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Teddy's Juke Joint - Like Coming Home

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Teddy's Juke Joint - Like Coming Home

Just off of the infamous Highway 61 near Zachary, Louisiana, you turn off on a dirt road and find yourself standing outside of Teddy’s Juke Joint. It’s hard to imagine you’re only 15 minutes from downtown Baton Rouge, because it feels a world apart. As you approach the front door, you may wonder if it’s open, but I promise you it is - every night of the week. As soon as you open that door, though, be prepared to be transported to a different time and a different world. Much like stepping into a music lover’s version of Narnia, Teddy’s is a whirlwind of colorful lights and amazing sounds. It’s what I would imagine it would be like inside of a kaleidoscope. As wonderful as this place appears at first glance, the real magic has yet to happen. Teddy and his wife Nancy have been running this joint for over 40 years, and they are some of the most hospitable and wonderful people you’re likely to meet - just good people all around. Pull up a seat at the bar and order a drink and you’ll soon find your feet tapping along with the beat and your face smiling from ear to ear. Teddy spins the records and Nancy pours the drinks, and together they manage to keep the place spotless and running smoothly, with a little help from their friends on the weekend. Speaking of the weekend, that’s an ideal time to come to Teddy’s as there are frequently live bands and jam sessions, but any night of the week your ears will be treated to great blues, soul, and an occasional slip into rock and roll. If you’re hungry, they’ll whip you up a pork chop sandwich or some red beans and rice with their own secret blend of seasoning. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting all of the remaining true Southern juke joints over the last decade, and Teddy’s is definitely my favorite. It’s the southernmost juke joint on Highway 61, and the only one that’s open 7 days a week. Whenever I’m anywhere near Baton Rouge, I find my steering wheel pulling me towards Teddy’s, even if it’s just to stop in and say hi. I know I’ll find some good conversation, a hot meal, a cold beer and great music. Yep, Teddy’s is a lot like coming home…

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Fred's Lounge - Keeping Cajun Music Alive

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Fred's Lounge - Keeping Cajun Music Alive

Fred’s Lounge in downtown Mamou, Louisiana isn’t a big place. In fact, depending on which way you’re driving, you could drive past it and never know you missed it. It’s not fancy and if you weren’t aiming for it, it probably wouldn’t entice you to stop by its appearance. Fred’s is only open for about six hours a week, from about 8 a.m. to about 2 p.m. every Saturday morning, so if you came through Mamou at any other time it would be closed anyway. But during those six hours, it is a magical place to be.

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I have a very special place in my heart for the Mississippi Delta and for the Delta Blues in particular. If you visit Clarksdale these days, in the very heart of the Delta, you can find live blues seven days a week, although it’s taken a concerted effort over many years to make that happen. It’s amazing, but it exists in a museum state. By that I mean that while you can see it in a great juke joint like Red’s, you will watch it sitting down on what was once the dance floor…

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This Week on the Road - February 21st-28th

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This Week on the Road - February 21st-28th

It’s been a pretty local but wonderful week here in Louisiana. My folks were here most of the week, so we’ve been out exploring together. It was wonderful to spend some time with them, but they sure did wear me out! While most of our time was spent in New Orleans, we did get out into Acadiana (Cajun Country) for two great nights as well.

It is always great to be back in New Orleans. I lived here for two full years from 2007-2009, trying to help the city recover from Hurricane Katrina. I taught 8th Grade math at Francis Gregory Elementary School in one of the most challenging but rewarding chapters of my life. I made some really good friends and forged a lifelong bond with the Crescent City. The culture, music, people and food get inside of you, and I always feel drawn back here.

While my folks were in town, I stayed at my friend Walker’s house. Walker is a New Orleans native, and started teaching when I did back in 2007. He’s changed schools a couple of times, but is still teaching here. Back when I lived in New Orleans, we both lived in the French Quarter, and got to hang out a lot together. He often invited me along to events I would have never known about on my own, so I am very grateful to him for helping me navigate the city during my time here. It’s always great to see him and catch up on all the New Orleans gossip and get a first-hand account of what he school system is up to. I was really busy with my folks, so we didn’t get to hang out a lot, but it was definitely good to see him.

