when they weren't playing Teddy was djing. Yes, Teddy is the actual owners name. A large black man who was wearing what looked like sheriffs outfit from an old western. His wife Nancy was working the bar; she was an older white woman with long grey hair. Needless to say they were an interesting couple who you wouldn't have assumed would be together.
The bar itself was decorated full of knick-knacks. Hanging from the ceiling were odds items like an LSU football helmet, a trumpet, and a tricycle. Honestly, it kind of felt like a bar you would see in a movie (most likely a horror film). The best part about the bar was how intimate it felt. Teddy gave the birthday girl a T-shirt as a present. Nancy came up to us individually and thanked us for being there.
This is supposedly one of the last Juke Joints left in the country. According to wikipedia, places like the House of Blues are modeled after them, but there they really don't come even close. So if you ever happen to be in Rural Zachary you should stop by, its just down the road from the youth correction facility!
A Blogger's review of Teddy. Sounds like it wasn't what he expected.
Friday, March 27, 2009Teddy's Juke Joint
by Chad Cornett
as you know, im new at this blogging stuff. I have been saving my blogs, when i should have been posting them! go figure. here are some of the ones that should have been posted over the past three weeks!
BB King once said that “the beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” I couldn’t agree with him more. Learning about The Blues has taught me much more than the origins of the blue keys and the art of the African American folk music. It has taught me that everyone at some point in their lives feel pain, sorrow, joy, and contentment and it’s only through expression of these feelings that we grow.
After weeks of downloading various blues artist and torturing my staff with my loud singing (that I consider at least top 12 talent in the American idol blues version)… I ventured to Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary, LA. Walking in was a truly unique experience of blacks and whites, even people of Indian decent in the corner; all tapping their feet and nodding their head at the rhythm being belted from a shiny electric guitar. I slowly made my way to the bar and ordered my favorite love potion, Gin (preferably Tanguray) and Sprite. The manner in which I was
served foreshadowed the night to come (see the picture). That’s right…one bowl of ice, one class, one sprite can, and a bottle of Tanguray—plainly spoke “make it like you like it.” Later in the night I had the pleasure of meeting the famous Teddy along with the artist of the night Larry Garner. Teddy grew up in the now Jukejoint and has added room after room to enhance the space and vibe of the bar. This hole in the wall is a true testament of preserving a culture of self expression, triumph in hard times, and the good things in life (fill in the blanks).
Now even the students at LSU know about us. This one goes back to February, 2009 (around Teddy's birthday party)Teddy’s Juke Joint keeps the blues alive
By James Cohn
In the northern end of the parish off a dirt road near Highway 61, stands Teddy’s Juke Joint, one of the last juke joints in Louisiana – a hidden treasure of good food, strong drinks, and some of the best live music the Baton Rouge area has to offer.
Owner Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson has been around the juke joint his whole life. He used to do radio in the 60s and spent some time pursuing a DJ career. However, Johnson eventually came back to his family home in Zachary, which he converted into Teddy’s Juke Joint in the early ‘70s. (The spot where his bed once stood is now the men’s bathroom; the original front porch is now the stage.)
Over the past 30 years, many local blues legends – including Bryan Lee and Larry Garner – have graced Teddy’s stage, making it a hotspot for good ole fashioned Southern blues.
In a phone interview with Johnson, he explained why he has stayed with the juke joint after all these years: “Because I love the blues. That’s what I was raised on and that’s what I know about.”
Over the years Johnson has made the interior of his bar truly unique, decorating it with Christmas lights, old strung together CDs, and various electric knick-knacks. He has completed all the renovations himself and even runs the sound.
This hard work has paid off, as Teddy’s is finally getting recognized regionally and even internationally.
“My friend who’s a teacher at LSU brought his friend from France to the joint,” said Johnson. “He liked it so much that when he got back to France, he wrote a column in France’s top newspaper about us.”
Starting on February 13, Johnson will begin his 63rd birthday party celebration at Teddy’s Juke Joint. Not afraid of a good time, Johnson said he plans on “celebrating all month long” and “eating a different cake everyday.”
