The Sounds of Thibodaux

sally-anne torres staff

Filled with the sounds of blues, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and more, Thibodaux was the perfect stop for roaming musicians and entertainers traveling along the Chitlin’ Circuit.

James Brown

James Brown, originally from Georgia, was a significant figure on the Chitlin’ Circuit, according to Scott Barretta, music historian for the Mississippi Blues Trail. 

Brown initially filled in for Little Richard on tour, but his big break came when he joined the Famous Flames vocal group, according to the book “The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘N’ Roll.” 

Brown’s performances were in high demand. Rachel Dangermond, director at 100 Men Hall, says that in Mississippi and parts of Louisiana, he charged $1.50 for a show, but his admission fee was $4 in New York.

When Brown left 100 Men Hall, he went through New Orleans and down into Thibodaux, according to Dangermond. Brown worked most, if not every night. 

“He had a large band and needed to work every night,” Beretta says.

Fats Domino

Fats Domino, the youngest of nine children, was born in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. 

He achieved his breakthrough with the song “The Fat Man,” a track described in “Music Gumbo: The Music of New Orleans” as innovative. Domino blended his Creole accent with a distinctive “boogie-woogie” piano style, and his music reached Black and white audiences, according to “Music Gumbo.” 

He would have traveled through Thibodaux in the late 50s and early 60s, according to “Music Gumbo.”

Domino plays the fastest-paced songs with a calm and collected demeanor, according to a project called “In the Style of Fats Domino” at the University of Maryland Library.

Guitar Slim

Guitar Slim, also known as Eddie Jones, was a musician ahead of his time. He was born in Mississippi and labored in cotton fields before becoming a renowned performer. 

“Slim was one of the real pioneers of rock and roll,” says Preston Lauterbach, author of “The Chitlin Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

Guitar Slim’s captivating style and stage presence are unmistakable. His son, Guitar Slim Jr., recalls how he would dye his hair to complement his outfits for performances.

Guitar Slim’s shows at the Sugar Bowl are likely the most notable in the Thibodaux area.

“He was one of the first people to go out in the crowd with a 100-foot cord. He was a very dramatic showman.”

Slim died in New York at the age of 32. His manager, Hosea Hill, brought Slim to Thibodaux and buried him at Moses, Allen Chapel, Calvary Cemeteries.

Tina Turner and Ike Turner

Ike and Tina Turner performed together on the Chitlin’ Circuit. According to Lauterbach, Ike–credited as one of the creators of rock ‘n’ roll–and Tina, renowned for her iconic vocals, delivered a consistent “high-energy” performance whenever they took the stage. 

They ranked among the top acts on the Chitlin’ Circuit during their era, Lauterbach says.

“They had what was considered the most high-energy show,” Lauterbach says. “They were all about super high-energy and pure entertainment for as many hours as they were on stage.” 

The author says that the Turners had a dance team called the Ikettes, their backup dancers. Tina was the lead vocalist and a dancer in the group. 

Both performers played at the Sugar Bowl in Thibodaux. They did solo acts along with their performances together, Lauterbach says. 

Baretta says Turner’s music leaned more towards a soul sound.

Long after the performers had moved on to their next venues, their memories lingered in the hearts and minds of audiences for years to come.