Southwest Louisiana Musicians Encyclopedia
The SWLA Musicians Encyclopedia is a compendium of narrative and descriptive essays about the people and places relating to music and musicians of SWLA. For the purposes of this encyclopedia, the definition of a “Southwest Louisiana Musician” remains a fluid and slippery endeavor. As a general rule, “Southwest Louisiana” means “Imperial Calcasieu,” the region now made up of Calcasieu, Cameron, Allen, Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis parishes. To be sure, a musician born within the boundaries of these parishes falls under the category of “Southwest Louisiana Musician.” However, after that criterion, the definition becomes less definite. Other musicians not fortunate enough to be born on Imperial Calcasieu soil, but who lived, worked, or performed extensively in this area are included. The Encyclopedia also includes bands, civic organizations, educators, and companies associated with Southwest Louisiana music.
The Encyclopedia is planned as a cumulative and ongoing research and writing project. For more information, please see the sources page. Please contact the editor with submissions, errors, or broken links.
Shuler, Eddie. Shuler was born March 27, 1913 in Wrightsboro, Texas, a small town in Gonzalez County. He moved to Lake Charles in 1942 to work at Cities Service Corporation oil refinery, operating heavy machinery. Shuler enjoyed Country & Western and Pop music in his youth and wanted to create his own music. Through a chance encounter, Shuler met the members of the Hackberry Ramblers and began playing guitar with the band. Shuler held a distinct disadvantage, though, because he could not speak French and had to pretend to sing onstage.
About 1945 Shuler recruited his own All Star Reveliers, a Texas swing band in the tradition of Spade Cooley and Bob Wills. Much of the success of the Reveliers could be attributed to Shuler, himself, who hosted a radio show four days a week at KPLC. At KPLC, in 1944, Shuler began recording his first 78s: demos to promote his band. Soon Shuler opened his own music store, Goldband Records, with a $250 loan from his mother. At first, Shuler recorded music to promote his own band, but branched out to include other artists.
For over fifty years, Shuler and his wife Elsie documented traditional and popular music forms and in many cases have helped create some of the South's most important and distinctive new musical styles and sounds. In the early 1950s, Shuler acquired the Goldband complex, a sprawling, shingled, multi-tiered, wood-framed structure at 313 Church Street in Lake Charles. In addition to the Goldband Recording studio and Record label, the complex was also home to the Shulers' other businesses: a music publishing firm (TEK Publishing), a television repair business (Quick Service TV Repair), and a neighborhood music shop (Eddie's Music House).
In 2004 the Shulers moved to Snellville, Georgia, and on July 23, 2005 Eddie Shuler died.
Simien, Sidney ["Rockin' Sidney" "Count Rockin' Sidney"]. Simien was born in 1938 in Lebeau, Louisiana. He began his musical career at age 14 or 15 playing backup for his uncle, Frank Simien. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Simien recorded a series of R&B singles for the Louisiana labels Fame, Jin and Rod, and was best known for his hit "No Good Woman." In the mid-seventies, Rockin' Sidney began playing Zydeco songs on the piano accordion. Simien’s greatest success came in 1985 with "Don't Mess With My Toot-Toot," a song he wrote ten years earlier. In 1986, Rockin' Sidney received a Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for "My Toot-Toot." The record sold over a million copies and was covered by at least twenty other artists, including John Fogarty and Fats Domino.
Smith, Ken. Smith was born on February 8, 1961 in Kinder, La. Smith won several contests and recorded albums playing Bluegrass fiddle. Smith won the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship five times and has performed at the National Folklife Festival at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Sonnier, Jo-El. Sonnier was born to French-speaking sharecroppers near Rayne, Louisiana. Sonnier began playing the accordion at age three and first performed on the radio at six. Influenced by Iry LeJeune, Sonnier began playing Cajun music in local clubs and made his first recording at 13. Sonnier moved to Lake Charles and joined Robert Bertrand's Louisiana Ramblers. Sonnier recorded a number of songs for Goldband Records both as a member of the Louisiana Ramblers and individually.
Southwest Louisiana Fiddlers and Bluegrass Club. The club had its first meeting at Uncle Ben’s Bar-B-Que on Highway 171 North in DeRidder, La. The club elected Clifford Blackmon as President, Mark Smith as Vice-President, and Ronald Yule as Secretary-Treasurer. The club produces a newsletter of activities and informal jam sessions around Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas. The club also presents the John Bailey Award to people who make “outstanding contributions to the promotion and propagation of Bluegrass and ole-time music.”