Helping with the month long celebration will be blues Texan Didley Squat and Selwyn Cooper, who, according to Johnson, is “a great guitarist and vocalist” who has “traveled all around the country playing blues and zydeco.”
Other artists performing at the joint in 2009 include Rudy Richard, Lil’ Dave Thompson, Lil’ Ray Neal, Gregg Wright and Scott Holt, among many others.
In addition to live performances, Teddy’s also holds a Sunday and Wednesday jam session that Johnson says “helps keep the blues alive.”
“Bunch of kids from LSU come out here for our Wednesday night jam session,” said Johnson. “Calvin Cullins on the bass. I got a drum set. It’s real laid back. Everyone has a good time.”
Besides serving up a good time, Teddy’s also serves some of the best bar food around: fish sandwiches, burgers, and more “juke joint” selections. Helping Johnson in the kitchen is his wife, Nancy.
“[Nancy] has become famous for her fried pork chop sandwich,” said Johnson. “It’s the best thing on the menu.”
When not working at the bar, Johnson does commercials for radio stations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
In an area with a strong but waning blues tradition, Teddy’s Juke Joint is still serving up good music and good times. Though it’s off the beaten path, it is worth the trip to visit a blues landmark and pay the owner respect after 30 years of keeping the blues alive.
Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson’s birthday celebration will be taking place all this month.. Doors open at 2 pm with bands starting at 7 p.m. For more information on Teddy’s Juke Joint visit www.teddysjukejoint.com.
Country Roads did another feature on Teddy's Juke Joint in December of 2008. This time focusing on the food aspect and the kitchen. Read on and find out what Teddy really wanted to do when he grew up.Hot Food, Sizzling Blues
by Jamie Renee White
Teddy’s Juke Joint is a sudden burst of warm light and cool sound on Scenic Highway, which stretches out into silence in both directions from the bustling blues bar. The live music, the drinks and the company are well known, but Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson’s house specialty includes dishing up a lot more than hot blues.
“All the food that’s cooked here at Teddy’s, you know I have a special recipe that I use,” Teddy said.
“At one time, I wanted to be a chef, but the nearest chef school was in New Orleans, and my parents couldn’t afford to send me down there.”
Johnson has worked a laundry list of jobs before running the juke joint, and has worked in many restaurants. Now, he runs his own kitchen, with cook Melvina Harris as second-in-command.
The food is just the kind of thing you’d expect from a juke joint – fried chicken, pork chops, hamburgers. Only, it’s pretty much all fantastic.
The meat is tender and richly seasoned. Fried foods such as onion rings and chicken wings aren’t too heavily fried. Instead the light, and well-seasoned outer layer crisps away to savory juicy flavors beneath.
The bar itself is built from the house where Teddy grew up and learned to cook, often hanging around the kitchen with his mother and his aunt, Teddy explained. “And I was the oldest, so I had to cook.”
And as testament to how much energy he stirs into the cooking, Teddy has special pots and pans designated for particular dishes. He and his wife, Nancy, prepare the red beans and rice in one special pot every Thursday. There’s a skillet Teddy only uses to fry his fish in, and his hamburger patties claim their own skillet too.
Teddy believes food is meant to be more than sustenance; it’s meant to be savored in celebration. “There’s a whole lot of love in the food that we prepare in this kitchen.”
Get a taste of it for yourself this weekend, when singer/songwriter Eden Brent returns to Teddy’s Juke Joint for two nights with her unique style of performance, known to be fresh and spontaneous, often filled with audience requests and participation. Brent is the winner of the 2006 International Blues Challenge; and in her new album Mississippi Number One, she features tributes to her Mississippi Delta home lyrically and stylistically, including the title track as well as singles “Mississippi Flatland Blues”, “Darkness on the Delta” and, appropriately enough, “Fried Chicken.” 9 pm Saturday, 7 pm Sunday.
