A blog posting from the Orleans Hotel Las Vegas has this text: “New Orleans may just be one of the most fascinating, unique cities in the United States. Here, you’ll find a rich blend of French Spanish, and southern black cultures. This diverse city is also the birthplace of Jazz, the blues, and zydeco music, making it the center of music culture.” Now I’m sure the Orleans Hotel Las Vegas is a delightful place, and I agree that New Orleans is fascinating and unique; I’ve lived here over 35 years and that’s been my experience. And jazz music was certainly born here, though it was also nurtured in Chicago, New York and Kansas City. However, neither the blues nor zydeco was born here. I’ll leave the blues to other writers; but I am qualified to comment on zydeco.
Zydeco is a musical style that came out of ‘la la’ or ‘pic-nic’ music, played by Louisiana Creoles of color in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. It was their adaptation of Cajun music, sung in French, played on the accordion and fiddle, and full of feeling. Listen to Amédé Ardoin, the greatest Creole musician, on his “I’m Never Comin’ Back” for a sterling example of Creole music. Also seek out recordings by Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin and Canray Fontenot for more.
Zydeco arose in the late 1940s. Pete Bergeron has called it Cajun plus rhythm and blues, which is not a bad description, though it’s an oversimplification. Clifton Chenier is usually credited as zydeco’s creator and initial genius, but Boozoo Chavis and others deserve some credit, too. Read Michal Tisserand’s The Kingdom of Zydeco for details. New Orleans has a fair amount of zydeco and Cajun music, like Bruce Daigrepont’s Sunday evening gig at Tipitina’s and John Blanchard’s Rock ‘n’ Bowl on Thursday evenings, but they came here after they were born.