RH: I grew up way out in the country. I was very different from everybody else -- I was a tomboy -- so I was like odd man out all the time. I was listening to a lot of hardcore, like Fear and the Minutemen, but X from Los Angeles brought an intelligence and a poetry to that style of music, and really changed my life. Punk music saved my life and was very important to me, as a person who was fifteen or sixteen years old.
What was happening in Baton Rouge at this time was a reaction to the Vietnam war and what was happening politically -- Louisiana was a very corrupt state, politically, and we were always in the news -- and we liked to say there was a “freak scene” that rolled into the punk rock scene. So there was this underground artist community, and in my opinion it was the coolest thing that Baton Rouge ever had. That kind of revolutionary spirit still kind of bubbles around, and it came from a very specific area -- a tiny little street in the area right outside the gates of [Louisiana State University] called Chime Street. On that street were several little spots, places where live music was played, lots of cool bands... This was a time in Baton Rouge when there was a really happening live music scene. I had a lot of friends, maybe a little bit older than me that came before me. Growing up and going to LSU, spending time in this area, seeing lots of local bands [with] lots of friends being in bands that go onto to doing good things, I’ve always felt like it wasn’t properly documented -- that it was a really cool time in Baton Rouge history. This was something that was really cool and it’s something that sort of still exists, but the places over time start being torn down or renovated. Some of the folks died that were my age and a little bit older.
I had this idea that I wanted to document it, but I didn’t have any money. I kept thinking about it more than anything else. A friend of mine who also grew up in the scene mentioned that there was a young man that he knew that was a Chime Street hanger-on-er, a little bit younger, but that filmmaking was his career. He would be somebody good to talk to and who is really a local historian. He knows a lot about Baton Rouge, all types of music. I got really excited once I talked to him. We decided that we would do as we could do it.
Late summer [of 2015], we did a GoFundMe page and got a lot of little donations really fast. We created a Facebook page and got tons of interest almost immediately. There was already a Facebook page called “Chime Street Boldly Going Where We’ve All Been Before” that connected a lot of people from that era and that place, and when we created our [GoFundMe page], it really picked up steam. It was locally being talked about -- people were excited about it.
Here in my role as State Librarian for Louisiana, I have established relationships with a lot of authors from Louisiana. It just so happens that one of our great authors Tim Parrish was also the lead singer of one of the earlier bands called the Lower Chakras. He was at that historic Sex Pistols show here in Baton Rouge in 1978. I brought him into the project.
I have an archive of my own of fliers of every punk rock show I’ve ever been to. We scanned those. We have a digital library at the state library. We created a section for the documentary. I’m collecting at this point photographs from any folks at the scene or that were in bands if they could acknowledge the time, the place, and who is in the photo. We don’t [want to] run afoul of any rights. We’re scanning them and putting them in this folder to be part of the permanent collection.
We had one show that August at a [place] called Chelsea's, which was a reunion of the band Lower Chakras. That show was standing room only. It got those guys back together. There was another band here called the Shit Dogs, which were very good. I think most of those members have died, but the lead singer came out and did a couple songs. It was amazing. All of these folks who hadn’t seen each other in a long time reconnected all for a common purpose. It got everyone energized about the project. That’s where we are. I’m still trying to raise money. We’re sort of at a stand still. I’ve paid Bennet for all of the work that he’s done so far, but I’m at the point now where I’ve got to get some more money.
RH: Here at the state library we collect. We have a general collection that we’re phasing out, because funding and that collection existed to supplement all of the other libraries’ collections. Over time that became less and less of an important task. We’ve really focused on what we call the Louisiana Collection, which is collecting anything and everything written about Louisiana or by someone from Louisiana. To me, it just seems natural. We’re already collecting. Authors will leave us their manuscripts. We’ve had famous artists leave us their artwork. We have things that aren’t typical for a state library collection, but we have things that could really be at a state museum or somewhere else. Because people leave them to us in their will or things like that, we have an interesting collection of not just books and microfilm and things you see in a library, but also artwork, paintings, and things like that. To me, it just seemed natural.
It’s a part of Louisiana history, but it is also is a part of Baton Rouge history. At some point, I’m going to end up working with the East Baton Rouge Library, which is the local parish library, In what they call the Baton Rouge room. East Baton Rouge is the parish where the capital is, so this library would naturally have the Baton Rouge collection. It could be one day that it is really housed there and not here. While I was in this job, I’m a political appointment, so my job could go away. I was just recently reappointed by the new lieutenant governor. I told him about it, and he’s excited about seeing it done. I also felt like if I weren’t in this job, it wouldn’t be anybody else’s priority, but mine. It is so specific and an interest of mine. If we do what I want to do, there’ll be a documentary film, but also a companion book with either fliers, written stories, photographs, and possibly a vinyl collection, a compilation of songs from the bands from here from that era. That is my big picture vision. Really, all we have done here as far as collecting at the state library is scanning what people send me either photographs or fliers or articles or anything like that. It’s not even live where people can get to it, because it’s not cleaned up.
IP: Could you tell us about the condition of some of the things that people have given you? Have they come in in decent condition or have you had to do physical or digital restoration?
RH: I think they’ve come in in good condition. I’m thinking about my fliers that they just scanned. They look fantastic. I don’t think my staff did anything special to them. Photographs, the main thing about photographs is that people are like oh I remember when this was taken but I can’t remember exactly where. It was at one of two or three shows and I know this guy and this guy, but not this guy. I want to do the best I can to acknowledge everybody that’s in every picture and have a good record of those folks, the places, etc. The photographs have been fantastic. Some people have T-shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers. I have gotten any of those yet, because I wanted to have a safe place to keep everything. The photographs and the fliers have looked fantastic. The have translated. Once scanned, they look good.
IP: Will there be archivists working on the project? Will you move toward creating archival record groups or scanning and putting items up online?
RH: The head of my Louisiana Collection is also an archivist. I think one of her subordinates has some background in history and archiving things. There is that component built in. They were telling me how to store my fliers properly and the best way to do it. Sharlene, although she functions as a reference librarian, head of special collections, they do bring that to the table. As far as I’m concerned this isn’t any special project other than my personal interest, which is being paid for somewhere else. Making it appropriate for the public to get access to to me that is a state library function. If we ever needed to get input or help from archivists from around the state, we’ll do that. We want to do it right.
IP: You have very clear, tangible goals. How has that helped you in getting people involved?
RH: There are some very specific people who did very important things, and those folks have relationships and have done things that will help us. For example, one of my friends played locally in a little Baton Rouge punk/thrash band called Chaos Horde, and they were one of a couple of bands that opened for a famous New York band called Agnostic Front. At some point, Agnostic Front lost a guitar player, and they asked my friend to play guitar for them. That was a big deal back in the day, and they toured with Motorhead. So he built relationships with other musicians and has made a lifelong career of music in Austin -- he tours with Roky Erickson and Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, and has been on Austin compilations. So he has contacts high up in the music industry, and they’ve shown interest in possibly helping to fund some of what we’re doing. So being able to say, “I want this on film” or “I want these specific interviews from these specific people” -- and those specific people getting excited and wanting to help -- means we’re getting more. I’ve had a couple people who have donated $500 and they’ve been pretty insistent on knowing what their money is going to be spent on, and knowing what we want to do has made people have more faith in us and kick back additional support in more areas.
Rebecca's GoFundMe page is still live and accepting donations. She also has a Facebook page for the documentary, where people from the BR scene can share stories and pictures.