Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

There Ain’t No Party Like a Bayou Party ‘Cause a Bayou Party Won’t Stop!

Fernest Arceneaux

That headline comes from the lyrics of a song by one of the bands featured in album reviews this month. Yes, that does have a familiar ring to it.

The Spotlight feature story this month is on the “Prince of Zydeco”, Fernest Arceneaux (pictured above). The Lafayette native found most of his success in Europe after he was recommended by Clifton Chenier for some European gigs. Fernest might have rightfully staked his claim to the crown as “King of Zydeco” after Clifton’s passing as a number of his contemporaries did, but lacked the voice.

And I’ve got a list more than a dozen Mardi Gras celebrations around the state of Florida. Party on!

FloridaCajunZydeco Update! loves to be shared!
This newsletter is a generous sort, and is quite pleased when it is shared among friends. Feel free to forward Update! to a friend…or someone you would like as a friend. Thanks!

Jim Hance
Saint Petersburg, FL

Tues. Feb 3 — Zydeco Dance at Enigma in Saint Petersburg

Zydeco dancers at Enigma in St. Petersburg

Thanks to all of the dancers who came out to Enigma in St. Pete for our first dance. We'll do it again this Tuesday, and BEGINNING IN MARCH we will have TWO DANCES per month (first and third Tuesdays usually) as long as we get a good turnout. Our second dance in the month of March will be on St. Patty’s Day. Perhaps we will get a nice crowd all dressed in green.

Our next dance is Feb. 3 --- 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Enigma, 1110 Central Avenue, St. Pete 33705. Happy Hour prices on drinks apply all the way to 9 p.m., and no cover charge. Hungry? You're welcome to bring food in from Ricky P's across the street, or Bodega's or Red Mesa Mercado (they have the menus at Enigma). See calendar listing for map of free parking on this block with no 2-hour limit. This week I have some zydeco dance music by some unexpected artists such as Michelle Shocked, Taj Mahal and David Hidalgo. Questions and requests: Sharon Stern, (727) 648-7858, sternsl@hotmail.com, or Jim Hance, (813) 465-8165, j-hance@wowpromotions.com.

“I’ve got a cure for boredom, and that’s to have no money. Every situation you’re in becomes an adventure.”  — Michelle Shocked              

Nathan and Zydeco Cha Chas and Lisa Haley and The Zydekats Make February Stops in Florida

Nathan Williams and Lisa Haley have multiple performances in Florida in February

Nathan Williams, still rockin’ strong since his debut recording in 1988 will be appearing in Hollywood, FL at ArtsPark on Saturday, Feb. 14, Cafe Davinci in Deland on Sunday, Feb. 15, and then headlining the Dunedin Mardi Gras Celebration on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 17. Lisa Haley and her band will be playing at The Villages near Orlando on Thursday, Feb. 5 and again on Tuesday, Feb. 10.

Both artists say they were inspired by the great Clifton Chenier, “The King of Zydeco”. Clifton heard a young Lisa play fiddle and commented, “That girl plays as good as a man.” Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas most recent album, A New Road, has received critical acclaim from Dan Willging of Offbeat Magazine, and Lisa’s album King Cake received a Grammy nomination.

Find more information on these performance times and venues on the Calendar page at www.FloridaCajunZydeco.com

Mardi Gras Celebrations Throughout Florida

Mardi Gras in Florida

The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the traditional revelry of "Boeuf Gras," or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies. On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. Bienville also established "Fort Louis de la Louisiane" (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America's very first Mardi Gras.

It is easy to carry on the tradition begun in Mobile over 300 years ago at a Mardi Gras Celebration near you. Here are some right here in Florida.



Feb. 17, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Dunedin's Mardi Gras Celebration
Zydeco Bands at Pioneer Stage: Gumbo Boogie Pre-Parade 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Nathan and Zydeco Cha Chas Post-Parade Approx. 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. This annual event attracts about 30,000 people on Fat Tuesday. Free admission. Billed as a family event. Music begins at Pioneer Park pavilion at 4pm and continues until the parade steps off. After the one hour plus parade featuring over 50 unique and colorful floats finish tossing beads to the excited crowd, the party continues at the park until 11pm and spills over into the local pubs and restaurants till closing time. Parade starts at 7:30 p.m. at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and heads north to Skinner Blvd. Website.

