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In His Own Words: From the Lonesome Pine Special

(Zachary Richard and the Zydeco Rockers appeared on Kentucky Public Television's Lonesome Pine Special in 1987. The musical performances were interspersed with short clips from an interview, minus the interviewers questions. Following is a transcription of the four interview clips)

When I started playing music ... I was still playin' in bands, and still wanting to play in bands, and it was just the next step, to play Cajun music in a rock and roll band. We started playing at Jay’s Lounge in Cankton - that was our first gig ... and they used to have cock fights in the back. They had about three people (who) came to see us, and then when they would take a break from the cock fights, a whole bunch of people would come in, and they didn’t understand what we were doing because we were putting rock and roll together with traditional Cajun music. That was in the early seventies. We started playin' it, and kept on playin' it, and then finally, slowly, the people started to begin to understand. And the young people came to it, and today in South Louisiana there must be a couple dozen young French bands. And that’s something that’s only been happening within the last five ... ten years.

All the attention that Cajun cuisine and culture has been getting over the last couple of years ... there’s people in Louisiana who talk about it; there’s a lot of controversy. People say it’s a good thing, people say it’s a bad thing. People say that we’re going to turn into drugstore Cajuns, and that when they ring the bell, we’ll all come out and do our little two-step. I think it’s a great thing! I think anything that preserves the culture, whether it’s the cuisine or the music, or anything that’s attached to Cajun culture - you have to understand that this is a community that was culturally on the edge of oblivion. And anything that prevents that oblivion, to me, is a positive thing.

There is the traditional ride, the Mardi Gras, which dates back to medieval France. The captain is the only rider who is unmasked. And he is responsible in every sense, for the way in which the parade is conducted, so that if anything is broken, or any harm is done to animals or livestock, or a farmer’s fences, the captain is personally responsible to make amends. The riders will get together ... traditionally they’ll start partying Friday, so by the time Tuesday comes around, they’re well fermented. They’ll start out early in the morning and they’ll ride from farm to farm, and the ritual is always the same. The captain will arrive at the farm, and he will ride to the farmhouse while the Mardi Gras themselves stay on the road. He will ride to the farmhouse under a flag of truce, and there’s a formula in which he promises that these are masked men who are out for a party, these are not bandits or thieves.

I don’t feel anything but joy behind the success of Rockin' Sydney, and the fact that Dopsie and Buckwheat and Michael Ducet and Terrance Simien and Clifton Chenier (when he’s feelin’ good enough) are out on the road, promoting Zydeco and Cajun music. I think it’s a wonderful thing for everybody that’s involved in the music in Southwest Louisiana. It brings in money, it also promotes creation amongst the musician’s themselves.

Zachary Richard

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