Opportunity Knocks for Musical Talent Southwest of 'Grand Ole' Nashville.
Shreveport’s Mus Gillum first got paid to play music at a church when he was 14 years old. “I felt like I was robbin’ somebody, because I was just doin’ what I love to do,” Gillum remembers. Now 33, he is still getting paid to sing and strum a guitar. “I’ve been on stage longer than I haven’t been,” Gillum said. “Still tryin’ to make it, though. Still tryin’ to make it.”
Gillum’s story is like that radio commercial for a car dealership — the one you keep hearing over and over and over. Our area is full of musicians who are “still tryin’ to make it.” Now, they have some help. The began last May. Local,
area and sometimes national artists take the stage at the Woman’s Department Club at 802 Margaret Place, next to Shreveport Little Theatre. Shows are every other month (the next show is Friday, March 18, at 7 p.m.), but will soon be every month. “The purpose is for us to have a platform for artists to play in front of an audience,” said Opry co-founder Clyde Hargrove. “It’s a unique experience because of the auditorium, and to showcase their talents and have a conduit to the music industry.” Each performance is recorded (audio and video), so the entertainer will have something to send to record industry executives. “The value of it, if I were to put it in one word, would be ‘vital,’” Gillum said of the Opry. “It’s a lifeline that this city needs for sure. The musicians need it. There are so many fish in the music industry. Any sort of platform that can help — the word is ‘vital.’” The uniqueness of the Woman’s Department Club auditorium is its small size.
“It has a very similar vibe to playing a guitar around a campfire,” said Gillum, who has played the Opry twice. “The artists come and tell their story, and it just feels like you’re one-on-one with them right there in the room. You’re right there with them, and nobody else around you.”
Hargrove knows first-hand the value of an artist having a place to perform.
The Shreveport native played in a band while in college at LSU and then again when he left the Marines. “Being in Shreveport, it’s hard being connected to anyone in the industry, because it’s all in New York, Los Angeles or Nashville,” Hargrove said.
The Caddo Magnet High School graduate hadn’t played much since 2017 when he started his own business — Hargrove Roofing. The Opry is a way for him to stay in tune with the music industry. “I dream about it every night,” Hargrove said. “I have dreams that I’m playing in every night. I want to play, it’s just that I have a family now. With kids and a wife, I can’t tour. I have obligations to the business I’ve built.
That’s one of the reasons I like the Shreveport Opry. It allows me to still be a part of the arts and entertainment, which is my true passion.”
Hargrove also uses his music business knowledge to advise some of the younger entertainers who perform at the Opry.
“I’ve had one artist — she’s really young — that played the Shreveport Opry, and a producer from Los Angeles really liked her,” Hargrove said. “I’ve been trying to mentor her, by giving her tips on some of the songs and re-arranging things on the songs. … I’ve written for major artists, and I know tips on how to elevate a song to a higher level.”
Gillum also has a passion for music. While most local artists have a fulltime job — playing music is their side hustle — Gillum’s full-time job is playing and writing songs.
“This is it,” Gillum said. “I scratch and claw at this dream and try to pinch out as many nickels and dimes as I can and just stay afloat and keep going. … It’s taken some sacrifice on quite a few ends, but I’m more than willing to continue to try. It’s all I know. It’s all that’s in me, really.”
Shreveport has a long history of singers and musicians who have enjoyed national and international success. Gillum is certain the well isn’t dry.
“This area has bred so many super-talent musicians over the years, going all the way back to James Burton, Buddy Flett, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Lead Belly,” Gillum said. “You can’t really talk about music in Shreveport and not mention all the history that happened at the Louisiana Hayride in its heyday. The great part to me is that Shreveport still has all that magic pouring out from it. With the (Opry), they’re trying to build a platform and make it a springboard to ask some of the talent and artists to come out and play, and let’s springboard them to something bigger, better and brighter.”
To learn more about the Shreveport Opry, you may visit www.shreveportopry.com.
Artists interested in performing at the Opry can email Clyde Hargrove at: email@example.com.
Aaron Watson and Leigh Nash regale the audience at a Shreveport Opry performance.
Shreveport Opry provides a platform for artists such as Logan Hall, Mus Gillum and Stephen Gillum to perform in front of an audience.