This site is called So Much Great Music because that’s really how I feel; there’s just too much great stuff out there, both past and present, to be pigeon-holed into only one or two music genres, or to just a few artists within a given genre. Now, I’m not saying I like everything: regular readers know I’m not in on Hip Hop, nor can I stomach the formulaic mediocrity of Pop Country – as far apart from “real” Country as the line from Nickelback to Zeppelin in Rock.¹ And there would be a couple other groupings like Dance/Electronic where I couldn’t say I’m necessarily a big fan. Outside of those, however, I think I generally cast a fairly wide net. In trying to categorize my listening interests, then, I guess nowadays it might be most easily classified by the amount of time I spend on my various Sirius music channels (God bless Sirius radio!). I considered a rough breakdown and came up with this:
Outlaw Country: 20%; Deep Tracks: 15%; Underground Garage: 10%; Bluesville: 10%; SoulTown: 10%; Classic Vinyl/Classic Rewind: 5%; Jam On: 5%; The Bridge: 5%; Spectrum: 5%; XMU: 5%; Real Jazz: 5%; Beatles Channel/E-Street Radio/Tom Petty Radio/Elvis Radio: 5%
(I also used to absolutely love listening to Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure, and still do at times, but I invariably find it too sad hearing him affectionately introducing the amazing, eclectic tunes he would regularly play. I miss Tom Petty).
I realize that’s not exactly everything, but it covers a decent amount. Really, I’d say it’s about all I ever need. Well, except for one category: ZYDECO!
Zydeco is absolutely one of my favorite styles of music, and has been for about 35 years. Any of us could argue all day about the relative merits of New Wave, Punk, Heavy Metal, Reggae, Rockabilly, Gospel, whatever – some people are going to like some music types and not like others. Of course. But, once they listen to it, I seriously don’t see how anyone couldn’t like Zydeco.² It’s consistently the most fun, the most endearing, the happiest music I know. And Zydeco bands are always led by an accordionist and a rub-board player! What’s not to like!?
Zydeco as a music genre evolved from French Creoles out of southwest Louisiana and blends blues and R&B with music indigenous to native Louisianans. It seems it first became recognized beyond regionally with the emergence of Zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier in the mid-1950’s. Chenier, who would become known as The King of Zydeco, enjoyed a long career as Zydeco’s first generation ambassador, capped by his Grammy award in 1983 for the album I’m Here along with his Red Hot Louisiana Band. Many, many Zydeco acts materialized in Chenier’s wake: Boozoo Chavis, Rockin’ Dopsie & The Zydeco Twisters, BeauSoleil, Queen Ida, Terrence Simien & The Mallet Playboys, Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie, Beau Jocque & The Zydeco Hi-Rollers, Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin’, Zachary Richard, Rosie Ledet, Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp Band, Nathan & The Zydeco Cha-Chas, Amanda Shaw & The Cute Guys, just to name some, as well as C.J. Chenier, who inherited both his dad’s accordion and his Red Hot Louisiana Band after Clifton died in 1987.
My all-time favorite Zydeco artist though, without question, was the man to whom the music was so integral he made it his name. Born Stanley Dural, Jr. in Lafayette, Louisiana, as one of 13 children, the torchbearer who grew to be Zydeco music’s unmistakable next generation superstar was far better known by his adopted name: Buckwheat Zydeco. Buckwheat fronted the Ils Sont Partis Band, but most often they were simply known as Buckwheat Zydeco. I saw him perform live numerous times; he and his band were electrifying and joyous on each occasion, and I deeply wish it had been more often – Buckwheat died just two years ago, in his hometown of Lafayette, at 68 years of age. The New York Times once wrote of him, “Stanley ‘Buckwheat’ Dural leads one of the best bands in America. A down-home and high-powered celebration, meaty and muscular with a fine-tuned sense of dynamics, propulsive rhythms, and incendiary performances.” USA Today also called Buckwheat “a Zydeco trailblazer” as he played with musicians from Eric Clapton and U2 to the Boston Pops. He even performed twice for President Bill Clinton, celebrating both of his inaugurations, as well as at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta to a worldwide audience of three billion people. Buckwheat definitely brought Zydeco music to the next level.
Choosing just one Buckwheat song, with consideration to what may well include some entirely uninitiated Zydeco listeners, was a challenge. But I settled on a standby, ‘Zydeco Boogaloo’, one of my most beloved and among the first Buckwheat Zydeco tunes I can ever remember hearing. It’s an instrumental, so you don’t get Buck’s vocals – other than him grunting out various “Alright!”, “Hep hep!” and “Aha!”-type exclamations, and calling out the solos, first at 1:23 to the guitarist (Cooba?) and then at 1:50 to the trumpeter (Calvin). The bouncy groove is so enjoyable and enchanting, it seems even Buckwheat may have gotten carried away recording it – he cries out “One more time” twice, at 3:33 and then again at 3:41, before the propulsive band finally screeches to a stop 10 seconds later. That’s some seriously happy-sounding Zydeco music. How could anyone not like it??
Now, who’s with me for a new Sirius Zydeco station?!
¹though at the same time I do have to recognize that by most definitions those two – Hip Hop and Pop Country – are probably the most popular music classes existing today
²This is how I feel about Zydeco music: “How could anybody not like you?”