We're not sure when the following was written, but here's a link to an interview of Baton Rouge's favorite Danish guitar player, Marc Rune, aka Mark from Denmark, aka Big Creek Huggybear. Readers beware however, the article is in Danish. We'll post the translation when we get it (because Marc talks about Teddy's in detail....I think)Marc Rune's Danish Profile
John Wirt's write-up of Teddy's for the Baton Rouge Advocate (June 2008). Call it the Advocate's anniversary gift to Teddy.
Is Teddy’s Juke Joint the South’s last juke joint? Well, it’s not the absolute last genuine juke joint in America, but it’s definitely among the last genuine juke joints within easy reach of Baton Rouge.
Naturally, blues is the house specialty at Teddy’s Juke Joint, a south Louisiana institution located in a converted wood-frame house in rural Zachary, “Ninety percent of the bands I book is blues,” owner Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson said recently. “Because I love the blues. That’s what I was raised on and mostly really what I know about.”
Although Johnson opened Teddy’s Juke Joint with his record-spinning self as house entertainment, he’s been booking blues artists for most of the 30 years the club’s been open. And blues is definitely on the menu during the venue’s 30th anniversary week, running Sunday, June 29, through July 6. Performers include Baton Rouge blues legend James Johnson, blues legend in the making Lil’ Ray Neal and rising blues act Josh Garrett.
Johnson opened his juke joint in 1979. Although he’d been an in-demand disc jockey since 1970 — known as the Painter Man because he hung his brush and roller up at gigs to advertise his painting business — Johnson thought being his own deejay in his own club was a way for him to make all the money.
“I’d be my own deejay and get the profit off the liquor, too,” he said. “But I didn’t understand the way it worked.”
A year or two after Teddy’s opened, Big Bo Melvin and the Nighthawks, a band looking for a place to practice, talked Johnson into letting them be his house band. Other musicians began appearing at Teddy’s, too, including Little Jimmy Reed, the one-man band, and such Baton Rouge legacy artists as Raful Neal and Whisperin’ Smith.
“Silas Hogan, those type of cats would play at suppers, like an outdoor party where people sold chicken and fish,” Johnson recalled. “They’d play at these things and I met them. And then a lot of them, before they died, started playing here.”
The house where Johnson was born in 1946 served as the original Teddy’s Juke Joint structure. He’s added several rooms since he acquired the building from his mother, who’d inherited it from her mother.
Johnson and his juke joint have had their challenges through the decades, everything from the venue’s relatively obscure location to zoning issues to changing liquor laws and demographics.
“By being out here in the country, it was like a no-no,” he said. “It’s been a fight from the day I decided to open up the place. It’s still a fight. Because what they’re trying to do, all the little places like this, they’re trying to shut them down.
“It’s just kind of unheard of, especially a black business man, staying in one spot in the state of Louisiana this many years, and the building belongs to him.”
Patrons enjoy the juke joint’s unique look and atmosphere. The decoration includes mirror fragments, Christmas lights, a 36-inch mirror ball and a 12-inch mirror ball. A 12-foot-long piece of driftwood decorated with musical instruments hangs above the bar. A baby carriage, tricycle and a little red wagon (like the wagon Johnson had when he was a kid) hang from the ceiling.
“I decorated according to what I could afford to do,” Johnson explained. “Just stuff I refuse to throw away, or somebody threw away and I got hold to it. My building, basically, is built out of other people’s junk. I have booths in here that’s older than me. I have a black-and-white TV that I bought for my wife 30 years ago. It still works.”
Such widely traveling blues musicians as the New Orleans-based Bryan Lee and Baton Rouge’s Larry Garner play on Teddy’s stage. Garner even mentions Teddy’s Juke Joint in his song, “Raised in the Country,” a track on his latest European CD, Here Today Gone Tomorrow.
“It’s the last juke joint on Highway 61, man,” Garner said. “It reminds me of the old Tabby’s Blues Box, except it’s bigger and it’s got a more country atmosphere to it. It’s definitely a country juke joint. Not j-u-k-e, but j-o-o-k — jook joint.”
