These resources are current as of 2014.
Visiting Northern California
The Bay Area zydeco scene welcomes visitors and has several events each week. You can download the monthly calendars at http://calendar10.tripod.com/.
The definitive book about the Bay Area’s Louisiana music scene is Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California by Mark DeWitt, an ethnomusicologist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. DeWitt, who studied accordion under Danny Poullard, was one of our three humanities consultants.
The most comprehensive, and fun, book about zydeco in general is Michael Tisserand’s Kingdom of Zydeco. It has a hefty chapter on the West Coast scene. Also worth reading (and oohing over the photos) is Ben Sandmel and Rick Olivier’s book Zydeco!
The Creole migration to Northern California was part of a larger exodus of six million Southerners of African descent from 1915 through 1970. Isabel Wilkerson chronicles the Great Migration in her epic book The Warmth of Other Suns. Wilkerson’s book follows three migrants who left the South during different decades, and she tells their stories with intimacy and compassion.
Speaking of intimate narrative, Queen Ida Guillory shares her personal migration story, along with her favorite recipes, in Cookin’ With Queen Ida. Berkeley psychologist and musician Blair Kilpatrick describes her own love affair with the accordion, and with Creole and Cajun music, in Accordion Dreams.
Confused about the distinction between Cajun and Creole? Wondering where zydeco fits in? Read Herman Fuselier’s fun and informative article “Zydeco is Not Cajun.”
Finding recordings of zydeco and other Louisiana music from Northern California can be tricky. Some artists have not recorded; some recordings have gone out of print. Here’s what we like—and check out Mark DeWitt’s book for a longer discography.
The current star of the West Coast zydeco scene is Andre Thierry. On his web site you can purchase Live! at the Wood Shop.
Andrew Carriere, who migrated to the Bay Area from South Louisiana, sometimes plays with the Creole Belles. Their self-titled CD is available on their website.
Danny Poullard, whose garage jam sessions were legendary, performed on several recordings. The most sublime, and rarest, is Poullard, Poullard & Garnier. More readily available are the California Cajun Orchestra’s Nonc Adam Two-Step and Not Lonesome Anymore.
The best recording of a Bay Area zydeco church dance is Clifton Chenier Live at St. Mark’s, recorded in 1971. Chenier’s banter with the crowd about Louisiana, “where the crawfish got soul,” is priceless. The CD is produced by Arhoolie Records, which deserves recognition for its relentless efforts to preserve American roots music.
Arhoolie also recorded Californians Eric & Suzy Thompson, who discovered Louisiana French music during the folk revival. That CD is Adam and Eve Had the Blues.
The Zydeco Flames are very popular in Northern California. Their recent recordings are Fire It Up and Bank the Fire. Also popular is Motordude Zydeco, with whom R. C. Carrier has played. You can hear their music here.
In our documentary, we recounted the story of Creole musician Amédé Ardoin, who was assaulted in Louisiana for accepting a handkerchief from a white woman. His complete recordings are now available as a two-CD set called Mama I’ll be Long Gone. Also, check out this segment from the PBS documentary, Don’t Drop the Potato.
The documentary filmmaker who popularized California Creole music, as well as Louisiana music in general, is Les Blank. Danny Poullard appears in Blank’s films Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers and J’ai Ete au Bal.
Our distribution partner is AARP Prime Time Radio.
Our favorite zydeco programming is on KRVS, the NPR station in Lafayette, Louisiana, especially John and M.C.’s “Zydeco Est Pas Sale” on Saturdays from 8 a.m. till noon and Herman Fuselier’s Zydeco Stomp on Saturdays from noon till 3 p.m. There’s other programming, too, throughout the week. Listen at 88.7 FM or online.
Other stations with zydeco programming (sometimes by itself, sometimes mixed with other Louisiana music):
- KFAI 90.3 FM, Minneapolis MN, and 106.7 FM, St. Paul MN, Louisiana Rhythms airs Fridays 2-4 p.m.
- KMUZ 88.5 FM, Salem OR, Zydeco n Blues airs Tuesdays 8-9:30 p.m.
- KOCZ 103.7 FM, Opelousas LA, Carolyn Spivey and Leon Chavis play zydeco Tuesdays 6-11 p.m. Check the station’s calendar for other times too.
- KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston TX, Zydeco Pas Salé airs Sundays 4-6 a.m.
- KXCI 91.3 FM, Tucson AZ, Tabasco Road airs Sundays 6-8 p.m.
- WRFG 89.3 FM, Atlanta GA, Zydeco Show airs Sundays 1-3 p.m.
- WRIR 97.3 FM, Richmond VA, Louisiana Dance Hall airs Mondays 9-11 p.m.
- WOMR 92.1 FM, Provincetown MA, The Gulf Coast And Beyond, airs on the second Sunday of every month 6-9 p.m. It also airs on WFMR 91.3 FM, Orleans.
- WWOZ 90.7 FM, New Orleans LA, Cajun and Zydeco show airs Sundays 12-2 p.m.
The best zydeco broadcast in all of The Netherlands, we are told, is Zydeco Zity Radio.