Two musicians play Zydeco music. They use a washboard and an accordion.


Distinct to Louisiana, Zydeco is born from the sweat and tears of Creole sharecroppers. This toe-tapping style centers accordion, but mixes the likes of jazz, R&B and rap. 

Fans are usually too busy dancing to think about the origins of zydeco. This irresistible accordion-heavy music is spiced with the likes of blues, R&B and rap.

The genre is distinct to Louisiana, born out of the 20th century sweat and tears of Creole sharecroppers just hours from New Orleans. After a week’s work in the unforgiving sun, farm families moved furniture aside for the “la la,” a house dance where an accordion player, with a sidekick scratching rhythm on the household washboard, kept toes tapping.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, Amédé Ardoin emerged as a “la la” accordion king who could only sign his name with an “X.” Decades later, Clifton Chenier, a gold-toothed, lanky accordion wizard from Opelousas, stirred “la la” with Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and B. B. King for an electrified boogie that he called zydeco. Clifton and his brother, Cleveland, drew a design in the sand that became the rubboard, a rhythmical, metal vest worn over the shoulders and hallmark of zydeco bands.

Clifton Chenier’s magnetism and bold sound elevated him to “King of Zydeco,” a crown he challenged others to claim. There were no takers. His music lives in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The Cheniers are among generations of Creole families who keep the tradition soaring to new heights. There are Grammy winners, like Queen Ida, two-time winner Terrance Simien, Chubby Carrier and Rockin’ Sidney with his million seller, “My Toot Toot.”

Emmy winner Buckwheat Zydeco, led by the late Stanley Dural, shared the stage and studio with U2 and Eric Clapton. David, Anthony, Tiger and Dwayne Dopsie follow their late father, Rockin’ Dopsie, whose legacy includes Paul Simon’s landmark “Graceland” album.

Families are saluted at zydeco festivals, celebrations once beyond imagination until the groundbreaker in 1982 in St. Landry Parish. Generations have settled in the Houston area and California and created their own zydeco parties.

Zydeco’s footprint has far outgrown the old house dances in the country. Toes tapping across the globe are grateful.

Authored by Herman Fuselier

Local Zydeco Music Legends

Listen to Louisiana Zydeco