Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story

Waves of Culture

(LPB Reenactment)

Dudley J. LeBlanc (Courtesy of Louisiana State Archives)

Dudley J. LeBlanc

During the 40s, French-speaking radio programs like those of Cajun Renaissance man Dudley J. LeBlanc had a small but devoted following. The former state senator and creator of the famous Hadacol healing tonic owed much of his political and financial success to the loyalty of his Cajun listeners.

Clifton Chenier playing Zydeco music (Courtesy of UL Lafayette Special Collections)

Zydeco

By the late 1940s a new form of French music was emerging in southern Louisiana – Zydeco. Blending African American Rhythm & Blues with a Creole beat, Zydeco’s cultural mix was also its barrier to radio The King of the South Clifton Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band (Courtesy of UL Lafayette Special Collections)exposure. It was considered too black for a lot of the French radio stations and too French for the black and country stations. Out of love for the genre, individual DJs created their own Zydeco radio programs by buying time on local South Louisiana stations.

Clifton Chenier

Born June 25, 1925 , near Port Barre in St Landry Parish, Clifton Chenier has been called "the most influential musician in Zydeco history." His first recording session in 1954, at Lake Charles radio station KAOK, yielded seven tunes including the regional hit single, "Clifton's Blues" and "Louisiana Stomp." By the 1970s, Chenier's name had become synonymous with zydeco, and he and his Red Hot Louisiana Band, toured the world. Singing in Creole French, Chenier continued to perform until one week before his death on December 12, 1987.
(Information gathered from the Web at:
http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/chenier_clifton/bio.jhtml
and http://www.lft.k12.la.us/chs/la_studies/ParishSeries/FrenchMusic/CliftonChenier.htm )


Swamp Pop

While Zydeco displayed a merging of Louisiana styles, Swamp Pop music echoed the broadening influences of national radio on the regional sound. Exhibiting traces of country music, rock and roll and a touch of Cajun, Swamp Pop featured ballads heavy on pianos and horns. Swamp Pop reflected Louisiana’s participation in a bigger soundscape without losing its distinctiveness.

Revon Reed at Fred's Lounge (Courtesy of Barry Ancelet)
Revon Reed

To some Acadians, the Americanized sounds of Zydeco and Swamp Pop were sad reminders of the almost complete demise of traditional French language and culture. But in 1962, the beginnings of a Cajun Renaissance developed when Revon Reed at KEUN launched weekly remotes from Fred's lounge in Mamou. Featuring live Cajun music with French conversation, the weekly broadcasts still continue more than forty years later, now heard over KVPI.


Gospel Radio

While radio played a part in the revival of South Louisiana Cajuns, it also gave a voice to rural blacks and their church communities. Ironically, before Rock and roll even existed, the term "rocking" was used by Southern gospel singers to describe a kind of spiritual rapture. By the 60s "rocking" spiritual music and preaching, had made its way onto the radio scene.

 

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Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story

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