Should Shreveport Do More To Promote Its Musical History?
Every once in a while, I just have to get on my soapbox and shout. And this week, what's really bugging me is how the City of Shreveport almost completely ignores its rich and powerful musical history. And I say almost because there is a 20x20 "museum" in the Municipal Auditorium. There are some random statues of the musical icons placed around the city. There's a banner that says 'Elvis has left the building' at Hirsch. But, outside of those few small items and nods, there isn't much else.
Look at Nashville or Memphis...the first things you see when you roll into those towns is images of guitars, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King. The culture and community is built on their musical heritage and everything flows from that. And, I know what you're thinking..."But Matt, Elvis wasn't born here. We don't have Sun Records. We don't have the Grand Ole' Opry." And you know what, you're absolutely correct. But what we do have is still pretty damn amazing. The birth place of James Burton. The birth place of Kenny Wayne Shepard. We have the Municipal. The Louisiana Hayride. Hank Williams Jr. Johnny Horton....The list literally is endless.
But do we claim or honor any of that? No. Don't get me wrong, the Highland Jazz Festival is AWESOME. But that's literally all we have. We don't really do anything to honor the past or our cultural roots. We do nothing to honor Stan Lewis on a large scale, despite the fact that he shifted musical history (you can read more on that here). We talk about Elvis but we don't really do anything to celebrate the fact that he became a household name in this city of ours. Was a one time exhibit, as great as it was, at ArtSpace really enough to honor the musical legacy that James Burton has?
Another argument I always hear (I call them excuses but we'll get to that in a second) about why we don't do more to honor our musical heritage is concert attendance. "Didn't you see the crowd at [Insert Band Name]'s show? Nobody cares about music here." And, while that's partially true, its not the entire truth. While some shows that are sellouts everywhere else in the world draw flies here, we still can pack the house for a Jack White or Garth Brooks. And musical shows whether it be at the CenturyLink, Municipal or a dive bar would probably do better if we as a community actually put some value to it.
We try so hard as a community in Shreveport to create a culture, an identity. We invent stuff, steal things from other areas from the state hoping they work here...all these crazy things.
Instead, we should embrace something that is unique to us and our own...music. Back in the 50s, we had the chance to become Nashville but we blew it. We didn't want to change or evolve. Yet, instead of learning from those hard lessons, we continue to do the same things.
Because not only do we not celebrate our past, we completely ignore our present as well. Current bands/artists like the Seratones, iwrestledabearonce, Dylan LeBlanc and others are from here, yet we do nothing to celebrate their accomplishments or create an environment where they feel appreciated by this city/community as a whole.
Personally, I think there should be a museum. We should use our musical past and present as ways to promote the city and tourism on a national level. We could use our 50+ years of rich musical history to raise up the entire city.
And before you "fix the damn roads" people start chirping...remember this. If we could create an environment that promotes tourism and we actually had some attractions around here, we might be able to bring in new businesses and dollars that will fix the roads and blight.