Saint Petersburg

Feb. 14, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mardi Gras Festivities at Ricky P’s, 1113 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg (www.rickyps.com)
A big tent will be set up in the parking lot. There will be gumbo and jambalaya for sale as well as a bar set up serving Abita Beer and Tropical Storms. Gathering for the traditional second line parade will be at 3pm, with a parade start time of 4 p.m. The parade will be led by a marching band as the parade strolls through the entire Edge Business District. Lots of local businesses will be participating. Different groups or “krewes” will be dressed in their own theme. Ricky P's krewe theme this year will be PURPLE REIGNS. (Feel free to dress in your purple finest.) The parade starts and ends at Ricky P’s. Costume prizes will be awarded after the parade. Gumbo Boogie will then play under the tent from 6-9pm.

Feb. 15, Gospel Brunch at Ricky P’s, 1113 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg (www.rickyps.com)
Henry Ashwood will keep you entertained with his jazzy sounds on the saxophone. Free fruit & veggie bar. Freshly made beignets every Sunday at Ricky P's.

Feb. 17, Fat Tuesday at Ricky P’s, 1113 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg (www.rickyps.com)
T-Bone Hamilton 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free king cake all day.


Feb. 10, 11, 12 & 13
Porchdogs play four shows a day at Florida State Fair, Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 US Hwy. 301 North, Tampa, FL 33610.

Feb. 17, 7 p.m.
WMNF Presents Royal Southern Brotherhood plus Candye Kane. Brotherhood is composed of Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, and Bart Walker who replaced Mike Zito. “They are not a band – they are an extravaganza.” – John Hiatt. Skippers Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa 33613. WMNF Website.


Panama City Beach

Friday, Feb. 13, 4 p.m. to 10 PM, Fireworks at 9 p.m.
6:30 p.m. Second Line Parade from Pier Park Drive, 7:30 p.m. Victor Wainwright & Wildroots at Circle Stage

Saturday, Feb. 14, 8 a.m. to 10 PM, Fireworks at 8:30 p.m.
Aaron Neville 1:30 p.m. at Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater, Heat & Zydeco Agents 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. at Circle Stage, Mardi Gras Parade 5 p.m., JB’s Zydeco Zoo 7 p.m. at Circle Stage. Pier Park shopping center and entertainment hub, 600 Pier Park Drive, Panama City Beach, FL 32413. Website.


The Villages

Thursday, Feb. 5, 4 p.m. Lisa Haley & The Zydekats at Spanish Springs Stage, Spanish Springs Town Center, 1120 Main Street, Lady Lake, FL 33159. Information: 800-245-1081.

Tuesday, Feb. 10, 4 p.m. Grammy-nominated high octane Cajun dance band Lisa Haley & The Zydekats plays at Lake Sumter Landing Stage, Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, 1000 Lake Sumter Landing, The Villages, FL, 32162. Enjoy the Mardi Gras festivities with a parade, floats and Lisa Haley. Information: 800-245-1081.


Sunday, Feb. 15 --- noon to 7 p.m.
Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas at Cafe DaVinci's Mardi Gras Celebration, 1112 W. Georgia Ave., Deland, FL 32720. $10 cover, free gumbo with admission.

Universal Orlando

Saturday, Feb. 7 — Rockin Jake; Feb. 14 & 15 — The Big Easy Playboys; Feb. 12 — Grady Champion, Mar. 7 — Beth McKee & The Sliders; Mar. 13, 14, 15 — Mississippi Rail Co.; Mar 20, 21, 22 — Soul Project; Mar. 28 — Naughty Professor; Apr. 4 — Daddy Mac Blues Band. Enjoy Louisiana bands performing authentic blues, zydeco and more. Across from the music plaza stage, you can get a taste of authentic N’awlins cuisine at our French Quarter Courtyard, a dazzling Mardi Gras parade, and concerts at the Music Plaza Stage. Additional info.



Sat., Feb. 7 --- 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 14 --- 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Fat Tuesday, Feb. 17, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 28 --- 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Vermont’s Easy Street play at Zydeco Grille, 8501 Cape Haze Plaza, Placida, FL. On Fat Tuesday, restaurant will offer 2-for-1 Hurricanes all day. There is now more room for dancing. Easy Street Blog. Easy Street VideoRestaurant Website.



Feb. 17, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Three stages of live music and dance floor: Zydeco, Jazz and Blues. Live crawfish boil, oyster roast, gumbo, jambalaya, king cake and beads. The Fishhouse, 10000 SW 56 Street, Miami, FL 33165. Website.

