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Accordion Beatles Meets Buckwheat Zydeco

Buckwheat Meets AccBtls GuyBuckwheat Zydeco and the Ils Son Partit Band came to Toronto February 25, 1998, for the only Canadian appearance of their current tour. A near-capacity crowd (about 300) jammed the "Legendary" Horseshoe Tavern (site of a surprise Rolling Stones show last summer), and enjoyed over two and a half hours of rollicking zydeco, blues and rock played by his 8-piece ensemble (drums, bass, 2 guitars, trumpet, sax, washboard, and Buck on accordion). The band played 3 numbers to build excitement before Buck took the stage. Everyone was on their feet for the entire show, and the dance floor was constantly packed with bouncing bodies having a great time. The infectious rhythms were irresistible, and people of all ages were rockin' the house. The C.B.C. was on hand, conducting interviews with several audience members before the show, and taped a considerable portion of the show itself, as well as the frenetic gyrations of some particularly energetic and innovative dancers, but I'm not aware of if or when it aired.

Buck (a.k.a. Stanley Dural, Jr.) got the crowd going with "Can't Stop", and played many songs from his new disc, "Trouble", as well as old favourites such as "Hot Tamale" and "Hey Good Lookin'". After some initial on-stage sound problems (stage acoustics at the 'Shoe are 'legendary' for being awful), the band found its groove and rode it hard and fast, like a well-oiled locomotive, and Buck, as well as the audience, never looked back. I lost count of the songs, but they kept coming, and the crowd lapped it up like desert-weary wanderers who had found an oasis of boogaloo to quench their thirst.

Buckwheat Zydeco gets crowd goingOld favourite "Hot Tamale" was a searing showcase of virtuosic solo work by Buck, with the horns and guitar players all taking their turns as well. Buck incites the crowd with classic call and response techniques, punctuating his keyboard work with shouts of "That's right!" (or is it "Let's rock!", "Yes sir!", or something else?). He plays a Hohner 120 bass, and at times, a synth keyboard at stage left.

After more than two hours of solid rockin' zydeco and blues, Buck left the stage while the band continued to play. Of course, the crowd knew that he'd be back, and would neither cease nor desist its insistent cheering, whistling, clapping and stomping until he had made his return, reminiscent of James Brown. Buck is the consummate showman, and works the crowd like a seasoned carnie. An impressive encore of three songs followed, which was capped by "Hey Baby", for me, the highlight of the evening. After letting the band take most of the solos during the evening, it was now the Master's turn.

Father and Son, Zydeco WarriorsHis son, Sir Reginald B. Dural, plays washboard (an all-metal contraption worn like overalls and played with spoons in each hand), and took a turn playing accordion (an Onyo 120) with his dad on "Hey Baby" from Buck's "Five Card Stud" album. This was apparently the first time they've jammed together onstage - Buck wouldn't let him do it in the States. "A young man came up to me and said, 'I want to play accordion in your band', but I said, wait till we get to Canada and we'll see what you got", quoth Buck. During key moments, the band would drop out, and with only drums keeping time, Buck would play a phrase, which Reggie would follow with slight variations (the classic call and response); however, mischievous Buck would then double back and play something completely different over top of Reggie's response and try to mess him up. To his credit, Reggie hung on and they would come back in together beautifully, with the band kicking in for a hugely satisfying grand finale rendition of the classic Buckwheat Zydeco signature song. The crowd took over singing for most of the song, and Buck, pleased, backed off from the mic and let it happen. He exhorted the crowd to sing along, and pitted the men against the ladies in an energetic and fun singing contest in which there were only jubilant winners. Finally, after over 150 minutes of constant boogying, the crowd was too exhausted to demand any more music, and, glowing with the sheen of perspiration and joy, dissipated into the night. It was nearly 2 a.m. on a Wednesday, a working/school night, and reality had to be faced. Ah, but such a sweet escape for a time!

After the show, I lingered, hoping to get a chance to meet the man himself. I saw the band packing up their own gear and realized that there were no roadies. I approached the stage and struck up a conversation with Reggie, offering to help "slug the gear". Reggie declined, but invited me to the dressing room to meet his father. This was it!!! I was hoping this would happen, but now that it was imminent, I was dumbstruck! I'd done my research on Buck, and had a million things to talk about, but once in his presence, I was speechless, just sitting with a foolish grin on my face. In my five years as a lighting director/roadie, I've met and worked with all kinds of rock stars and celebrities (John Kay, Rick Derringer, Eric Burdon, Badfinger, to name but a few), but I was genuinely taken with this man, whom I hold in such high esteem.

Check out those shoes!I did manage to get some conversation in, during which I discovered things that corroborated and embellished the information found in his bio at the official Buckwheat Zydeco website. He owns nine keyboards, most of which are at home in Louisiana, and which include a double-decker Hammond (not surprising that it doesn't go on the road with the band!). Buck started out playing keyboards at age 15, and played in the late Clifton Chenier's band for about nine years. Buck was totally against playing accordion OR zydeco music at first, but fate and destiny could not be denied. Buck calls Clifton "the King of Zydeco", and holds his memory in high regard.

I told Buck that I'm a squeezer too, and he looked at me slyly, waggling a finger and saying, "I thought so - you were looking to copy my licks!" Guilty as charged, Buck. I stood front and centre, transfixed, during his and Reggie's duo work, and believe me, it was an education you just don't get at the conservatory! I told him about how I played from age 6 to 12, then stopped and learned a bunch of other instruments, but came back to accordion in the last few years (see my Accordion Page for more info). I remarked at how the accordion is the only instrument that can carry the whole song - bass, rhythm and melody. He seemed mildly interested in my Accordion Beatles work - he's covered one of their tunes on an old album, and has jammed with Ringo! He laughed and said, "You found out that you can play more than polkas on that thing, huh?" I concurred, saying, "Especially since I heard your records!"

After he'd signed two of my CD covers, and sat for a photo with me, I bid him fond farewell, and expressed the hope that he'd soon return to Toronto. Walking back out to the club with Reggie, I told him how good I thought his accordion playing was, and he just humbly said "Thanks". There was so much more I had wanted to talk about, but I was just too star-struck to remember! I didn't even get to tell them about my subway gig - sheesh! And we're both Scorpios - I'm the 11th of November, Buck's the 14th. There are a few years separating us, of course.

But can you blame me? I mean, Buckwheat Zydeco is a living legend, and rightly so. He has played with Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Dwight Yoakum, Willie Nelson, David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos), B.B. King, Paul Shaeffer, Gloria Estefan, Sheila E., Wynton Marsalis, the Pointer Sisters, Al Green - the list just goes on and on. He has played both inaugurals for President Clinton, at the closing ceremonies of the Atlanta '96 Olympics, has toured all over the world, opened for U2 in Miami. Buckwheat Zyedeco has brought the accordion, and zydeco music, into the mainstream. You'd be hard pressed nowadays to go through a day and not hear snatches of accordion and zydeco being played on the radio, in jingles and TV ads. In Canada, a current Toyota commercial borrows heavily from his song "I.R.S." - I hope he's getting royalties for that one! It would seem advertisers know that it takes about one second to grab a listener's attention and put them into a good mood, which means they'll feel good about the product and hopefully about shelling out their money to buy it. Ah, yes, the true sign of success - commercialization of the genre, and its induction into the mainstream.

Hats off to Buckwheat Zydeco, accordion pioneer, roots music icon, and living legend. DO NOT MISS THIS BAND if you have the good fortune to have them visit your town!

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