Featured photo: Mira Smith (guitar) and Margaret Lewis pose for a press photo at RAM Recording Studios in Shreveport.
Interested in music history? Let us take you on a brief, online tour of addresses in Shreveport-Bossier that have played a role in defining American music. This short list of historic sites in Shreveport and Bossier City is by no means intended as a comprehensive guide. Reach out via the comments and let us know what you’d add to this list!
1. Shreveport Municipal Auditorium
705 Elvis Presley Blvd., Shreveport
If you love music history—or enjoy exploring cool, historic buildings—Shreveport Municipal Auditorium is a required stop. Since opening in 1929, “the Municipal” has long served as a center of cultural life in Shreveport-Bossier, and is best known for its association with the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcast and the early career of Elvis Presley. However, a ton of other music legends have taken this impressive stage, from the Rolling Stones (in 1965!) to Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix. The building has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
In recent years, the Municipal has begun regularly hosting guided tours, which are posted here when tickets are available.
The Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau (publisher of this blog) produced this short overview of the Municipal’s musical past back in 2012:
2. Royal Inn (formerly Holiday Inn North)
1906 N. Market St., Shreveport
If I were asked to pick one address in Shreveport-Bossier where a historical marker ought to be placed, my pick may be 1906 North Market Street in Shreveport. It was at this address, on Oct. 8, 1963, where American music icon Sam Cooke and his wife, Barbara, were denied a room at the Holiday Inn North hotel because they were black. Cooke and his party were arrested for disturbing the peace and detained for five hours by local police.
Later that night, Cooke headlined a concert at Shreveport Municipal Auditorium (with opening act Bobby “Blue” Bland). He later wrote the Civil Rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” inspired by his experience in Shreveport.
Learn more about the incident courtesy of CNN.
3. Former Home of Hank Williams
852 Modica St., Bossier City
As has been lamented by local music and history aficionados, there’s not much to see these days at 852 Modica Street in Bossier City. The house that long stood at this address, which has been moved, was purchased by American music icon Hank Williams in March of 1949. Several accounts, including one penned by Lycrecia Williams in Still in Love with You: A Daughter’s Story, state that this was the first home that Williams ever owned. Hank and Audrey brought their newborn son, Hank, Jr., home from the hospital to this address.
There are countless Hank stories from locals related to this address, including tales of neighbors babysitting Hank Jr. and a guitar-strumming Williams walking the streets of the neighborhood late at night.
Do I wish the home at 852 Modica Street was still standing? Absolutely. But hardcore music history fans will still get something out of visiting the address.
If you’d like to learn more about the fate of the Hank Williams house, check out this video from the new owner:
4. Mira Smith’s RAM Recording Studio (Now Creole Cafė & Catering)
2812 Greenwood Rd., Shreveport
Mira Smith is arguably one of the most fascinating figures in Shreveport music history. A singer and songwriter, she was also a pioneering female studio engineer and record label owner. In 1955, she founded RAM Recording Studio at 2812 Greenwood Road in Shreveport. Smith’s cousin, Alton Warwick, helped her convert the space into a recording studio. Wikipedia describes it as “the first commercial recording studio in Shreveport” in their RAM entry.
The building that housed RAM Records not only still stands, but is easily accessible to the public. Today, this historic address is home to Creole Cafė & Catering, a tiny eatery that serves fantastic gumbo, étouffée, and more.
Here’s my favorite song recorded at RAM Recording Studio, Margaret Lewis’s rockabilly hit “Shake a Leg”:
5. The Calanthean Temple
1007 Texas Ave., Shreveport
Thanks to its incredible rooftop garden, the Calanthean Temple in downtown Shreveport was a popular destination for touring jazz artists of the 1930s. Built in 1923 by an African American women’s organization called the Court of Calanthe, this unique music venue hosted performances by artists including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and Jelly Roll Morton.
Just across the railroad tracks behind the Calanthean Temple, visitors can see what remains of a neighborhood known as the Blue Goose. Inside of the juke joints, speakeasies and “barrel houses” of the Blue Goose, blues pioneers including Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, “Blind Lemon” Jefferson, and Jesse “Baby Face” Thomas developed their signature styles. Learn more about the Blue Goose’s musical history here.
There are so many more addresses that warrant inclusion on this list, ranging from the former location of Stan’s Record Shop in downtown Shreveport to the notorious Bossier Strip.
If you could place one historical marker anywhere in Shreveport-Bossier, where would it be? Let us know in the comments!
20×49.com is a publication of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau.