On Sunday, February 5, 2023, Sean Randle, the son of LA and Linda Fay Randle, turned off the lights and locked the doors to the LA Connection. It was the final curtain call. LA and Linda have left the building!” No fanfare, no band and no press. It was the Randle Way.
The final turning of the key signaled the close of more than four decades of solid black entrepreneurship on the south side of Peoria.
The vision and mission of LA and Linda would forever change the landscape in the City of Peoria.
In the early 1950s, the family of LA Randle arrived in Peoria, IL, by way of the Great Migration. With them, they carried the spirit of generational black entrepreneurship. The sounds of the smoky Mississippi Delta would always be on their minds. As the miles melted away, the Randles were destined to live out their dreams. Their perfected southern cuisine and music would serve as a link to bring family, friends and community together.
LA Randle was a definite “blues boy.” This was the soundtrack of his life. In his DNA he carried the music of African drums, B.B. King, Albert King, Billie Holliday, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Etta James. Even in his youth, he began to think as an entrepreneur and wanted to own and operate his own bar.
LA’s magic would give a nod to the joy, sights, sounds and smells of the juke joints he left behind in the red clay hills of Cruger, Ms.
Ultimately, it would be the blues that motivated LA to provide a safe space where black people were valued and respected. This was no ordinary bar. On the inside, the social, physical and emotional needs of the community were met. In truth, the LA Connection was the “Black Wall Street” connection.
Patrons could schedule business meetings, discuss politics, sponsor community giveaways and fundraisers. Birthdays, engagements and just because parties, rummage sales, cookouts, wedding receptions, family reunions and repasts were optional as well.
“Ain’t No Stopping Us Now!”
LA and Linda would rise to a level of notable leadership, inspiring future bar owners in Peoria and beyond.
In 1981, they opened the doors to the Blue Note located near the intersection of S.W. Jefferson Street and McArthur Highway. Their establishment anchored their dream of black entrepreneurship. Once you entered the door, you could be unapologetically black, forgetting the presence of northern Jim Crow.
Motorcyclists would come from near and far to share a beer and plan their next adventure. The LA Connection cultivated a national and international brand. People of all races would connect in this space, and the hugs were free.
For more than four decades, this dynamic duo kept the doors open and expanded satellite properties, including the Scorpio Club, Phase II, the Equator and the Apollo Clubs. It was a combination of black pride, determination, respect and sweat which drove this well-oiled machine.
These locations provided the musical genres of the delta blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, soul music, hip hop, funk, disco and calypso. If that wasn’t enough to move your hips and lips, you could always grab a catfish or chicken sandwich, gizzards, or fries and head back to the dance floor.
On June 6, 2021, (the blues boy) L.A. Randle passed away.
This story began with the “love affair” of a young black southside couple and ended with a love affair with its community.
LA and Linda, thank you for raising the bar for our community. You made it look effortless. You dared us to dream big or to go home, and your trailblazing continues to inspire us. Together you achieved the recognition of a Black Power Couple, and your phenomenal contributions will stand for future generations.
Peoria, the lights are off, and we say goodnight to LA Connection, Peoria’s longest Black-owned and operated bar. This southside landmark leaves behind a legacy of 41 years of community service, 41 years of letting the good times roll and 41 years of making memories.
LA and Linda have left the building!
Karla, Sean and Vinnie take a bow because your parents are truly BLACK History!