Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Z" Is For Zydeco - Our Last Alphabe Thursday Post, July 15, 2010

"Z" Is For Zydeco - Our Last Alphabe Thursday Post, July 15, 2010

Beau Soleil - Zydeco Gris Gris

I visited New Orleans for the first time after I had applied for nursing school at Charity Hospital. My mother couldn't understand why I didn't want to attend the perfectly good school run by the Sisters of Mercy less than a mile from our home in Columbus, Georgia - or, more than likely  she knew why I wanted to go away to school in "the city that care forgot."  At any rate, the only school of nursing to which  I applied was Charity so I was thrilled when that acceptance letter came.  Dutifully, my mother drove me the 350 miles to take a look around as part of our summer vacation before my September admission date in 1965.  New Orleans was so exciting, compared to Columbus, Georgia and I loved the French Quarter and I had grown up on Dixieland jazz, my mother's favorite.

New to me, when I started school at Charity, was zydeco music - but with classmates from places like New Iberia, Opelousas, Abbeville, Lafayette, and the like, I soon became very familiar with it. 

Zydeco music came to us from the black creoles of southwest Louisiana,  of mixed African, Afro-Caribbean, Native American and European descent.  The people of this region spoke French, for the most part, and lived in rural areas.  Its 19th century beginnings are a form of folk music.  Zydeco is still evolving but it takes its beginnings from the "la la" music of the Cajuns and Creoles, blues, and, over the years, has incorporated soul, hip hop and reggae.

Its name is derived from the colloquial French translation of ""Les haricots sont pas sales", meaning "the snap beans aren't salty" - or, in essence, that times are difficult.  The typical musical instruments are accordion, a modified washboard called a frottoir, electric guitar, bass and drums, with fiddles, keyboards and horns adding to the mix.  It is usually very lively music and it is hard to stay sitting when it is playing!  One just has to get up and dance.

Clifton Chenier, a native of Opelousas, Louisiana, born in 1925 was the king of zydeco music. As a young musician, he considered himself a blues artist but he was the first to ever record zydeco music and he had an incredible way of blending blues with traditional Creole music. He died in 1987.

Clifton Chenier - Bon Ton Roulet
Queen Ida, born in Lake Charles, LA in 1929 is the first female accordian player to ever lead a zydeco band. Her music is an ecletic mix of Caribbean, blues and Cajun. Queen Ida and her family moved to San Francisco when she was eighteen so the Bay area has been fortunate to have her play often out here in gigs and festivals.

Whenever I hear zydeco music, it makes me think of a Cajun phrase I learned during my six years of living in New Orleans - "Laissez les bons temps rouler." Let the good times roll

Queen Ida - Jambalaya


  1. Certainly got my fett tapping! Thanks o much for sharing & introducing me to something new!!

  2. So you were "Nsane" before you added the "R"?-grin

    Sounds like those 6 years were a favorite period in your life. And no wonder! Music, music, music.

    And fighting? A group of us symphony players waltzed into a Cajun bar one night, and before we even got to the bar to get a drink, found ourselves embroiled in a fight. When a flautist, violinist, and harpist fight with Cajun fishermen...guess who wins?

    But lots of good memories. I'm glad the letter "Z" was on deck for this week. Good post!

  3. This is so much fun! There was a Spanish Ballroom near me in Washington, D.C. They held zydeco dances regularly.

  4. LOVE Nawlins and zydeco! Great choice. My feet are definitely tapping and my hips are doing things they ought not do!

  5. I am a big zydeco fan.
    It is so full of life. So raw.

  6. Love the zydeco... accordion is making a comeback.

  7. Super ‘Z’ post – pure infotainment!Loved the video, really got me wanting to dance & brought back wonderful memories of my visit to New Orleans many years ago!

    It’s been such fun reading great posts like yours over the past 26 weeks!

    Have a lovely weekend,


    PS Mine this time is HERE. Hope you can join me!

  8. My old Dad would have loved these tunes. There's nothing like an old fiddle!

  9. Love the music and learned something new -- did not know the word Zydeco before...blessings...bkm

  10. Gotta love zydeco! Great Z post! Happy alphabe-thursday Carmen!

  11. Love,love New Orleans! You gave us a lovely summary of how the music came about.

  12. Wow, this was very interesting and I love it when I learn something new. You must have had a blast living there. Great Z post.

  13. I knew about zydeco music but I didn't know its history. Thank you for the information and for the wonderful music that really got me to moving.

  14. Love it! How very interesting! I had heard of zydeco but had no idea what it actually was! Thanks for the information!

  15. Great post - and don't forget that those zydeco players are related to the Acadians who trekked down from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia!

  16. Zydeco is a party just waiting to happen! gotta love it because it just makes you want to move! thanks for the wonderful post Carmen!