Squires, Ralph Anthony, Jr. Dr. Squires was the McNeese State University Dean of Fine Arts from 1956 until his death from Hodgkin’s Disease in April 1962 at the age of 56. Squires was born in Morgan City, Louisiana on February 18, 1906 and attended Morgan City High School, the University of Southwestern Louisiana, and Chicago Musical College. Squires studied piano in New Orleans, Paris, Boston, and Chicago and taught music at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, Iowa and at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. Squires served with the U.S. Army field artillery of the Tenth Mountain Division in Italy during World War II. In 1960, Squires was a piano soloist for the Lake Charles Civic Symphony’s performance of George Marshall’s “An Irish Overture.” After Squires' death in 1962, McNeese named Ralph Squires Recital Auditorium in his honor.
Stutes, Jessie L., Sr. Stutes' interest in Cajun music developed from his uncle, Roy Stutes, and lasted over 50 years. He learned to play the steel guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and drums playing with famous musicians such as Jimmy Newman, Jo-El Sonnier, Lawrence Walker, Wayne Toups, Doug Kershaw, and more. He also recorded with Jimmy Newman and Jo-El Sonnier. Jessie Stutes wrote the song "Boss Man" which is now in the Smithsonian Institute. Stutes was born on September 7, 1933 in Morse, Louisiana. He married Mary Ann Trahan, had two children, and is a retired Sheriff's Deputy from Jefferson Davis Parish. Stutes became a member of the Cajun French Music Association Hall of Fame in 1999.
Swamp Boogie Queen [See Katie Webster].
Swamp Fox [See Tony JoeWhite].
Sylvester, Eric. Eric Sylvester graduated Cum Laude in 1978 from McNeese State University (MSU) with a B.A. in Music Theory. He then completed a one-year degree program in 1981 at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, California, studying with Howard Roberts, Don Mock, Les Wise, Joe Diorio, Robben Ford, and Ron Eschete, among others.
He has worked as a professional musician since 1968, performing at concerts, festivals, nightclubs, dances and parties, and on recordings as producer, engineer, arranger, composer, and studio musician. He appeared numerous times in college with the MSU Jazz band, and has performed with the Lake Charles, Rapides, and Beaumont Symphony Orchestras, including a production of “Oklahoma”, the Summer Pops Concert series, and a concert featuring jazz pianist Dave Brubeck. His bands have opened for Bob Seger, ZZ Top, Delbert McClinton, and the Association, and have backed Percy Sledge, Miss Molly, and Roscoe Chenier.
Eric and his wife Jody started the GTOs band in the 1980s. The GTOs were the most popular band in Lake Charles until the mid-1990s. After the GTOs broke up, Eric and Jody continued to play music under the name Josephine and The Blues Thang until Jody passed away in 2016.
In the field of recording, Sylvester performed on the soundtrack and platinum soundtrack album for the motion picture “Rocky IV”. He owns and operates a 24-track digital recording studio and has produced recordings by numerous local artists in various genres including blues, jazz, rock, pop, gospel, country, and cajun. He has had original songs recorded by other artists, including Roscoe Chenier, The Dowers Brothers, and Josephine and the Blues Thang, and has written, produced, and performed on jingles for Rikenjak’s Brewpub.
Sylvester taught guitar at McNeese for over 30 years and also teaches privately. He co-founded and served as director of the St. Louis Catholic High Show Choir for three years. Sylvester served on the formative committee for the Bayou Blues and Zydeco Festival until the discontinuation of the event. He also performed at the festival several times with Josephine and the Blues Thang, Roscoe Chenier, and Miss Molly.
Terry, Gene [See Terry Gene DeRouen].
Theriot, John "Maw Maw." Theriot was an accordion player, vocalist, and lifelong Lake Charles, Louisiana resident. Theriot lead the Maw Maw Theriot and Cajun Commandeaux Band. Theriot died February 28, 2001 at age 48.
Thibodeaux, Ernest. Inspired by his dad who played the accordion, Ernest Thibodeaux played Cajun music for 64 years. He played rhythm guitar, fiddle, bass fiddle, and drums. Between 1982 to 1990, he had his own band called The Pine Grove Boys but he also played with many famous musicians like Iry LeJeune, Nathan Abshire, and Will Kegley. Ernest plays regularly at Fred's Lounge in Mamou, and is the only living member of the original Pine Grove Boys. Ernest Thibodeaux was born on October 9, 1925 in Jennings, Louisiana. He became a member of the Cajun French Music Association Hall of Fame in 1999.
