Biography

Amédé Ardoin (11th March 1898—1941 or 1950) was one of the greatest Creole musicians of the twentieth century, Ardoin was one of the few Creole musicians to make commercial recordings before the era of Clifton Chenier. Known for his high singing voice and virtuosity on the ten-button (diatonic or “Cajun”) accordion, he is credited by Louisiana music scholars with laying the groundwork for Cajun and Creole music in the early twentieth century.

Ardoin, with fiddle player Dennis McGee, was one of the first artists to record the music of the Acadiana region of Louisiana. In December 1929, he and McGee recorded six songs for Columbia Records in New Orleans. In all, thirty-four recordings with Ardoin playing accordion are known to exist.

The date and place of his death is uncertain and in dispute, although some historical accounts list it as 4th November 1941. Descendants of family members and musicians who knew Ardoin tell a story, now well-known, about a racially motivated attack on Ardoin in which he was severely beaten, probably between 1939 and 1949, while walking home after playing at a house dance near Eunice, Louisiana. The most common story says that some white men were angered when a white woman, daughter of the house, lent her handkerchief to Ardoin to wipe the sweat from his face. Canray Fontenot and Wade Fruge, in PBSs “American Patchwork”, explain that after Ardoin left the place, he was run over by a Model A car and his head and throat were crushed, damaging his vocal chords. He was found the next day, lying in a ditch. According to Canray, he “went plumb crazy” and “didn’t know if he was hungry or not. Others had to feed him. He got weaker and weaker until he died.” Some consider this story apocryphal. Other versions say that Ardoin was poisoned, not beaten, possibly by a jealous fellow musician.

Contemporaries said that Ardoin suffered from impaired mental and musical capacities later in his life possibly from that infamous night. He ended up in an asylum in Pineville, Louisiana. Michael Tisserand in his book The Kingdom of Zydeco concludes that Ardoin probably died in the asylum, though no definitive record of his death exists.

Edited by Grosseteste on 10 Nov 2012, 09:42

Sources (view history)

Lifetime of familiarity with my native Gulf Coast history & culture. See “Texas Zydeco” by Wood & Fraher.

Discogs biography of Amédé Ardoin.

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