Buckwheat, the iconic musician, died on Saturday, aged sixty-eight, because of lung cancer. The accordionist died in his hometown, Lafayette, Louisiana, according to his manager, Ted Fox.
The musician was named Stanley Dural Jr., and then founded the Buckwheat Zydeco band in 1979. After that, they barnstormed across the country, winning an Emmy and a Grammy, all over a three-decade period.
Dural became an iconic image for zydeco, with his easily recognized glasses, broad-brimmed black and piano accordion that had the words “BUCKWHEAT” emblazoned. He is also remembered as the man who released zydeco into mainstream audiences.
Dural played on recordings and stage to other music icons such as U2, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Keith Richards and Robert Plant.
What is extraordinary for Dural’s music is that he mixed Louisiana Creole traditions with rock and rhythm and blues. Dural sang in English and French Creole. His band was known as one of the “world’s great party bands.”
Stanley Joseph Dural Jr. was born on November 14, 1947, in Lafayette, Lousiana. His family was very humble and had a low-income. As a child, Dural picked cotton and lived with his other six sisters and five brothers in a two-bedroom house.
His father was also an accordionist, but Dural preferred the rhythm and blues and the organ. His nickname, which he would be known with when famous, was given to him for his braided hair that looks similar to the character Buckwheat, played by William Thomas Jr. in “The Little Rascals.”
In the seventies, he founded Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, his 15-piece soul band with whom he made his early recordings. His first single “It’s hard to get” was a local hit.
It was not until the mid-seventies that Dural rediscovered zydeco and the accordion. He joined Clifton Chenier’s band, which was one of the first in mixing blues and traditional Creole music. Chenier is regarded as “the Gulf Coast’s king of zydeco” and died in 1987.
Buckwheat’s iconic band
Once Dural took up the accordion, he began a zydeco band. Firstly it was called the Buckwheat Zydeco Ils Sont Partis Band, inspired by the Creole French announcements made at horse races. In the eighties, the band got associated with Black Top and Rounder and Blues Unlimited labels.
In the mid-eighties, the band signed with Island Records for a five-album deal and was renamed Buckwheat Zydeco. By 1988 the band opened for Eric Clapton in both America and the UK, making them known outside the traditional zydeco audiences.
By the nineties the band had started to use independent labels, most importantly, the one created by Dural himself, Tomorrow Records. Buckwheat Zydeco toured incessantly worldwide, from Dural’s hometown to Switzerland.
Buckwheat Zydeco’s songs appeared on film soundtracks, and Dural even wrote the theme song for “Pierre Franey’s Cooking in America” on PBS. The band played at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration and opened the talk show “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”
The band even played at the closing ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games. In 2002, the band won an Emmy for the CBS documentary “Pistol Pete: The Life and Times of Pete Maravich,” about the life of the basketball star.
Source: The New York Times