Business Person of the Month: Chris DeJohn

Chris DeJohn

Owner, Be Bop Music Shop

560 Government St.
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
(225) 343-7433

Chris DeJohn

“If you took that lick and sped it up, you would have two licks.”
    — Tabby Thomas

“Be ready to fold those kings if an ace hits the table”
    — Unknown

BeBop Music Shop is dedicated to serving all musicians in the Baton Rouge area, from the beginner to the professional. The store specializes in new and used drumsets, hand percussion, and cymbals plus all the parts and accessories (sticks, heads, hardware, etc…) as well as a great selection of new and used electric and acoustic guitars, basses, amps, cables, strings, cases, and accessories. They offer bass and guitar lessons and can refer the budding musician for lessons on other instruments.

Professional drummer Chris DeJohn has been the owner since 2001 when he bought BeBop from the previous owners, Mike Armshaw and Doug Johnson, who had opened the shop in 1981. When they decided to close the store, DeJohn took out a loan and bought the store where he had been working as a sales assistant since 1997. Long a hang-out for a lot of local musicians, BeBop is “the hippest drum/guitar combo shop in Baton Rouge. We carry local CDs, have a bulletin board for networking musicians, and let them post flyers for upcoming gigs.”

DeJohn says he’s been around music most of his life. His uncle, who lived across the street when he was growing up, had a set of drums which he would go over and play. He seemed to have a knack for drumming, so his parents bought him his first set of drums when he was ten. Though he took private lessons from Joey Ferris throughout his years at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans, he never played in the school band (“didn’t want to march.”)

He categorizes his family as “reluctantly-supportive. I don’t think they really thought I’d pursue it as a career.” DeJohn attended LSU for one year before dropping out to go on the road with the band Hoppergrass, which later was renamed Juice and became the house band at Tipitina’s. He can understand his parents’ trepidation, because it’s very hard to make a living playing music, especially just starting out. He had to keep some sort of day job to supplement his income. He worked in various kitchens like The Chimes and George’s before he came to work for BeBop. Working in a music store was ideal and owning one was even better.

Chris DeJohn bills himself as a Drummer/Percussionist specializing in Second Line, Funk, Jazz, Latin, Rock, Soul, Country, Rockabilly, Surf, Western Swing, & Blues. He likes to play congas and other “hand drums” and can play a little bit of guitar and bass. “I feel like these other instruments really improve my facility on the drumset and my ear.” As for drummers who may have influenced him, he cites the greats like Buddy Rich, Max Roach, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and Neal Peart of Rush as musicians he enjoys hearing. He does confess that he sometimes finds long drum-solos really boring.

Working in music over the past decade, DeJohn has amassed a number of credits. He has performed and/or recorded with–George Porter Jr., Bill Summers, Eric Lindell, James Johnson, Kenny Neal, Rudy Richard, Eric Baskin, Michael Foster, New Orleans Juice, Kerry Rhys, Donald Evans, Andy Pizzo, Ricky Castrillo, Ned Fasullo, Nuevo Hippie Cover Band, The Bromaines, The King James Band, Chicago Al & The Backburners, Billy Kimbrell, Lance Chauvin, The Souls of Blues Revival, All That, Mary’s X, and Simba’s Children. He’s also made television appearances on City Confidential with Righteous Buddha and Louisiana Jukebox with Mary’s X. He’s currently drummer for the bands Righteous Buddha, The Roebucks out of Lafayette and The Black Sound Parade.

When not making music, DeJohn is an avid mountain biker. He likes to ride the Hooper Road and Comite River trails and has traveled to the western part of North Carolina where they have a plethora of bike trails for various levels of expertise. He also enjoys playing poker. “I love Hold ’em but I also enjoy Omaha and Seven Card Stud; mostly cash-games, but I don’t mind the occasional tournament.” With the travel and night life involved in the music world, DeJohn doesn’t have much time to spend in the library. He enjoys a good spy novel, but the last three books he read were trail guides for mountain biking.

DeJohn would like to see Baton Rouge downtown up and thriving with a great night life like Austin, Texas. “I don’t really know why BR isn’t more supportive of live music. When I go to places like Austin; Boulder, Colorado; Athens, Georgia; or Asheville, North Carolina, I notice people out enjoying local, original artists as opposed to here where it seems like everyone (except for a small handful) wants to hear cover bands playing songs they already know.”

Thirty one years old and married for two years now, DeJohn met his wife, who’s a lawyer, in high-school but they didn’t really start dating until college. “Cat is very supportive of my music as long as I’m pulling my weight. I wouldn’t do it for nothing; it really is a job.” They have a diverse group of friends with his “music friends” and her “lawyer friends,” but some are mutual (the leader of one of the bands for which he drums is a local judge.) Poker buddies and mountain bike buddies round out his circle of friends.

The poker quote from the beginning of this profile could be called his personal philosophy. DeJohn is adventurous, daring and willing to take chances, but wants to keep a clear head and know when to cut his losses. Poker metaphors make sense with his life as a professional musician, a career which requires risk-taking and often benefits from a little luck. He’ll be closing BeBop at the end of November, because he’ll be on the road with the Eric Lindell band for all of 2008, touring in support of the album, Change in the Weather on Alligator Records, coming out on January 11th. “Finally playing music is going to be my full-time job. I feel like my career is really moving forward since I got the Eric Lindell gig. No more 9 to 5.” The New Orleans Times Picayune has characterized the band’s music as “stellar, sublime blue-eyed soul and romping New Orleans R&B, played at the same intersection of soul, blues and roots rock as Van Morrison.”

He’s been running the shop alone lately. Though there are quite a number of music shops in town, the competition wasn’t bad until the big box store Guitar Center moved into the market. “How does one compete with such buying power?” He compares it to the effect new Wal-Marts have on local hardware stores. DeJohn is to be commended for keeping alive the BeBop Music Shop, a local tradition which lasted over twenty-five years.

Chris DeJohn “I’m really going to miss this place.” With his drumming career on the upswing, he plans to “form a new LLC (as of yet to be announced) and will be working under that title.” Music is Chris DeJohn’s business whether it’s under the BeBop name or another.

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