A Musical Detour
Local Lawyer Moves From Justice To Jazz
When Curtis Joseph was 7 years old — born in Shreveport but living in Colorado Springs, Colo. — his mother asked the question many parents ask their children:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Common answers are “a fireman.” Or “a policeman.” Or “a doctor.” But Curtis gave an uncommon answer. “I want to be a lawyer,” he said. When his mom asked, “Why?” Curtis didn’t hesitate.
“I told her I wanted to carry a briefcase and wear the nice suits.”
Now grown and married (Barbara) with two children, Curtis is doing just that as a partner with the Winchell & Joseph Law Firm in Shreveport.
As the young boy became a high school and college student (Washington & Lee University), one thing became clear.
“I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, without knowing what kind of law I wanted to practice,” Joseph said. “The older I got, the more I saw that the law was involved in everything. There’s no aspect of your day-to-day life that is not impacted by the law in some form or fashion.”
But a year into his 25-year-andcounting career as an attorney, Joseph took a detour. A mostly self-taught drummer, Joseph left his first law firm job in Shreveport after just one year.
To move to New Orleans. To play in a band. “I never intended to give it (practicing law) up,” Joseph said. “I just wanted to play music for a little while. I had no wife and no kids. That was really the only time in my life that I could do it.”
But before Joseph did, he had to tell mom he was trading the briefcase and nice suits for a pair of drumsticks.
“I had a long, drawn-out conversation with my mother, as you can imagine,” Joseph remembered. “She raised me and my brother by herself. She was naturally leery of that decision. I was like, ‘Look, I’m going to go do this for a little bit. They’re still going to be practicing law when I finish. I promise.’” Joseph spent three years living his dream while teaching middle school at an all-black boys’ private school near the French Quarter. The band he was in, “Idletime,” was so successful, its record label wanted the band’s members to play music full time.
“I was like, ‘I have a law degree,’” Joseph said. “This is where I jump out. By that time, Barbara and I had become serious. I was ready to start a family.”
So, Joseph moved back to Shreveport and picked up where he left off. However, it took a little convincing to get Barbara to join him.
“I talked Barbara into coming back,” Joseph said. “She was from here and had gone to Tulane. She had no desire to come back to Shreveport. I was like, ‘Look, I will make it worth your while.’” She trusted me, and here we are all these years later.”
Nowadays, Joseph is practicing law full-time. But in his spare time, he still feeds his musical appetite. Joseph is in two bands. “Junior the Third” plays blues and jazz music. “Easy Money” features blues, funk, rock and pop.
“There’s something about performing music in front of people that is truly intoxicating,” Joseph said. “I’m happiest when there is some music in my life.”
He’s also happy when he is doing the work of a Rotarian. Invited by his fatherin-law, Joseph is in his fourth year as a Downtown Rotary Club member of Shreveport.
“These are trailblazers in this organization,” Joseph said. “People who are go-getters. I like to go get it. I believe we are put here to help each other, and then we are not here after that. That happens really quickly. To the extent that you can do something to improve somebody’s life while you are here, you should be about that. Rotary is that type of organization.”
And Joseph is that type of person.