The King of Zydeco
On June 7, 1980, on what I imagine was a hot
and steamy summer night in New Orleans, Clifton Chenier and his Red Hot
Louisianna Band treated those who were lucky enough to venture to Tipitina's
that night to an unforgettable performance.
Clifton—the undisputed King of Zydeco—was
accompanied by a groundbreaking group that included Sonny Landreth (the first
white member of the band) on guitar, C.J. Chenier (Clifton's son) on saxophone,
and Cleveland Chenier (Clifton's older brother) on the frottoir (or more
commonly known as the Zydeco rub-board), which was invented by Clifton and
Cleveland while they grew up sharecropping in rural St. Landry Parish.
This 40-year-old soundboard recording, entitled Live at Tipitina's, showcases Clifton at the peak of his powers and features eight tracks of
blistering blues-infused Zydeco goodness. Separate and apart from Clifton's Grammy-level
vocals and accordion skills, the tracks showcase Sonny Landreth's swampy, slide
guitar genius, as well as C.J.'s growing proficiency on the saxophone resulting
from his apprenticeship with John Hart, whose saxophone artistry made
indispensable contributions to the Red Hot's sound captured on numerous
When I say there is not a bad track on this
album, it's a reflection of my sincere admiration for Clifton and the profound effect
he had on bringing Zydeco music to mainstream society.
This record is one of the latest releases
from the Tipitina's Record Club where the curators are clearly expending
significant time and effort to make these high quality and important recordings
accessible. For those interested, I encourage you to check out the Tipitina's
Record Club Podcast where the curators host special guests to discuss the story
behind the artists and the releases—and in the case of this album—some really
special and unique insight provided by C.J. and Sonny regarding their
experiences playing with Clifton.