American Routes Shortcuts: Teddy's Juke Joint

Mar 31, 2017

Lloyd Johnson Jr. (Teddy) at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival
Credit Nina Feldman

Each week, American Routes brings you Shortcuts, a sneak peek at our upcoming show. This week, we travel to Teddy’s Juke Joint – right along blues highway 61 in Zachary, LA. It’s a small, double shotgun house at the end of a gravel road, lit up by Christmas lights all year round. Inside, you’ll find good times and good blues music, served up by Lloyd Johnson Jr., a well-dressed bear of a man in a red suit, sporting a large cowboy hat, and better known to the regulars as Teddy. 

Teddy: Well, the history started with my grandmother. She bought it back in 1920, 1921. I was born here 1946 and I’ve been here for 64 years now.

NS: So you were born right where your jukejoint is

Teddy: Yes, I was born in the building. Little two-room shack with a front porch.

NS: This name “Teddy,” as I see, you’ve got little teddy bears everywhere, there’s a teddy with a guitar on the door, has this been a nickname since you were a little kid?

Teddy: Well, what happened was my godmother named me Teddy because I was so dark. And until I got in first grade, I didn’t know my name was Lloyd Johnson Jr., which is my real name. And the teacher, she called Lloyd Johnson, I looked around to see who Lloyd Johnson was, so she told me that was my name, and she put me in the corner on my knees and said, “when you come back to school, you know what your name is.”

NS: When people come in the door of Teddy’s, what are they going to see?

Teddy: Far as I’m concerned, and my wife says, you see a whole lot of junk. It’s just different stuff people gave me. And I like a lot of shiny objects so I put a lot of lights up.

NS: I’ve noticed that on the door you list yourself as a PhD in record spinning.

Teddy: Well I’ve moved a little bit beyond the PhD to a cum laude degree.

NS: Oh, is that right? In DJing?

Teddy: I don’t call myself a DJ; I call myself an old time record spinner.

NS: Now, for the people that can’t see us right now, you’re wearing a cowboy hat, you got a red suit, you got a black shirt, you got cowboy boots on, you got fancy belt buckle, bolo- what is it about the look that you got here? Why is it important to look like the classic blues guy to run your juke joint, to do you DJ spinning?

Teddy: Because it was a special thing that blues men did. They might’ve had shoes on with no bottoms in ‘em, but they was always clean. They might’ve worn the same suit everytime you seen ‘em, but they had to be dressed. It’s about the heritage and being special. And it’s got to be like an icon – everybody look for me to have a cowboy hat, my suit and my jewelry. And smell good as I can.

NS: You do smell great!

Teddy: Well thank you.

[Teddy riffs about chicken]

NS: You got this great line of talk, this line of jive, where do you get all this stuff about cornbread and the old man this, and the rooster, where do you get all that? Where do you get all your great talk from?

Teddy: Well, my great talk comes from the life I live and what my ancestors fed me. And what really happens is, when I get in front of the  mic, it’s just like a dictionary open up and it just come out.

NS: Teddy I want to thank you for visiting with me here on American Routes; I think Blues Highway 61 has got to be one of the great American Routes and you’re right on it.

Teddy: Thank American Routes, come back to visit me whenever

To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 7 or Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at Americanroutes.org.