Early one sultry summer Saturday morning some 42 years ago, restless nine-year-old
Stanley Joseph Dural, Jr., unable to stay in bed any longer, gingerly picked
his way among some of his eleven sleeping brothers and sisters. Sleep? Who could
sleep on a day like this? "Joe" made his way out to the porch of his
family’s tiny two-room house at 233 Paul Breaux Avenue in the Truman Addition
of Lafayette, Louisiana. Wiping the dew off an old stool, the youngster pulled
it up to a dilapidated upright piano. His little fingers tinkled the keys, at
last producing the sound that had been racing through his head all night…"ain’t
that a shame…" Oh yeah, his idol, "The Fat Man," Fats Domino,
was coming to town!
Later that day, he ran down to the Truman Court Motel (one of the only motels
in town for blacks in 1957). He stood out front in the heat for an hour, two
hours, more, waiting and gazing upon a sparkling, gorgeous pink Cadillac. It
was as big as a battleship to his nine-year-old eyes. Suddenly the lobby door
banged open, and amid the gruff laughter of men, Fats emerged. Little Joe rushed
to the great automobile and deftly opened the door for its owner. "Hey,
Mr. Domino," the awe-struck lad squeaked.
"Hi kid," came the low rumbling reply. That night little Joe slipped
in the back entrance of The Jazz Room, just as he had so many times before,
and watched from the shadows, transfixed by the power and spectacle of the great
man’s performance – and the audience’s rapturous response.
Dural always knew that music would be his life, and memories like these form
the core of the Buckwheat Zydeco
story. Though his family called him Joe, he’d been dubbed "Buckwheat"
by his pal Eddie Taylor because his hair looked like that of the Little Rascals
character, and the nickname stayed with him, although today his friends usually
call him "Buck" or Stan. Buck’s father was an accomplished accordion
player. Stanley, Sr. played the old time music of the black French-speaking
Creoles of southwestern Louisiana – some called it "la la" music
or zodico or zydeco. It didn’t really have a name when his father was
growing up. It was just music -- music meant for relaxation in the home, not
to be played professionally in clubs.
Old-time zydeco was sung in Creole French, and relied only upon the accordion,
a washboard, and perhaps drums. The term zydeco is believed to come from an
idiomatic "Creolized" pronunciation of the French word for "the
snap beans," "les haricots," from an old song, "Les Haricots
Sont Pas Sale" (the snap beans aren’t salty). Zydeco developed into
a hybrid genre blending Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and blues, with soul, rock,
country and the French-rooted Cajun music of the Creoles' white Louisiana neighbors.
But, Buck wanted no part of his father’s music. Just like kids everywhere,
he loved contemporary music. His father punished him for playing popular songs
on the piano – one time forbidding Buck from playing at all for a year.
But father could never get son to quit loving and playing rhythm and blues.
Even before his audience with Fats Domino, accomplices would sneak him into
Lafayette clubs so he could climb on stage and play with the band. This same
determination and passion are one of the keys to the success of Buckwheat
Soon Buck began working in bands like Sammy and the Untouchables and Little
Buck and The Top Cats ("Little Buck" is Paul Senegal, the guitar player,
who is also known as "Buckaroo"). With them he played keyboard behind
Gulf Coast R&B and soul greats such as Barbara Lynn, Joe Tex, and Bobby
Bland. Jerry Wexler once told me that the best soul band he ever saw was "Solomon
Burke with a borrowed band." When Burke played in Lafayette, Buckwheat
would play keyboard in that "borrowed band."