|“I’m music-crazy. I learned by ear, so what I hear, I play. If it’s complicated to me, I know how to get there.”|
Jackpot!, Buckwheat Zydeco’s first studio CD since the acclaimed Trouble CD of 1997, has an appropriate title. In the band’s 26 years together, leader and founder Stanley “Buckwheat”’ Dural, Jr. has enjoyed a jackpot of fame and fortune that’s the envy of not only zydeco musicians, but artists in any genre.
His mile-long musical resume includes an Emmy, four Grammy nominations, national TV and movie soundtrack appearances, commercials for Coke, Budweiser and other major corporations and a performance before a TV audience of three-billion people tuned to the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
For the past 17 years, Dural and his wife Bernice have lived in a spacious, hacienda-style home on a seven-acre ranch in Carencro, Louisiana. There’s plenty of room for Dural’s Silver Eagle tour bus and collection of antique cars in wait of repair. Dural’s home office is lined with pictures of Eric Clapton, B.B. King and other stars with which he shared the stage and studio. But the ranch is also a reminder of Dural’s humble beginnings as one of 12 children growing up in two-room house in Lafayette. The Durals raise rabbits, quail, chickens, ducks and more in a stable where Buckwheat works daily when he’s not on the road.
I recently caught up with Buckwheat at home, just days before his annual Mother’s Day dance at El Sido’s Zydeco and Blues Club in Lafayette. Dural also plays there every Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, to stay close to his roots and friends like club owner Sid Williams, who supported him before the worldwide audiences. Dural was excited about his 12-song CD, especially the three organ numbers, reminiscent of Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, his R&B band of the 1970s. He remains a fierce promoter of Creole culture and a staunch defender of the integrity of zydeco music.
Buck, it’s good to hear some new songs from you. What took you so long to go back into the studio?
I had gotten kind of discouraged with writing. I have 20-some CDs but the Internet came in with downloading.
My daughter, Tomorrow, told me one time, “Daddy, come see.” So I went to the back room to her computer and she said, “Look at that. I can’t even get online to download one of your songs.” She called up a whole list of songs everybody was downloading and that disappointed me very bad.
I’m from the old school—you go down to the record store and you buy a record. Right now, with technology, it’s so easy. People just download.
How did you get started again?
Everything starts here. I put my music together on eight track and then I take it to the studio. I felt like writing again. In about four days, I did 29 songs.
So I have another one in the pocket. That’s only because I felt like doing it again. This record made me start writing again and producing some more music.
You get down in a shell, because I used to do a record, like every other year. It got so bad, I guess it just blocked my brains. [Manager] Ted [Fox] fussed at me. He said, “Stanley D,” that’s what he calls me, “You have to put out another record. You have your own record company.”
But I just felt like working with other people, like Sean Ardoin and Lil’ Brian. But when you have your manager telling you what can bring this out is yourself. For example, like B.B. King has a company, he is the only one that can bring it out.
I wasn’t thinking like that. I just needed that push. I knew he was right, but I didn’t feel it. When I got into it, started writing again and arranging music, it was like I was getting back in the saddle. I think I’ll continue doing this for a bit.
We need you out there producing and recording. You went all the way back to your roots with Organic Buckwheat and the organ.
The way I feel you have a talent that was given to you. So why not express it? I had gotten away from the organ for a long time, you see. I used to carry a keyboard with me, but my instrument is the Hammond B-3.
I got to thinking, let me go ahead and put this in the show. The people that really know me know I was an organist. When I started performing on the Hammond, a lot of people said, “Man, I didn’t know he could do that.” People thought I just played the accordion, but the organ was the instrument I started with.
It’s working out pretty good because I love both instruments. So if you know it and you can play it, why not do it?
You have any favorite songs on the CD?
I love Jackpot. It’s a good one and there’s so many nice ones on here. For the encore thing [organ songs], I love all this.
“ Buck’s Going to Trenchtown” has a reggae thing going on.
Yeah, you know why that is? To relate, you see. Not just to Jamaica, but throughout the planet. Listen to the lyrics of it. There’s not many lyrics, but it says so much—peace, love and happiness. Why can’t we live together?
Look at the planet right now. It’s total destruction. Bob Marley mentioned it many years ago. I got introduced to Bob Marley in Paris, France in the early ’80s. People like him and Jimi Hendrix, they were before their time. People didn’t understand them. Look what’s coming to pass right now.
But something else on the CD, that “Old Time La La,” I love that. “It Must be Magic” is another good one. You have so many good things on there.
