Despite a childhood aversion to the accordion, Buckwheat Zydeco has found worldwide musical success with his spicy squeeze box sounds.
Zydeco's Main Squeeze
Buckwheat Zydeco Groovin' in the Garden Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 6 p.m. Thursday, May 6 $8 in advance, $10 at the gate 262-9887, ext. 337
Like any young kid since the dawn of mankind, Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Dural Jr. wasn't about to listen to his old man when he wanted him to play the accordion. Heck, it was the '50s and he was more interested in pounding the piano like his hero Jerry Lee Lewis than in toting some corny squeeze box like his dad's buddy Clifton Chenier.
"The accordion was for the older generation," Dural explains by phone from his home in Carencrow, La. He says he was happy playing the upright piano on the porch, and accordion music was not in the cards. "I like an audience," he says. "The kids would stop by and boogie-woogie with me."
Despite dad's somewhat stern insistence, Dural continued playing the piano and organ. He played his first professional gig at 9 and as a teen-ager in the mid-'60s he toured Louisiana with a rhythm-and-blues band that opened for Gulf Coast legends Joe Tex and Barbara Lynn. By 1971, he'd formed his own R&B outfit that played regionally but dad resolutely refused to come hear the band.
By 1975, the 15-piece band had become somewhat of an offstage headache. Dural quit, planning to get another band together and begin anew.
While taking some time off, he got a call from his dad's friend Chenier. Dural was completely unfamiliar with Chenier's zydeco; all he knew was that he played some kind of crazy South Louisiana dance music that his dad dug. When Chenier offered Dural a job playing the keyboard in his band, Dural feared it was a trick hatched by his father, but he agreed to play a show in Lafayette. The evening proved a revelation this was a new sound the likes of which Dural hadn't heard. The combo included an accordion, saxophone, guitar and a big metal washboard "like a bulletproof vest" for added rhythm.
"I'd never seen a washboard like that before go around your shoulders, man," Dural says. He also clearly remembers Chenier. "I got on that stage I didn't know it was like this," he says. "I mean, he'd roll." To top it off, Dural's father finally came to see him. Not only was he having the musical time of his life, but he'd finally won his father's approval.
Dural played with Chenier a little more than two years, soaking up the sounds and watching the dance-hall frenzy as they played across the country. But in late 1978, he decided to move on.
"I loved every bit of it but I still have something else to offer, you know?" he explains.
Dural knew he wanted to pursue zydeco and Chenier's accordion lead, but he planned to mix in R&B for a "different dimension." He took eight months off to learn the instrument and hit the road with his band in 1980. Dural says he'd given himself two-and-a-half years to succeed with his zydeco music but he quickly found there was an audience for the music Chenier had pioneered. He soon had regular gigs in both the U.S. and Europe and by 1983, he had a Boston-based agent. A couple of records for Rounder followed as did Grammy nominations.
"People started noticing [asking] what's going on?" Dural says of zydeco's popularity growth in the '80s. Audiences were puzzled but frantic. "People thought we was from another planet," he adds with a laugh.
In 1987, Dural got a big break when Chris Blackwell signed him to a deal with Island records. Since then it's been a fairly steady ride for Buckwheat Zydeco. His music is found on movie soundtracks, he's played presidential inaugurations and he tours an average of 10 months a year.
Now, with the release of his latest CD "Trouble," Dural is back on the road and headed for Richmond. He says the new recording is his best and those who come out to see his eight-piece band at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens should bring their dancing shoes.
"They should just come on out and have a party," he says. "They're not gonna regret
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