Thibodeaux, Rufus. At six years old, Rufus started playing guitar. By twelve, he was also playing fiddle, and at thirteen he was playing regularly at dance jobs. In 1950, he started playing for Jimmy Newman and recorded his first single "Diggy Liggy Lo" in Nashville. In 1970, Rufus recorded with Newman the first song in Cajun French to become a gold record, "Lache Pas la Patate". He has written 12 songs including "Forever in Your Eyes" and "Tela's Waltz". He is the recipient of numerous awards such as induction into the Louisiana Hall of Fame, CFMA Hall of Fame, Fiddler of the Year, and the Award of Excellence in 1998. Rufus was born in Ridge, La. on January 5, 1934 and later moved to Hayes, La. After 40 years in Nashville, Rufus returned to Louisiana and joined Rodney Miller and Cajun Born Band.
Thomas, Carlton "Guitar" Jr. Thomas was a guitarist who worked with Boozoo Chavis for 25 years and was an original member of Boozoo's "Magic Sounds" band. Thomas died September 4, 2001 at age 57.
Touchet, Wallace "Red". Touchet was born on November 12, 1931 and is a native of Gueydan, Louisiana. He began playing the violin at age six, inspired by his father. He played his first dance with the legendary "Shorty" LeBlanc. He then became a member of The Sundown Playboys and remained with them for 35 years. He later joined Pat Savant and the Louisiana Playboys and also Rodney LeJeune and the Texas Cajun Playboys. Wallace and his violin were featured on many recordings but the most noted was "Saturday Night Special" which was released in 1972 by the Beatles' Apple Records of London, England. Touchet became a member of the Cajun French Music Association Hall of Fame in 1991.
Toups, Wayne. Wayne Toups is known for his mix of Cajun and Zydeco music. He was born in Crowley, Louisiana and learned to play the accordion at age thirteen. He immediately performed on the local stages playing the tunes of Iry LeJeune. Eventually, he began incorporating the sounds of rhythm/blues and rock bands like Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Lynard Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers. His unique style of mixing musical genres debuted in 1987 with the album "ZydeCajun". In 1989, he became the first Cajun musician to reach the Top Pop Albums chart with "Blast From the Bayou" after signing with Mercury Records. Toups has played the accordion for many country stars who request his sounds on their records, as well as his music appearing in several films such as "Two Step Mamou" in Steel Magnolias. Toups also has received international recognition.
Twin Oaks. [See The Oaks].
Vanicor, Ivy T. Vanicor first played music at thirteen when he fashioned a guitar from a cigar box and rubber bands entertaining the kids at school. His father eventually bought him a guitar and with his musical ear, he began playing for crowds. With a minor's release, he was able to play in clubs with Iry LeJeune. He continued to play with Iry LeJeune and The Lacassine Playboys and over the years played with many others. During his musical career, he cut a record entitled "I Forgot I Was Married". Born on February 2, 1934 having lived in Church Point and Lacassine, Ivy Vanicor died in 1989. He was included as a member of the Cajun French Music Association Hall of Fame in 1991.
Vincent, Crawford J. Crawford was born in 1922 and began his musical career playing with the Hackberry Ramblers as a drummer and vocalist in the 1940s. Vincent is a member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and one of his drum kits is part of an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. Vincent died on August 12, 2005 in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Walker, Lawrence. Playing on the radio sometimes everyday of the week, Lawrence Walker was an influential figure in Cajun music and is considered one of the greatest musicians in Louisiana. His most famous songs were "Chere Alice", "Little Black Eyes", "The Unlucky Waltz", "Evangeline Watz", "Big Boy Waltz", "Reno Waltz", and the controversial song "Keep Your Hands Off It". Lawrence was born on September 1, 1907 near Duson, Louisiana. Taught by his father, Allen Walker, he learned to play the accordion at age ten and later played the violin. Lawrence formed The Walker Brothers Band at age thirteen with his brother and father, and played in many clubs throughout southwest Louisiana. Walker was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Texas in 1976, and into the Cajun French Music Association Hall of Fame in 1990.
Waller, Charlie. Waller was a bluegrass musician who founded the Country Gentlemen and grew up in Lake Charles. He also performed on the Louisiana Hayride in the mid 1950s with Louisiana native Buzz Busby. Waller died on August 18, 2004 in Gordonsville, Virginia at the age of 69.
