Swamp blues originated in Louisiana's capital city, gaining significant exposure in the 1950s thanks to Crowley record producer J.D. Miller. Miller distributed recordings from Baton Rouge blues artists through Nashville's Excello Records, bringing names like "Lightnin' Slim" and the legendary Slim Harpo onto the American music scene with hits like "Rooster Blues" and "Rainin' In My Heart." Swamp blues crossed the Atlantic to Europe, helping to birth the British Invasion as artists like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, The Kinks and Eric Clapton performed music inspired by artists Slim Harpo, Henry Gray and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Today, legendary south Louisiana musicians like Tabby Thomas and his son Chris Thomas King, Tab Benoit, Larry Garner, Big Luther Kent, Kenny Neal and his brother Lil Ray Neal tour the globe, bringing joy to blues fans everywhere, their catchy common-man lyrics irresistibly wrapped in the rhythms of a music born to turn even the hardest times in life into a celebration.
Originating in 1981, the Baton Rouge Blues Festival is one of the oldest blues festivals in America, first held on the campus of Southern University. The festival honors the legend of home-grown blues artists like Slim Harpo, Rudy Richard, Silas Hogan, Whisperin' Smith, Guitar Kelly, Schoolboy Cleve, Chewin' Gum Johnson and Raful Neal. Expanding outside our backyard, the festival has brought in nationally and internationally recognized names like Bobby Blue Bland, Marcia Ball, Phil Guy, Larry Garner and Charlie Musselwhite—including recent Grammy-nominee Ruthie Foster, who won the hearts of festival goers in 2009. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to further their Baton Rouge blues experience beyond the festival at hangouts like Phil Brady's (with the longest-running 21-year Thursday night blues jam around) and the inimitable Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary, Louisiana.
Founded in 2002, the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation is a non-profit organization striving to promote, preserve and celebrate the Baton Rouge blues culture and bring the best of Louisiana swamp blues music to the world. Today the Foundation sponsors a Blues Education program, a Blues Music History Project, an annual Blue Carpet Blues Gala, and the annual Baton Rouge Blues Festival. Our Blues Education program promotes the history of Louisiana swamp blues and teaches local youth how swamp blues is shaped by and contributes to Louisiana culture. The Blues Music History Project documents local performances, interviews with local blues musicians and narratives about the roots of swamp blues and its impact on other musical forms. Each year, the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation hosts a star-studded gala evening, celebrating the blues and honoring local blues artists. The Blue Carpet Blues Gala is the Foundation's major fundraising event featuring a silent auction of blues memorabilia, live blues performances and great dining and dancing. Funds raised allow the Foundation to continue in its mission to promote, preserve and celebrate Baton Rouge's blues heritage.