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.”