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Alphonse Ardoin

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Biography

Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin (November 16, 1915 – May 16, 2007) was an American accordionist who specialized in Cajun music (called “la la music” or “la musique Creole”) and was influential in what became zydeco music.

Born in Duralde in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana, he earned his nickname “dry wood” because he would always be the first to run in from the fields during a rainstorm. After starting on the triangle with his cousin Amédé Ardoin and fiddler Dennis McGee, he learned traditional accordion at age 12, playing the style of Louisiana music that was a precursor to zydeco.

His longtime musical partner was Canray Fontenot. By 1948, they were playing together in the Duralde Ramblers, and performed on local radio stations and in clubs. In 1966, they were invited to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival, where they received an enthusiastic reception. In the same year, they recorded their first album, Les Blues Du Bayou, on the Melodeon label.
In the early 1970s, Ardoin formed the Ardoin Family Orchestra with three of his sons, together with Canray Fontenot. They made a number of recordings, and appeared in two films, Dry Wood (1973) and J’ai Été Au Bal (1989). He retired from the music business after the death of one of his sons, Gustave, in 1974, but returned a few years later. After Fontenot’s death in 1995, Ardoin performed with the band Balfa Toujours, and recorded an album, Allons Danser, with them in 1998.

In 1986, Ardoin and Fontenot were awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.

On Wednesday, May 16, 2007 Bois Sec died in Eunice, LA at the age of 91 in a nursing home of natural causes.

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