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Paul Oliver

(b Opelousas, LA, June 25, 1925; d Lafayette, LA, Dec 12, 1987). American zydeco and blues singer and accordion and harmonica player. The son of an African American accordion player, he heard both white and black Cajun musicians as a child. He played music at weekends before moving in the mid-1950s to Houston, where he secured employment in zydeco dance halls attended by black migrants from Louisiana. He played the large piano accordion which was more versatile and suitable for blues in many keys. The success of his Clifton Blues (1954, Imper.) made him the most esteemed of the zydeco musicians. He was later joined by his brother Cleveland Chenier, who played a corrugated metal ‘chest washboard’ in the form of a breastplate; they had a hit recording, Louisiana Blues (1965 Bayou a good example of Chenier s rich patois ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

zydeco accordionist and singer, was born in Opelousas, Louisiana, the son of Joe Chenier, a sharecropper. His mother's name is not known. Clifton's father played the accordion in his free time. Maurice “Big” Chenier, Clifton's uncle, played guitar and fiddle and ran a popular small dance club in Louisiana. His neighbor Isaie Blasa gave Clifton an accordion in 1947, and his father gave him private lessons on the instrument. Clifton and his brother Cleveland began playing together in 1937, with Clifton on the accordion and Cleveland on a washboard-like instrument called a frottoir. The brothers were a popular dance hall act through the 1940s. Clifton continued to make music called la-la or house music but needed to work various other jobs to make a living, including working in the rice fields, cutting sugarcane, driving a refinery truck, and hauling refinery piping.

Chenier moved from Lake ...

Article

Peter Wade

Alejo Durán was born in the village of El Paso, Cesar province, Colombia, where he worked as an agricultural laborer. His father, uncle, and two brothers, Luis Felipe and Náfer, already played the accordion, and at twenty-four years of age Alejo began to learn the instrument as well. During this time he was surrounded by other important figures in the vallenato tradition such as Abel Antonio Villa, Luis E. Martínez, and Guillermo Buitrago, who were already making recordings in Colombia's nascent music industry.

In 1949 Durán formed a four-piece group featuring an accordion, drum, scraper, and guitar. The group toured locally, playing the simple picaresque and quasi-narrative songs of the genre, often with romantic themes. His first hit record (“El Cero treinta y nueve,” 1954 was his own composition as were most of his songs During this time Durán married and settled ...

Article

Gordon Root

Luiz Gonzaga grew up in the small village of Exú in the parched, semiarid zones of the sertão (the backland region of northeast Brazil). His father, a farm worker by trade, played the sanfona (Brazilian accordionlike instrument), and his mother sang novenas (prayers of request) in the local church. While still a young boy, Gonzaga became enthralled with the sound of the sanfona and expressed a desire to learn to play. His mother, however, would not allow him to pursue his interest. Nevertheless, the eager Gonzaga managed to explore the instrument in secret, sneaking away to a festival or the marketplace and practicing on other musicians' sanfonas.

In a short time Gonzaga developed a reputation for his talent on the instrument, and the neighbors began to ask him to play. At first, Gonzaga had to do so secretly but eventually his mother consented.

At the age of eighteen Gonzaga ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

zydeco accordionist, band leader, and singer, was born Ida Lewis in Lake Charles, Louisiana, into a French-speaking family of rice farmers and musicians. Zydeco, from the French les haricots or “snap beans,” is the music of Creole people from southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Ida was the fourth of seven children born to Ben Lewis, a harmonica player, and Elvina Broussard Lewis, an accordionist. Ida's mother taught her to play the accordion, while insisting it was “not a very lady-like instrument” (Ida Lewis Guillory, cited in DeWitt, p. 73) and a woman could only play at home for herself. Ida seldom heard other women musicians, except church singers.

At the local segregated one-room schoolhouse, Ida quickly learned English because students were punished for speaking Creole. During her second-grade year, her family moved to Beaumont, Texas, in search of better-paying work. In 1947 ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Despite a musical childhood, the Grammy Award-winning accordionist Ida Lewis Guillory started her performing career relatively late in life. Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Guillory grew up along the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast. She and her family later moved to San Francisco, California, where Guillory married and raised three children while working part-time as a school bus driver. It was not until her children were nearly grown that she took up the accordion, an integral part of both cajun and Zydeco music, and an instrument that two of her uncles also played. Returning to zydeco, a rhythmic, dance-oriented music with both African and French influences (a style Guillory calls “earthy—simple, but happy”), she began playing at home and at parties. In 1975 Guillory made her debut at a San Francisco Mardi Gras party, where she was dubbed Queen Ida.

With her Bon Temps Zydeco Band Guillory has toured ...

Article

Aura Posada

was born on 14 August 1934 in Valencia de Jesús a small town in the department of Cesar in northeastern Colombia He was the son of Cesar Salomón Ochoa López and Maria de Jesús Campo As the result of his father s affairs with different women he had eight siblings César Rolando Adonay Jackelyn Katia Kelly Alba and María José Calixto Ochoa discovered his love for music when his siblings introduced him to the accordion when he was a boy He often escaped to nearby farms in order to listen to Vallenato music a traditional form of music featuring the accordion that developed in Colombia s Caribbean coastal region notably among people of African descent like Calixto Ochoa When he was at home he waited for his siblings to leave so that he could practice with their accordion without their permission When he saved enough money for his own ...