“I love Teddy’s,” Lee said. “Teddy and his wife are just wonderful people. They feed us after the gig, they take real good care of the musicians.
“And Teddy, he’s great, great comedy, with playing his records and talking and having fun with the people on the breaks.
“Anybody who loves the blues needs to go to Teddy’s. It’s a piece of history, man. And when Teddy goes, that’s it. There’ll be no more Teddy’s Juke Joints.”
This article was done in conjuction with Baton Rouge Blues Week and was the first write-up on Teddy's by any Zachary publication (in almost 30 years). Zachary Juke Joint Offers Blues, Soul and Character
By Summer Suleiman (For Zachary Neighbors - May/June 2008 edition)
At first sight, it appears to be a scene out of a 1920s flapper movie. Colorful disco lights hang from the ceiling, and license plates from all over the country line the walls.
There’s so much character in this place, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin our story.
Teddy Johnson, owner of Teddy’s Juke Joint, walks out of a tiny back room with a big, beige cowboy hat and a wide smile across his face.
He is as friendly as the place boasts and when I extend my arm to greet him, he opts for a hug, saying he “doesn’t shake pretty women’s hands.”
Teddy Johnson, owner of Teddy's Juke Joint (left) and friend [actually Clarence "Pieman" Williams - Teddy](right).
It’s only about five o’clock in the evening and people haven’t arrived for the Sunday night blues jam session. We sit down at a small table in the corner and Teddy points out that it is the exact place where he was born. The joint was originally the house he grew up in and 31 years ago, he decided to turn his love for blues into a place that people in Zachary could enjoy.
“I do it because I love it. I’ve been playing music since I was five years old,” Johnson said.
As a child, Johnson listened to his grandfather play blues. He says blues is a feeling deep inside of him, that won’t go away.
“I’m sixty two years old, and I plan on running this place until I die,” he said.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get anymore interesting, I met Johnson’s wife Nancy Truchan. She cooks up meals seven days a week and helps run the joint.
Truchan grew up in New York near Syracuse and moved to Baton Rouge in the ‘70s with Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) as a public health nurse in Scotlandville. She met Teddy through a co-worker and says she soon fell for the blues too.
“I love the blues. I love all kinds of music and I love what we do here. I wouldn’t change it a bit. It means something to us,” Truchan said.
But Truchan admits she was skeptical when Teddy first shared the idea of turning his childhood home into a juke joint.
“When I first saw the building, I told him to burn it down. But then it started shaping up. It’s something Teddy always wanted, and I’ve always stood by him,” Truchan said.
By this time the band has arrived and begins setting up on the small, make-shift stage at the rear of the joint. James Johnson, the lead guitarist, extends a warm and familiar greeting to Truchan.
She knows the customers in the blues bar by name. It seems more like a gathering of old friends than a place of business. The welcoming vibe easily lends itself to strangers like myself. Truchan said that’s what’s special about the juke joint.
“I like to see people having a good time. They come in and they’re relaxed,” Truchan said.
At the heart of the juke joint is the band. Lester Delmore is the lead drummer setting up tonight. He plays every Sunday night with the house band.
He sits back as cool as ever on a tiny bench outside when I pass him. He’s one of those people you can look in the eyes and know they are full of interesting stories to tell. When I sit down next to him, he pours his story out to me, as genuine and soulful as any blues song.
Like many musicians, Delmore comes from a musical background. His father, uncle and brother played the drums and his mom and sister played the guitar. Delmore said he took a shot at other things like sports in high school, but nothing was quite like playing music.
“It’s a gratifying feeling, especially when you’re playing with good guys. You just ride the music. It’s like dancing - you get a feel for the music and just roll with it,” he said.
Delmore began playing with experienced musicians after high school and traveled all over the state. His favorite place to play is Europe in venues like the 100 Club in London. After playing and traveling for years, Delmore returned close to home, but the blues kept calling him.
“I came back to Baton Rouge and tried to settle down, but I just kept going back to the music,” Delmore said. He’s been playing drums for over 30 years now.
