The life and times of Clifton Chenier

Joe Guilbeau, Humorist
Chenier (right) performs on the Blues Accordion.

To the readers of thePlaquemine PostSouth, the recognition of the name of Louisiana native Clifton Chenier would be casual.

He is among the very few Louisiana natives listed in the Cambridge dictionary of American Biography. He was an emanate performer and recording artist of the genre of zydeco music and became known as the "King of Zydeco."

He was inducted into the blues hall of fame and the Louisiana music hall of fame along with Louis Armstrong, Pete Fountain and many others. Chenier was nominated to several Grammy award in 1983.

In 1984 he was honored as a national heritage fellow and was a Grammy recipient of the lifetime achievement award.

Chenier was an accordionist and singer who pioneered zydeco, a fusion of blues and the French Cajun music of Louisiana, which arose from creole music with R & B and jazz influences. Chenier followed Queen Ida as the second La. creole to win a Grammy.

Par in April 1966 Chenier appeared at the Berkeley blues festival on the University of California campus and was subsequently described by Ralph Gleason, jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, as "one of the most surprising musicians I have heard in a long time, with a marvelously moving style of playing the accordion." That's right, blues accordion.

Clifton Chenier was a French speaking native of Opelousas Louisiana, Born on June 25, 1925. He led his own band from the 1950’s playing locally until he gained wide recognition through a series of European tours beginning in the early 1970s.

I had the privilege of seeing Chenier in several concert. Once at the LSU union theater. A key member of his band was John Hart who played tenor saxophone and was blind.

While Chenier traveled world-wide, he played several dances at a dance hall which was located near the Hebert Bros. engineers building on the White Castle highway.

Chenier died on Dec. 12 1987 at the age of 62. He was a Catholic and two Bishops and several priests celebrated his funeral in Opelousas. He is buried in All Souls Cemetery in Loreauville, La.