In southwest Louisiana, the singing, drumming godfather of swamp pop is a local celebrity. Warren Storm’s fans include Yvette Landry, the swamp pop and Cajun musician who’s written a new book about him, Taking the World, by Storm. Landry also spearheaded the 82-year-old musician’s new album of the same name.
“I’m so fortunate,” Storm said of the twin projects. “I thank God for letting me live long enough to enjoy this wonderful moment in my life.”
Landry was 17 when she first experienced a Storm performance, but she didn’t actually meet him until last year. Storm showed up at one of Landry’s Thursday night gigs with steel guitarist Richard Comeaux at Buck & Johnny’s in Breaux Bridge. She couldn’t believe it.
“I looked through the window and saw that jet-black hair and jet-black mustache,” she remembered. “I said, ‘Oh, my God. Warren Storm is about to walk in this place!’”
Landry later invited Storm to lunch. She wanted to give him a copy of her latest album, Louisiana Lovin’, which features her rendition of a song he recorded, “I Need Somebody Bad.” After lunch, Storm invited Landry to see the vast collection of photos he’s taken with his music heroes and peers during his 71 years in music.
“I’m looking at the pictures and there’s Warren with Willie Nelson,” Landry recalled. “There’s Warren and Ray Price. There’s a picture of Elvis Presley signed to Warren. I knew him as Warren Storm, the swamp pop musician, but I had no idea that his career was what it was.”
Landry went home and told her husband, Luke Bourque, about her lunch with a legend. Bourque told her that she’d found her new project. “Warren would love to have his story told,” he said. “Just like you didn’t know about this, other people out there don’t know about his career with all these people.”
At first, Landry wasn’t enthusiastic about taking on the challenge of wrangling Storm’s long and colorful life into a book. Her husband suggested she sleep on it. “I hardly slept,” she said. “I thought about it the whole night.” The next morning, Landry made an exploratory phone call to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, publisher of her two children’s books, The Ghost Tree and Madame Grand Doigt. To her surprise, UL Press asked if she could complete the project within a year.
Gathering material for the book, Landry visited Storm once or twice week. Any thoughts of sticking with planned questions or collecting chronological information quickly flew out the window. “Whatever it was that day, that’s what it was,” she said. “You’ve got to just let the horse run. You can’t keep him in the lanes. Warren is the ultimate musician, all over the map. The stories were cute and funny, but when it came time to put everything together in some kind of order, that became a puzzle.”
Reflecting Storm’s free-ranging storytelling, Landry chose to not write a conventional biography. Her conversations with Storm, she said, “were so interesting and fun that I thought it would be better if readers could experience what I experienced. So, we settled on the question-and-answer format.”
Also true to their meetings, Taking the World, by Storm is filled with photos of Storm with his fellow Louisiana musicians and such national stars as Fats Domino, Dr. John, Buddy Guy, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Robert Plant, Paul Simon, Hank Williams Jr. and John Fogerty. Despite his horde of celebrity photos, Storm told Landry that he deeply regrets not taking a photo with Hank Williams Sr. When Storm was a child, he shook hands with the hillbilly Shakespeare, but didn’t have a camera then to capture that especially historic moment. “Warren missed that opportunity,” Landry said. “But as soon as he got camera, that was it. He takes pictures even till this day.”
The Taking the World, by Storm book inspired Storm’s new album. Recorded at Dockside Studio in Maurice, it features Landry, her band, the Jukes (featuring Roddie Romero), and guest stars John Fogerty, Marc Broussard and Sonny Landreth.
“In the middle of writing the book,” Landry recalled, “someone mentioned that it would be cool to re-release one of Warren’s records. I said, ‘Why would we do that? He’s here, he’s singing. Let’s go in the studio with my band and do a record. Wouldn’t that be fun for him and us?’”
The Taking the World, by Storm album includes remakes of Storm’s debut single, 1958’s “The Prisoner’s Song” and “Mama, Mama, Mama,” and new recordings of the Louisiana classics “Mathilda,” “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights,” “Let the Four Winds Blow,” “Tennessee Blues” and “Rainin’ in My Heart.” Fogerty sings guest vocals for Storm’s version of his song, “Long as I Can See the Light.”
Saying he can’t afford to stop working, Warren Storm performs with Willie Tee and Cypress as well as Landry and the Jukes. But it’s not only about money. “I can’t retire because music is my whole life,” he said. “Music keeps me alive. And I like to see people having fun and dancing and everything. It makes people happy.”