Nurturing Young Music Talent is the Law - Roddie Romero Law

In Louisiana, nurturing young music talent is the law.
Mother of musician Roddie Romero fought to allow young Louisiana artists to perform in bars and nightclubs. And won.

Roddie Romero playing at the Grouse Room in Lafayette

Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars playing at the Grouse Room in Lafayette.

Amanda Shaw at the Mudbug Madness Festival

Amanda Shaw at the Mudbug Madness Festival.

Trombone Shorty at Jazz Fest in New Orleans

Trombone Shorty at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

The Pine Leaf Boys at the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette Louisiana

The Pine Leaf Boys at the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Roddie Romero got an earlier start than most on his path to becoming a professional musician.

Long before becoming the celebrated frontman of The Hub City All Stars with three GRAMMY® nominations and multiple world tours under his belt, Roddie Romero grew up listening to his grandfather play the accordion, quickly taught himself to play and soon began playing gigs professionally. First around his hometown in Lafayette, then branching out to other popular nightclubs throughout the state.

At the ripe old age of 9.

Problem is, that meant he was underage and it was technically illegal for him to perform in the bars and nightclubs that were begging for him to come play. He was sneaking in anyway, but his luck would soon run out.

A Bill Becomes a Law - Roddie Romero Law

“We were playing down in Erath a couple of times and we were drawing a big crowd,” Romero recalled in an article for Offbeat Magazine. “It was two bars in this town and the other bar wasn’t happy about it. At some point, they called the law. The law turned up. I don’t ever remember being arrested, but it was pretty close.”

That’s what led his mother, Lena, to draft the “Roddie Romero Bill,” which would allow minors to perform in adult venues that served alcohol as long as they were accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

As the bill progressed through the Legislature, Romero said his mother realized she would have to prepare a speech, which is something she’d never done.

“She’s from Rayne and she speaks French, so she was nervous about presenting a speech,” he continued in that article. “But as soon as the bill came up to pass (in 1992), it went right through and she didn’t have to do anything. The rest is history.”

A Musical Milestone

Little did either of them know just how historic a musical milestone the Roddie Romero law would be, helping pave the way for other young up-and-coming Louisiana stars – including some who would become future members of Romero’s own band to get the experience they needed to become the stars they are today.

The state’s dedication to supporting young talent is such a Louisiana thing, in fact, that Arcadiana’s 97.3 The Dawg radio station named the passage of “Roddie Romero’s Law” the #7 event on its popular list of “The 20 Most Cajun Things That Ever Happened” – along with the creation of turducken, drive-through crawfish restaurants and adding “eaux” (such as Geaux Saints) to any word ending with an “o” sound.

Here’s a quick snapshot of just a few Louisiana musicians and talents who have benefitted from Romero’s law:

Hunter Hayes

Before he became the breakout country music star he is today, a very young 4-year-old Hunter Hayes made one of his first public debuts by joining legendary Hank Williams Jr on stage for a rousing performance of “Jambalaya.” The Breaux Bridge native wowed the festival crowd, and a now-viral video of that chance performance is still much-talked-about today.

Hayes went on to play in many venues throughout his childhood and is now proficient in more than 30 instruments. He has a number one country album on his resume and his most successful single, “Wanted,” made him the youngest male ever to top Billboard’s country chart. Hunter Hayes has been nominated for five GRAMMY® Awards, including Best New Artist, and won the CMA Award for New Artist of the Year in 2012.

Trombone Shorty

A young Trombone Shorty (born Troy Andrews) was already a local legend of sorts, regularly second-line marching through the streets of Tremé as a child with musicians twice his height and many times his age. But he was also just 4-years-old carrying a trombone larger than he was in the crowd at the 1990 New Orleans Jazz Fest, when concert-goers lifted him up and crowd-surfed him to the stage where he found himself, plenty shocked, standing right beside a 61-year-old Bo Diddley. Bo looked him straight in the eye and simply said: “Blow. Blow the horn.” And boy did he.

Playing with his band Orleans Avenue, Trombone Shorty now tours the globe pleasing a legion of loyal fans, and also started the Trombone Shorty Academy to help teach jazz, brass and R&B to local high school students back home in New Orleans.

Amanda Shaw

Yet another young prodigy, Amanda Shaw was born in Mandeville, started playing classical violin at age 4 and was performing Cajun music in public by the time she was 8. Thanks to gaining some of the invaluable performance experience made possible by “Roddie Romero’s Law,” she began touring the country and now plays regularly around Louisiana and the South with her band, The Cute Guys.

Shaw also has appeared in two original Disney movies filmed in New Orleans (“Stuck in the Suburbs” and “Now You See It …”) and was the principal narrator in “Hurricane on the Bayou,” a 2006 documentary about Hurricane Katrina. Read about some of Amanda Shaw's favorite things to do in Louisiana.

Cedric Watson

Born in 1983, twice GRAMMY®-nominated Cedric Watson grew up in Texas surrounded by the blues, old soul, country and zydeco music, eventually developing an affinity for the old-style French sounds of Southwest Louisiana. He later moved to Lafayette, where he became entrenched in the local Creole music community.

He has performed with some of the Creole greats and now explores the roots of Louisiana music with his own band, Bijou Creole. Watch this video about Cedric Watson.

The Pine Leaf Boys

This Cajun and Creole band from South Louisiana (made up of members Wilson Savoy, Courtney Granger, Drew Simon, Jon Bertrand, Thomas David and, formerly, Cedric Watson) grew up playing a blend of music inspired by bands from the 1920s to today, which they further morphed into their own unique sound. 

While also getting an early start playing the bars and clubs as youngsters, The Pine Leaf Boys now tour the world, has been nominated for three GRAMMY®s and has appeared in the popular HBO television series “Treme.”

Some of the original families of music in Louisiana including the Neville Brothers, the Batiste family or the Marsalis family have taken their talent and risen to the top. The Marsalis family, considered the "first family of jazz," including Ellis, Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason have been prolific in music winning multiple GRAMMY® awards and a Pulitzer for music. The Neville Brothers including Art, Charles, Aaron and Cyril and now their next generation, Ivan Neville (Aaron's son) and Ian Neville (Art's son) both of the band Dumpstaphunk, continue to lead incredible music careers with multiple GRAMMY®s in multiple categories. Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is” was a 2015 inductee into the GRAMMY® Hall of Fame. Additionally the Batiste family comes to mind as one of the larger families producing incredible music in Louisiana. The Batiste's multiple generations have been influencing music, including Alvin Batiste who was a jazz musician and educator at Southern University in Baton Rouge to David Batiste who played in many bands including The Meters to Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human. Some of the original families of music in the New Orleans area didn't directly benefit from the Roddie Romero law as they were already old enough to legally be in bars and clubs, however Louisiana's culture steeped in music could be gracing the stage at a much younger age thanks to the Roddie Romero law.