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Zydeco Master Stanley ‘Buckwheat’ Dural Dies at 68

Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural passed away on September 24 at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was 68 years old. Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural was the leader of one of the greatest Zydeco bands, Buckwheat Zydeco.

Buckwheat Zydeco’s powerful live shows were legendary for the fun and abandon they inspired. It was the first Zydeco band to land a major record label deal, the first to perform on a national television show, the first to have its music featured in major motion pictures, TV shows and national TV commercials, the first to record with top rock musicians and the first to introduce Zydeco to the music mainstream.

Buckwheat Zydeco embodied a genre and represented a community with his signature playing style that brought distinctly creole zydeco music to fans across the globe. Buckwheat played both for and with legends, performing at both Clinton inaugurations, touring with Eric Clapton, and collaborating with a seemingly endless list of artists over his 40-plus year career. He won an Emmy for his work in TV and a GRAMMY in the genre he helped define. The world lost a music heavyweight today. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.

Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. was born in 1947 in Lafayette, Louisiana, a close-knit community where many black people express their Creole heritage by speaking French, and by playing and dancing to Zydeco. This hybrid genre blends Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and blues, with soul, rock, country and the French-rooted Cajun music of the Creoles’ white neighbors.

As the son of a Zydeco accordionist, Buckwheat grew up steeped in this culture, and also absorbed Lafayette’s ample outpouring of blues and Gulf Coast “swamp pop.” He began his professional career as an R&B sideman, playing keyboards for artists such as Joe Tex, Barbara Lynn and Clarence Gatemouth Brown.
In 1971, Dural began leading his own R&B and funk band, Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, playing the contemporary sounds of popular bands like Parliament Funkadelic and Earth, Wind &Fire. The group achieved a regional hit with “It’s Hard to Get.”

Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural
Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural

By the mid-1970s, South Louisiana began to experience a grass-roots cultural renaissance as Zydeco and Cajun music, once scorned as overly ethnic, gained appreciation as treasured cultural resources. As the demand grew for Zydeco bands, Dural was offered a gig playing organ for the “King of Zydeco,” the late Clifton Chenier. Buck (as he was also known) worked hard and learned all that he could. After three years of touring, recording and accordion apprenticeship, he left in 1979 to lead his own group, Buckwheat Zydeco and the ils Sont Partis Band. Like Chenier, Buckwheat continued to blend traditional Creole Zydeco with the latest black-contemporary styles, drawing on all of his rich and varied musical experience.

Recording prolifically for various independent labels, Dural attracted the attention of music journalist Ted Fox, who became his manager and co-producer. In 1987, Fox arranged Buckwheat’s signing with Island Records, and he became the first Zydeco artist to appear on a major label. This resulted in the band’s fourth Grammy nomination.

During the years of critical acclaim that has ensued, Buckwheat Zydeco toured constantly, headlining at major venues as well as sharing stages with the likes of U2 and Eric Clapton, and even The Boston Pops. Clapton also recorded as a special guest with Buckwheat Zydeco – as did Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Dwight Yoakam and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos – on some of his numerous projects that followed.

The band performed at both of President Clinton’s inaugurals, and Buck was featured on the Closing Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta before a worldwide television audience of three billion.

Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural
Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural

Another first project for Buckwheat Zydeco was the release of the band’s lively children’s album, Choo Choo Boogaloo, on the Music For Little People label which won numerous awards and rave reviews. It features zydeco originals as well as classics such as “Iko, Iko,””Cotton Fields,””Little Red Caboose,” and “Skip To My Lou.” In the spirit of creating a genuine family feeling people of all ages contributed to the music, including a talented young people’s gospel choir from Baton Rouge.

Buckwheat Zydeco celebrated its 20th anniversary by releasing a retrospective album. The Buckwheat Zydeco Story – A 20-Year Party, a compilation of the band’s best recordings, was released on Buckwheat’s own Tomorrow Recordings label on July 6, 1999. It features 74 minutes of music on one disc as well as comprehensive liner notes in a 16-page booklet in a slipcased package.

The album’s cover features an unforgettable image of Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. in front of the tiny boyhood home he shared with eleven brothers and sisters in Lafayette, Louisiana. It is both a tribute to his roots and a statement of how far he and the Creole music he loves have come. The album’s colorful original art was created by award-winning Jackson, MS artist H.C. Porter whose work is exhibited in shows and museums around the United States.

The studio recording, Trouble, was released on Tomorrow Recordings on January 12, 1999. Buck felt strongly that this was his best album in a dozen years. Perhaps more aptly titled than Buck even knew, Trouble was originally released in May of 1997 by Mesa/Atlantic just as Mesa was undergoing a shake-up. Unsatisfied with the results of the original release – and unwilling to give up on what they felt was one of the band’s key albums – Dural and Ted Fox, convinced Atlantic to revert the album to them.

On Trouble, Buckwheat decided to concentrate on the skilled players within his band, and revisit the live-on-the-bandstand feel of the Zydeco and R&B dance halls where he first learned his craft.

Discography:

One For The Road (Blues Unlimited Records, 1979)
Take It Easy, Baby (Blues Unlimited Records, 1980)
Peoples Choice (Blues Unlimited Records, 1982)
100% Fortified Zydeco (Black Top Records, 1983)
Turning Point (Rounder Records, 1983)
Ils Sont Partis (Blues Unlimited Records, 1984)
Waitin’ For My Ya Ya (Rounder Records, 1985)
On a Night Like This (Island Records, 1987)
Taking It Home (Island Records, 1988)
Where Theres Smoke Theres Fire (MCA Records|MCA Special Products, 1990)
Buckwheats Zydeco Party (Rounder Records, 1992)
On Track (Atlantic Records, 1992)
Menagerie: The Essential Zydeco Collection (Mango Records, 1993)
Choo Choo Boogaloo (Music For Little People, 1994)
Five Card Stud (Island Records, 1994)
The Best Of Louisiana Zydeco (Avi Entertainment, 1996)
Trouble (Tomorrow Recordings, 1997)
Buckwheat Zydeco Story: A 20 Year Party (Tomorrow Recordings, 1999)
The Ultimate Collection (Hip-O Records, 2000)
Down Home Live (Tomorrow Recordings, 2001)
Classics (Rounder Records, 2003)
Jackpot! (Tomorrow Recordings, 2005)
The Best of Buckwheat Zydeco: Millennium Collection (Island Records, 2006)
Lay Your Burden Down (Alligator Records, 2009)
Let The Good Times Roll: Essential Recordings (Rounder Records, 2009)

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