It’s hard to imagine so much history in one tiny place. Sometimes the small things that are most meaningful are overlooked. But just off a main road in Zachary, behind gravel and greenery, there’s a story waiting to be told.
If you’re interested in visiting Zachary’s first, best and only true juke joint, you can find Teddy’s place is at 17001 Old Scenic Hwy, at the corner of Old Scenic and Heck Young Road
Not often do Juke Joints (or blues clubs in general) get to be the subject of a book. Neither do Baton Rouge blues bands. But both are covered in this newly published book by Cristina Fletes. Cristina is a student at Louisiana State University studying Photography. Juke Joint Blues was the culmination of one of her advanced Photography class projects.
You can see more about the book, and purchase a copy, at www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/127451
Francis Marmande - writer & acadmic in Paris, France wrote the following about Teddys....
How did you end up at Teddy’s Juke Joint?
"Think about all of the stereotypes about the U.S. that you have piously learned. Now reverse them: you’re at Teddy’s on a Sunday night—nothing better could be happening to you."
Le Monde, March 22, 2007.
“How did you end up here?” Here—north of Zachary, Louisiana; in the middle of nowhere, at Teddy’s, one March night. First of all, the lead singer, a blues guitarist named Sundance, 56 years old, sporting a hat and a silvery-flamed black shirt. Next, the bassist: King Salomon, followed by the drummer, “Pic” Delmore. And finally, in a fanciful feathered cap and old-school leather jacket: Hoodoo Jimmy: “But seriously, how the hell did you end up in this place?” This place. Teddy’s Juke Joint.
Take note: on the highway through Baton Rouge, look left and right into the night—and not just because the alligators are waiting for you, with fixin’s ready, to veer off the road. No: here, car insurance rates are higher than in other states. People drive fast and don’t always stay in the right lane.
Just after Zachary, don’t miss Old Scenic Road. Then take the parish byway, and finally, at the fourth alligator on the left, veer onto a dirt road. Now it’s all up to you to figure out. Then, at the end of this road, which you wouldn’t even imagine in the craziest of films, Teddy’s Juke Joint majestically appears: sublime, surprising, lit up like a million Christmas trees, luxurious like a 5-star restaurant with fifty-dollar appetizers, a cozy wood shed, a place where people meet, you easily feel the humanity, a certain joie de vivre, the Blues, Faulkner, Robert Johnson, people with little means—but much class.
In the tiny kitchen, Nancy stirs up some “Soul Food,” traditional Southern cuisine with a spicy base that could even attack an alligator’s digestive tract. Inside—warmth, friendliness, smiles, music, lanterns, Blues, the bar, gals, giant guys, beers, neon lights, country types, customers, musicians, red beans—anything but bad taste.
With a white felt hat and a matching vest, a bit of augmented corpulence since he opened the business in 1976, a neck full of chains, cropped shirt, seductive moustache, rings on each finger, more elegance than a prince of the highest order, excellent at poker; Teddy is king of his domain. And even so, it is he that gives you a proper king’s reception. At each set break, Teddy glides to the front of the room and occupies an altar that would make even the Vatican blush. He is the DJ in this vibrantly painted booth. Think about all of the stereotypes about the U.S. that you have piously learned. Now reverse them: you’re at Teddy’s on a Sunday night—nothing better could be happening to you.
The Blues? Oh yeah: here, it’s the Blues—the real-deal, the authentic, the joyful, and all night. There’s Cathy, the delta’s own Janis Joplin; Phil Guy, Buddy’s brother—who, when he lights up his band, reminds you that Buddy’s gone. The century’s biggest creation. And here, nobody asks questions about skin color—even though people talk about it everywhere else in this land. In fact, if you want to go to Teddy’s, it’s probably best to give Bernard Cerquiglini, Baton Rouge savant, a call. Cerquiglini’s contact is taxi driver and sometimes (all the time) Blues poet, Ronnie Smith. Yep: everyone in this wonderful place spends his days in a taxi, or at the factory. The Blues, that’s for the nights.
