Sunday, March 2, 2014

Scrabble Value Letters (Z): Zydeco Honky Tonk

     You don't have to be born in a bayou to appreciate this swinging instrumental from Buckwheat Zydeco's 1987 album On A Night Like This. It has been called the most important zydeco album ever made. Not the best. But the most important. With covers of tunes from Bob Dylan ( "On a Night Like This") , The Blasters ("Marie Marie"), Booker T and the MG's ("Time Is Tight")  and the great Clifton Chenier ("Ma 'Tit Fille"), On A Night Like This broke new ground for zydeco music... beginning with a record release party like no other.

   It happened at the Island Records 25th Anniversary Concert . With no notice, Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Dural Jr was shoved on stage with Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr. "Buck" sat at his Hammond B-3 organ.  Sharing his bench was In a Night Like This producer GeorgeFox who recalls what happened in Michael Tisserand's book The Kingdom of Zydeco:

   Ringo is like six feet away on the right, and he's looking over like "What the fuck is this?" And Clapton was maybe five feet in front of us, and Buck gets up there, and Clapton does this solo, and Buck played it on the organ and bumps it up a notch. And Clapton plays what Buck has just played, and he bumps it up a notch. And they're getting into this furious cutting contest, and Clapton hasn't even turned around at this point . And all of a sudden four thousand people are screaming , and Eric just stops playing, and he turns around and he puts his hand out to Buck and says "I'm Eric Clapton. Who are you?" It was just one of those kind of moments.

   Now that's the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Buckwheat Zydeco would soon be touring with Clapton. The album would make many critic's top 10 lists and, by 1988,  you couldn't sit through a TV commercial break without hearing zydeco. Buckwheat Zydeco performed at both Clinton inaugurations and during the Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. You can hear his music in The Big Easy and Adam Sandler's The Waterboy .At 66, Buckwheat Zydeco is still going strong.

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