M&T Jazz Fest 2015: Buckwheat Zydeco
“Stanley ‘Buckwheat’ Dural leads one of the best bands in America. A down-home and high-powered celebration, meaty and muscular with a fine-tuned sense of dynamics…propulsive rhythms, incendiary performances.” - The New York Times
American musical legend Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr. a.k.a. Buckwheat Zydeco is the preeminent ambassador of Louisiana’s zydeco music. If you’ve gotten into zydeco music, or felt its influence, or watched the world celebrate this great aspect of Louisiana culture over the past 30+ years it’s likely been because of Buckwheat Zydeco.
Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. was born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1947. He acquired his nickname because, with his braided hair, he looked like Buckwheat from The Little Rascals. His father was an accomplished, non-professional traditional Creole accordion player, but young Buckwheat preferred listening to and playing R&B. He became expert at the Hammond B3 organ, and by the late 1950s was backing Joe Tex, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and many others. In 1971 he formed Buckwheat and The Hitchhikers, and later accepted an invitation in 1976 to join Clifton Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band as organist. He quickly discovered the joy and power of zydeco music, and marveled at the effect the music had on the audience. “Everywhere, people young and old just loved zydeco music,” Buckwheat says. “I had so much fun playing that first night with Clifton. We played for four hours and I wasn’t ready to quit.”
Buckwheat’s relationship with the legendary Chenier – to whom Buck always pays homage as the King of Zydeco – led him to take up the accordion in 1978. After woodshedding for a year, he felt ready to start his own band under the name Buckwheat Zydeco, and began his recording career with a small local label. By the mid-1980s there were more offers to perform than he could possibly accept. Recordings for Black Top and Rounder followed before Buckwheat befriended New York-based journalist Ted Fox. He championed Buckwheat Zydeco to Chris Blackwell at Island Records in 1986 and became, and remains, Buckwheat Zydeco’s manager.
In 1988, Eric Clapton invited the band to open his North American tour as well as his 1989 twelve-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall. As even more doors opened, Buckwheat found himself sharing stages and/or recording with Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, David Hidalgo, Dwight Yoakam, Paul Simon, Ry Cooder and many others, including indie music stalwarts Yo La Tengo on the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan bio-pic, I’m Not There.
His music has also been featured in films and television shows ranging from The Waterboy, The Big Easy, Fletch Lives, Hard Target, NCIS to name a few. BET’s #1-rated show, Comic View, used his live version of What You Gonna Do? as theme music for the program’s 10th anniversary “Pardi Gras” season. He even co-wrote and performed the theme music for the PBS television series Pierre Franey’s Cooking In America.
Buckwheat also won an Emmy for his music in the CBS TV movie, Pistol Pete: The Life And Times Of Pete Maravich. Buckwheat Zydeco has played many major music festivals around the world, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Summerfest, San Diego Street Scene, Bumbershoot, Montreaux Jazz Festival and countless others.
In 1994 Buckwheat Zydeco became the first zydeco band to release a children’s record: the beloved, lively, “Choo Choo Boogaloo.” The disc features zydeco originals as well as classics such as “Iko Iko,” and “Cotton Fields,” and takes parents and children on a musical train tour of Louisiana. The recording won an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, and remains one of the most acclaimed children’s albums of all time.
Buckwheat Zydeco takes the Jazz Fest stage at 7:45 pm on Friday, July 17th. Admission is free. For more information of Jazz Fest, visit the event page.