Oct 6, 2009 11:30 AM by sleonard
The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame (LMHOF) brings its recognition program to Acadiana in a major way with inductions of Louisiana and Cajun music legends Doug Kershaw, D. L. Menard, Jimmy C. Newman and Jo-El Sonnier at the Festivals Acadiens on Friday, Oct. 9 in Lafayette.
This will be an active weekend for LMHOF inductions in Acadiana. Following the Friday night inductions in Lafayette, the classic bayou rock band (Louisiana's) LeRoux will be inducted on Saturday, Oct. 10th during its performance at the Voice of the Wetlands festival in Houma.
"We are pleased to finally be able to enter Acadiana and open the recognition process there in a big way," says LMHOF Executive Director Mike Shepherd. "This wave of inductions reaches into Cajun, contemporary and country music genres and we look forward to initiating the process to recognize Zydeco and more Swamp Pop artists in the near future."
The original "Ragin' Cajun," Doug Kershaw is a singular performing talent that no audience can forget. Kershaw sings in both French and English, dances and plays fiddle with such ferocity that he wears out several bows, sometimes twice during just one song. With more than 25 albums to his credit and a five-decade-long career, Doug Kershaw has a loyal following and continues to tour worldwide.
The son of an alligator farmer, Kershaw got his first boost of exposure performing on The Louisiana Hayride with his brother Rusty and the energetic fiddler never looked back. Kershaw broke ground introducing his Cajun country sound to an international audience with his autobiographical smash hit Louisiana Man in 1951, which has sold millions of copies by him and scores of other cover artists and launched his career as a Cajun icon in American music. His second hit, Diggy Diggy Lo soon followed and was nearly as successful and influential. As the ‘70s began, his high-octane fiddling style brought him new attention to rock music fans as he enjoyed a successful week-long engagement at the famous Fillmore East and toured as opening act for Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominos and others. After a few years hiatus, Kershaw rebounded in 1981 with his Top 40 country hit Hello Woman. In 1988, he recorded a hit duet, Cajun Baby, with Hank Williams, Jr. and has continued to record and tour to the present day.
DL Menard is affectionately known as "The Cajun Hank Williams" and has been one of Cajun music's strongest links to country music for five decades and counting. Menard idolized Williams and only met the country legend once. Menard says Williams told him to be proud of his heritage and play his own type of music, saying "All music is good if it's yours."
Menard's signature hit song La Porte Dans Arriere (The Back Door) sold more than 500,000 copies and solidified a career that has taken him to stages around the world as an ambassador of Cajun music and culture. In 1994, Menard received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
His given name is Jimmy Yves Newman, but the man from near Mamou adopted his stage name Jimmy C. Newman - the "C" stands for Cajun. Newman, who idolized the music of Gene Autry, has enjoyed a career that has made him a country music icon as members of both the Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry. While many of his hit songs lean to his country music side, Newman developed a fusion of influences in his albums and stage performance that made him a forerunner in Cajun-country music.
Newman's first recordings in Louisiana were regional successes in the ‘40s, and his career took off when he signed with Dot Records in Nashville and scored a number four country chart hit with Cry, Cry, Darling. Joining the Louisiana Hayride, Newman followed with Top Ten hits Daydreamin', Blue Darlin' and God Was So Good. He moved to the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 and his next song A Fallen Star became his biggest country hit and cracked the top 25 on Billboard's pop chart. Newman scored chart hits several more times, and in the ‘60s he began to bring back his Cajun music influences with hit singles like Alligator Man and Bayou Talk. In the past three decades Newman has moved back to Cajun music, recording for the La Louisianne, Swallow, and Rounder labels, and he continues to stay busy performing in North America and Europe. His recording Lâche pas la patate (The Potato Song) earned gold record status in Canada in 1976, and Newman and Cajun Country earned a Grammy nomination 1991 for their album Alligator Man.
Few Cajun music artists have crossed more bridges between musical traditions than Rayne native Jo-El Sonnier, who has maintained his Acadiana roots for four decades yet also attained success on country charts and brought his energetic accordion sounds to recordings by diverse artists such as Bob Dylan, Alan Jackson, Emmylou Harris, Steven Curtis Chapman, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians and Elvis Costello.
Sonnier has recorded his own albums for several major labels, earning three Grammy nominations and enjoying success in the ‘80s with the Top Ten hits No More One More Time and Tear Stained Letter. He has been in demand as a songwriter, placing songs on albums by several artists in the late '80s and early '90s including Blue Is Not a Word, a song that scored airplay for both Patty Loveless and George Strait. In recent years he has collaborated with Eddy Raven and Beausoleil's Michael Doucet. Sonnier also dabbled in acting, appearing in the films Mask, They All Laughed, and A Thing Called Love.
"People have been e-mailing and writing to the LMHOF and asking ‘What about Acadiana music?' and their questions are valid," says Shepherd. "We have always planned to provide honors to many Cajun, Zydeco, swamp pop and Cajun country artists, but we also wanted to make sure we had the right opportunities and the ability to communicate internationally to media and the public in both French and English."
Shepherd says bringing Dr. Barry Ancelet, noted Cajun folklorist and language professor at University of Louisiana-Lafayette, onto the organizations Executive Advisory Board has helped move the process forward. He also notes that Cynthia Simien, former Louisiana Music Commission member and wife of famed Zydeco artist Terrance Simien, has also become an advisory board member and will assist with future recognition in Zydeco music.
"I think we have done a remarkable job given the limited resources we have and without any public financial assistance to date. Our online Galleries Musique Virtual Museum is on the cutting edge of technology and now boasts around 5,000 image, music and video files. More than 105,000 people have visited our site and museum and the pace is growing daily," Shepherd notes. "We look forward to the day we can initiate all of our planned programs and activities to bring Louisiana's music industry and culture back into prominence as it was for so many decades of the 20th Century."
The inductions will bring to 50 the number of music legends that have been formally recognized to date. The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame is under the auspices of the 501(c)(3) IRS certified nonprofit La Musique de Louisianne, Inc. LMHOF plans to induct many additional music hit makers and pioneers associated with the state's rich and diverse music legacy, and to provide special recognition to many more regional favorites and to luminaries in songwriting and performance. The group also envisions continuing and expanding its educational and promotional activities while continuing to seek brick and mortar facilities to advance its mission.
Please visit the Web site and Virtual Museum portal at www.LMHOF.org. The organization also maintains "Louisiana Music Hall of Fame" pages and video links on Facebook, You Tube and MySpace.
For more information about the Festival Acadiens et Creoles visit: www.festivalsacadiens.com.
For more information about the Voice of the Wetlands festival visit www.voiceofthewetlands.org.