All around the world, Swamp Pop now refers to the style of rock ‘n’ roll which is strictly indigenous to Southwest Louisiana. The music rose to popularity in the late 1950s and 1960s, when Cajun and Creole teenagers traded in their accordions, fiddles and steel guitars in exchange for drums, saxophones and electric guitars. The distinctive genre, once aptly described as “half fais do-do and half Domino” by saxophonist Harry Simoneaux, originally was blandly tagged “South Louisiana rock ‘n’ roll.” However, this unique style of music well deserved a more colorful appellation and it eventually did get one. In in the early 1970s, when earliest compilations of this music began appearing in Europe, a handful of British musicologists began referring to this style of music as “Swamp Pop.” The term from England stuck, even with stubborn Louisiana writers and musicians. Within a decade the term was globally accepted for describing the genre. Today there’s currently a museum devoted to it and the term has appeared on several titles of books and CDs.
But hold on, mes amis. A group of Camp Columbus tenderfoots and braves from Kitchener, Ontario, on the shores of Paradise Lake, coined the term “swamp pop” over a decade before the musical moniker became popular. However, the “swamp pop” we referred to had nothing to do with South Louisiana music. We bought the beverage in the camp canteen each afternoon for a nickel each summer during the early 1960s. “Swamp pop” was a tasty blend of Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Teem (once a popular lemon lime beverage). The blend of the three soft drinks produced a taste blast and created a distinct color.
“Swamp pop” was the perfect term for our concoction for two reasons. In Canada, soft drinks are simply referred to as “pop,” the shortening of “soda pop.” Secondly, and most importantly, Camp Columbus’ “swamp pop” actually resembled the same swampy water contained in Paradise Lake, the same water we swam and canoed in every day. And boy, that water had a kick!
Sadly, our “swamp pop” was eventually forgotten—ironically right around the time the term was introduced to music fans—when Camp Columbus was shuttered forever. However, the appellation “Swamp Pop” on a line of beverages lives on today. Two companies in Louisiana are currently using the name. There is now a sugar cane-based beverage made in Lafayette with that name. So too is a strawberry-based cream soda-like drink produced in Ponchatoula. Nevertheless, regardless of the worldwide popularity of Swamp Pop—and I love that music—I’m of the opinion that term originated at Camp Columbus in Southern Ontario, Canada.