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The Best of the Florida Keys

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The Best of the Florida Keys

I had an amazing week in the Florida Keys, exploring the parks, pubs and restaurants that make the Keys so great. I’ve been coming to the Keys since I was in high school and they’ve always held a special place in my heart. They’re America, but not. The Keys are like a little slice of the Caribbean, right over the bridge. While last week I wrote up my ultimate Keys Pub Crawl (which you can read HERE), some people have been asking for more ideas and suggestions on the Keys. So I thought I would jot down some of my favorites to help you navigate through the islands and find some really top spots along the way.

Beaches

Many people are surprised to find out there aren’t many great beaches in the Keys. The islands are generally surrounded by mangroves so the sand beaches are mostly man-made. That isn’t to say there aren’t some great beaches along the strand, but you do need to know where to find them…

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A Florida Keys Pub Crawl

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A Florida Keys Pub Crawl

Ah, the Florida Keys. The closest you can get to a Caribbean vacation without having to fly. This wonderful chain of islands stretches from just south of Miami all the way to the Dry Tortugas, although the road will only take you from Key Largo to Key West. This hundred mile stretch is full of fun activities like wreck diving and dolphin encounters, and has some great state parks and beaches along the way. The vibe is definitely more “island time” than the rest of the country, and you are sure to have a good time when you visit. Wherever you are in the Keys, you’re never far from a good bar. Whether you stop in for a pint after a full day of diving, or hang out all day sipping margaritas with your feet in the sand, you are sure to find a great place to while away your time in the islands. This is in no way an all-inclusive list, and it’s not meant to be. These are just some of my favorites as you make your way south through the Keys. You should definitely not try and hit all of these in one day, and I always recommend using a designated driver. Also remember there’s only one road, so you could hit a few on the way down and a few on the way back up.

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This Week on the Road - October 5th-11th

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This Week on the Road - October 5th-11th

Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a great week wherever you are. I apologize for my weekly newsletter not coming out last week, there was some sort of technical glitch which hopefully has been sorted out. Be sure you go to my Blog page (HERE) so you can catch up on what you missed. I’ve had a wonderful first week here in Kentucky full of friendly people, horse racing, history and bourbon. Indian summer has come with a vengeance and it has been hot and sunny all week, but it is supposed to cool down here by the weekend - something which I am really looking forward to. Enough summer already, bring on the fall. It is great to be in a new state with new focus and new things to think about, and it would have been hard to imagine a better way to spend my first week in the Bluegrass State than the week I’ve just had.

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Tennessee Music

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Tennessee Music

Tennessee is one of the country's most visited states for music lovers, and for good reason. From the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol to the one-time home of W.C. Handy in Memphis, Tennessee's musical tradition dates back to the very beginnings of recorded music and beyond. Cities like Memphis and Nashville have multiple options for great live music seven nights a week, and incredible museums like the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum provide plenty of information when you finally wake up. Tennessee is a great destination for any fan of American roots music, and will no doubt leave you tapping your feet and humming along. I'm going to break this post into East, Central and West Tennessee for easy reference. Also, be sure you check out my Spotify playlists for Tennessee…

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Best Dive Bars of Tennessee

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Best Dive Bars of Tennessee

If I'm going out to have a drink and I'm not going to see live music, I try and seek out the best dive bars wherever I am. I have a nose for them and usually know a good one when I see it. I've been asked a few times what makes a good dive bar, and the truth is that the answer to that question would be different for everyone. For me, a dive bar is in no way synonymous with a dump. There are some really bad, unfriendly, filthy bars in this world - those I classify as "dumps". A dive bar to me is a friendly neighborhood bar, full of locals, where drinks are cheap and conversation flows. If these places are on Yelp or TripAdvisor at all, they probably don't have over 3.5 stars because they aren't what many people are looking for. They aren't fancy and most don't have expensive or expansive beer lists. The usual wine selection is "red or white?". There are probably neon signs on the walls, and oftentimes, for reasons I can't explain, Christmas lights. Somewhere on the wall is a photo of someone nobody remembers, but they were important enough to the patrons at some point in the past to put their photo up. The bartenders are generally friendly…

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