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viernes, 11 de noviembre de 2016

Clifton Chenier • In New Orleans

Clifton Chenier (June 25, 1925 - December 12, 1987), a Creole French -speaking native of Opelousas, Louisiana, was an eminent performer and recording artist of Zydeco and 1983 Grammy winner. Like so many American originals, accordion player and singer Clifton Chenier was able to synthesize several older genres of music into a new form. He added to Cajun music a touch of the blues, rhythm and blues, and rock & roll to create a driving pop version of Zydeco. He explained, "People been playing Zydeco for a long time, old style like French music. But I was the first one to put the pep to it." He started his career performing on weekends near the oilfields, where he worked at his day job. During the '50s he was associated with R&B, recording for legendary labels like Specialty and Chess. His influences were not older Cajun musicians, but figures like Fats Domino and Professor Longhair. By the time Chenier hit his stride, traditional Cajun and Creole music had begun to take different paths: Cajuns were becoming more interested in country music, while Creole players preferred blues and R&B, abandoning the fiddle in favor of the rub-board and sometimes a horn section. In 1964 Arhoolie Records producer Chris Strachwitz persuaded Chenier to play more zydeco -- a move that renewed his career and led to a long series of hit albums. Among his later hit singles were 1964's "Louisiana Blues" and 1965's "Black Gal." He also recorded what has become the national anthem of Zydeco, "Zydeco Sont pas Sale." Clifton Chenier became the first major Zydeco superstar and also introduced the word Zydeco to the musical lexicon in 1965. He said that Zydeco was a corruption of les haricots (French for the beans). The undisputed "King of Zydeco," Clifton Chenier was the first Creole to be presented a Grammy award on national television. Blending the French and Cajun 2-steps and waltzes of southwest Louisiana with New Orleans R&B, Texas blues, and big-band jazz, Chenier created the modern, dance-inspiring, sounds of Zydeco. A flamboyant personality, remembered for his gold tooth and the cape and crown that he wore during concerts, Chenier set the standard for all the Zydeco players who have followed in his footsteps. In an interview from Ann Savoy's book, Cajun Music: Reflection of a People, Chenier explained, "Zydeco is rock and French mixed together, you know, like French music and rock with a beat to it. It's the same thing as rock and roll but it's different because I'm singing in French." The son of sharecropper and amateur accordion player, Joe Chenier, and the nephew of a guitarist, fiddler, and dance club owner, Maurice "Big" Chenier, Chenier found his earliest influences in the blues of Muddy Waters, Peetie Wheatstraw, and Lightnin' Hopkins, the New Orleans R&B of Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, the 1920s and '30s recordings by Zydeco accordionist Amede Ardoin and the playing of childhood friends Claude Faulk and Jesse and Zozo Reynolds. Acquiring his first accordion from a neighbor, Isaie "Easy" Blasa in 1947, Chenier was taught the basics of the instruments by his father. Chenier is credited with redesigning the wood and crimped tin washboard into the frottoir, an instrument that would easily hang from the shoulders. Cleveland Chenier, Clifton's older brother, also played in the Red Hot Louisiana Band. He found popularity for his ability to manipulate the distinctive sound of the frottoir by rubbing several bottle openers (held in each hand) along its ridges. By 1944, Chenier was performing, with his brother Cleveland on frottoir in the dance halls of Lake Charles. Moving to New Iberia in the mid-'40s, Chenier worked in the sugar fields cutting sugar cane. After moving, to Port Arthur, TX, in 1947, he divided his time between driving a refinery truck and hauling pipe for Gulf and Texaco and playing with his brother. In 1954, Chenier signed with Elko Records. His first recording session, at Lake Charles radio station KAOK, yielded seven tunes including the regional hit single, "Cliston's Blues" and "Louisiana Stomp." Chenier's first national attention came with his first single for the Specialty record label, "Ay Tete Fille (Hey, Little Girl)," a cover of a Professor Longhair tune, released in May 1955. The song was one of 12 that he recorded during two sessions produced by Bumps Blackwell, best known for his work with Little Richard. By 1956, Chenier had left his day job to devote his full-time attention to music, Touring with his band, the Zydeco Ramblers, which included blues guitarist Philip Walker. The following year, Chenier left Specialty and signed with the Chess label in Chicago. Although he toured, along with Etta James, throughout the United States, Chenier's career suffered when the popularity of ethnic and regional music styles began to decline. Although he recorded 13 songs for the Crowley, LA-based Zynn label, between 1958 and 1960, none charted. The turning point in Chenier's career came when Lightnin' Hopkins' wife, who was a cousin, introduced Chris Strachwitz, owner of the roots music label, Arhoolie, to his early recordings. Strachwitz quickly signed Chenier to Arhoolie, producing his first single, "Ay Yi Yi"/"Why Did You Go Last Night?," in four years. Although they continued to work together until the early '70s, Chenier and Strachwitz differed artistically. While Chenier wanted to record commercial-minded R&B, Strachwitz encouraged him to focus on traditional Zydeco. Chenier's first album for Arhoolie, Louisiana Blues and Zydeco, featured one side of blues and R&B and one side of French 2-steps and waltzes. In 1976, Chenier recorded one of his best albums, "Bogalusa Boogie", and formed a new group, the Red Hot Louisiana Band, featuring tenor saxophonist "Blind" John Hart and guitarist Paul Senegal. Chenier reached the peak of his popularity in the '80s. In 1983, he received a Grammy award for his album, I'm Here!, recorded in eight hours in Bogalusa, LA. The following year, he performed at the White House. Although he suffered from kidney disease and a partially amputated foot and was required to undergo dialysis treatment every three days, Chenier continued to perform until one week before his death on December 12, 1987.
