SHREVEPORT-A CITY WITH A NOBLE SOUL
By Doc Lawrence
You can make a solid case that Rock and Rolls roots were sprouted
here. Built on the banks of the mighty Red River, Shreveport is now an
emerging arts Mecca, a city loaded with historic shrines and modern Casinos.
Its culture is solid southern with a taste of nearby Texas and the
place has charm galore, highlighted by community-based preservation efforts
and genuine grass-roots friendliness.
few years ago, the late Nauman
Scott, New Orleans lawyer and co-founder
of Blacktop Records, gave me Horace Logans fabulous book, Louisiana
Hayride Years, which ranks as one of the finest chronicles of country
and rockabilly music Ive ever read. Also, it is loaded with lore
about Shreveport. As Nashville is recognized throughout the world for
the Grand Ole Opry, Shreveport enjoys fame for the Louisiana Hayride.
The old building that housed the Hayride, the largest remaining all-brick
art deco structure on earth, gave popular culture the likes of Hank Williams,
Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter, Kitty Wells, George Jones, Lefty
Frizell, Ralph Stanley and a truck driving kid from Memphis, Elvis Presley.
And, a few hundred more.
Next to the Big Easy, Shreveport is Louisianas most visited city.
Naturally, humankinds love of gambling has much to do with weekend
tourism and Shreveport can accommodate this never-ending itch to get rich.
The entertainment provided by the Casinos is top notch and Vegas
quality. Atlantas Jeff Foxworthy performed there and had me laughing
at my own culture and our unique way of seeing and describing every day
Louisiana cuisine is distinctive and varies according to geography. While
New Orleans is gumbo and oyster country, Shreveport is the unofficial
headquarters of the states catfish, hushpuppies and barbeque culture.
Trust me: everyplace I visited for my three squares took local food to
an art form. Also, Shreveport is a grits city. You can find grits anywhere
anytime and it is served as soon as a local picks up on your lovely Southern
accent. Pete Harris Café, the oldest running restaurant in Shreveport,
has the best fried catfish Ive tasted in years and serves a house
specialty, stuffed shrimp, which has garnered praise from global visitors.
Art is everywhere. Deplaning in Shreveports comfortable, convenient
airport, the first thing I noticed was that the corridor walls had been
transformed by some good souls into an art gallery. Landscapes, egrets,
playing children, cowherds, and whimsical images are everywhere and serve
to make a trip to the baggage claim a genuine cultural awakening. I asked
myself later why all airports dont do something similar. These are
without exception all local artists and their works are admirable and
The accessible Norton Art Gallery has ongoing and eclectic feature exhibitions
with a remarkable commitment to diversity. A comfortable distance away
is the Southern University Museum of African American Art, a facility
where I could spend days just beholding the statues, masks, paintings
and carvings which connect the American South with the African continent.
Collectively, these stunning creations constitute a visual statement about
the critical importance of African American culture to Americas
The majestic Louisiana State Exhibit Museum was built by WPA artisans
during the Great Depression and has outdoor murals on the front that remain
perpetual memorials honoring the talent and artistic commitment of these
great artists. Inside, the Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson Memorabilia exhibition
continues as part of the bi-centennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase.
Gourmet dining and exceptional live theater are available and demonstrate
that old and new may be juxtaposed but still accommodate the communitys
interests and offer visitors an elevated lifestyle. The Pioneer Casino
has higher end restaurants and the downtown theater features the best
from Broadway and beyond. Shreveport made an admirable official decision
to preserve and protect its unique heritage that includes architectural
wonders that will now be enjoyed by future generations.
The Red River seems to define Shreveport and it remains the citys
natural connection with so many aspects of history, travel and wildlife.
A trip down the river is easy to arrange with tour operators and the journey
is a glimpse at some amazing bridges that have turrets allowing them to
separate by rotating while remaining level for river traffic. This is
a dramatic contrast to the familiar drawbridge. Wildlife, particularly
exotic birds, are seen everywhere along the banks of the Red, and the
fishing according to my guide, is first rate year round.
Because it is navigable, the Red River was an important supply route for
the Confederacy during the Civil War, allowing the merchandise and materials
brought through the Union blockade into Texas to be delivered to armies
in far away places through the Red River route. Also, the ruins of an
ironclad shipbuilding factory used by the Souths navy can be seen
on the riverbanks just outside the city limits.
The greatness of a city is found in its soul, which is comprised of the
arts, architectural preservation, cultural diversity, spirited community
inclusiveness and popular food. Shreveport is a magnificent city with
an abundance of so many great and worthy things. I look forward to many
return visits because I know I only scratched the surface.