This short list should be a good jump-start for anyone interested in playing Cajun music themselves, or for adding a Cajun touch to any other kind of music you might like to play.
These instruments are very particular to Cajun music, and they are made within the state. Accept no substitutes. Good fiddles and guitars, though, can be bought just about anywhere. :-)
And no, I don't know who that clown is on the left with the accordion and the skanky beard. He is, however, holding a Marc Savoy-made "Acadian" accordion and is sitting in one of D. L. Menard's rocking chairs.
IN MEMORIAM:What's now popularly known as the Cajun or Cajun-style accordion (or elsewhere as the melodeon) was invented in Germany in the 19th Century, and came to the prairies of Louisiana with German immigrants. They were quickly embraced by the Creoles and then the Cajuns, and have become a large, almost definitive aspect of the Cajun sound. They were all imported from Germany initially, until this was halted by two world wars (in fact, I understand the the factory where "Sterling" accordions were made was bombe by the Allies).
Lionel LeLeux, Cajun fiddler and fiddle-maker, 1910-1996.
The first man in Louisiana to begin to make his own accordions was Sidney Brown of Lake Charles. Following his lead, Marc Savoy an others began making them, and now there are over 70 (at last count) people in Louisiana who are building accordions. Here are some of them. Alphabetized by brand-name, if there is one, or by its maker if not:
- Acadian, made by Marc Savoy. Savoy Music Center, P. O. Box 941, Eunice, LA 70535. (337) 457-9563. email email@example.com.
- The gold standard of Cajun accordions. Marc's been at it longer than anyone else in Acadiana at the moment, and his accordions are beautiful and sound great. A wide variety of tunings, woods and inlaid marquetry designs are available. Many, many terrific Cajun musicians use his instruments, and even ones that aren't anywhere close to being terrific -- like me. I bought my Acadian accordion a few years back, but I don't sound as good as I wish I did, 'cause I just don't have the time to practice. (Or is it that I don't take enough time to practice?) Oh well...
Marc has produced a book and video on learning the Cajun accordion, and his wife Ann has written a fantastic book called Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People, with stories, interviews, great old photographs, and transcriptions of over 100 Cajun songs.
Marc also sells models made in Germany that are less expensive than his handmade accordions, and carries a wide range of musical instruments in his store. Call for details.
- Bon Tee Cajun, made by Larry Miller. Rt. 1, Box 396, Iota, LA 70543. (318) 779-2456.
- Larry's a really nice guy, and exhibits his instruments regularly in the folk arts/crafts area of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. As far as I understand, his accordion-making business is extremely low-volume, so do call to ensure the availability of his instruments. Larry also makes fine ti-fers as well. If you get him talking, make sure you ask him about the peculiar Mardi Gras traditions that take place only in his tiny hometown of Iota.
- "Cajun" and "Doucet" brands, made by John Elton Doucet. 1503 Charlene Hwy., Church Point, LA 70525. (337) 684-6495.
- Mr. Doucet is an accordion maker of 30 years duration, under the brand "Cajun" and "Doucet".
- Cajun, made by John Roger. 2517 Lawrence Drive, Meraux, LA 70075. (504) 279-7554, fax (504) 278-9785
- Mr. Roger has been making accordions for about 20 years, with his instruments in the hands of such people as Paul Daigle, Beau Jocque, Terrance Simien, and Québecois musician Danielle Martineau.
- Evangeline, made by Errol Verret. Rt. 5, Box 206, St. Martinville, LA 70517. (318) 228-2451.
- Errol was the former accordionist of the group Beausoleil, and is currently playing with Al Berard and The Basin Brothers. He's a fine musician and a fine accordion maker as well.
- Falcon, made by Randy Falcon. 227 Norris Stuttes Rd., Duson, LA 70529. (318) 981-3431.
- Ervin LeJeune, Rt. 2, Box 701, Jennings, LA 70546. (318) 824-6667.
- Ervin is the son of the late great accordionist and singer Iry LeJeune. Accordions are in his blood.
- Magnolia, made by Fred Cormier. 305 Sylvia St., Lafayette, LA 70506. (318) 234-4978.
- Martin, made by Junior Martin. 2143 W. Willow St. Extension, Scott, LA 70583. (318) 232-4001.
- Junior also has a variety of woods available, and his customers include Jo-el Sonnier and my old high-school classmate, glass sculptor Mitchell Gaudet of Studio Inferno in New Orleans (practice, practice, practice!)
- Master, made by Charlie Ortego. Rt. 14, Box 1842, Lake Charles, LA 70603. (318) 477-2126.
- Another fine accordion maker, whose insruments are favored by Boozoo Chavis. My friend Dave Gaar bought one of Charlie's, and is quite happy with it.
- Mouton, made by Lawrence "Shine" Mouton. Rt. 1, Box 239, Crowley, LA 70526. (318) 783-2246.
Frottoirs (Zydeco scrubboards)
- Champagne Sheet Metal, 338 Thoroughbred Dr., Lafayette, LA 70507. (318) 896-5806.
- They make fine quality metal rubboards, and they ship anywhere you want.
- Tee Don Landry
- Continuing in a family tradition -- his daddy made rubboards for the great Cleveland Chenier.
- Larry Miller, Rt. 1, Box 396, Iota, LA 70543. (318) 779-2456.
- Larry makes his ti-fers the old-fashioned, proper way -- from the tines of old iron hay rakes. They sound ... well, very Cajun. :-)
- La Famille Viator Violins, P.O. Box 803, Eunice, LA 70535, tel. (318) 546-6172
- Hand-crafted violins carved in the Louisiana Creole tradition.
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)