Byway Blues

Wednesdays at 8:45 a.m. and Fridays at 3:45 p.m.
  • Hosted by Lesli Rambin

Byway Blues tells the stories of the untapped blues roots in northeast Louisiana. Host Lesli Rambin shares the lives and musical accomplishments of famous local artists and their families.

The series spotlights buildings and venues that served as host to many famous musicians—all in an effort to preserve and potentially restore these historic cultural landmarks.

In addition, the segment features artists currently performing in the region who trace their inspiration from blues artists they’ve admired for years.

Byway Blues is produced with the generous support of Live Oaks Bar and Ballroom, the Entergy Charitable Foundation, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

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Miller-Roy building in dowtown Monroe PRESTON LAUTERBACH / PRESTONLAUTERBACH.COM

In 1929, The African-American Enterprise established the Miller-Roy building in Monroe, Louisiana. The  building, once owned by prominent African-American figures Dr. John T. Miller and Dr. Joseph C. Roy, is located on DeSiard Street. 

The building was also a part of what was known as the Black Business Strip. Stretching from South 5th Street to South 15th Street, the strip was made up of many African-American owned businesses including pharmacies, hotels and insurance companies.

courtesy / chronoglide.com

Born in Tallulah, Louisiana, Blues guitarist and songwriter, Blind Joe Reynolds recorded eight songs with Paramount Records and Victor Records.  Reynolds was given the nickname “Blind Joe” after losing both of his eyes from a shotgun blast following an altercation.

Although left blind, Reynolds remained outspoken and candid by often using his music as a tool to speak out against societal injustices.

Preston Lauterbach / prestonlauterbach.com

Blues legend and pianist Ivory Joe Hunter was a Monroe, Louisiana resident for several decades. With over 7,000 songs written, Hunter’s “Since I Met You Baby” and “Blues at Sunrise” gave him instant success in the 1950's. Born in Kirbyville, Texas, Hunter began his journey to stardom by recording his first song with Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1933.

L. Rambin / KEDM

One of northeast Louisiana's legendary Blues singers, Toussaint Mccall, was inducted into the Northeast Louisiana Music Award Hall of Fame in 2016.

As a little boy, growing up in Delhi, Louisiana, McCall was raised by a musically inclined family. After his older sister went off to college, McCall began taking piano lessons and soon began practicing on his own. 

The Soul Queen of New Orleans Still Reigns

May 3, 2016
Lesli Rambin

Irma Thomas was born in Ponchatoula, Louisiana in 1941. Although she never achieved the same level of stardom that her contemporaries, Aretha Franklin and Etta James did, she has earned the title "The Soul Queen of New Orleans," and is in many ways an ambassador of the city.

Library of Congress

Along the Red River and just north of Shreveport lies the town of Mooringsport, Louisiana. Out of this bucolic and unassuming community came a man who would forever change the face of American music.

Huddie Ledbetter, or Leadbelly as he would come to be known, was born in 1885. His parents were both former slaves, and these humble beginnings filled with old spirituals and field hollers would shape Leadbelly's music throughout his life.

Jukin' Into the History Books

May 3, 2016
Geraldine Oliver Barbin

Little Walter was a true pioneer of the blues. He helped bring the harmonica into a spotlight of its own. He became one of the great Chicago bluesmen, helping define and solidify the sound that would become Chicago Blues.

Born Marion Walter Jacobs in Marksville, Louisiana in 1930, Little Walter grew up playing in local clubs with his cousin, Boogie Jake, and later moved to Chicago to seek his fame. In Chicago he met Muddy Waters and became a member of his band in 1948. Eventually, Walter set out on his own, recording for the Checker Label, a subsidiary of Chess. 

Byway Blues: Bobby Blue Bland

Sep 24, 2015
Kirk West/Getty Images / billboard.com

One of the Elite Lounge's most memorable performances came from blues legend Bobby Blue Bland.

In the final highlight installment of the Byways Blues Special, Kirby Rambin talks with Rev. Roosevelt Wright about the performances of Bland, Little Milton, and Tyrone Davis at the Elite Lounge in Monroe's downtown.

Wright also discusses a renovation project for the site, in hopes of keeping and creating memories of talented blues and R&B performers. 

Byway Blues: Savoy Ballroom

Sep 24, 2015
Preston Lauterbach / prestonlauterbach.com

The African-American Business Enterprise established the Miller-Roy building in 1929.

The building housed the Savoy Ballroom.  Kirby and Lesli Rambin catch up with Roosevelt Wright about the ballroom's heyday.  Wright shares that following the stock market's crash, musical acts at the Savoy helped keep the enterprise district alive.

Renowned names like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Fats Domino, and Duke Ellington, all performed at the Savoy in Monroe.

Byway Blues: 3rd Street Woman Blues

Sep 24, 2015
courtesy / youtube.com

Blind Joe Reynolds, who also recorded under the name of Willie Reynolds, was known to have a reputation in the years after losing his sight.

Reynolds moved Lake Providence, continuing to perfect his style of bottleneck slide guitar.  Personally, he was known as a bit of a rogue, who taunted societal norms.  His blindness did not prevent him from fending for himself, as he became known as a crack-shot with a pistol from hearing his target.

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