Acoustic Guitar Masters
R&B, Soul and Funk
This weekend was the fourth time that Sonny Landreth played at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival. His name can get lost amid the megastars that Clapton brings out. But it is no wonder that he gets invited.
Wikipedia gets uncharacteristically technical in its entry on Landreth:
Landreth is best known for his slide playing, having developed a technique where he also frets notes and plays chords and chord fragments behind the slide while he plays. Landreth plays with the slide on his little finger, so that his other fingers have more room to fret behind the slide. He’s also known for his right-hand technique, which involves tapping, slapping, and picking strings, using all of the fingers on his right hand. He wears a special thumb pick/ flat pick hybrid on his thumb so he can bear down on a pick while simultaneously using his finger style technique for slide.
Sonny Landreth is known for his use of Fender Stratocaster guitars and Dumble Amplifiers. He is also known to use Demeter and Fender amplifiers on occasion. Landreth uses Jim Dunlop 215 heavy glass slides and Dunlop Herco flat thumb picks. His guitars are fitted with DiMarzio and Lindy Fralin pickups, a special Suhr back plate system, and D’Addario medium nickel wound strings gauges 0.13 – 0.56. (Continue Reading…)
About.com leads with the Clapton connection:
No less an authority than the legendary Eric Clapton has called slide guitarist Sonny Landreth “the most underestimated musician on the planet and also probably one of the most advanced.” During a career that has spanned four decades, Landreth has earned a well-deserved reputation as a gifted slide guitarist, whose unique playing style mixes traditional slide with the unconventional technique of fretting the strings behind the slide. Throw in Landreth’s songwriting skills, and you have an exciting and original artist whose work plumbs the depth of roots-rock and swamp-blues. (Continue Reading…)
Above is Zydeco Shuffle and below is Z Rider.
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.
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!
This is second zydeco post at The Daily Music Break. The first is the almost fun and infectious Don’t Mess with My Toot Toot by Rockin’ Sidney. As the name implies, it is more a novelty number. I feel ignorant, because despite the greatness of Buckwheat Zydeco, the king of the musical form is Clifton Chenier, as Buckwheat Zydeco’s profile says. Chenier definitely is next.
None of this take away from Buckwheat. Check out Hey Ma Petit Fille I’m Going Now (above) and Creole Country (below). Here is how AllMusic describes Zydeco.
Contemporary zydeco’s most popular performer, accordionist Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural was the natural successor to the throne vacated by the death of his mentor Clifton Chenier; infusing his propulsive party music with strains of rock and R&B, his urbanized sound — complete with touches of synthesizer and trumpet — married traditional and contemporary zydeco with uncommon flair, in the process reaching a wider mainstream audience than any artist before him. Dural was born in Lafayette, LA, on November 14, 1947; with his braided hair, he soon acquired the nickname “Buckwheat” (an homage to the Our Gang character), and by the age of four was already touted as a piano prodigy. Although often exposed to traditional zydeco as a child, he preferred R&B, and by the mid-’50s was playing professionally with Lynn August; Dural’s acclaim as a keyboardist quickly spread, and he also backed notables including Joe Tex and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. (Continue Reading…)
Unfortunately, Buckwheat Zydeco has been diagnosed with cancer. Hopefully, the prediction of a full recovery will be accurate.
Zydeco music is absolutely terrific. I bet some of music that was played at the parties described here was unbelievable:
When times got tough for a family, they would throw a “La La”, a Saturday night dance in the living room. Emptying the room of all furniture, they would charge ten or fifteen cents admission and sell gumbo, homemade beer and lemonade. Even churches would give benefit “La La” to support different functions of the church.
By most of the music being sung in Creole French, “La La” music was only thought of as being for rural and “old folks. One noted musician, the late great “King of Zydeco”, Clifton Chenier, is credited with naming the music ZYDECO “les haricots” (snapbeans). (Continue Reading…)
I was looking for clips of zydeco king Clifton Chenier when I happened on the song above. It’s essentially irresistible, so I decided to feature it instead and circle back to Chenier — who really is a much more important figure — later.
Here Rockin’ Sidney’s bio, which appeared at ominously named Find a Grave. It’s a site on which you don’t want to be featured:
Grammy award winner, Rockin’ Sidney scored Zydeco’s first true international hit in 1985 with “My Toot Toot”. Born Sidney Simien on April 9, 1938 in Lebeau, Louisiana, he began playing harmonica and guitar professionally while in his teens, and made his first R&B-styled recordings on the Fame and Jin labels during the late 1950s; his first regional hit, “No Good Woman,” appeared in 1962. Sidney worked in a variety of blues, soul and R&B styles. Eventually he learned the accordion and began playing zydeco. His first zydeco record, “Give Me A Good Time Woman” was released on the Maison de Soul label in 1982 ; two years later he cut the album, “My Zydeco Shoes Got the Zydeco Blues”, which included the smash hit, “My Toot Toot”. This song, which was recorded in his home, and on which he played all the instruments, went on to win a Grammy Award in 1985. Over two dozen versions of “Toot Toot” have been recorded in the U.S. as well as dozens of foreign versions.
It’s great that he had that one big hit. Don’t Mess with My Toot Toot has been covered by many great performers, including John Fogerty and Fats Domino. For anyone who is interested, Simien is buried Immaculate Conception Church Cemetery in his home town of Lebeau, St. Landry Parish.