Stanley Dural Jr. just wanted to play the organ. But his dad, who played accordion morning, noon and night, said "If you're not gonna learn the accordion, you're not gonna play anything."
And now 30 years later, he's a master of the instrument. He's called Buckwheat Zydeco now, of course, and he's become the face of the fast-paced Louisiana Creole party music that's called zydeco too.
And he's exported the genre through his many collaborations with high-profile rockers and writers like Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Yo La Tengo, Paul Simon and others. Most recently, he appeared in a duet with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots on the farewell edition of Fallon's Late Night on NBC.
He'll stop by the Jazz Kitchen on June 27.
NUVO: I've read that you grew up in Louisiana with 12 siblings. What role did music have in your family's life?
Stanley Dural, Jr.: We grew up with music because my dad played the accordion for family entertainment. He played the accordion everyday, in the morning before work, when he came home for lunch and after supper.
My father grew up in a family with nine brothers and seven sisters and every weekend my uncles would come and they would play music at the house. At that time they would use only two instruments, the accordion and the washboard. I don't know if you understand what I'm talking about, but where I'm from the washboard had two jobs. During the week we used it to wash clothes in a big old tub, and on the weekends it was a musical instrument.
NUVO: Did your father encourage you to learn the accordion?
Dural: Yes, accordion music was his love and he was dedicated to it. But I was stubborn and I refused to learn. I'd heard him play the accordion 24/7 growing up, and that was enough for me. I wanted to play the organ. But he took away my organ and told me, "If you're not gonna learn the accordion, you're not gonna play anything." I suffered with that until my mom stepped in and my father gave my organ back.
My dad hated the music I was playing, and I couldn't stand what he was doing. I thought zydeco music was for old people until I got with Clifton Chenier [a Grammy-winning accordion player]. That was in 1976, and up until then I'd been playing in funk and R&B bands.
Clifton invited me to play organ one night, so I decided to give it a shot. I had no clue what I was in for. He strapped on his accordion, and four hours later we were still going and people were still dancing. I couldn't believe it. That was the first time I'd ever played in a zydeco band and I wound up staying in his group for two years. Playing with Clifton also inspired me to learn the accordion, and in 1979, I formed Buckwheat Zydeco.
NUVO: In the early days of Buckwheat Zydeco, promoters would often incorrectly advertise your music as Cajun. You were very adamant about correcting that and having your music properly identified as Creole.
Dural: Nobody wants to be identified as something they're not. Your identity is everything. I'm black and I play Creole music. You have the whites and they play Cajun music. When I started out, they tried to brand everybody from Louisiana as Cajun. That's not right. I can't be nothing else but black.
NUVO: But you have recorded Cajun songs like "Jole Blon." What's the relationship between zydeco and Cajun music?
Dural: This is the way I look at it: you have a white culture that speaks Cajun French, and you have a black culture speaking Creole French. They come from different parts of the world but they both understand one another and they both play similar instruments. That's amazing to me.
This week's Cultural Manifesto podcast features audio clips from my interview with Stanley Dural Jr. aka Buckwheat Zydeco.
1. Buckwheat Zydeco - Ma 'Tit Fille
2. Buckwheat Zydeco interview "growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana"
3. Clifton Chenier - Zydeco Et Pas Sale
4. Buckwheat Zydeco interview "washboard and accordion"
5. Albert Chevalier - Zydeco Sont Pas Sale
6. Buckwheat Zydeco interview "first bands"
7. Lil' Buck - Monkey In A Sack
8. Lil' Buck - Cat Scream
9. Buckwheat Zydeco interview "meeting Clifton Chenier"
10. Buckwheat Zydeco - On A Night Like This
11. Buckwheat Zydeco interview "playing with Clifton"
12. Clifton Chenier - Ton Na Na
13. Buckwheat Zydeco interview "Zydeco and Cajun music"
14. Buckwheat Zydeco - Buck's Nouvelle Jole Blon
15. Buckwheat Zydeco interview "Jimmy Fallon and The Roots"
16. Buckwheat Zydeco - Hot Tamale Baby
17.Buckwheat Zydeco interview "jazz and Zydeco"
18. Buckwheat Zydeco - Everything Hurt (Tout Que 'Qu Chose Fait Mal)
19. Buckwheat Zydeco interview "the future of Zydeco"
20. Buckwheat Zydeco - Lache Pas La Patate