Posts Tagged ‘Marc Savoy’

How I came to play Cajun/zydeco music, Part I

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I am of Polish ancestry. My maternal grandfather played Polish folk music on the violin, clarinet, and harmonica around his house, so I grew up hearing live music. Also, there were lots of Polish-style weddings to attend what with all of the relatives and friends of the family getting married, and there were always live polka bands at these weddings.

I started attending rock/blues concerts in my late teens, and two of my favorite bands were Savoy Brown and the J. Geils Band. I was talking with a co-worker, Sally, one day when I was 20, telling her how much fun it appeared to be to play music on stage as those bands, especially the Geils band. Then I told her how I wish I could play music. Well, I guess I said that to her too many times because she told me to “either get an instrument and learn to play, or else shut up about it!” I thought, “get an instrument and learn to play, that’s the ticket!” So I went and bought a Hohner Super Chromonica in the key of C, and Sally started teaching me to play harmonica during lunch at work.

I also went to a local Detroit music store, Taber Music (they’re no longer in business), and bought a spinet organ and started taking organ lessons. After a few years I took some piano lessons from a guy named Bruce at Anderson Music in Dearborn. Eventually I formed a local band with some friends (R.U. Ready?), and we played some hall parties and such. A couple of years later I played in another local rock-only band, Sailstone, but quit the music business in 1978.

I got married in 1980 and then divorced in 1992, and didn’t really play much music during all that time; just played a little piano at home. After the divorce, I really started playing music for myself as therapy, mostly harmonica, and some piano. I started jamming with contra dance musicians in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, as well as dancing at a lot of local contra dances.

I met a gal at a contra dance in 1993, and we went to the Wheatland Music Organization‘s Traditional Arts Weekend over the Memorial Day weekend. There were nightly dances on Friday through Sunday that weekend, as well as various music and dance workshops all during the day on both Saturday and Sunday. A couple of the dance workshops were about Cajun dancing. Neither of us knew anything about Cajun dancing or what the music sounded like, but we were game to try new things, so we attended those Cajun dance workshops.

Perhaps it was the Cajun accordion playing of Gary Powell of the Bone Tones band that grabbed me, but I was immediately hooked. My partner and I learned to dance Cajun two-step, jitterbug, and waltz, and danced the night away on that Sunday to the Bone Tones.

The Bone Tones had two cassette tapes for sale, Cajun Dance Tonight (out of print) & Queue de Tortue, which I bought. One of the members of the Bone Tones, Matt Haney, also had two tapes for sale with him playing with Tracy Schwarz (Louisiana and You & The Tracy Schwarz Cajun Trio, both apparently out of print) which I also bought. So now I owned four tapes of Cajun music which I promptly started playing along with on the harmonica. I then went and bought a John & Geno Delafose zydeco tape, Pere et Garçon Zydeco,  just to get some zydeco for something a little different.

As the 1990s kept rolling along, I kept contra dancing and playing contra dance music on harmonica, as well as occasionally dancing to Cajun or zydeco bands at Wheatland or the Frog Island festival. I also bought a few more Cajun and zydeco recordings. I also bought as many Cajun sheet music books as I could find, including Ann Savoy’s Cajun Music – A Reflection of a People. Ann just so happens to be married to Marc Savoy. Marc builds Cajun diatonic accordions at their Savoy Music Center in Eunice, LA. Ann and Marc also play in the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band along with Michael Doucet (of Beausoleil).

It so happens that the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band would sometimes come to Ann Arbor to play at The Ark (mostly a folk-music club). In the summer of 1999, I approached Marc Savoy at one of their concerts at The Ark, and inquired about getting a Cajun accordion from him. When I found they cost more than $1,000, I had to think about it, and didn’t order one. Well, I thought about it more and more over the next year, and then when Marc came back to play The Ark in 2000 I ordered an accordion from him. It cost $1350, and although Marc said it would take six weeks to get it from him, it arrived in the mail after only four weeks. In fact, it arrived on August 30, the day I used to celebrate as my wedding anniversary but now celebrate as my accordion’s anniversary!

— to be continued —