Hollywood, FL

Feb. 14, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Mardi Gras Celebration with Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas, George Porter Jr. and the Running Pardners, and a second line parade led by a brass band. Opening set by the Zydeco Cha Chas. Join the second line parade through downtown led by a brass band. Free admission. Lawn seating. Bring a blanket or beach chair. ArtsPark at Young Circle, Hollywood Blvd. at U.S. 1, Hollywood, FL 33020. Info. Pure Honey Writeup.

Fort Lauderdale

Riverwalk Blues & Music Festival --- Bands include Walter Wolfman Washington, Guy Davis, Seth Walker, Josh Smith, Albert Castiglia Band, JP Soars, Bluestone, Graham Wood Drout’s Iko-Iko, Jeff Prine, Joey Gilmore, Josh “The Pitbull of Blues” Rowand.
Fri. Feb. 13, 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Preparty at Downtowner Saloon, 408 S. Andrews Ave., Ft. Lauderdale 33301
Sat. Feb. 14, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Festival at Esplanade Park, 400 Southwest 2nd Street, Ft. Lauderdale 33312
Sat. Feb. 14, 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. After Party Jam w/Fanous Frank at Poorhouse, 110 SW 3rd Ave., Ft. Lauderdale 33312
Sun. Feb. 15, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Festival at Esplanade Park, 400 Southwest 2nd Street, Ft. Lauderdale 33312
Festival Website.

Our West Coast Photo Correspondent

Rick Raney video taping line dance instruction by AJ Gibbs

“Electric Rick” Raney is kind enough to share his image of Lisa Haley performing at the Bon Temps Social Club dance in San Diego. It appears on the home page of www.FloridaCajunZydeco.com. Rick got his moniker “Electric Rick” for his penchant of appearing at dances wearing flashing lights of different sorts, which made it really easy to spot him in a crowded dance hall. He has been an independent professional videographer since 1985, and began snapping still photos and videos a few years ago at club dances and at San Diego’s grand zydeco and blues festival, Gator By The Bay. Rick has one of the largest collections of images of those events. But the photo above of Rick focusing his camera on dance instructor AJ Gibbs was taken by me.

Feb. 15-22 — Virginia Key Grassroots Festival (Miami)

Virginia Key Grassroots Festival will again feature Keith Frank and his dad, Preston Frank.

Virginia Key Grassroots Festival is Feb. 19-22, 2015. Bands include Keith Frank and the Solieau Zydeco Band, Preston Frank, Donna the Buffalo, Rubblebucket, Marco Benevento, Jim Lauderdale, Swear and Shake, Afrobeta, AJ Ghent, Big Mean Sound Machine, Telekenetic Walrus, Danay Suarez, the Spam Allstars, Suenalo, Locos Por Juana, Elastic Bond, Lanzallamas,  and Electric Piquete. Jerry Carrier and Jarene Williams will teach beginning zydeco twice during the weekend.

Before the Festival: Culture Camp Feb. 15-18 --- New this year is Culture Camp, a warm-up week before the festival. Culture Camp is designed to allow visitors to make a destination vacation out of the festival and give locals a taste of the interactive style of entertainment and learning that the festival promotes. Beginning February 15, Culture Camp attendees of all ages can participate in music and dance workshops throughout the day beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday’s kick-off event features a special Community Building Project / Workshop co-hosted by Ben Cohen, founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Cohen will demonstrate the late, great Pete Seeger’s “Giant Seesaw Parable,” which will operate throughout the GrassRoots Festival. Music workshops will cover songwriting, percussion, various string instruments and duets featuring many of the festival’s high-profile performers: Tara Nevins and Jeb Puryear from Donna the Buffalo, Claire Byrne, Joey Arcuri and Joe Kollar from Driftwood and the multiple Grammy and Americana Music Association Award-winning Jim Lauderdale. Dance workshops will cover Latin dance with Cintia Lovo (Monday), line dancing with Nevins on Tuesday and wrap with Zydeco dance lessons on Wednesday. The host site is the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, located at 4020 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, FL 33149, and Culture Camp tickets are available online at virginiakeygrassroots.com/event/virginia-key-grassroots-culture-camp-2015. The cost to attend each day of unlimited workshops is $25 and includes dinner and a dance. Children under 12 are admitted free to all events.

The festival website and other information on this event is on both the Festivals page and the Calendar page (of Florida events) at FloridaCajunZydeco.com. Don’t forget: FloridaCajunZydeco.com travels with you to festivals, and doesn’t need a boarding pass, a visa, a suitcase or even an entry ticket. Just bookmark FloridaCajunZydeco.com on your smart phone browser and you’ve got all that information at your fingertips. Cool, huh?

