An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections

Music of the Louisiana Gulf Coast

Allen Tullos (compiler), Emory University

Published: 
26 February 2004
Overview: 
US Geological Survey, Louisiana Gulf Coast Region, 2002.
US Geological Survey, Louisiana Gulf Coast Region, 2002.

Where the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico meet and mingle, South Louisiana is one of the richest regions of traditional and contemporary music. Its extraordinary cultural diversity finds expression through cajun fiddlers and accordion players. Black creole bands performing the dance music called zydeco, New Orleans jazz in its many permutations, brass band second-liners, piano professors, gospel singers, church choirs, rhythm and blues shouters, country-western honky tonkers, swamp rockers, Dirty South rappers—to list major examples. This page offers a passageway into this song-saturated region.

 

New Orleans Jazz:
Child musicians in New Orleans. Photo by Nick Spitzer, 2000.
Child musicians in New Orleans. Photo by Nick Spitzer, 2000.

Nick Spitzer of American Routes talks with writer Jason Berry about the musical and dance history of New Orleans' Congo Square from the late eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth century and the "birth of jazz." Nick also interviews a descendant of jazz pioneer Sidney Bechet. (RealAudio, 7:16 minutes)

rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/
TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0144JBerry.rm

Louis Armstrong remembered and revealed through his personal collection of reel-to-reel tape and home recordings. (RealAudio, 7:28 minutes)
rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/
TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0131Armstrong.ra

On the trail of Jelly Roll Morton. (RealAudio, 16:38 minutes)
rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/
TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0106Morton.ra

The Red Hot Jazz Archive is an extraordinary website for pre-1930s jazz and its New Orleans history. It contains RealAudio sound samples, essays, biographies, photos, references, and links.
http://www.redhotjazz.com

Audio interviews and musical samples require RealPlayer, free at real.com.

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Cajun Music:
Visit with Steve Riley (accordion, vocals), David Greeley (fiddle) and the Mamou Playboys.
Visit with Steve Riley (accordion, vocals), David Greeley (fiddle) and the Mamou Playboys.

Visit with Steve Riley (accordion, vocals), David Greeley (fiddle) and the Mamou Playboys.
(RealAudio, 12:46 minutes)
rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/
PUBLICRADIO/AR_0130Mamou.rm

"Today's Cajun culture resulted from the blending of several groups, primarily the Acadians, the descendants of French Acadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia by the British in 1755 and who began arriving in Louisiana in 1765."

From "Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview" by Maida Owens.
(http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Maidas_Essay/main_introduction_onepage.html)

 

Audio Samples

The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band. Michael Savoy (fiddle), Marc Doucet (accordion, vocals), Ann Savoy (guitar, vocals), with special guest Richard Thompson. (1999).
The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band. Michael Savoy (fiddle), Marc Doucet (accordion, vocals), Ann Savoy (guitar, vocals), with special guest Richard Thompson. (1999). Source: Festival Tours International

Musicians Marc and Ann Savoy talk about their family histories, work and play in cajun culture. Marc discusses making accordions. Ann recalls pioneering singer Cleoma Breaux. (RealAudio, 13:43 minutes)
rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/Savoy.ra

Cajun music discussed and performed by Michael Doucet with his band Beausoleil. (RealAudio, 7:06 minutes)rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0106Doucet.ra

 

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Zydeco:
Claude Duffy and his fire band at the Friendly Club in Cecelia, St. Martin Parish. Photo by Nick Spitzer.
Claude Duffy and his fire band at the Friendly Club in Cecelia, St. Martin Parish. Photo by Nick Spitzer.

"The exuberant dance music of southwest Louisiana's black Creoles. Stylistically, it is a rich hybrid, with a core of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and folk roots, blues, and Cajun music (zydeco's white counterpart), along with a wealth of other elements. These vary widely from band to band and may include rock, country, R & B, reggae, rap and hip-hop. Traditionally, zydeco is sung in French, and its lyrics are often improvised. It is absolutely not intended for passive listening. Zydeco's dominant instrument is the accordion, while its signature percussive instrument is the frottoir or rub-board."
(Source: Louisiana Voices, http://www.louisianavoices.org/edu_home.html)

Visits with zydeco musicians:
Boozoo Chavis (RealAudio, 8:24 minutes) and Queen Ida Guillory (RealAudio, 8:56 minutes).

rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0125Boozoo.ra
rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0119Ida.rm

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New Orleans Miscellany:

The sounds and meanings of a New Orleans jazz funeral. (RealAudio, 7:41 minutes)

rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0244Dejan.ra

In the studio with Harold Battiste, musician, producer, arranger, and teacher. Battitse formed the first black-owned record company in New Orleans. (RealAudio, 14:33 minutes)

rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0122Battiste.ra

Veteran piano professor Henry Butler and young bluesman Corey Harris collaborate and talk about the influences upon their music from Professor Longhair to Jimmie Rodgers, blues forms to country flavors. (RealAudio, 9:16 minutes.)

rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0123CoreyHenry.ra

Along for the Mardi Gras parade with Krew du Vieux and the Rebirth Brass Band. (RealAudio, 4:23 minutes)

rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0206KDoe.ra

Wynton Marsalis and jazz education in contemporary New Orleans. (RealAudio, 12:42 minutes)

rtsp://realaudio.service.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/TULLOS/PUBLICRADIO/AR_0235_WMarsalis.rm

*RealMedia sources on this page are courtesy of American Routes, hosted by Nick Spitzer from New Orleans on Public Radio International. 

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Recommended Resources:
Text

 Berry, Jason. Up from the Cradle of Jazz. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986

Comeaux, Malcolm L. "Introduction and Use of Accordions in Cajun Music." In Louisiana's Living Traditions. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/lt/articles_essays/intro_and_use_of_accordions.html.

 Lomax, Alan. Mister Jelly Roll. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Owens, Maida. "Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview." In Louisiana's Living Traditions. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Maidas_Essay/main_introduction_onepage.html.

Richardson, Lisa E. "The Public and Private Domains of Cajun Women Musicians in Southwest Louisiana." In Louisiana's Living Traditions. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/lt/articles_essays/creole_art_pub_priv_cajunm.html. 

Savoy, Ann. "Cajun Music: Alive and Well in Louisiana". In Louisiana's Living Traditions. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/lt/articles_essays/creole_art_cajunmusic_aliv.html.

 Web

Folklife in Louisiana (Louisiana Folklife Programs homepage). http://www.louisianafolklife.org/. 

WWOZ New Orleans community radio. Live RealMedia webcast features the many varieties of Louisiana-based music. http://www.wwoz.org.

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