Like so many American originals, accordion player and singer Clifton Chenier was able to synthesize several older genres of music into a new form. He added to Cajun music a touch of the blues, rhythm and blues, and rock & roll to create a driving pop version of zydeco. He explained, "People been playing zydeco for a long time, old style like French music. But I was the first one to put the pep to it." A native of Opelousas, LA, he started his career performing on weekends near the oilfields, where he worked at his day job. During the '50s he was associated with R&B, recording for legendary labels like Specialty and Chess. His influences were not older Cajun musicians, but figures like Fats Domino, Professor Longhair and Joe Liggins. By the time Chenier hit his stride, traditional Cajun and Creole music had begun to take different paths: Cajuns were becoming more interested in country music, while Creole players preferred blues and R&B, abandoning the fiddle in favor of the rub-board and sometimes a horn section. In 1964 Arhoolie Records producer Chris Strachwitz persuaded Chenier to play more zydeco -- a move that renewed his career and led to a long series of hit albums. Among his later hit singles were 1964's "Louisiana Blues" and 1965's "Black Gal." He also recorded what has become the national anthem of zydeco, "Zydeco Sont pas Sale."
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