Uncovered Gems

Three Album Reviews

Creole Bred — A Tribute to Creole & Zydeco (2004, Vanguard Records).

Featuring the lead vocals of pop and blues artists like Cyndi Lauper, Michelle Shocked, and David Hidalgo, the title “Creole Bred” may be a stretch. I was particularly intrigued with how Texas indy folk artist Michelle Shocked would do THE classic zydeco song “Paper in My Shoe” as indeed many other must have been as well; if you want this particular song, it’s only available if you purchase the whole album on iTunes. But not to worry — with Taj Mahal, Nathan Williams, Keith Frank and Ed Polliard also covering Creole classics you won’t be disappointed. I don’t have the liner notes, but backing musicians are the real deal, perhaps with artists from Beausoleil, Geno Delafose and Zydeco Cha Chas (just a guess), and Rosie Ledet shares vocals with Keith Frank. My favorites on this collection are “Paper in My Shoe” with Michelle Shocked, “Only the Strong Survive” by Tom Tom Club, “Tit Monde” by Taj Mahal, “Festival Zydeco” with Cyndi Lauper, and one of the sweetest waltzes ever, “Old Carpenter’s Waltz” with Ed Polliard. Thanks to Eric Mohring for playing a couple cuts from this collection on his Cajun-Zydeco program “Louisiana Rhythms” on KFAI in Minneapolis, MN. You can listen to samples of Creole Bred — A Tribute to Creole & Zydeco on iTunes. And, by the way, if you’re wondering how you can listen to Cajun and zydeco radio programming from all over the world, check out the Links page at FloridaCajunZydeco.com. It’s music to your ears.

Texas Zydeco Train by Dr. Zog

If you like your Louisiana gumbo with a dash Texas BBQ sauce and a side of slaw, you have to check out Texas Zydeco Train by the Austin band Dr. Zog.  Dr. Zog, or Scott Hartzog, has been doing zydeco music for about 20 years, and has eight albums — mostly zydeco — to show for it. But that doesn’t mean he gives up on his local color. His songs are steadfastly, unapologetically Texan, colorfully flavored with lots of Texas context and amusing self parody — the way Jimmy Buffet would do zydeco if he was from Texas. Add to it the ZZ Top riffs, sudden and unexpected country steel guitar flourishes, Cindy Cashdollar’s sweet Southern country twang, references to Texas roads and south Austin, some blues harmonica work which reminds me a lot of Rod Piazza, all put together with sly and witty lyrics. This is an improbable gumbo that can have you questioning  whether Texas and Louisiana can actually share a border, while at the same time get you moving on the dance floor and smiling all over! There is a bit more lyrically here than you might imagine from a zydeco compilation. And that’s a good thing! Check out Dr. Zog’s latest effort, Texas Zydeco Train, at iTunes. Dr. Zog has been busy. They also put out an album of funky Latin-hustle-jazz stuff last year as well entitled She Got The Glow, also available on iTunes.

High Roller Zydeco by Bayou Brothers

The busiest band I know, San Diego’s Bayou Brothers, plays about four gigs a week as a zydeco band, and then the individual members go off and back blues artists like Michele Lundeen and Charles Burton or jam with Chet Cannon, Sue Palmer, Candye Kane or some touring zydeco band. Such is the life of the band that won fan favorite blues band for 2013 from San Diego Music Awards. They are consummate professionals, and their new self-published album High Roller Zydeco reflects that. It includes covers of Beau Jacque’s “High Rollers in Town”, Boozoo Chavis’ “Lula Lula Don’t You Go To Bingo,” Clifton Chenier’s “Big Mamou,” and Rosie Ledet’s “Pick It Up,” all performed with due respect for the “old school” zydeco artists who originally recorded them but with some new shine. With diverse influences and interests among the current band members, there are R&B, blues and pop nuances throughout this phenomenally danceable collection of songs — as you might expect of say Chubby Carrier. Accordionist John Chambers still writes and sings a lot of their original material, but with the additions of song writers guitarist Jack Stephens and bassist Danny Perez, and rubboard artist Judy Seid, the band has more voices and dimension than ever before. On this album Bayou Brothers is joined by the soulful, smokey voiced Kori Gillis on “Time to Feel Good”, a number which could be released today as a top 30 R&B hit. High notes for me include original number “Don Don’s BBQ” sung by John Chambers, the funky and high energy “Bayou Party”, and of course Beau Jocque’s “High Roller Zydeco” which has been slowed down a tad and to my mind improved over the original with Danny’s driving bass line and Ric Lee’s drum work. High Roller Zydeco by Bayou Brothers is not available on iTunes, but you can check it out at CDBaby.com.

