Giants of the Fest: The King of Zydeco leaves his mark 30 years after his death

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NEW ORLEANS -- When you see Buckwheat Zydeco, Sunpie Barnes and other stars like Terrance Simien grace the stages of Jazz Fest, they're all there thanks to a man known as the King of Zydeco.

Barnes remembers the first song he every heard by the legend Clifton Chenier. Like many, he was inspired.

"He was the one who really sort of defined, stylistically, what you could do with zydeco music," Barnes says.

Not only did Chenier create the style of Zydeco we know and love today, he brought that original sound around the world.

"He was just the greatest of the great," says Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis. "Go back and listen to his songs and on every level because he would sing blues, he would sing all kinds of traditional Zydeco music going back, but he also was this great player."

Chenier was a phenomenal player and ambassador of zydeco. He won a Grammy and numerous accolades throughout his life.

Chenier died in 1987, but his legacy as the king of zydeco lives on.

"It reminded me of being in a sanctified church," Barnes says. "I was raised up in a sanctified church so that was the kinda attitude that he brought and it was what he could do with the spirit of music."

You can learn more about Chenier's life and legacy in author Todd Mouton's book, "Way Down in Louisiana."

 

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