You always believed in playing a variety of music, not just zydeco.
You see, I’m going to take you back, my father, grandfather, uncles and everybody, they all played accordion music. When I started playing, I said I’m going to give 50 percent to the younger generation and 50 percent to the older generation. I’m going to play my father’s music, I’m going to play my music and I’m going to mix it up to my background.
Why should I play only for the older generation? What makes me think that way is the critic I was before I even decided to play this music. I want to mix it up for all the generations. I got criticized for that, but it’s like shaking it off your shoulder. You might not like it, but they might like it. You’re not the only person on this planet.
And a person that don’t like anything has no business listening to nothing. There’s no way someone’s going to like everything and somebody’s not going to like everything. Something’s wrong with you.
I’m music-crazy. I don’t like everything, but I like all types of music. I learned by ear, so what I hear, I play. If it’s complicated to me, I know how to get there. That’s just the gift.
So when we talk about music, don’t just do it for one set of people. You can do better, so why not try to introduce that to them? You might not like it today. But then you might say, wait a minute. Let me check this out again tomorrow.
|“I will not perform if it’s advertised as Cajun music. That’s not who I am. People get disturbed about it, but I don’t give a damn.”|
What do you think of zydeco today, Buck? There’s more zydeco bands than we’ve ever had. You have Cajun musicians playing zydeco. Yet at the same time, El Sido’s, Slim’s Y-Ki-Ki, Richard’s, all the old dancehalls, they’re struggling. They used to have dances all weekend. Now they might have dances once a month. How do you see zydeco these days?
You see, zydeco music has been played for so many years here. Not that they don’t want zydeco. They’ve just heard it so much. But you also have so many musicians, they all sound the same.
They copy each other.
That’s what I’m saying. You can’t have two James Brown on the same stage. It’s just that simple. You have to have your own style of music, but you can’t monkey the music. You have to put it in perspective. Play it like Clifton Chenier played it. Or like Dopsie or John Delafose, Marcel Dugas. Play the music that really means something. Let me see if I can explain it …
Put some words, some meaning behind the songs. Give people something to think about, somebody to think about.
Something that rings a bell, catches the ear. It’s going to happen. But doggone it, if I get on stage and say just three words throughout the whole song… I’m not criticizing, but I just want to open up the mind of some of the younger musicians coming up. You just can’t jump on the accordion today, record a record tomorrow and just go with it.
Or want to call yourself king of the music.
Yeah and a whole bunch of nonsense. If you’re going to play the music, write a song, man. You see, no two people play the same. But why should I try to play like Herman, instead of trying to play like me. I can play your song, but do something different with it. Don’t do the same thing.
You don’t have to play it just like Boozoo or Clifton.
There you go. I’m only speaking for me, but I get on the road, nationally and internationally, the people are waiting for you. When I play at El Sido’s Sunday, I’ll be waiting on the people.
It’s two things happening there. They have enough of zydeco because they have so much of it. They’ll catch me next week because tonight they’re going to Richard’s. You have zydeco bands that play here tonight, they play here Wednesday, they play here Thursday. Or you have one here, one there, you have too many. You have some musicians that can’t get out of Dodge, man.
What you have to think about is why can’t we leave from here and go to New York or go to Chicago? Something is wrong. Don’t ever think people aren’t hearing about you. They’re hearing about you, but they’re hearing what they’re hearing on the record, too. If you put that in perspective, you’d be surprised what you can do.
Getting back to the music, I’m proud of the young players today, picking up the accordion and playing the roots music. The Creole music, the Creole cooking is identified. If you don’t have an identity, what do you have? That’s why a Cajun doesn’t want to be called a Creole. A Creole doesn’t want to be called Cajun. Because what I’m doing is stealing from you. Why would Buckwheat want to call his band a Cajun band? Why BeauSoleil wants to call his band a Creole zydeco band? He’s not a Creole zydeco band and these cats know that.
It goes right back to what I just told you how amazing this culture is. So why should I deny myself of a Creole player? I don’t care if I’m playing da-da. I’m not going to say I’m Jamaican, to make me look good, say I’m with Bob Marley. It don’t even calculate in my brain.
So you’re who you are and you do the best with who you are. That’s the only thing I can see that can get this music together. Starting with myself because I’m always open for improvement. I learn music from everybody. So why not you?
You mentioned how the musics are alike and yet different, you still have it in your contract that your dances can’t be advertised as Cajun music?