Louisiana Cajun Dance Experts Added to Dance Instructors Page

Lou and Cal Courville

Just added to the Dance Instructors page, Lou and Cal Courville of Lafayette, Louisiana, the center of the Cajun music universe. Lou and Cal teach dance lessons at Cajun music festivals, and have a comprehensive DVD which covers everything you need to know about Cajun dancing: from the very basic traditional Cajun waltz and two-step, progressing to special moves and turns such as Côté à Côté (Side-by-Side), Le Papillon (The Butterfly), La Danse Miroir (The Mirror Dance), the ever-popular Cajun Jig, (a jitterbug adapted to Cajun music), the Cher Bébé (Sweet Baby), the Le Cheri (The Sweetie) and other advanced hand-turns. If you’re not familiar with those dance moves and techniques, you will probably enjoy and learn something new from their lessons and DVD.

Contact information for the Courvilles and other Cajun and zydeco dance instructors is at http://floridacajunzydeco.com/dance-instructors.html


Fernest Arceneaux and The Thunders

I ran across a rather obscure Latin-flavored accordion tune called “The Fish Song” by zydeco artist Fernest Arceneaux, and began playing it at dances. I not only liked this song, but I could see by the packed dance floor that others did as well. It was a nice change of pace from the driving zydeco beat in most of my other music. So why not feature Fernest Arceneaux in the “Spotlight” article this month? As it turns out, there is a lot to know about Fernest.

Fernest Arceneaux (1940-2008), a torchbearer for the classic zydeco traditions, had the talent on the accordion to succeed his mentor, Clifton Chenier, as “King of Zydeco.” He was a talented triple-row accordion player who scored a hit when his instrumental, “Zydeco Boogaloo,” became a club standard, and Fernest was pronounced the New Prince of Zydeco.

Influenced By The Blues

Like Clifton, Fernest was “old school,” profoundly influenced by blues and R&B. Fernest’s father was a hard working sharecropper who was also a talented musician, and all 11 kids in the family took up a musical instrument. By the age of 6 Fernest was trying out instruments such as the Cajun one-note accordion and guitar, and soon established music as his first priority in life.

“My home was really popular back in the 50s,” said Arceneaux, “because my sister, Mildred, made the finest home-brewed beer in those parts. Clifton [Chenier], Dopsie [Alton Rubin], and [Hiram] Sampy would come over all the time and sample her beverages and then serenade the neighbors.”

Ernest made his professional debut at an area club when he was 12, but chose to play the R&B and rock’n roll of the time as a guitarist, and formed a band which included two drummers. Somewhere along the line, this notorious booming backbeat of his earned him the moniker “Fernest and the Thunders” which became his band’s name. It was Clifton Chenier who suggested to Fernest that he take up the accordion again. Fernest played the accordion uniquely well, and had the remarkable ability to make his instrument sound like a small orchestra. His music featured a laid-back Louisiana swamp pop sound. But his vocals, though soulful, lacked power because of an asthmatic condition. Ernest relied on bandmates Gene Morris and Bobby Price for most of the vocals.

His First Recording Break

In the 70s Fernest was signed to Blues Unlimited label which represented some of the best zydeco artists of the time: Marcel Dugas, Sam Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, Rockin’ Dopsie, and the very young Terrance Simien. It was with this label that Fernest recorded “Zydeco Boogaloo” which would remain his signature song for the rest of his career. Ernest’s repertoire was described as a “happy range of black music popular in South Louisiana, including songs by Clifton Chenier, Cookie and the Cupcakes, Guitar Gable, Guitar Slim, Earl King, Fats Domino, Jessie Hill, Ray Charles and BB King,” according to John Broven in South to Louisiana.

Ernest had some talented players in his band, but the most illustrious of the lot was Clarence “Jockey” Etienne, a celebrated blues percussionist. After giving Jockey an audition and hearing his resounding beat, Fernest smiled, “I didn’t need to have two drummers anymore.”

