Online since August 2002

Still on the bayou
Buckwheat Zydeco carries a torch for Louisiana traditions

Published May 2006

Buckwheat ZydecoWhile musical trends may come and go, Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Dural is stickin' with what got him here.


The r&b-flavored French dance-hall music of Louisiana's Creole community, zydeco has never been as popular as its cousin the blues. Even the Cajun music on which it is also based is better known than zydeco to the general population.

But no one has done more to carry the message of zydeco to the general public than Dural. An outgoing, personable accordionist and singer, Dural is one of the music's leading ambassadors. And get him talking about zydeco, and you've got yourself quite the conversation. Particularly if you venture onto the topic of the late Clifton Chenier, the man most credited with helping give zydeco its modern sound.

"They would refuse to play zydeco on the white stations, but would play Cajun – until Clifton Chenier," Dural said of his Louisiana youth. "That's when you started hearing black music on the radio."

Turbula recommends Jackpot!
Tomorrow Records; Rhinebeck, N.Y.: 2005

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Menagerie: The Essential Zydeco Collection
Mango / Island; New York, N.Y.: 1993

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Down Home Live!
Down Home Live
Tomorrow Records; Rhinebeck, N.Y.: 2001

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Even then, barriers remained, he said.

"Their parents didn't want the white kids to listen to the black music," Dural explained. "But the kids wanted to listen to this music. You go back to Little Richard, Chuck Berry ... you talk about James Brown, you're talking about legends."

Dural's own interest in music was formed beginning in his infancy, in the house parties his father and other relatives would hold.

"It was only for family entertainment when I was a kid. It was called la-la. You'd give big parties at the house," Dural said. But in his family, getting paid to play simply wasn't done. "You could take my dad at the house and have 100 people and he'd play all day and all night. But you take those same 100 people and put them in a club, and my dad wouldn't play a note."

When Dural began playing professionally in his teens, he initially gravitated toward r&b and other popular styles. A keyboardist, he played in the bands of soul singers Joe Tex and Lynn August, among others.

In the early 1970s, Dural led a 15-piece funk group known as Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers (Buckwheat being a childhood nickname). "We had five horns, five singers and five rhythm and damn near five roadies," Dural laughed. "We did everything about everybody. We'd back up groups. Rufus and Chaka. Funkadelic."

The move back to the traditional music he'd heard at home growing up didn't happen until he was asked to join Chenier's band for a tour in the mid-'70s. Eventually, he traded in his organ for an accordion, gave himself his current stage name, and left Chenier to once again start his own band, this time devoted to zydeco.

But Dural says he still remembers his funk days fondly. "That's where I come from, that's why you can hear it in my music."

After the boom in interest in roots music of all kinds in the 1980s (when Island Records made Dural the first zydeco artist signed to a major national label) and early '90s, Dural said things are a bit tougher of late.

"It never leaves, it slows down a bit – but it will probably pick up again."

And he said that in Louisiana, interest in the local traditions never fades.

"It's identity, man. It's how you identify Louisiana is the music, the food," Dural said. "Culture is something you want to hang onto. If the younger generation doesn't pick this up, then it's lost, it's gone."

Dural also recently released a new studio album, the first in eight years – "Jackpot!"

Buckwheat Zydeco "Things had gone crazy," Dural said. "I thought, 'What's the use of doing this.'

"All your record stores started closing up, so many people were downloading the music for free. They messed up the whole record business. ... It was just a negative to me to record any more."

But if the Internet undercut the traditional record business, Dural said it was computer technology that also brought him back to the recording world. Using PCs and recording software, Dural said he built his own recording studio.

"Everybody can afford their own studio now – you don't have to dish out so much bread like you used to do; thousands and thousands just for the studio time."

And if the musical piracy on the Internet has hurt artists, Dural admits that the old system wasn't always working in musicians' favor, either.

"Everybody got screwed by the record companies; I don't konw anybody who didn't.

"Now we're working for ourselves."

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