Wednesday, March 23, 2005


"She's got ways like the ole crawfish"

Clarence Garlow, Bon Ton Roulet (Bon Ton Roula).

Zydeco starts here--three minutes of swampy rhythm steered by Garlow's vocal and an incredible unknown drummer conversing in snares and toms (maybe Peppy Prince, who was Garlow's drummer in later years).

Clarence Garlow, born in 1911 in Welsh, Louisiana, was a guitarist, pianist and accordionist who later would tour with Clifton Chenier, mentor the guitarist Johnny Winter and, when he left music, become a jack of all trades, running a drive-in theater, working as a DJ, delivering mail and repairing vinyl siding. He died in 1986.

Over time, zydeco has become interchangeable in the popular mind with "Cajun music", but zydeco was originally made by black Creoles from southern Louisiana, stealing lyrics and sounds from the Cajuns ("zydeco" is derived from the French haricots, beans) and being inspired by R&B and western swing as well. Garlow's hit brought the music for the first time to national attention, and basically inaugurated the genre; the Louisiana tourism board should have given him a stipend.

You can find "Bon Ton", which was released as a single on Macy's Records (Macy's 5002) in late 1949 and hit the national charts in February 1950, on an excellent Arhoolie collection of early zydeco. Here's a Garlow discography.

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