See below for a list of dance halls!
In St. Landry Parish, musicians play accordions. But the rocking sound of these squeeze boxes is more B.B. King with a Creole accent than Lawrence Welk and a bubble machine. Others play the frottoir, French for the word washboard. But Mama can't wash clothes when these raspy rhythms dance through the air. The accordion and washboard are the heart of zydeco, dance music that was born here in St. Landry Parish.
Before the days of electricity, French-speaking, black sharecroppers chased their blues away in living room dances called "La La." Someone would surely shout, "Oh mom, les haricots (zydeco) sont pas salé," a half-complaint, half-prayer about times so hard, there was no salt to pour over the snap beans. Send salt, dear Lord, or send another "La La" to dance these bitter blues away. Send Amédé Ardoin, a mysterious drifter whose lonely music of the 1920s and ‘30s could make women cry and men stop fighting. Or send Clifton Chenier, an Opelousas native and Grammy winner, who could cook the French zydeco with big city rhythm and blues. Send Rockin' Sidney, another parish son and Grammy winner, who told millions "Don't Mess with My Toot Toot." Send Grammy winner Terrance Simien, Geno Delafose, Jeffery Broussard and, Guyland Leday, young parish natives who keep the zydeco gumbo boiling with pinches of traditional French, funk, blues, rap and rock.
Cajun music, another squeezebox groove found in St. Landry Parish, is filled with stories of brokenhearted men, sly women, and meddling parents. Yet these sad, French songs keep fans two-stepping and waltzing from Lawtell to London. In the 1950s, teenagers added English lyrics, R&B and country music to grandpa's accordion blues and swamp pop was born. Rod Bernard stood on feed sacks when he sang on radio broadcasts in his hometown of Opelousas. The broadcasts primed Bernard for his 1959 hit "This Should Go On Forever," a classic that opened the door for over 20 swamp pop songs to enter the national music charts.
The legacy of these and other parish natives lives on. Cajun music is celebrated Saturdays in Eunice in a Grand Ole Opry-style broadcast from the historic Liberty Theater or a jam session at Savoy's Music Center, an accordion factory where admission is
beer, boudin or an ability to tap your feet. Thousands feast on zydeco annually, the Saturday before Labor Day at the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival in Plaisance or the first Saturday in July at the Lebeau Zydeco Festival. Swamp pop has become the subject of books and immortal hits on local radio stations, like KBON 101.1 FM, where Louisiana artists come before corporate cutouts. The accordion and washboard have unusual uses in St. Landry Parish. But the world wouldn't have it any other way.