Ward, Clint. Ward is the fiddler for Bayou Roots. Ward grew up in South Lake Charles. Ward has held several day jobs, including working as a hunting and fishing guide, a taxidermy assistant, and working with the Lake Charles Fire Department. As a teenager, Ward bought his first fiddle at a pawnshop. Ward developed an appreciation for old style fiddling, citing heroes such as Lionel Leleux, Harry Choates, and Denus McGee. The Cajun French Music Association awarded Ward an apprenticeship to study fiddle with the internationally known fiddler Ken Smith. In the early years, Ward played locally with Percy Boudreaux, Jimmy Aguillard, Kenneth Thibodeaux, and Jesse Lege'. When fiddler Mitchell Reed decided to leave the Mamou Prairie Band, accordionist Bob Reed asked Ward to take Mitchell's place in the band. Ward played regularly with the Mamou Prairie Band for about six months. Ward then joined Cory McCauley and his Evangeline Aces. Ward’s gig with Cory led to his first commercial recording. In addition to the fiddle, Ward also plays the saxophone.
Webster, Katie ["Swamp Boogie Queen"]. Webster was born Kathryn Jewel Thorne on January 9, 1939 in Houston, Texas. Webster's father, Cyrus, was a ragtime pianist who turned to gospel music when he became a minister in the Sanctified Church of God in Christ. Webster's mother, Myrtle, played spirituals and classical music and taught her daughter to play the piano. Webster began traveling with a jazz band at age 13. At 15, she married pianist Earl Webster. In 1959, she joined Ashton Savoy's band and moved to Lake Charles. Katie worked as a session musician on a variety of recordings, including "Sea of Love" by Phil Phillips. In 1964, Ms. Webster met singer Otis Redding and became part of his band. After Redding's untimely death, Webster formed her own band in 1968. Webster continued to record for Goldband Records intermittently throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.
White, Tony Joe ["Swamp Fox"]. White was a legendary singer/songwriter from Oak Grove, Louisiana. White had a hit in the late 1960's with "Polk Salad Annie." Brook Benton, Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, and dozens of others have covered White's tunes, including the classic "Rainy Night in Georgia."
Williams, Lucinda. Williams is a singer/songwriter in the genres of Folk, country & western, and rock. Williams was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana on January 26, 1953 to Lucille and Miller Williams. Lucille Williams was a concert pianist and Miller Williams was a poet and English professor who read at President Clinton's second Inauguration. Her parents divorced when she was eleven and, in the custody of their father, the Williams children, including younger siblings Robert and Karyn, lived all over the South including Jackson, Vicksburg, Atlanta, Macon, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Williams family also lived in Mexico City and Santiago, Chile. Williams was inspired by a host of her father's friends, including writers James Dickey, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski and Flannery O'Connor. She picked up the guitar at age 12 and decided on a musical future early on. Williams learned music by listening to the folk music her parents liked and Bob Dylan. She attended the University of Texas in Austin but dropped out after one year due to a captive audience and many gig opportunities. She moved to Houston and got involved in the folk scene with artists such as Lyle Lovett and Townes Van Zandt. In 1978, in Jackson, Mississippi, she recorded Ramblin’ on My Mind, a compilation of blues and country covers. In 1979, she recorded her first collection of original songs, Happy Woman Blues. Williams moved to the west coast in 1984 and began to sign with record labels. In 1993, Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded Lucinda's "Passionate Kisses" on Carpenter's multi-platinum country album Come On, Come On. The exposure won Williams her first Grammy, for songwriting. Her second Grammy, this time for Best Contemporary Folk Album was won by her 1998 release Car Wheels on A Gravel Road. She is still touring, songwriting, and recording. Her songs have been covered by everyone from Emmylou Harris to Tom Petty. Partial discography and bibliography.
Young, Allie "Nonc." Young was a Cajun accordionist from Basile, La. who was inducted into the Cajun French Music Association Hall of Fame in 1999. He played with the Basile Cajun Band, the Balfa Brothers, and many other notable bands. He and his wife Violet had three children: Otis, Jewell, and Diana. For more information, see the Louisiana Folklife Center biography.
Yule, Ronald. Yule is a founding member of the Southwest Louisiana Fiddlers and Bluegrass Club. Yule is an avid fiddler and often judges competitions. Yule is the author of several books about Southwest Louisiana musicians available on the sources page.
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