Local legend

Blues destination Teddy’s Juke Joint preps for 40th anniversary celebration

Teddy’s Juke Joint sits just off Highway 61, the fabled “Blues Highway.” The Zachary music venue, lovingly and extensively decorated by its founder, Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson, is a destination for blues music fans from throughout the world.

The eclectic embellishments in Teddy’s include that staple of juke joints, year-round Christmas lights, as well as disco-era mirror balls, guitars given to Johnson by his musician friends, license plates from fans throughout the United States and the world, novelty items such as Johnson’s baby bed, and photos of friends, musicians, and of course, Johnson himself.

Johnson, 71, was born in the property’s original shotgun house.

Teddy’s Juke Joint will celebrate its 40th anniversary with events June 28 through July 4. Featuring at least half a dozen blues bands, the festivities will kick into high gear the weekend before July 4.

In the late 1970s, Johnson added rooms to the existing house, making space for the bar, a seating area for patrons and the towering DJ booth.

“After I opened up this place, different bands from everywhere started coming,” he says. “Out of Chicago, Mississippi—90 percent of the bands I use now are out of Mississippi.”

Blues musicians from as close as Louisiana and as far as the United Kingdom and mainland Europe have since performed at Teddy’s.

Before Johnson opened Teddy’s Juke Joint, he worked as a record-spinning DJ from the late 1960s through most of the ’70s. His flashy clothes and presentation won him bookings in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Chicago.

Following James Brown’s example, Johnson wore leisure suits at his DJ gigs in the loudest colors he could find. He had one of them tailored in the style of a matador. His accessories included outlandish rings, watches, chains and shoes of many colors.

“I’ve been a dresser all my life, as long as I can remember,” Johnson says, “and they say I could dance pretty good.”

Johnson opened Teddy’s Juke Joint so he could stop traveling and spin records at a place of his own. Live music entered the picture after gospel groups who’d rehearsed at the venue formed blues bands. They suddenly needed a secular place to play.

Teddy’s has since been celebrated in song, including Larry Garner’s “To Baton Rouge,” Eden Brent’s “Fried Chicken” and Jackie Scott’s “Teddy’s Juke Joint.”

But Teddy’s isn’t only about the music—he serves up a full menu of dinner plates and comfort food like gumbo, turkey wings and fried chicken.

“I put my own seasonings on my food,” Johnson says. “Even my red beans. I mix it myself. Everybody says it’s the best in the world.”

Teddy Johnson’s favorite items in the Juke Joint

1. His tricycle (above). “I got it when I was 18 months old. I was raised to take care of what you get.”

2. A toy tow truck pulling a 1959 Ford convertible on a flatbed trailer. It’s a gift from the late musician Jimmy “HooDoo Jimmy” Simpson. “He said, ‘Teddy, I want you to put this where everybody can see it.’”

3. Hanging from the ceiling, the sled and ice skates that Johnson’s wife, Nancy, used when she was a child in upstate New York.

Join the celebration

Teddy’s Juke Joint’s 40th anniversary celebration is July 1-2 at the music venue, 17001 Old Scenic Highway, Zachary. teddysjukejoint.com

This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.