  17. Thank you for the informative post on Zydeco music. It's been many years since I last went to New Orleans and it's not that far from here!

  18. I LOVE Zydeco (and Cajun) music! Ironically, Beau Soleil is a Cajun band, but they sure do Zydeco justice in Zydeco Gris Gris. I live in the other LA (Los Angeles) and fell in love with the music after seeing the movie, "The Big Easy." At the time, L.A. had a large Cajun population and there were many great venues for dancing to live bands--many famous on the national front. I've seen every performer you listed in your post (along with a multitude of others). Sadly, many of my favorite performers died at a pretty young age to heart attacks.

    Thank you for the awesome Z post!

  19. Well, happy Z day :) Oh yes, ever so loving the jazz feel...and the mix of cultures architecturally, I am always blown away by my visits there.
    It has been 26 weeks of fun and i am sure glad you chose this great z word!

    hope you can visit my z when you have time :)

  20. jfb57 -
    So glad to introduce you to something new. Zydeco is wonderful music!

    steveroni -
    That RNSANE stands for RN ( registered nurse ), sexual assault nurse examiner ( SANE ). The police always said it should have been INSANE. Before I had a handicapped license plate, my license plate was also RNSANE. People were always asking me about that.

    You're right, my nursing school days and those first years as a young nurse in New Orleans
    were fabulous.

    I can just imagine you guys going into a Cajun
    bar! Not pretty. Drunk Cajuns, even less so!

    My name is P.J. -
    Glad you enjoy my "Z" alphabe. I am sad to see
    it all come to an end.

    JDaniel4's Mom -
    It's been a long since I've been to a zydeco dance. Seems like they aren't being held so often around here any more.

    Cheryl -
    Zydeco is definitely music that gets you up on your feet and moving!


  21. linda -
    It's hard not to like zydeco. I have never lost my love for it.

    Sharkbytes -
    Other than country music and some folk music, zydeco is the only time I hear the accordian played.

    Nora Johnson -
    I am so glad my zydeco post brought back New Orleans memories for you. Hearing the music always catapults me back to my student nurse days back in "the big easy" - that was such a great, carefree time. It's hard to believe it was almost 45 years ago now.

    Lena -
    Fiddle playing is such an essential part of zydeco, along with the accordion. It definitely gets your toes tapping.

    signed...bkm -
    Glad I could introduce you to zydeco. It's really fun music. I would lose plenty of weight if I would listen to it more. You can't sit still when it's playing.

    Theresa -
    So glad you enjoyed my zydeco post!!!

    lakeviewer -
    New Orleans has been part of my life since I was
    a teenager. Most of my nursing school classmates ended up marrying doctors and stayed in the area so I always have plenty of folks to visit when I'm there. In October, we have our 45 year nursing school reunion.

    Viki -
    New Orleans was a terrific place to live as a student and as a young nurse. So many of my friends are still there so I love to visit.

    Short and Sweet -
    Glad I could give you a little of the history of zydeco!!

    ChristiS -
    Unless you've been around southwest Louisiana,
    you might not know about zydeco!

    Pondside -
    We owe a lot to those Acadians!!!

    Jo -
    Glad you like my post. That zydeco music make you want to get up and dance, that's for sure.

    Betty (picture circa 1951) -
    I am so glad I got to spend a few years living
    in New Orleans...great food, great fun and I
    learned to love zydeco, crawfish, and red beans and rice.

    CherylD -
    Lucky you to have seen so many of the greats in
    Cajun and Zydeco music!! I know there used to be a couple of festivals every year in southern CA ( Long Beach, I think, for one ), also in SF
    but I don't know if they are still taking place here.

    The Muse -
    So glad you like my zydeco offering!

  22. What a fun and toe-tappin' stop on our little journey through Alphabe-Thursday's letter "Z"!

    I had a boss once that loved Zydeco music and I had totally forgotten about it until I read your happy post!

    Thanks for sharing this unique style of music with us...

    And thanks for sharing your unique outlook at the world each week!

    You are a nifty lady.


  23. Fun post for Z. Love the music! ~ sarah

  24. i love zydeco...i always seek it out when in new orleans, because honestly, i don't love jazz

  25. I can understand why you wanted to go to nursing school in New Orleans.
    Thank you for sharing this unusual local culture and its very happy, snappy music.

    I joined this meme because of you!

    I have put your book on my Amazon wish-list until I can find a new job. I'll write more in an email.

    Anna's Z-words

  26. Fabulous post and videos! You did Louisiana proud, cher! I grew up in Abbeville and now live in Lafayette, so I know Zydeco very well. Clifton Chenier was the best and still is, and always will be the "King of Zydeco, in my opinion. We used to see him live, at Jay's Lounge in Cankton, and other venues around Lafayette. Those were the days! So cool that you went to school in New Orleans and got to experience it!