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Clifton Chenier

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Biography

Clifton Chenier (June 25, 1925 - December 12, 1987) was an American Zydeco accordion player and singer.

Chenier, a Creole French-speaking native of Opelousas, Louisiana, was an eminent performer and recording artist of Zydeco, which arose from Cajun and Creole music, with rhythm & blues, jazz, and blues influences. He won a Grammy Award in 1983. In 1984 he was honored as a National Heritage Fellow and in 1989 he was inducted posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame.
He was known as the ‘King of Zydeco’, and also billed as the ‘King of the South’.

Chenier began his recording career in 1954, when he signed with Elko Records and released Clifton’s Blues, a regional success. His first hit record was soon followed by “Ay ‘Tite Fille (Hey, Little Girl)” (a cover of Professor Longhair’s song). This received some mainstream success. With the Zydeco Ramblers, Chenier toured extensively. He also toured in the early days with Clarence Garlow, billed as the ‘Two Crazy Frenchmen’. Chenier was signed with Chess Records in Chicago, followed by the Arhoolie label.
In April 1966, Chenier appeared at the Berkeley Blues Festival on the University of California campus and was subsequently described by Ralph J. Gleason, Jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, as “… one of the most surprising musicians I have heard in some time, with a marvelously moving style of playing the accordion … blues accordion, that’s right, blues accordion.”

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