Starting in the 1950s, Clifton Chenier pioneered the modern sound of zydeco and eventually became one of the genre’s best-known performers. The self-proclaimed “King of Zydeco” won a Grammy for his 1983 album I’m Here, was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship, and played at the White House for President Ronald Reagan. Born June 25, 1925, near Opelousas, Chenier learned to play the accordion from his father Joseph, who worked as a sharecropper. Chenier came from an extended family of musicians who played in the older Creole “la la” style, which was closely related in sound to early Cajun music. He was influenced by the recordings and live performances of the celebrated Creole accordionist Amédé Ardoin and the almost-forgotten Sidney Babineaux, who was one of the earliest Creoles to play the larger piano accordion, which Chenier made famous. Scholars have debated whether Chenier ever publicly played the smaller diatonic accordion associated with Cajun music, but evidence seems to suggest that he at least learned to play that instrument from his father. During the 1940s, Chenier absorbed the “jump blues” style of Louis Jordan and was soon fusing rhythm and blues (R&B) with Creole music. Out of this potent mixture came modern zydeco. Chenier and his brother Cleveland started playing dances in the 1940s in Louisiana and, by the early 1950s were operating along the Texas border. After losing a job at an oil refinery in Beaumont, Texas, Chenier entered the music profession full time. He designed the vest-style frottoir, based on the washboard that his brother used to provide a rhythmic accompaniment to the accordion, thus giving birth to the basic percussive sound identified with zydeco. The Cheniers worked on the “chitlin circuit,” a loose network of juke joints and dance halls in the southern United States that catered to an African American clientele. On the circuit he met fellow Louisianan Clarence “Bon Ton” Garlow, an R&B guitarist, club owner, and disc jockey in Beaumont. Garlow linked Chenier to the California producer J. R. Fulbright, who signed the zydeco performer to a recording contract. Chenier made his first recordings in Lake Charles in 1954. In 1955 Chenier released his first major hit, “Ay Tete Fee,” on the Speciality label. With this recording, Chenier emerged onto the national R&B scene and shared the stage with major headliners such as Joe Turner. Chenier further refined his music by adding a trumpets and saxophones to his lineup of accordion, frottoir, drums, and guitars. Chenier’s music was highly danceable, hard driving, and propulsive in nature, as demonstrated by his cover of Jordan’s “Let the Good Times Roll” (written by Louisianan Sam Theard). He also demonstrated a great ability with blues material, including songs like “I’m a Hog for You,” which became major parts of his repertoire. Like that of many artists, Chenier’s career waned in the wake of rock ‘n’ roll. He returned to Louisiana and recorded for the Crowley label Zynn during the late 1950s, but his career seemed to stall. Then blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins (a relative by marriage) introduced Chenier to Chris Strachwitz, the owner of Arhoolie Records. Strachwitz signed Chenier to a recording contract and gave the accordion master nearly free rein in the studio. In 1964 Arhoolie released its first Chenier single, “Ay Ai Ai.” The record enjoyed great popularity and restarted Chenier’s career. He toured widely throughout the United States and Europe from the mid-1960s until his death. He regularly drew large crowds at the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. While he recorded with many labels, including Jin and Maison de Soul, his best recordings were with Arhoolie. During this time he proclaimed himself the “King of Zydeco” and took to the stage wearing either a crown or diadem. Chenier suffered numerous health problems in his later years. Diabetes plagued him and he lost part of a foot, but he still took to the stage as often as possible. He died December 13, 1987, in Lafayette. Chenier left a powerful legacy in Louisiana music, transforming the old rural la la sound into a modern R&B style that garnered acceptance around the world. He was also an emotional singer and a deeply beautiful accordionist whose performances crossed genre lines.(~Kevin Fontenot)
In New Orleans was recorded in the late '70s with one of Clifton Chenier's classic bands, which featured his brother on washboard, saxophonist John Hart, and guitarist Paul Senegal, among others. The album is textbook Chenier -- it rocks & rolls, wails and shouts. It's may be a typical record for the king of zydeco, but that means it's very, very enjoyable.(~Thom Owens)

01 - Boogie Louisiane [3:13]
02 - Cotton-Picker Blues [5:09]
03 - J'aime Pain De Mais (I Love Corn Bread) [2:49]
04 - Pousse Cafe Waltz [3:48]
05 - Hello Rosa-Lee [2:59]
06 - Jusque Parce Que Je T'aime (Only Because I Love You) [3:30]
07 - Boogiein' In New Orleans [2:28]
08 - Rumblin' On The Bayou [2:56]
09 - I'm Gonna Take You Home Tonite [3:59]
10 - Mon Vieux 'Buggy' (My Old Buggy) [4:45]
11 - Crying My Heart Out To You [4:43]
12 - Tous Les Jours (Everyday) [3:39]
13 - Mardi Gras Boogie [4:49]

Released: 1988
Label: GNP/Crescendo (GNPD 2119)
Time: 48:53
Styles: Louisiana Blues,Zydeco

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