The biggest news from the cradle of zydeco and Cajun music has nothing to do with either genres. Cupid, a 24-year-old R&B singer from Lafayette, has signed a two-record deal with Atlantic Records. Despite the surplus of recording artists in southwest Louisiana, Cupid is believed to be the first African-American R&B singer to sign with a major label.
The region has been buzzing with Cupid’s catchy line dance, “The Cupid Shuffle.” The song has moved from local R&B radio and fraternity parties to mainstream pop and country stations and beyond. Even Atlantic Records’ executives were doing the shuffle January 10, when they greeted Cupid in New York for his record signing.
“I’m beyond excited,” says Cupid, a.k.a. Bryson Bernard of Lafayette. “This has gone beyond my wildest dreams. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because I feel like I have to get up and keep working to be successful. Now it’s here. It’s at another level.”
Cupid emerges from a music world that flies under the radar of most trade journals, sales charts and video channels. The world is Southern soul or down South R&B, a loose circuit of clubs, festivals and parties that feature R&B and blues geared toward African-American adults.
Couple and group dances—known as “swing-out” and “steppin’”—are popular with these audiences. Cupid and producer Brandon “Mr. Phat” Nezey of Lafayette scored a regional swing-out hit three years ago with “Swing Around the Rosy.”
Cupid and Mr. Phat collaborated again on “The Shuffle,” which is following a trek similar to Rockin’ Sidney’s 1984 smash, “My Toot Toot.” The song crossed over from zydeco radio to pop and rock stations on its way to becoming a Billboard Top 20 country hit, Grammy winner and much-covered million seller.
Bobby Novosad, programming director for Lafayette pop outlet 94.5 KSMB, says the station’s phone lines exploded the first time the song was played. Novosad predicts a long ride for “The Cupid Shuffle.”
“It’s probably the biggest song we’ve had in the last 15 years, easily,” says Novosad. “We still get phone calls. It’s got some longevity, not so much on the radio because people are going to get tired of it. But that song is going to be around for the next 50 to 60 years as a line dance at wedding, class reunions and parties.”