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Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz

Zydeco musician and quarter-horse trainer, was born into a farming community in Dog Hill near Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of seven children, to Marceline Pete and Arthur Chavis, tenant farmers and entrepreneurs who managed a few well-known local horse circuits, or unregulated “bush” horse races. As a young boy he was given the inexplicable nickname Boozoo, which would remain his moniker throughout the entirety of his life. The first instrument Chavis learned to play was the harmonica, but he mastered the button accordion by watching his father, uncles, and Henry Martin, all well-known local musicians in southwest Louisiana. Although his parents separated when he was three years old, he remained in contact with his father and frequently attended the local house dances in Rayne and Dog Hill, where both his father and his great uncle Sidney Babineaux frequently played. At the age of twenty-one he married Leona Predium ...

Article

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

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

Jason Philip Miller

zydeco musician, was born Stanley Joseph Dural Jr., the fourth of thirteen children near Lafayette, Louisiana, where his parents owned a farm. As a child, he took odd jobs—besides helping his parents on the farm or when they took outside jobs picking cotton in the nearby fields to make ends meet. His hair resembled that of the character Buckwheat in the popular Little Rascals film shorts series, thereby earning him his enduring nickname. His was also a musical upbringing: Zydeco learned to play piano and organ as a very young boy and was performing in paying gigs in the local jukes by the time he was ten.

Lafayette at the time was a center of the Creole music scene and it was there that Zydeco began to develop his style His father wanted him to play Creole accordion as he himself did but Zydeco preferred R B much ...