Yes and you know the reason for that—because it’s not. I will not perform if it’s advertised as Cajun music. It’s a threat to the buyer, to the promoter, but mainly Buckwheat Zydeco. It’s mandatory—Buckwheat Zydeco, southwest Louisiana, Creole sound, black traditional zydeco music. You understand what I’m saying?
If it says zydeco and Cajun and you have a Cajun band and a zydeco band, I can understand that. But not no Buckwheat Zydeco Cajun band. You got the wrong band. That’s not who I am. People get disturbed about it, but I don’t give a damn.
I don’t care because it goes back to what I said about identity. I’ve never seen a white black man in my life. I’ve never seen a black white man. Don’t try to brand me with that, but it ain’t going to happen.
This has gone on the contract many years. I keep it that way because that’s what it is. They get upset behind me and ask me in interviews why do you have this on your contract? I ask, why do you want to call me a Cajun? I know who I am, that’s how come it should not be on that paper.
As much as Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural loves zydeco music, Creole cooking places a close second. Dural has been cooking since his childhood days in Lafayette.
He’s been able to combine both loves in his illustrious career. Dural wrote and performed the theme music for Pierre Franey’s Cooking in America series on PBS. Dural and his wife, Bernice, cooked in a show and her crawfish etouffee recipe is in a companion book to the TV series. The Durals also have a recipe in Emeril Lagasse’s cookbook and a Tabasco cookbook.
Dural estimates he travels more than 500,000 miles a year. His Creole cooking is always nearby.
On the road we bring cookware, hot plates and stuff. When you’re not home, you don’t have the same kind of food everywhere you go.
One time I was in a place, they made gumbo and it looked like stroganoff. They made that for the band. I said, “Jesus, oh no. What is this?”
They put the whole crawfish in their seafood gumbo. They put in the okra, just like it’s off the vine. They cut it in the pot. You pick it up with a spoon, the slime is coming all out of it. Ain’t no way I’m eating that. But some people until they learn, they think that’s what it is.
They think they have gumbo, but what you got is stroganoff, brother. But we do cook on the road.
Does your bus have a kitchen?
We have a microwave and we also have the hot plate.
What do you like to cook?
I love birds, like quail. When we go into a full-course meal, we make roast, beans, black-eye peas or something like that. Li’l Buck [Sinegal] cooks, Lee Allen [Zeno] cooks. My son cooks. I cook. Everybody cooks. We have rice and gravy.
I love wildlife. I like fish and I eat a lot of it.
How did you learn to cook?
I watched my mother coming up. When I was growing up, with my sisters, we have seven sisters and six brothers. It was a little army. I’m the fourth kid. My oldest brother died before I was born. We were 13 kids.
Growing up, mom and dad worked. So when you home, got out of school or something, you learned how to cook. All the boys, all the girls, learned how to cook. I might know something that they don’t know, or vice versa, because they learned throughout the years. We have very good cooks in the family.
But me, I can’t bake. I don’t have that touch. I don’t even know how to start with the flour. The only thing I know about flour is if you’re deep frying something. I always preferred eating sweets from the rest of the family.
Now barbecue, that’s a good deal there. We barbecue on the road. We travel with a barbecue pit. When we barbecue, man, that’s when we have a day or two off. We have a plan, say like, this is what we’re going to do tomorrow. Nothing’s going to be changed. This is what we said today, that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow and that will be done tomorrow. We’re very faithful to that.
The band is like family. When we go shopping, we never buy the same thing. Don’t get this because I’m getting that. We start from potatoes to onions. Spend your money on something else because we already got that.
Sounds like you all have fun on the road.
Yeah, we do. You know what I believe and it wasn’t always this way. You have musicians, very professional playing musicians. But you’re always going to have something that’s not right with a person. You have to be strong to run a group.
I think I meet that standard. Because, you see, you have instigators. You have musicians talking about I’m leaving, so why don’t you come with me. It wasn’t always peaches and cream. But it’s damn near 100 percent different from what it was back then.
Everybody should know what you should do, but they’re not doing it. You get my drift? But you can turn around and tell me, all right Buck, you know so much about what I need to do, why don’t you do it? That shuts my mouth right there. Stick a fork in me. I’m done.
But I believe this way—we work together and that’s what it means, together. Together we stand, divided we fall. As long as you’re here, nobody’s going to fall. So what I do, if it’s not good for you, cut it loose. You might feel bad for about three hours, but then it’s gone.