Buckwheat Zydeco

16:30 April 29, 2015
By: Emily Hingle
For over 60 years, Lafayette-native Stanley Dural, Jr., better known as the animated accordion player Buckwheat Zydeco, has been performing his brand of Zydeco to the world, often being sought out by the world's top musicians for his Southern Louisiana-style expertise. I talked to Buckwheat Zydeco about his reluctance to play the music he is now known for, his reasons for playing it, and his outlook on life after a nearly deadly experience.

WYAT: You started your musical career by playing popular music like R&B, then you started playing Zydeco when you got a gig with Clifton Chenier. Why did you take that gig?

Buckwheat Zydeco: I heard accordion music growing up all my life as a kid from my father that he played. The thing is, I didn't want anything to do with it. I was doing what I was doing before and being stubborn. After my first band in 1971 to 1975, Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, I got an invitation to play as an organist on a Hammond B in Chenier's band. I decided to go and give it a shot. Put my organ on the stage, played, and took it off the stage and said, "Okay, I played Zydeco, and I still don't like it." But it was very energetic. I had never heard a Zydeco band, you see. I refused to go to any Zydeco venue. That's how I was. But what you don't understand, don't criticize.

WYAT: You just didn't want to listen to your parent's music.
BZ: Exactly. But when I decided to play Zydeco with Chenier, I knew it was time for me to get another band; I decided to play in his band. He was so inspirational. I said, "I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to play accordion." My dad had wanted me to play one for many years. That's why I say don't criticize what you don't understand. I had no clue, and I wound up staying with him for over two years. And if it wasn't for Clifton Chenier, I wouldn't be playing accordion.

WYAT: After that, you became really popular and had the chance to work with internationally-known musicians. Do any artists stand out in particular?

To be honest with you, I like 99.99% of [the music] of everyone I've ever worked with because I'm always learning something. It's always an inspiration to me. I really feel good with everyone I've ever worked with. And everybody I've ever worked with is very different.

WYAT: Is there anyone you would love to work with in the future?

To be honest with you, from growing up as a fan of piano players, I'd like to go on and do a record with Fats Domino. That's what I listened to growing up. I'd like to do something with Fats because I'm a big admirer. Or Little Richard, Al Green...back to the old school, you see what I'm saying? I don't care if they're just playing the organ. There's too many of them. That's what I was saying; I'm very inspired by everybody I've worked with. So I really don't have a choice of this or that because I enjoy doing what I do with anybody.

WYAT: Your latest album was a children's album. Why did you want to reach out to a young audience?

Kids are very important to every individual. You have to give 50% to the younger generations and 50% to older generations. Children are our future. You can't leave them out, it's mandatory that you take care of the children.

WYAT: Do you feel that Cajun culture is going to disappear, or is it as strong as it ever was?

It's stronger now than it ever was. I'm not Cajun, I'm Creole. I speak the language, but Cajun French and Creole French have similarities. My father is Haitian; that's why I speak so fast. In Louisiana, you have two nationalities, white and black; two different types of music, two different parts of the world. And that's amazing.

WYAT: When did you first come to New Orleans?

Oh Jesus, as a teenager. At 13 years old, I was recording for Allen Toussaint with a band called Sammy and The Untouchables. I was playing in big bands at the age of nine as an organist, and then R&B-funk bands and blues before Chenier.

WYAT: Is there a difference between the New Orleans and Lafayette music scene?

It's very much relative. Where I'm from, it's roots and culture like you'll find nowhere else on the planet. You can imitate, but never duplicate. If it's not in your soul, it's not in you. You can play it, but not hear it. It's gotta be from the soul and heart.

WYAT: Do you think that Zydeco is a popular music other than in Louisiana?

Let me put it this way, it's not going anywhere. Throughout this planet, somebody is going to be listening to jazz, Zydeco, and rhythm and blues. Somebody will be listening to it. Things come and go, but this is here to stay. It may not be popular to 110%, but somebody on this planet will be listening to it in this country or any country. I go to Japan, to the kids at the school, and every kid has an accordion. Somebody's doing something and somebody's listening.

WYAT: Last year, you were declared to be in remission from cancer. Has your bout with cancer changed your perspective on performing or even everyday life?

Not really. The way I see it is, here I am, born in '47, and look at all the babies, look at all the kids born yesterday that die of sickness tomorrow. So I don't complain; I take it as it comes, take the bitter with sweet. I just thank God that I'm still here. I survived cancer! All the prayers that came out to me, I thank everybody who prays for anybody who went through what I went through. I'm not a selfish person; why should I complain and a baby hasn't seen two months? I'd give my life for a baby's. Let that baby live. I done lived long enough, you know what I mean? That's from the heart.

WYAT: Is there anything else you'd like to say?

The only thing I'd like to say is, wherever you are on this planet, let's keep this blues, jazz, Zydeco, and culture and roots rolling. If you wonder where you're going, you'll forget where you come from.
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