Louisiana's Legendary Musicians: A Select List -
North Louisiana

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North Louisiana

Cox Family

Old-time Country [Willard Cox 1937 - ], [Evelyn Cox Hobbs 1959 - ], [Sidney Cox 1965 - ], [Marla Cox Ratcliff 1967 - ]
Formed in 1972, this north-central Louisiana family band began playing on the regional bluegrass-festival circuit and selling their own self-manufactured albums. In the late 1980s the renowned fiddler Alison Krauss helped The Cox Family make connections with a series of national record labels, and their career accelerated rapidly. Albums such as Everybody's Reaching Out For Someone and I Know Who Holds Tomorrow were well-received, the latter earning a Grammy nomination. The Cox Family appeared on the Grammy-winning soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Governor Jimmie Davis

Country / Gospel [1899 - 2000]
A native of Quitman, LA, Jimmie Davis is a contradictory and controversial figure. In the late 1920s he recorded bluesy material accompanied by African-American blues musicians, which was rare in that era of strict segregation. But years later, "You Are My Sunshine" and "Nobody's Darling But Mine" helped get him elected governor, Davis maintained his power by supporting segregation. Political success did not end Davis' musical career, and he often performed live on the campaign trail. After leaving political life in 1964, Davis remained active in music well into his nineties, performing gospel as well as country music, and appearing in numerous documentary films.

River of Song / Gov. Jimmie Davis (audio, video)

Country Music Hall of Fame / Governor Jimmie Davis

Ever Ready Gospel Singers


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Like The Zion Travelers of Baton Rouge, Shreveport's Ever Ready Gospel Singers perform gospel music in the classic four-part harmony style. The group was founded in 1946 and maintains a sound that is similar to the classic a capella format but also employs some basic instrumentation. Members include Charles Graves, Elbert Green, Fortune Stephenson, Frank Edwards and Eddie Giles. The Ever Ready Gospel Singers have a loyal following in northwest Louisiana and east Texas, and were recently featured in the documentary "Rhythm 'n' Bayous" by the acclaimed film-maker Robert Mugge.

T. E. "Brownie" Ford

Cowboy / Country [1904 - 1996]
The late Thomas Edison "Brownie" Ford possessed a wide variety of traditional skills. He was a country singer and cowboy balladeer with a vast repertoire based on his personal experience as a ranch hand and rodeo rider. Ford also practiced such folk craft traditions as making cinches and bridles, and was a raconteur with a seemingly endless reserve of anecdotes. His musical legacy is preserved on the album Stories from Mountains, Swamps and Honky-Tonks, with accompanists including D. L. Menard and David Doucet. A native of the Indian territory that later became the state of Oklahoma, Ford lived and performed in Baton Rouge for many years, and later settled in the countryside outside of Hebert, in Caldwell Parish. He received a National Heritage Fellowship in 1987.

Brownie Ford: Lifelines of a Woods Cowboy

Slim Harpo

Blues [1924 - 1970]
James Wesley Moore, a.k.a Slim Harpo, was the most talented and successful harmonica player to emerge from the musically-rich blues scene that has flourished in Baton Rouge for decades. Several of his songs, including "I'm A King Bee," "Rainin' In My Heart" and "Baby, Scratch My Back" are now regarded as standards that every young blues band must learn. In addition, "Baby, Scratch My Back" was an unlikely crossover pop hit during the height of the mid-1960s "British invasion," when bands such as the Beatles were at their peak.

Masters of Blues Harp / Slim Harpo

Blues Harp Page / Slim Harpo 


Blues [1889 - 1948]

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When the Library of Congress sent folklorists John and Alan Lomax to record American folk music in the 1930s, perhaps the most significant musician whom they documented was Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Leadbelly. A native of Mooringsport, Leadbelly was often labelled as a blues artist, but his vast repertoire also included pre-Civil War field hollers and work songs, as well as country music, ballads, and play songs for children. With his powerful voice and pulsing 12-string guitar work, Leadbelly was a solo artist who played with far more rhythmic drive than many full bands. Many of the songs that he recorded, such as "Goodnight, Irene" and "The Midnight Special," have become timeless favorites in American popular music.

Jerry Lee Lewis

Rockabilly [1935 - ]
A native of Ferriday, in Concordia Parish, singer and pianist Jerry Lee Lewis is revered as a founding father of both rock music in general and the rockabilly genre in particular. Lewis' passionate style combines elements of blues, gospel, rhythm & blues, and country music. He emerged in the mid-1950s with such passionate recordings as "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." These dynamic performances were released by Sun Records, the Memphis-based company that also launched the career of Elvis Presley. Lewis has continued on to record and tour prolifically ever since, inspiring future generations of rock-and-rollers around the world.

American Routes / Browse by Artist (audio).

Jerry Lee Lewis

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame / Jerry Lee Lewis

Webb Pierce

Country [1921 - 1991]

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A native of West Monroe, Webb Pierce was one of the most popular country singers of the 1950s honky-tonk style. Like many country musicians from Louisiana and the neighboring states, Pierce's career was boosted by appearances on live radio broadcasts of the Louisiana Hayride, in Shreveport. His numerous hits included "Wondering" "Back Street Affair," "There Stands The Glass" and "Why, Baby, Why." As Pierce emerged as a major star, based in Nashville, he became equally renowned for his flashy lifestyle, and his guitar-shaped swimming pool is still a major tourist attraction.

Country Music Hall of Fame / Webb Pierce

The Webb Site

Kenny Bill Stinson

Rockabilly [1953 - ]

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A native of West Monroe, Stinson is a multi-talented pianist, guitarist and vocalist who maintains such North Louisiana traditions as rockabilly, blues and country music, and performs them all with equal flair. His diverse repertoire also embraces such British rock icons as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Stinson has toured with such pro-minent musicians as Rodney Crowell, and the late Charlie Rich, and he currently works with the swamp pop ground Lil' Band 'o' Gold, in addition to leading his own popular band. Stinson was featured in the documentary film River of Song, produced by the Smithsonian Institution. His long-awaited debut album, Inspiration, was released in 2001.

River of Song / Kenny Bill Stinson (audio, video)

Tabby Thomas

Blues [1929 - ]
Guitarist, songwriter, radio personality and entrepreneur Tabby Thomas is also a longtime champion of the Baton Rouge blues. The author of such classic songs as "Hoodoo Party," Thomas also owns a nightclub, The Blues Box, that nurtures the city's blues musicians by providing them with a performance venue. Thomas has inspired a young generation of local blues artists, especially his son, Chris Thomas King who appeared in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Tabby Thomas remains active both by leading his own band and performing with such other notable Baton Rouge blues artists as the pianist Henry Gray.

Louisiana Folklife Center, Tabby Thomas

Zion Travelers Spiritual Singers


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Since 1948, The Zion Travelers have delivered an inspirational message through the medium of four-part, a capella (unaccompanied) harmony. This style uses no instruments but the human voice, and uses the human voice as a musical instrument. A capella quartet singing originated in African-American churches in the early 20th century, and it continues to influence sacred and secular music alike. Every Sunday morning The Zion Travelers make a live radio broadcast on WIBR-AM. The personnel has changed over the years, and the group's founder, Reverend Burnell Offlee, has passed on - but The Zion Travelers resolutely continue to sing out their religious beliefs. Founding members are Joel Harvey, bass and Reverend Willie Washington, bass. Other members include baritone James Harvey; first tenor Ado Dyson; tenor Robert McKinnis; and second tenor Esau Wright.

The Gospel Train / The Zion Travelers Spiritual Singers

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