Dig Baton Rouge

Words For Songbirds

By John Hanley

From recent shows like True Detective, to historical figures like Kate Chopin and Louis Armstrong, Louisiana has held its own for decades in the world of both the mainstream and the underground arts. This Thursday at 6 pm, three Louisiana authors are joining up with local vinyl and music shop Lagniappe Records to bring some of Louisiana’s rich artistic and musical history together.

“Swamp Pop, Sun Records, & The Boogie Woogie Flu: A Q&A with LSU Press Authors About the Music that Made the Book” will be a public Q&A hosted by the LSU Press and held at Lagniappe Records in downtown Baton Rouge. Local authors Alex Cook, Barbara Sims, and John Wirt will be discussing the music and the people behind their books, and answering any questions people may want to ask.

The authors’ books are entitled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana’s Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls; The Next Elvis: Searching For Stardom at Sun Records; and Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues, respectively.

“All three [book] titles are pretty different,” Erin Rolfs, marketing manager at LSU Press, told DIG, “but what they have in common is a local author writing about a nationally-significant cultural contribution to American music that has its roots in Louisiana and the South.”

“You may have listened to Cajun music before, but then reading about the places where it takes place can give it a new dimension,” said Alex Cook, author of Louisiana Saturday Night and one of Thursday’s special guests. “All of our books are about real music made by real people, and I think the recordings and the books compliment each other.”

Cook has a Spotify playlist, also entitled Louisiana Saturday Night, to go along with his book. Lagniappe will also be offering special vinyl records that correspond with the authors’ books for a discounted price.

“[LSU Press and Lagniappe Records] are both actors on this continuum of local organizations and people that want to be interactive with cultural preservation and see so much potential for those efforts to make living in Baton Rouge a richer experience,” she told DIG.

“It’s a chance to talk to people interested in these things, and for people to talk to us,” Cook continued about the event, “I always learn something new when I do a book talk.”

The LSU Press and authors both are hoping that this event will bring awareness to the Baton Rouge community of the authors and the magic that resides within the people, music, and stories behind these books.

“People love Louisiana music, but can be hesitant to directly engage with it,” Cook explained. “I want to help people make that leap to go to a zydeco club or a Cajun dance hall.”

To any Baton Rougeians interested in making that leap, this Q&A event will offer close contact with local authors and music, and the chance to learn a little more about the rich musical history that surrounds them. Even further, it will offer the special opportunity to explore the records of those musical artists right there on site.

Said Rolfs: “It’s not every day you have the person who wrote the liner notes for Johnny Cash’s records, in the store, next to the records.”

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