Clifton Chenier / June 25, 1925 - Dec 12, 1987

Happy birthday to the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, born on this day in 1925. A multi-instrumentalist from a musically-accomplished family, his music combined blues, cajun, jazz, rock & roll, waltzes and R&B to modernize and popularize the zydeco style. He recorded for Chess, Arhoolie, Specialty, Crazy Cajun and other labels, in a recording career that started in 1954 (he had been performing since the mid '40s) and continued until his death in '87 from diabetes.

He sang, played accordion, harmonica and guitar. He came from a musical family and he dug early on into the burgeoning rock & roll scene, blues and the rich music scene of New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana. He was playing professionally by 1944. He spent some time in Texas and cut his first record in '54. He met some regional and national success in the mid-'50s and signed to Chess in '57 and toured with Etta James.

On Arhoolie in the '60s, he recorded both "ethnic" musics and more commercial R&B, often on the same album. His '76 album Bogalusa Boogie is an all-time classic. He continued to tour and record with success right up until his death. His C.J. Chenier is also a recording star, having taken over Clifton's band.

Tagged: blues, Celebrate Icons, Clifton Chenier, folk, rock, soul!, Video, vintage footage, zydeco

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