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Grammy-Winning Bluesman Bobby Rush

At ninety, he’s proud of his Louisiana roots

Published: June 1, 2024
Last Updated: June 5, 2024

Grammy-Winning Bluesman Bobby Rush

Photo by James Peterson

Bobby Rush.

The Bayou State carries a musical mythology of sorts. But it ain’t mythology, it’s reality, and the truest story you’ve ever heard. There is something about the water, dirt, air, and the ghosts of Louisiana that sings a song all by itself. I was born in the perfect place to do what I do. I can’t overstate the power of growing up in northwest Louisiana where I got my music honestly in the soil and ghosts of Claiborne Parish.

Bobby Rush, I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya: My American Blues Story


The Clarion-Ledger calls him a Mississippi blues legend. Small towns up and down the Chitlin’ Circuit from Chicago to Arkansas and Texas claim him as their “King.” But Bobby Rush is quick to tell you that he’s, plain and simple, a Louisiana man. And northwest Louisiana thinks we’re damn lucky to have him still lovin’ us. 

At ninety years old, this musician, singer, and composer has won sixteen Blues Music Awards. He’s been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, and Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame. He was the first blues artist to perform in China and played at the White House for Bill Clinton. In 2021 he published an autobiography, I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya: My American Blues Story, with Herb Powell. But Bobby Rush (he prefers the two names be said together as one) says one of his favorite honors came from his hometown of Homer, Louisiana, when he was named a Louisiana Legend during a festival that celebrates the beauty, history, people, and resources of Claiborne Parish. 

Bobby Rush likes to tell the folks of Claiborne Parish, “I might have crossed over, but I didn’t cross out.” Darden Gladney, past president and board member of the Herbert S. Ford Memorial Museum and a member of the Louisiana State Arts Council, said, “We are proud that from rural Claiborne Parish beginnings to international fame, Bobby Rush is proud to call Claiborne Parish home. We are in the second year of a project that celebrates all things juke joint, and Bobby Rush has been a generous resource to us throughout the project. He has a strong interest in our work to tell the story of our local culture.”  

The juke joints were where an underaged Bobby Rush, moustache painted on his lip with burned out matches to make him look older, started his musical career. Bobby says, “Outa them joints—big and small—the world got the best art the good old U. S. of A. has ever produced—Count Basie, Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Duke Ellington, B. B. King, and others. Juke joints in the South never forget the blues. Something about the South always holds the blues close to its bosom.” 

Bobby Rush’s story of performing along the Chitlin’ Circuit or juke joint trail of that Louisiana region is in part what brought the significance of preserving the musical culture of the juke joints to the attention of the Ford Museum in Homer. The museum, in association with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, and the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development, launched the Journey of Juke Joints in 2023 to preserve the memory of these places where African Americans would gather on Friday and Saturday nights for relaxation and recreation, live music, the steady beat of guitars and harmonicas, and bootlegged alcohol. The project is now in its second phase, called Rhythm and Roots. It is the mission of the museum to share, preserve, and interpret the history, culture, and art of the North Louisiana Hill Country. Grant funding from the Shreveport Regional Arts Council has been essential in enabling the museum to serve the public in this way. The juke joint project has been a wonderful way to celebrate local history, but also to celebrate Bobby Rush. 

After decades burning up the juke joint and Chitlin’ Circuit with his colorful, high-energy, sometimes risqué live shows, Bobby Rush continues to put on more than two hundred over-the-top performances every year, at some of the world’s largest music festivals and venues. He recently played a series of standing-room-only shows in Paris, France. All My Love For You, released in 2023, is Bobby Rush’s third Grammy–winning album, featuring all original songs and his signature groove. “It’s not about a woman,” said Bobby Rush. “The songs on this album are about my life, my ups and downs, and the people who were always there to lift me up. They are about where I’ve been, and where I’m going, like the words in the first song on the album, ‘I’m Free’: We come a long way, but I got a long way to go . . . . It’s a shame a boy nine years old had to work so hard every day. I used to pick cotton in the cotton field. . . . Don’t mind picking cotton, y’all, if I own the cotton fields. . . . Look at me. I’m free. 

Bobby Rush says that blues is the mother of all music—and if you don’t love blues, you probably don’t love your mama. “Blues came out of slavery and started as a sort of secret language between the enslaved peoples,” he noted. “It’s still a language for me—the way I talk to my audiences.”  



First Friday Glo Fests @ Bakowski Bridge of Lights 

June 7, July 4, and August 2, 7–10 p.m. 

Downtown Shreveport Riverfront 

The Bakowski Bridge of Lights on the Texas Street Bridge is lighting the summer nights in Shreveport with light shows created by students and professional artists. Join this free festival of fun with a spectacular light show, artists’ market, food trucks, musicians, spoken word artists, and theatrical encounters along the Shreveport Riverfront at Riverfront Plaza behind the Shreveport Aquarium. The bridge glows at 9:15 p.m. texasstreetbridge.com. 

Jazz in the Park 

June 6 

Caddo Common Park 

869 Texas Avenue  


The Shreveport Regional Jazz Ensemble is delighted to announce their free upcoming concert taking place at Caddo Common Park, located in the vibrant Shreveport Common district. This dynamic jazz extravaganza promises an unforgettable evening of soulful melodies and infectious rhythms. shreveportcommon.com. 

Artspace 20-Year Retrospective  

August 15–October 12 


708 Texas Street 


World-renowned soundsuit artist Nick Cave; book jacket design hero and Batman aficionado Chip Kidd; Academy Award–winning filmmaker, author, and illustrator William Joyce; and FriendsWithYou creators Samuel Albert Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III are all among the artists who have created versions of Art, the SRAC Dalmatian mascot, for inclusion in this retrospective. shrevearts.org. 


Christmas in the Sky 

SAVE THE DATE – December 14 

Shreveport Christmas in the Sky is the spectacular gala northwest Louisiana looks forward to every two years, benefiting the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and supporting arts programming in northwest Louisiana. The 2024 celebration will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced, with an eye-catching theme brought to life in breathtaking color and size by local artists and 1,000 coveted items and services offered in a live and silent auction. shrevearts.org.