Robert Mugge is a documentary filmmaker who chronicles popular music. He made this film, Rhythm ‘N’ Bayous: A Road Map to Louisiana Music in 2000, as a follow-up of sorts to his 1994 The Kingdom of Zydeco. This is the first time it has been available in DVD form, and it is still a delightful look at the diverse music springing from the Cajun and Creole cultures and resulting in blues, swamp pop, gospel, rock and roll, jazz, and zydeco.
In the beginning, the plan was to document a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bus trip through Louisiana, but that documentary never really happened. There is a very short section at the beginning of the film that is the only footage from that actual bus trip, and then the film heads off to explore music in clubs, churches and family gatherings as well as to talk to musicians and other people involved with the music all over Louisiana.
While there are plenty of experts to explain the state’s role in gospel, blues, swamp pop, early rock and zydeco, the most amazing part of this film is the performances it captured by musicians like Kermit Ruffins, Frankie Ford, Rosie Ledet, Dale Hawkins, Henry Gray, Henry Butler, Nathan Williams, Warren Storm, Claude King, Hackberry Ramblers, La Famille Viator, and Rod Bernard. Some of these musicians have passed on while others are in danger of being forgotten.
Mugge has done all lovers of the exuberant Louisiana sound and culture a great favor by making this film available for home viewing. Preserving performances like King’s “Wolverton Mountain,” The Ever Ready Singers’ fervent gospel, and Frankie Ford’s “Roberta” alone would have made this a must have for anyone interested in pop music origins and history. But this film gives us so much more.
This is Americana at its finest and a great tribute to the state, especially its Creole and Cajun music and its outrageous, extravagant spirit that has fueled so much of gospel, blues, jazz and rock and roll as well as the unique sounds of zydeco and swamp pop. If you can’t go to Louisiana yourself, this road map will make you feel like you have.