Bobby Bland passed this week. Rest in peace, sir.
Decades ago I attended one of those long-bill blues shows in Hirsch Coliseum. BB King, Bland and another headliner plus 2 or 3 up-and-coming or on-their-way-down singers.
Near the end of the evening I went out back of the Coliseum; found the Bland tour bus in the dark. No problem getting an interview with the lion in the wagon. I was toting a poor-quality, black cassette recorder that tended to malfunction. The cassette was probably one that had already been used for Allman Bros and Led Zeppelin albums.
I knew something about Shreveport blues history that the average person didn't know. I had harvested stories about Palace Park, a black baseball field in Allendale. There was a frame building on the park property that was used as a nightclub. Called simply Palace Park, the structure may have served many neighborhood functions. See Charles Lovelace' model of the center.
Palace Park, Dale St, Shreveport, has a spot in the history of rock 'n roll. In the 1940's heyday of the joint the singer Roy Brown had developed "Good Rockin' Tonight" at Palace Park.
It was the kind of hall where people paid to reserve the tables near the stage. People brought more than whiskey. Tables groaned, I was told, with fried chicken and potatoes. Folks dressed. Po' people listened to the show while milling around outside.
Bland told me a few non-descript stories about life on the Chitlin Circuit. I'm sure he realized that most of the things he could describe would seem swampy mysteries to me. But he left me with one telling line about the Palace Park era: "When he headed to Shreveport we always knew it was going to be something." Clearing his throat a bit, he allowed that, "Y'know, there was most always a cuttin' or shootin' when we sang in Shreveport."
Having gotten that observation, I shut down the recorder before it could freeze. Backed out of the bus, smiling like a good-hearted white guy. Got my salty story.
Bland remembered Shreveport, albeit as a city that was a little more violent than the average. I still wonder if that was something he told interviewers about their cities.