The World Stage

While he was a native Louisianan, Fernest never became a household name in zydeco circles there. Most of his gigs were in East Texas where he became better known. In 1977, Clifton Chenier was offered a handsome fee to travel to Europe for an extended series of concerts, but circumstances forced him to either cancel or postpone his junket. When asked for a recommendation for a replacement, Clifton immediately volunteered the name of Fernest Arceneaux. “I remember it well. Lil’ Buck Sinegal, Clifton’s guitarist, came over to my place after his gig at the Blue Angel Club and broke the good news to me,” said Fernest. Up to this point Fernest had relied on his band mates for most of the vocals. “Well, I had to learn to sing all by myself after i went overseas because these people had days jobs and couldn’t travel.”

Fernest found his success in crisscrossing the continent, including an appearance at the prestigious 1980 North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands which also featured Fats Domino, Rockin Dopsie, Carmen McRae, Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie. Jockey reminisced about the brutal touring itinerary that took the Thunders to all major European capitals. “We’d often be gone for three months at a stretch. One time we had thirty-six one-nighters in a row. By the time we got to the hotel, it was time to go to the gig; that is, if we had a hotel.” 

European Recordings

Some of his European concert tours resulted in recordings, such as Live + Well, which according to Fernest, began with an avid fan following the band from gig to gig, apparently just taping the performances for his own listening enjoyment. “This guy was like a pest, until finally we agreed that it should become a project, just to get him off our backs,” Fernest related. The ardent admirer in question was Siegfried Christmann, who actually did a creditable job on the recording, which was subsequently re-released in 2000, and tracks appeared on a blues anthology featuring John Lee Hooker and Willie Mabon as well.

Arceneaux’s Zydeco Blues Party — ‘The Finest Zydeco Album Ever Recorded’

Around 1990 Arceneaux was in a traffic accident and suffered a debilitating hip injury. About the same time he lost his bandmates when they regrouped as The Creole Zydeco Farmers. But in November 1993 he made the album regarded by many critics at the time to be the finest zydeco album ever recorded, Zydeco Blues Party on the newly formed Mardi Gras Records. The album included some great blues tunes like “I’m on My Way Back Home” as well as some solid zydeco tunes like “My Negress (Pine Grove Blues)”, “Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot”, “Zydeco Boogaloo”, and the song mentioned at the top of this story, “The Fish Song.”

According to Larry Benicewicz, of the Baltimore Blues Society, “Produced by Jerry Embree and expertly recorded at Ultrasonic Studio by famed engineer David Farrell, Zydeco Blues Party was simply a masterpiece of both exceptional clarity (rare in any zydeco venture) and creative energy on Fernest’s part. And of no less significance was the fact that Hildebrand saw to it that [Fernest] was surrounded with seasoned veteran sidemen.” Accompanying Fernest on the recording were guitarist Paul “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal and tenor sax player John Hart, stellar components of the late Clifton Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. on rubboard, Joseph Edwards on drums, and Alonzo Johnson on bass, the latter three from the late Rockin’ Dopsie’s band.

The success of the recording led to tours of major festivals across the United States. The promoter for the Artscape Festival in Baltimore noted, “Fernest was the best of all the zydeco acts” he had booked over the years.

‘No One Could Touch Him’

In his obituary for the passing of Fernest Arceneaux in 2008, Larry Benicewicz wrote: “Perhaps if he were more ambitious, he probably could have made a name for himself. But the easy going and unassuming Fernest Arceneaux was content to merely have a few rounds (sometimes more) and play the music he loved. Positively no one enjoyed entertaining more, and it always showed. His enthusiasm was infectious. And he rightfully inherited his title. For after Clifton Chenier, he was simply the greatest: a magician onstage with the accordion. And like ‘The King,’ when he was hot, when he was on his game, no one could touch him. And you can quote me on that. And his passing closes the book on zydeco’s first generation.”

Fernest Arceneaux Recordings:

Two Trains Running (Blues Unlimited)
Live+Well (Ornament, 1980)
Zydeco Stomp (JSP, 1981)
From the Heart of the Bayous (JSP, 1983)
Gumbo Special (Chrisly, 1987)
Zydeco Blues Party (Mardi Gras, 1994)
Old School Zydeco (Mardi Gras, 2000)
Rockin' Pneumonia (Chrisly, 2000)

Note: For the month of February 2015, this story also appears at http://floridacajunzydeco.com/the-story.html

Like What You See?

Recommend FloridaCajunZydeco.com and this newsletter to a friend. Email Jim Hance at j-hance@wowpromotions.com to be added to this newsletter mailing list. See you on the dance floor. 

--- Jim Hance