Between two taxi rides, Smith, spokesman of African-American consciousness, organizes the Rockoctober Festival and keeps himself active at the Buddy Stewart Foundation, a tiny museum just down the street from the Museum of African American History. How do you find all this? Similar to La Paquita’s kitchen in Mexico or Kyoto’s Lush Life. Certainly not by looking: but by keeping your heart open, by meeting people, by putting just a smidgeon of confidence back into this fucking world the way it is, by betting it all on that dark, unknown element—life. That’s all.
Here's another article...from a little more local source back in August of 2007. Written by Chris Frink for 225 Magazine.
Your first trip to Teddy’s Juke Joint may leave you questioning the directions. Relax. Have faith. Teddy’s is worth the drive—especially for the Sunday night blues jam.
Teddy’s is out in the country, up in the northern end of the parish. Too far for Baker. Too close for Zachary. It’s a good, old-fashioned country bar. In another region, you might call Teddy’s a roadhouse. Here, a ramshackle bar that serves up good food, strong drink and the blues is a juke joint.
You gotta look carefully. The sign is small and the joint sits in the woods a couple hundred yards down a gravel driveway. It’s the first sign of civilization since you drove by the prison.
The front porch is lit up fluorescent bright. Inside, it’s a different story. The house lights are off, but countless strings of Christmas lights and rope lights crisscross the ceiling, over and around two disco balls. Floods illuminate the stage at the front of the joint and Teddy’s DJ booth at the back. There are lights behind the bar and on electric knick-knacks on the bar.
“It’s a drive, but it’s worth it,” says Larry Garner, one of Baton Rouge’s most accomplished blues musicians. When he’s not playing on tour on Europe, Garner often jams at Teddy’s.
“It’s a real juke joint, or jook joint,” he said, pronouncing jook like book. “Teddy’s is one of the last juke joints.”
It’s authentic. Not manufactured like a House of This or Planet That or Something Rock Café. Teddy’s is real and that’s what keeps Baton Rouge bluesmen making that drive to play.
Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson Jr. opened his place 29 years ago in the house where he grew up. His bed once sat where men now pee. Back then, Teddy was tiring of nights on the road he spent pursuing the DJ career he began in 1970.
“I figured if I opened my own place I would make ALL the money,” he says. “I found out that wasn’t true.”
After looking into renting, his grandmother offered “that little house out back,” Teddy said. “It was just an old house, nobody living in it.”
The house had no bathroom and only a single electric line. His wife Nancy offered her advice: torch the place. Teddy declined, and years of work followed. “We’re still building the driveway,” he said. “I wore out a chainsaw just cutting the trees.”
They built several additions to expand the house into a real juke joint, including a kitchen. The stage takes up half of what was the original front porch. These are basic, down-to-earth renovations. The floor is bare plywood. The air conditioning pours out of a variety of window units.
“Everything in here is second-hand,” Teddy says. “Or third-hand,” Nancy adds.
For instance, most of the small tabletops came from home construction sites where Teddy salvaged wood scraps from holes cut for sinks into countertops, bolting them to table legs.
“Some things, I picked up off the side of the road,” he said.
The décor in Teddy’s has a homey, haphazard feel. Banners and promotional posters for a spectrum of beer and liquor brands cover the walls. Old CDs strung together flutter in the A/C breeze, along with bright plastic spirals that spin.
“Beware pick pockets and loose women” signs and the ubiquitous out-of-state license plates are tacked to the walls.
The bar’s namesake is a continuing theme. Two bright chrome Teddy Bear hubcaps flank on the wall behind the stage. A painted sign featuring a smiling teddy bear decorates the DJ booth.
With his big smile, rings on every beefy finger, bright suits and hats (cowboy or top) and the occasional cape, Teddy is as welcoming and authentic as his place. “I’ve been wearing capes since I was 6 years old.”
That style has helped keep his Teddy’s Juke Joint open this long, as has his fairly recent dedication to live music. Teddy has hosted a steady bill of live acts from the road and from the Baton Rouge area since he started his Sunday night jams more than two years ago.
