San Francisco, California, USA – Zydeco is the driving accordion-led dance
music of the Louisiana Creoles. Originally of French origin, it has been heavily
influenced by American rhythm and blues, soul and, in recent years, rap and
hip-hop. Zydeco is distinct from its local cousin Cajun, and continues to
flourish in the rural southwest Louisiana prairie towns.
Featuring zydeco legends such as Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco, The
Rough Guide To Zydeco presents some of the best Louisianan music, filled
with the sounds of the accordion and the frottoir, a percussion instrument with
an unmistakable rasp. Led by Stanley Dural Jr, Buckwheat Zydeco has performed before a worldwide
television audience of three billion at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and
also served as an opening act for Eric Clapton, U2 and other stars. It is ironic
that Durat has introduced zydeco to more people on the planet than any other
musician, considering that Dural had no interest in zydeco until he spent two
years working as an organist with Clifton Chenier.
More than a decade after his death, Chenier is still heralded as the
undisputed King of Zydeco, and for more than thirty years, he combined old-time
Creole music with urban blues, jazz, R&B and other sounds. On ‘Calinda’, a hit
from 1972, Chenier moulds a Creole rock and roll groove with Elvin Bishop and
Wilson ‘Boozoo’ Chavis rivals Chenier as zydeco’s most influential musician.
He recorded zydeeo’s first commercial hit in 1954 and was awarded the
prestigious National Heritage Fellowship after his death. ‘Johnnie Billy Goat’
is his most imitated song.
Rockin Sidney showed just how successful a zydeco musician could be, when his
1985 novelty tune ‘My Toot Toot’ became the first zydeco song to sell a million
copies, and earned a Grammy award. The song, which was successful covered by
Jean Knight, Fats Domino, Doug Kershaw and others, even sparked a Spanish
In the 1970s and early 1980s, John Delafose and the Eunice Playboys were
zydeco. Delafose’s accordion rendition of ‘Joe Pete Got Two Women’, an old
fiddle tune first recorded by Canray Fontenot, became an instant bestseller.
The Rough Guide To Zydeco features two influential female zydeco
musicians, Rosie Ledet and Donna Angelle. Infamous for her teasing lyrics and
double entendres, critics have hailed Ledet as zydeco’s best songwriter and she
has won awards for the witty and bluesy lyrics of her original songs.
An accomplished musician on the saxophone, clarinet, flute, viola and bass
guitar. Donna Angelle is as comfortable with zydeco as she is with rhythm and
blues. Her performances include a diverse mix of R&B, oldies and zydeco, and
‘Blackberry’ is an original waltz.
When Beau Jocque – whose growling vocals and energetic groove are well
displayed on ‘Boogie Chillun’ -combined the classics of Clifton Chenier and
Boozoo Chavis with sounds from rock and rap, zydeco was never the same.
Many other contemporary musicians mix zydeco with other genres to produce
great results, such as Keith Frank, whose knack for mixing traditional pieces
with modern dance riffs allows him to maintain a large and faithful fan base in
south Louisiana and east Texas.
Chris Ardoin’s remarkable voice maintains a contemporary R&B feel and his
voice, fingers and fresh lyrics are in fine form on ‘All About You’, one of his
recent recordings. While on ‘Here To Stay’, J. Paul Jr & The Zydeco Nubreedz mix
gospel-influenced vocals and zydeco talent, and m an era of sound-alike bands,
Curley Tayter’s R&B-taced vocals, piano accordion mastery and meaningful (yrics
in original songs stand above the crowd.
The Rough Guide To Zydeco features some of the old greats of zydeco
such as Canray Fontenot, who kept the old-time Creole music alive for more than
five decades. ‘Allons Danser7, recorded in 1971, has been covered by a number of
young Cajun and Creole musicians, who have been inspired by his spirited music.
Amede Ardoin, born in 1898, had a huge impact on both zydeco and Cajun music.
Recorded in 1934, many experts believe that the ad lib style of ‘Les Blues De
Crowley’, which was looser than the usual French two-step, opened the door to
The Rough Guide to Zydeco].
Author: World Music Central News Department
World music news from the editors at World Music Central