Louisiana accordionist Jeffery Broussard is considered one of the most influential accordionists in modern Zydeco music. He has innovated Zydeco, developing the new Zydeco sound in Zydeco Force. Jeffery currently plays more traditional Zydeco with his own band, Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys. Zydeco music was developed among Black Creoles in Southwest Louisiana in the 1940s. Zydeco mixed traditional Creole music, the Francophone fiddle and accordion traditions, blues and R&B.
Jeffery Broussard was born in Lafayette, Louisiana on March 10, 1967 to Ethel and Delton Broussard. He is the youngest of 11 children, having 5 brothers and 5 sisters. The family lived in Frilot Cove, Louisiana, a rural community northwest of Opelousas, in southern Louisiana, on a farm where his father was a sharecropper.
Jeffery grew up fishing in the bayous (marshlands), riding horses across the fields with his friends. His music career started very early in life. At the age of 8 he started playing drums in his father’s band, the acclaimed Delton Broussard & The Lawtell Playboys. After seventh grade, Jeffery left school to farm full time to help his parents. Jeffery spent long days digging and sorting potatoes.
Whenever he could, Jeffery would sneak in to the house and played his father’s accordion, teaching himself how to play.
During his teen years, Jeffery played drums in his oldest brother Clinton’s band, Clinton Broussard & The Zydeco Machines. It was in this band that Jeffery played the accordion in public for the first time. His brother would let him play a few songs from time to time. It wasn’t until Jeffery joined the band Zydeco Force that he began to sing.
Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys are set to perform at the National Folk Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina. Concerts dates include Friday, September 9 at 6:00 pm at Wrangler Stage; Saturday, September 10 at 2:45 pm at Dance Pavilion; Saturday, September 10 at 9:30 pm at Wrangler Stage; Sunday, September 11 at 12:00 pm at Dance Pavilion; and The Big Squeeze: Accordion Traditions on Sunday, September 11 at 3:15 pm at Lawn Stage.
World Music Central talks to Jeffery Broussard and band manager Millie Broussard about the upcoming concert.
Angel Romero – Can you tell us about the band you will be taking to the National Folk Festival 2016 in Greensboro?
Millie Brossard – I’ll first start off by saying Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys are excited about performing at the National Folk Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys as you may know plays the traditional Creole Zydeco. He is commonly referred to as pound for pound the best accordion player around, although he is not limited to just the accordion. Jeffery plays every instrument. He is an awesome fiddler which he also uses in his performance… and there is a point in his performance where he does the old “switch-a-roo” with Djalma Garnier III who is the bass player, and in the midst of a song Djalma will take over fiddle and Jeffery will play bass, the crowd goes wild.
The rubboard player, which is the youngest member of the band but also the largest, we have given him the nickname “Big Truck,” is Jeffery’s youngest son, Jeffery Broussard Jr.
The guitarist Daniel Sanda is an awesome guitarist. “Daniel Boone.” as we refer to him. He has a way to make that guitar sing with his soulful notes.
The drummer, Paul Lavan Jr is not only talented on drums but accordion as well. He is the comedian of the group and never misses a beat.
Together these guys make up Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys. We are not just a band. We are family. We laugh. We cry. We love.
When and why did Jeffery start playing?
Millie Broussard – Jeffery first started playing professionally at the tender age of 8 in his father’s band as a drummer when the original drummer could not make it to gig. Jeffery’s father (Delton Broussard of The Lawtell Playboys) told Jeffery “get dressed boy, you are playing drums tonight.”
So as many Zydeco musicians today, the accordion was not Jeffery’s first instrument. It wasn’t until his teenage years that he picked up the passion for the accordion and has then mastered it.
When did the band come together?
Jeffery Broussard – The Creole Cowboys has been in existence for approximately 9 years and going strong. Thanks to God and my fans.
Tell us about Jeffery’ first recordings and musical evolution.
Millie Broussard – Jeffery’s first recording was in the 1980s when he was accordionist/vocalist for the ever so popular band Zydeco Force. Still today many of the younger Zydeco musicians try to mimic Jeffery with old tunes from Zydeco Force. However, as the sayings goes, “often imitated but never duplicated” (laughs out loud).
How’s the current Creole music scene in Louisiana?
Jeffery Broussard – The Creole music scene in Louisiana is still going. However, with the new generation of music and younger musicians adding their own zest to the music, I’m afraid it will lose its authenticity as the younger artist are adding more hip-hop and less accordion, so my goal is to keep the tradition and culture going, not by preserving the music but by performing and promoting it!
Which are your favorite musical festivals, and what makes them so special?
Jeffery Broussard – I really can’t say I have a favorite festival or place of performance as each festival or place has its own uniqueness…and I love spreading my love for the music and culture everywhere. I can say this, no matter where we perform no matter the size of the crowd, we give it our best. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 or 10,000 in audience, the performance will still be the same.
What are some unusual reactions you have got during your live performances?
Jeffery Broussard – I can’t recall any unusual activities at any of my performances because I myself and band members are of high energy and we cut up and act silly interacting with audience, so anything unusual I wouldn’t notice. It’s all about fun. Zydeco is a happy music.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with who would that be?
Jeffery Broussard – If I could collaborate a group of musicians my choices would be as follows: Buckwheat Zydeco; Nathan Williams and The Zydeco Cha-Chas; CJ Chenier; Terrance Semien; Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys; Geno Delafonse and The French Rocking Boogie Band; and I have to add as he is not a Zydeco musician but he is an awesome awesome accordionist, Joaquin Diaz. He lives in Montreal by way of Dominican Republic.
What music are you currently listening to?
Jeffery Broussard – As I love Zydeco, playing and listening to Zydeco. I listen to Gospel a lot more, because it is God that blessed me with this talent.
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with our readers?
Jeffery Broussard – Not only will I have new Zydeco CD but a Gospel CD as well, and, yes, I will be playing all the instrumental parts myself so be on the lookout for more of Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys.
Keeping The Tradition Alive! (Maison de Soul, 2009)
Return of the Creole (Maison de Soul, 2011)
Live at Jazzfest 2013 (Munck Mix, 2013)
Live at Jazzfest 2014 (Munck Music, 2014)