Author Todd Mouton’s Way Down in Louisiana celebrates the king of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier and his star-studded legacy. The trailblazing roots music pioneer and his influence on Cajun, zydeco and swamp-pop music are amplified with in-depth profiles of dozens of musicians and culture-bearers from Sonny Landreth to Buckwheat Zydeco.
“In Way Down in Louisiana, Todd Mouton introduces you to the storytellers: the stars, preservationists, and seekers who have mastered their heritage, then fought to keep it natural and true while taking it forward and way over the state lines. This is journalism, vigorously researched and intimately reported.” – from the Foreword by David Fricke
Like Muddy Waters and Bob Marley, Clifton Chenier (1925-1987) brought the music of his home to international prominence. Pulling influences from the blues, soul, R&B and country music, the French-speaking Chenier forged sounds that speak to the power of identity, influence, perseverance and triumph.
Chenier’s devoted fans are legion, and the raw power of his music continues to ripple across the airwaves from Austin to Auckland. This first-ever biography of the two-time Grammy winner now synonymous with zydeco, the irresistible dance music he birthed, explores Clifton Chenier’s far-reaching impact on musical artists now working in genres from conjunto to rock. With his astounding career as its central arc, Todd Mouton’s Way Down in Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop Music tells the tales of the roots music pioneer’s trailblazing tours and ground-breaking recordings through the eyes of his bandmates and the generations of artists who continue to revere the once and future King of Zydeco.
With his brother Cleveland, Clifton created the modern rubboard or frottoir, and when they crossed the country with their band in 1954 to record for the Specialty label in Los Angeles, they began a journey that would bring the house-dance music of French Louisiana to venues from Carnegie Hall to the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Way Down in Louisiana (November 3, 2015/University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press), wraps the story of Chenier’s unstoppable Red Hot Louisiana Band in interconnected chapters profiling his fellow musical innovators: Buckwheat Zydeco; Sonny Landreth; BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet; Filé; Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys; Paul “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal; Zachary Richard; Coteau; Lil’ Band O’ Gold; Bonsoir, Catin; and Roddie Romero & The Hub City All-Stars.
The book’s lavish package was created by Grammy-nominated graphic designer Megan Barra, and it incorporates 130 vivid historic images by two dozen photographers along with chapter-by-chapter suggested playlists. A full-length companion DVD of Chenier performing live in his prime also is available. Mouton’s book offers, in Fricke’s words, “a rare immersion in the personal lives of the working musicians in this singular America.”
Chenier created joyous, deeply felt and masterful music that transcends language and culture barriers, and his progression from sharecropper to Grammy Hall of Famer forms a rich backdrop for this collection of profiles gathered across more than two decades.
Mouton has played a central role in the potent roots music of his home during his more than 20 years as a journalist, record and event producer. That unique universe features occasional cameos from the likes of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Eric Clapton and many others, and Way Down in Louisiana explores and illuminates the myriad reasons that south Louisiana remains a perennially fascinating destination for music and culture lovers.
“Mouton is also a genuinely musical writer – a player himself, with an ear for the color and cadence in both a great fiddle lick and a musician’s spoken rhythm and recollection,” adds Fricke.