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Essay Twistin' at the Fais Do-Do: The Roots of South Louisiana's Swamp Pop Music by Shane K. Bernard 77ns article is an overview of the author's book, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues, published by University Press ofMississippi. The book was issued in early September with an accompanying 14-track CD ofclassic swamppop recordings. Swamp pop music is a rhythm and blues idiom that combines elements of New Orleans rhythm and blues, country and western, and Cajun and black Creole music. Highly emotional, colorful lyrics, tripleting honky-tonk pianos, bellowing horn sections, and a strong rhythm and blues backbeat typify the genre's sound. Swamp pop standards include such national hits as Bobby Charles's "Later Alligator," Dale and Grace's "I'm Leaving It Up to You," Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," Phil Phillips's "Sea of Love," and Jimmy Clanton's "Just a Dream." In south Louisiana, however—the birthplace of swamp pop—numerous songs less popular nationally are embraced as even more essential to the basic swamp pop repertoire. These include such regional hits as Cookie and the Cupcakes ' "Mathilda," Tommy McLain's "Sweet Dreams," Randy and the Rockets' "Let's Do the Cajun Twist," Clint West's "Big Blue Diamonds," Rufus Jagneaux's "Opelousas Sostan," and Johnnie Allan's "South To Louisiana."1 What is Swamp Pop? Swamp pop music hails almost exclusively from Acadiana, a twenty-two parish region of south Louisiana recognized for its large Cajun and rural black Creole population; however, swamp pop also originates in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area of southeast Texas, where Cajuns and black Creoles migrated in Often misunderstood and even sizable numbers around World War ignored by many enthusiasts of II. Often misunderstood and even south Louisiana's music, swamp ignored by many enthusiasts ofdeserves recognition and south Louisiana s music, swamp, . _ . , ·*¦ ? preservation as the region's pop deserves recognition and près- r ° ervation as the region's third major third maÌor indigenous genre. 316Southern Cultures indigenous genre (along with Cajun and zydeco music)—not only because it once thrived in the region and even attracted a national audience, but because it descends from traditional Cajun and black Creole sources through a blending process similar to that which produced rock, blues, and jazz music. Swamp pop goes by many alternate titles: swamp rock, Cajun rock, Cajun pop, bayou rock 'n' roll, bayou boogie, even the Gulf Coast sound. The terms "south Louisiana music" and "south Louisiana rock 'n' roll," however, appear more frequently, as does the more generic "swamp music." But among fans and artists the most popular moniker by far is "swamp pop music" or simply "swamp pop." Surprisingly, the term "swamp pop" originated not in south Louisiana nor even in the United States, but in England, where young music enthusiasts stumbled on the imported sound shortly after its American inception. Englishman John Broven often is cited as the term's inventor; however, he attributes the term to his compatriot, music writer Bill Millar, who states he probably coined "swamp pop" in the late 1960s. Millar recalls using the term informally until it first appeared in 1971 in his ground-breaking article "Swamp Pop-Music [sic] from Cajun Country."2 Despite widespread usage of the term "swamp pop," the question remains: Just what is it? Music writers often cite two competing views, the most popular of which derives from New Orleans rhythm and blues artist Mac Rebennack, better known as "Dr. John." This view holds that swamp pop consists only of slow ballads with ?-flat, B-flat progressions. A glance at the original source, however—the liner notes of Rebennack's 1972 Gumbo album—reveals that the performer makes no reference to swamp pop nor attempts to Cajun swamp popper Gene Terry (Terry Gene DeRouen), leader of Gene Terry and the Down Beats, poster photo, de»ne anY musical genre. RaNederland , Texas, 1958. Courtesy of the author's collection, ther, he merely describes one of Bernard: Twistin' at the Fais Do-Do317 Cajun swamp popper Bobby Page (Elwood "Boogas" Dugas), at the microphone, and his band, the Riff Raffs, ca. 1959. Courtesy of the author's...


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