Veteran keyboard player “Hoodoo” Jimmy Simpson and guitar player Weldon “Sundanze” Dunston came to Teddy after Swamp Mama’s closed. The now-defunct downtown bar had hosted a Sunday night jam, and Hoodoo Jimmy and Sundanze talked Teddy into taking up the slack.
“Teddy had had a history of being a disco and doing live music,” Simpson says.
Teddy’s has something crucial to a Sunday jam: a kitchen. Local liquor laws allow restaurants to sell alcohol on Sunday, but not bars. Restaurants have kitchens, bars don’t.
The jam draws amateurs of various skills and seasoned pros like Garner and some of Baton Rouge’s accomplished bluesmen, like Lil’ Ray Neal and Oscar “Harpo” Davis. James Johnson, the “chicken scratch” guitarist on Slim Harpo’s 1966 hit, “Baby, Scratch My Back,” alternates with Sundanze running the jam with Simpson.
You never know who might show up. One Sunday, Neal and Garner came out, along with four amateur sax players. A couple of Sundays later, a surfeit of guitar and bass players.
A professional band leader like Garner can relax at a jam and have fun. “Nobody expects the O’Jays on Sunday night.”
In an area with a strong—but waning—blues tradition, the Sunday jam “helps keep the blues alive,” Garner says. “Younger musicians don’t know anything about the old style like John Lee Hooker or R.L. Burnside. I think they learn a lot at these sessions.”
In addition to blues fans making the drive from Baton Rouge, Teddy says he’s drawing culture vacationers, people from across the nation and from around the world who seek out the joint.
Teddy pointed to a customer who just sat down. “He’s a professor from France.”
Sure enough, Bernard Cerquiglini is a professor at LSU—the director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies. And he’s a Teddy’s regular.
Cerquiglini makes the trip for the music, the friendship, the authenticity—and the food.
“This is the best place in Baton Rouge,” he says, just before he tucks into a plate of red beans and rice—beans like you can’t find outside South Louisiana; beans with a deep, smoky-spicy flavor that leave a glow, but no burn; juke-joint beans.
Earlier this year Cerquiglini brought a reporter friend from Le Monde, France’s top newspaper, to Teddy’s. In March, a piece about Teddy’s appeared in Le Monde’s culture column.
The trip to Teddy’s from Paris may be a lot longer, but it’s well worth the effort.
Alex Cook has been a big supporter of the Juke Joint over the years. He wrote this following article about Teddy's back in June 2006 for Country Roads Magazine
The directions to Teddy’s Juke Joint sound like a blues song: head down Highway 61 north of Baton Rouge, turn off on the road by the prison and down a mile at the end of a gravel road, you will find a house glowing from within, strains of blues guitar, hoots and hollers and the whiff of barbeque mixing with the night. This Zachary establishment has been keeping the juke joint tradition alive since 1979, when owner Teddy Johnson opened the club in the very house in which he was born. “Add it up, I’ve been in here for 60 years, “explains Teddy during a break in one of his Sunday night Blues jams. “Juke joints are a symbol, a place where you can relax, listen to music and just have a good time. Most places back then couldn’t afford a band, so they would have a jukebox, or a guy spinning records. “
Teddy himself got his start when he discovered spinning records at long gone blues clubs like the Golden Rooster, Lizzie’s Lounge and the OJ Lounge was a lot more fun than painting houses, but it was his mother that convinced him to start a place of his own. “I was doing record spinning, but I figured I could be making more money at my own place. My mother told me ‘there’s this old house back there, why don’t you make a club out of it?”
And what a club it is. To me, it looks like what would happen is Jerry Bruckheimer came up to you and said, “I need a blues club for my next picture, here is a blank check. Go make me one.” The ceiling is covered with so many strands of holiday lights it looks like a homemade version of the Las Vegas strip. The furnishings are a history lesson of long gone clubs, as Teddy can tell you what long defunct nightclub every barstool and knick-knack came from. “I like lights and flashy stuff,” says teddy with a big smile. “I was brought up that you don’t throw away nothing.”
The tradition of Sunday night blues jams goes back to the music’s origin in plantation days, when black musicians would gather on the one night they had off work, and Sunday nights at Teddy’s the train keeps rolling, as local Baton Rouge players like Hoodoo Jimmy and Sundanze and Andy Squint mingle with regional and national bluesmen like ‘Lil Ray Neal and Bryan Lee, starting at 4PM and often going on until midnight.
What separates Teddy’s from the usual bar experience is the homey atmosphere. People of all ages and backgrounds make up the crowd, with the friendliest cadre of regulars in just about any club of which I’ve been. Teddy’s wife Nancy runs the kitchen dishing up some of the best soul food in the area, and her niece Jodi tends the bar. It’s the kind of place that has just enough character, with its hard wood floors and delicious food and most of all incredible music like you’ll find no where else, yet is still friendly enough that everyone is welcome. But as character goes, no-one in the area has more character than Teddy himself, who works the room welcoming everyone in the place, decked out in a killer suit and occasionally a long blue cape. “I got a pink crushed velvet one too I wear on special occasions.”
Now this club is off the beaten path for a lot of Baton Rouge partiers, but that is part of the appeal. Stepping into this club is like stepping into a whole other world, one that is increasingly being eaten up with cultural erosion and apathy, where we see more and more local flavor giving way to big box stores and chain restaurants. The down home feel of Teddy’s is what Louisiana is essentially about: good food, great music, and living a rich vibrant life worth telling someone about. I promise hat once you’ve been out to Teddy’s, you’ll be dragging others out there for months after for the same transformative experience.
Krickett Dawson's article on Teddy's Juke Joint published in Big City Blues Magazine back in the fall of 2006
Walking into Teddy’s Juke Joint for the first time, I stopped in my tracks. I had never been to a juke joint, so I had nothing to compare it with. My eyes scanned the interior, taking in all the memorabilia; signs, posters, old license plates, strung lights and Teddy’s throne where he DJ’s and spins tunes during breaks. He’s a natural entertainer himself . The wall behind the bandstand is colorful and is a great background for taking pictures of the performers. I walked around and took it all in. I was charmed by the magic. Teddy had invited me to come out and knew I’d want to hang out if I ever got there. I took my time getting there because I live 30 miles away. When I finally got there, I was greeted by Teddy and Nancy; all smiles and full of life.
The place gives you a warm feeling and entices you to stay. The musicians are hand picked by Teddy and his wife, Nancy. They have the roots of the blues in their souls and you know the music will always be wonderful. Musicians love to perform at Teddy’s. I’ve personally seen and heard Kenny Neal, “Lil” Ray Neal, The Neal Brothers, Oscar ”Harpo” Davis, Kenny Acosta, Little Jimmy Reed, Bryan Lee and a host of other local and traveling groups. Local musicians show up for the Sunday Jam and give you their best. Teddy lets them know they are appreciated and they can tell they are important to him and his guests. If ever there were people trying to keep the blues alive, it’s Teddy and Nancy..
Teddy was born in the old shotgun house which is now the Juke Joint. He and Nancy decided to turn it into a blues joint in 1979. They sure did a top notch job of it. They love their place and are proud to share it with you. Both of them are friendly, warm and charming. They make you feel welcome and see to it that your needs are taken care of, whatever they may be, if possible. Nancy runs the kitchen, commonly known as “Nancy’s Kitchen” and she’s got it going on. The food is some of the best I’ve ever had and the service is exceptional. She is sort of laid back and easy going and has a certain charm that makes you feel like an old friend.
All in all, I would and do steer people to Teddy’s Juke Joint. It is an experience you won’t regret or forget. The next time you are in the area, even as far as New Orleans, it is worth your while to get to Teddy’s. Check his web site for schedule of events and view the photo’s.
Don’t forget to get out and enjoy live music, especially blues. I hope to see ya at Teddy’s.