The Music: Zydeco
Early zydeco was a blend of Louisiana French accordion music and Afro-Caribbean beats. It sat at the crossroads of Creole, Cajun, gospel and the blues, yet has since evolved to include influences from several other genres. Instrumentation almost always includes an accordion and a frottoir, a washboard. Guitar and drums typically add even more rhythm and syncopation to create a highly danceable mix. The word Zydeco gets its name from a colloquial Creole French expression “Les haricots ne sont pas salés” meaning “the snap beans aren’t salty” or idiomatically for “the times are hard.” Like the blues, early zydeco offered a way for the rural poor both to express and to escape the hardships of life through music and dance.
The Zydeco Musicians
In 1929, Creole accordionist Amédé Ardoin made the first recordings of la-la music, laying the groundwork for the genre. In the 1950s, zydeco found its first stars in Boozoo Chavis with a first hit “Paper in My Shoe” and Clifton Chenier who recorded several hits as well, earning him the title "King of Zydeco" and a GRAMMY® award in 1983. Other notable Louisiana performers have included Rockin' Sidney Simien, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Terrance Simien as well as Rockin' Dopsie, Goldman Thibodeaux, Geno Delafose, Sid and Nathan Williams (Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas), Beau Jocque and Rosie Ledet, Chubby Carrier and the Zydeco Hellraisers. Discover more Louisiana zydeco musicians.
Hear it Here
While zydeco music can be heard around the world, nowhere is it more popular than Louisiana. Here, people carry on the tradition of the trail ride, riding out to the countryside for music, food and dancing. Weekend nights, you'll find live zydeco in just about every town in southwest Louisiana as well as the big cities of Baton Rouge, Shreveport and New Orleans. It's also a staple at local festivals, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the annual Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival in Opelousas.
Mid-City Lanes Rock ‘n’ Bowl — New Orleans’ flair for quirkiness is on full display at this combination zydeco music venue and bowling alley, where the sounds of accordions are accompanied by the crash of strikes and spares.
Buck & Johnny’s — This Breaux Bridge venue hosts the famous “zydeco breakfast,” where customers dine on awesome local cuisine such as Troubled Water (grits topped with crawfish étouffée) and eggs topped with spicy Cajun boudin sausage. The dance floor fills up during the daylight hours with the likes of Terry & the Zydeco Bad Boys and Gerard Delafose & the Zydeco Gators.