Oct 11, 2023
American Routes Shortcuts: Teddy's Juke Joint
Teddy: Well, the history started with my grandmother. She bought it back in 1920, 1921. I was born here in 1946, and I’ve been here for 64 years now. Nick Spitzer: So you were born right where your
Teddy: Well, the history started with my grandmother. She bought it back in 1920, 1921. I was born here in 1946, and I’ve been here for 64 years now.
Nick Spitzer: So you were born right where your juke joint is.
Teddy: Yes I was born in the building, little two-room shack with a front porch.
NS: This name Teddy’s–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 had happened, 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.” So I come home and I told my mother. My mother told me, “Your name is Lloyd, that’s why I made you learn how to spell it before you went to school.” I said, “No, that’s my daddy’s name!” And I didn’t realize until I was in first grade that that was my name.
NS: When people come in the door at Teddy’s, what are they going to see?
Teddy: As 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. And of course I had to do it the cheapest way I can, so I started buying Christmas lights.
NS: I’ve noticed that on the door you list yourself as a PhD in record spinning.
Teddy: Well I moved a little bit beyond the PhD to a cum laude degree.
NS: Oh is that right? Teddy: Yeah.
NS: In DJing?
Teddy: I don’t call myself a DJ, I call myself an old-time record spinner.
NS: Now you mentioned the cum laude, how did you get the cum laude beyond the PhD in spinning records?
Teddy: Because I think that I’ve been doing it long enough to create my own self degree and to what I think that the blues is supposed to be all about.
NS: Now, for the people that can’t see us right now, you’re wearing a cowboy hat, you’ve got a red suit, you’ve got a black shirt. You’ve got cowboy boots on, you’ve got a fancy belt buckle and a bolo, what is it about the look that you’ve got here? Why is it important to look like the classic blues guy to run your juke joint, to do your DJ spinning?
Teddy: Because it was a special thing that bluesmen did. They might’ve had shoes on with no bottoms in ‘em. But they was always clean. They might’ve worn the same suit every time you seen them, but you had to be dressed. It’s about the heritage and being special. And it’s got to be like an icon. Everybody looks for me to have a cowboy hat on, a suit, and my jewelry, and smell good as I can.
NS: You do smell great!
Teddy: Thank you.
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 that. Where do you get all that from? Where do you get all your great talk from?
Teddy: Well my great talk comes from the life I live, what my ancestors fed me, and what really happens is when I get in front of the mic, it’s just like a dictionary opens up, and it just comes out.
To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 5 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.