Baton Rouge blues

October 31, 2009

Rudy Richard & Larry Garner from Barry on Vimeo.

We recently heard the Interstate 10 corridor between New Orleans and Lafayette described as the 125 most musical miles in the world. To the east, New Orleans is of course known for jazz, brass-band funk, and rhythm-and-blues. To the west, Lafayette gets its fame from Cajun and zydeco. Lesser known to the outside world is Baton Rouge. But it’s the state capital that has some of South Louisiana’s purest straight-up blues, played by musicians like Rudy Richard (left) and Larry Garner (right).

Baton Rouge blues isn’t as hard-driving as its Mississippi Delta cousin, even though it has a similar structure. Locals call it “lazier.” The standard bearer of the genre was Slim Harpo (1924-1970), whose “I’m a King Bee” was later picked up by the Rolling Stones on their first album. Rudy Richard played lead guitar on Slim Harpo’s version and, in his 70s, continues to play regularly. Larry Garner, who is 58, learned from Rudy Richard and many others, and has toured from Russia to Tunisia. But neither has gotten the recognition he deserves back home. (Richard, who has been playing since he was 17, has yet to cut his first CD.) Organizations like the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation and clubs like Teddy’s Juke Joint in nearby Zachary are trying to change that.

Listen as the two jam together during our interview yesterday. The song, “She’s the Boss,” was written by Garner.

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