When one thinks of Louisiana music, Cajun, Zydeco, and Jazz are usually the first three genres that come to mind. But, while Blues may finish 4th or even 5th in this race, the fact remains that Louisiana is a utopia of spiritualistic work songs.
So, for this one tribute list, the voices of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf will have to take a backseat, and New Orleans great Louis Armstrong will go unrecognized. As, this list is pure Louisiana, and rooted in the heritage of Blues.
Many may believe Buddy Guy to be a Chicago bluesman, having helped pioneer the sound described as Chicago Blues, but the Windy City transplant actually grew up in the small town of Lettsworth, Louisiana. Prior to his Chicago days that influenced the likes of Eric Clapton and many others, Buddy cut his teeth in Baton Rouge, while working as a janitor at LSU. Today, Buddy Guy is one of the most celebrated and revered Blues guitarists of all time.
Lead (always add a space) Belly, was more than a bluesman, he was a raconteur of current events, writing songs about headline grabbers from Hitler to Howard Hughes. Born and raised in the Shreveport Metropolitan area, Lead Belly caught the attention of folklorists John and Alan Lomax while in Angola, and first began recording (in 1933) during his incarceration.
A native of Lobdell, LA, Slim Harpo is the Godfather of Swamp Blues. Harpo’s songs were eventually covered and served as inspiration to many of the British Invasion bands, including the Kinks and The Rolling Stones. In 2008, Harpo’s quintessential Swamp Blues hit, “I’m a King Bee,” received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
While born in Greenwood, MS, Eddie Jones better known as Guitar Slim, made his home in New Orleans after serving in WWII. He was widely known for his flamboyance and unconventional playing style. Guitar Slim’s flare would later be emulated by generations of followers—perhaps, most notably by Jimi Hendrix.
Raised in the La La Land of California, Bobby Parker was born in Lafayette, Louisiana. His style helped usher in the rock era of Blues, with his riffs eventually finding their way into songs by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin (I know, go figure).
You may have heard of the Three Kings of Electric Blues (B.B., Albert and Freddie). Well, Lightnin’ Slim rounds out the Three Slims of Louisiana Blues (along with Slim Harpo and Guitar Slim). Lightnin’ would frequently even team up with Harpo, who was also his brother-in-law.
Speaking of Kings, Louisiana has their own in Early King. Earl was born, and died in New Orleans. He was also born to play the Blues, and died singing ‘em too. His signature “Come On,” was an instant Blues standard, and is still covered by artists to this very day.
Robert Pete Williams
Just as Lead Belly before him, Robert Pete Williams was discovered and recorded while imprisoned at Angola. His life sentence was later commuted towards the end of 1958, and over the next few years, Williams’ popularity grew. And, by the mid-1960s, he began touring throughout America and Europe.
Born in the former town of Torras, LA, Lazy Lester was part of the Swamp Blues crew. And, like Slim Harpo and Lightnin’ Slim, his songs have been covered by everyone from British rockers to Country rockabillies.
Many of the bluesman from Louisiana first picked up a guitar after hearing Jimmy Reed, and Silas Hogan was no different. But, while he was never quite able to achieve the same level of success as his contemporaries, his songs continue to endure long after his departure, and may just be, as relevant as ever.