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Chapter 8 Come Back to Texas From “Bogalusa Boogie” to “Soy Chicano” Cajun Music: “Laissez les bon temps rouler” Growing up in Beaumont, I heard all about the Thibodeauxs and the Fontenots (two common Cajun family names mentioned in Hank Williams’s “Jambalaya”).SoutheastTexas is part of theAcadian cultural region because so many Cajuns migrated from Louisiana to Texas to work in the refineries and chemical plants and on oil pipelines. Cajuns were descended from French-speakingAcadians who were deported from Nova Scotia by British authorities in 1755. In 1765 they started to arrive in Louisiana, where they settled west of the Mississippi River and eventually spread throughout the southwestern part of the state. By the time I was growing up in the late forties and fifties, Cajuns were well established enough in southeast Texas that“Thibodeauxs and Fontenots” was a metonym for Cajun. Perhaps the term became a standard reference because of Hank Williams’s hit country song“Jambalaya (on the Bayou)” (1952): Thibodeauxs, Fontenots, the place is buzzin’ Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen Dressed in style, go hog wild, me oh my oh Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou. (Transcribed by the author) Because of the large Cajun population, there are numerous Cajun restaurants in southeastTexas.When we lived in Beaumont during my high school and college years,we always ate Cajun food at Don’s restaurant (the original was in Lafayette, Louisiana), and we continued to eat there every time we Come Back to Texas 171 went back to visit family. When my parents retired and moved back to Beaumont, Don’s was still our favorite place to eat out. I loved their fried shrimp, stuffed flounder, and as an adult, crawfish étouffée. My uncle JB married a Cajun girl (they were eventually divorced),so I have a half-Cajun cousin, Don, who still lives in Louisiana. My mother fixed shrimp gumbo regularly, and it was what I always asked her to cook when I came home for a visit. My mother’s sister Evelyn had a wonderful recipe for shrimp creole, which I and my siblings have been using all our adult lives, Carol in Montana, Linda in California, Michigan, South Carolina, and New Jersey, and me in New York and Ohio. We heard Cajun French around us in Beaumont and Port Arthur, later when we lived in Baton Rouge,and later still when my parents lived in Lake Charles while I was in college.I have vivid memories of us driving back and forth between Baton Rouge and Beaumont through Cajun country when I was in the eighth grade and stopping in Opelousas, Eunice, or Kinder to eat fried shrimp or buy sugarcane for us kids to suck on as we got restless during the drive. We heard Cajun music on the radio and sometimes on the jukeboxes in little joints where we stopped to eat. Despite this exposure to the culture as a child and adolescent,I didn’t buy any Cajun records until 1971,after I had become a professional folklorist and heard the music at the American Folklife Festival in Washington.A revival of Cajun music was going on because some younger Cajuns were starting to rediscover their own heritage, and folklorists, both within the community and at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, helped to spread the music to the rest of the world as part of a vibrant folk music revival. I heard traditional musicians and singers such as the Balfa Brothers and NathanAbshire when I worked at the Folklife Festival, and D. L. Menard at the National Folk Festival when it was at Cuyahoga National Park, south of Cleveland. Later I became a fan of younger musicians such as Michael Doucet and Beausoleil when they played a concert in Columbus, and Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys in Lafayette (see chapter 4).I was working at the 1976 Smithsonian Folklife Festival when a large group of Cajun musicians,dancers , and cooks performed there. Nathan Abshire was one of my favorites, a wonderful button accordion player who always seemed to be having a good time. You might say too good a time. Ralph Rinzler, who was the director of the festival, didn’t want performers to drink onstage or backstage. I had noticed Nathan taking a few nips before he went on,but I thought he would stop once the official word came down. I was taking photographs of the 172 chapter...


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