Crown Prince of Zydeco
Clayton Joseph Chenier was born September 28, 1957 – the son of the great King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier. C.J.’s father was the first Creole musician to win a Grammy Award. C.J. spent his childhood in the tough tenement housing projects of Port Arthur, Texas. His earliest musical influences were an eclectic mix of funk, soul, jazz and Motown, and his first musical instruments were piano, tenor saxophone and flute. It wasn’t until his 21st birthday, after winning a scholarship and studying music at Texas Southern University, that C.J. first performed with his famous father and the legendary Red Hot Louisiana band.
On the road his father showed him how to front a world class touring band – teaching C.J. how to run the family business and how to develop his lifelong passion for music into a career. When Clifton died in 1987 his son adopted the Red Hot Louisiana Band and recorded his debut album for the great American independent label Arhoolie Records. As he told a journalist at the time, he does not try to imitate his father’s playing: “I play it the way I play it. All my father really told me was to do the best I could do with my own style.”
When Paul Simon recorded his 1990 album Rhythm of the Saints, he handpicked C.J. Chenier to play accordion (alongside Ringo Starr on drums) then asked him to join his “Born at the Right Time Tour”. A few years later C.J. showed up as a guest on the Gin Blossom’s “New Miserable Experience” album.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“the crown prince of zydeco… contemporary, turbo-charged dance music.” -Boston Globe
“C.J. is arguably zydeco’s best singer, with an especially deep, richly resonant voice that ignites the songs’ emotional content alongside the fiery rhythms and rampaging accordion… unbridled passion.” – Rick Mason, City Pages
“the best living zydeco singer and accordionist.” – Living Blues