Clifton Chenier: The King of Zydeco

The Daily Music Break has featured zydeco players Buckwheat Zydeco and Rockin’ Sidney. But we should have led off with Clifton Chenier, who was the universally acknowledged King of Zydeco. In fact, that is his nickname.

Here is the long first paragraph of AllMusic’s profile of Chenier:

The undisputed “King of Zydeco,” Clifton Chenier was the first Creole to be presented a Grammy award on national television. Blending the French and Cajun 2-steps and waltzes of southwest Louisiana with New Orleans R&B, Texas blues, and big-band jazz, Chenier created the modern, dance-inspiring, sounds of zydeco. A flamboyant personality, remembered for his gold tooth and the cape and crown that he wore during concerts, Chenier set the standard for all the zydeco players who have followed in his footsteps. In an interview from Ann Savoy’s book, Cajun Music: Reflection of a People, Chenier explained, “Zydeco is rock and French mixed together, you know, like French music and rock with a beat to it. It’s the same thing as rock and roll but it’s different because I’m singing in French.” The son of sharecropper and amateur accordion player, Joe Chenier, and the nephew of a guitarist, fiddler, and dance club owner, Maurice “Big” Chenier, Chenier found his earliest influences in the blues of Muddy Waters, Peetie Wheatstraw, and Lightnin’ Hopkins, the New Orleans R&B of Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, the 1920s and ’30s recordings by zydeco accordionist Amede Ardoin and the playing of childhood friends Claude Faulk and Jesse and Zozo Reynolds. Acquiring his first accordion from a neighbor, Isaie “Easy” Blasa in 1947, Chenier was taught the basics of the instruments by his father. By 1944, Chenier was performing, with his brother Cleveland on frottoir (rub-board) in the dance halls of Lake Charles. (Continue Reading…)

Zydeco is a deeply American music in its combination of its native and foreign influences. Here is the start of Wikipedia’s entry:

Zydeco is a musical genre of American folk music roots. It evolved in southwest Louisiana in the early 19th century from forms of “la la” Creole music. As of 2012, the rural Creoles of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas, such as Cedric Watson, continue to sing in Louisiana Creole French.[1]

Zydeco combines elements of an older American musical style that began in the late 1700s, Cajun music, a style that consists of French fiddle tunes, Irish Celtic fiddle tunes, German button accordion, Latin rhythms, and Appalachian styles. Zydeco music was born as a blend of Cajun music and two other “new” American music styles, blues and rhythm and blues. (Continue Reading…)

Above is Bon Ton Roulet and below is Calinda!

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