Not long ago we put together a set of songs dedicated to the city, the people, and the music of New Orleans. I prefaced it by making a vast over-simplification suggesting that the culture of Louisiana could be looked at as a simple dichotomy of the city versus the country: we’re talking oysters Rockefeller versus jambalaya; or the high society coctail parties of The Garden District versus dance hall gatherings in Terrebonne Parish; or the second line beat of New Orleans brass bands versus the rural sounds of traditional Cajun music. Just think about Paul Simon standing on a corner in Lafayette, wondering where a city boy could go, to get a little conversation, drink a little red wine, and catch a little bit of those cajun girls, dancing the zydeco.
Now, we could go on all day trying to make distinctions between traditional Cajun music and Zyedeco but how much fun would that be? Let’s just generalize and say the former is rooted in the ballads of the French speaking Acadians, while the latter is more of a musical gumbo, integrating the waltz with shuffles, two-steps with the blues and other forms of dance music. Both of them feature fiddles and accordians but if you’re gonna play the zydeco, you’re gonna wanna bring your scrub board. Now, while zydeco is a distinctly regional form of American music, it’s influence has spread far and wide which explains why today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl opens with guy from Ireland followed by a guy from England and features artists born in Berkeley and New Jersery, and bands from Michigan and Los Angeles. And then, for authenticity and comparision’s sake, we’ll play some of the real deal, featuring folks from the parishes of Cameron and St. Landry deep in Cajun Country. Along the way you’ll hear a couple of references to Clifton Chenier and, at the end, we’ll hear the zydeco man himself. But first, that Irishman I mention earlier? Here’s Rory Gallagher.
|Rory Gallagher||The King of Zydeco|
|Richard Thompson||The Flames of Hell|
|Ozark Mountain Daredevils||Homemade Wine|
|Paul Simon||That Was Your Mother|
|John Fogarty||Diggy Liggy Lo|
|Little Feat||Cajun Girl|
|Commander Cody||Armadillo Stomp|
|Doug Kershaw||Jambalaya (On the Bayou)|
|Clifton Chenier||I’m the Zydeco Man|
|Sidney Babineaux||(Spoken word)|
That’s Sidney Babineaux with a track off an old zydeco compilation album that didn’t have any liner notes, so I don’t know a thing about the guy. But with that accent, that accordian, and a name like Sidney Babineaux you know he’s about as Cajun as they get. In fact I’d go so far as to say he’s a coonass, in the positive sense of the word. The reason I played that is so you could hear Sidney explaining the origin of the word ‘zydeco.’ It turns out that one of the early songs in this style was called “The Snapbeans Ain’t Salty,” and the reason they weren’t salty is that the person who made them was so poor he couldn’t afford any salt pork, a situation a lot of Acadians could identify with. Of course the song title was in French, not English. In French, ‘the Snapbeans’ is ‘Lez Haricots.’ Over time, ‘Lez Haricots’ was corrputed to become zydeco which is where the musical style got it’s name.
Before that, “The Zydeco Man” himself, Mr. Clifton Chenier. At the top of the set, Rory Gallagher mentions Mr. Chenier in his song, “The King of Zydeco.” We followed the Irishman with the Englishman Richard Thompson doing “The Flames of Hell.” That’s from a great compilation disc of cajun music called Angeline Made which is also where we caught John Fogarty playing “Diggy LIGGY Lo” a song that had been a big hit for Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw, though he called it “Diggy DIGGY Lo.” Speaking of Doug Kershaw, we heard his version of the Hank Williams hit, “Jambayla (On The Bayou).” Elsewhere in the set, we heard The Ozark Mountain Daredevils “Homemade Wine” and Little Feat’s “Cajun Girl.” Commander Cody did the “Armadillo Stomp” and the other guy singing about Clifton Chenier was Paul Simon with Good Rockin’ Doopsie and the Twisters doing “That Was Your Mother.” Well, like Rory Gallagher said, if your taste runs to the gumbo, you know where to go, across my back yard to the Way Back Studio where I make a pretty good one with chicken and andouille. By the way, if you’re looking for the set lists, the show commentaries, or my gumbo recipie, drop by my website or one of the Facebook pages and we’ll hook you up. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl next time and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.