The Chitlin’ Circuit: a Foundation for Current Musicians

carlie dalgo staff

One thing people all share in common is their ability to communicate through music. The harmonies ringing from a group of singers, the bass line thumping, the pounding beat of the drum – it’s all a universal language. 

While the Chitlin’ Circuit gave Black musicians a platform to express themselves during segregation, it also provided the inspiration and foundation for modern musicians.

“My grandmother exposed me to Tina Turner as a young child. I was greatly influenced by this experience and so many others,” says Angela Jones, a local singer in Thibodaux, Louisiana. 

Jones is a music teacher in Thibodaux and Raceland and the lead singer of her band, We & Mrs. Jones. Jones has used many soul artists from the circuit as inspiration for her music career today.  

Artists like Aretha Franklin, Bebe King and Jimi Hendrix have set the bar high for musicians today. 

“Known as the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin placed 20 singles atop Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart during a career that began in the ’50s and lasted until her death in 2018,” according to Billboard Charts.

Genres of the circuit mainly included blues, jazz, R&B and rock n’ roll. Even artists who are well-versed in other genres, such as pop or country, are still impacted by the voices of the circuit. 

“I started to play some of their stuff to help me branch out, because when I realized how hard their music actually was and how groovy it was, it forced me to be a better musician and singer."

Vining has led worship at different churches for many years. The skills of musicians from the circuit have pushed him to advance his musicianship. 

While future generations will only hear stories of music in the 1930s-1960s, past generations have immersed themselves in it. Tina Turner’s song, “Proud Mary,” shares a message of leaving the painful things behind and chasing after a more meaningful life. 

Local drummer Rogers George experienced Hosea Hill’s Sugar Bowl firsthand. George learned how to play the drums from his older brothers at the Sugar Bowl. Growing up performing shaped who he is today.

“We did carnival balls, carnival dances for clubs and fairs that the fire departments had,” says George. “We played for a lot of weddings, parties, all over Houma-Thibodaux.” 

Some were there to experience the sounds and talent of the circuit. Others are living vicariously through their grandparents and the stories they tell.

People change over time, but one thing that will never change is the power of music. Artists of the Chitlin’ Circuit have paved the way for musicians to chase after their dreams and inspire future generations.

Honoring the Circuit: Blue Eyed Soul