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Buckwheat Zydeco

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Contemporary zydeco’s most popular performer, accordionist Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural was the natural successor to the throne vacated by the death of his mentor Clifton Chenier; infusing his propulsive party music with strains of rock and R&B, his urbanized sound — complete with touches of synthesizer and trumpet — married traditional and contemporary zydeco with uncommon flair, in the process reaching a wider mainstream audience than any artist before him. Dural was born in Lafayette, Louisiana on November 14, 1947; with his braided hair, he soon acquired the nickname “Buckwheat” (an homage to the Our Gang character), and by the age of four was already touted as a piano prodigy. Although often exposed to traditional zydeco as a child, he preferred R&B, and by the mid-1950s was playing professionally with Lynn August; Dural’s notoriety as a keyboardist quickly spread, and he also backed notables including Joe Tex and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

In 1971, Dural founded Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, a 16-piece funk band which he led for the next half-decade; however, in 1976 he finally fell under zydeco’s sway when recruited to back Chenier — a friend of his father — on tour. Originally brought on as an organist, Dural picked up the accordion within two years and began learning from the master himself; rechristening himself Buckwheat Zydeco, he formed his own combo by 1979, the Ils Sont Partis Band (translated as “They’re off!, ” so named in honor of the cry heard at the beginning of each horse race at the Lafayette track).

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