Soileau was also a native product, reared in Faubourg near Ville Platte. He also produced hundreds of Cajun French records under his other label, Swallow records, Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte is an internationally known Cajun and zydeco music distributor.
"La-La" music, predecessor to much of what we call Cajun and zydeco, was developed on the Cajun prairies by memorable musicians such Amede Ardoin, who was from the Eunice area, and carried on by others like Bois Sec Ardoin, who was born in Duralde, and Canray Fontenot, a native of L'anse aux Vaches near Basile.
Cajun hall of fame musicians such as Mayeus LaFleur (Mamou), Leo Soileau (Ville Platte), Iry Lejeune (Pointe Noire), Dennis McGee (Eunice area) and Nathan Abshore (born in Gueydan but a longtime resident of Basile) were instrumental in developing Cajun music as we know it.
Dewey Balfa and his brothers, who came from Mamou, were among the leaders of the revival of Cajun music.
Those are the ones who pop first into my mind. There were -- and are -- dozens of others who have their roots in the area and helped form early Louisiana French music and who continue the tradition today.
Why is that? Bois Sec Ardoin once suggested that it might be because in the early days there was nothing else to do out on the prairies but to play music and that once the tradition began within a family, it just kept going. That's probably as close to the truth as we're going to get.
These musicians began to play on the front porches of their homes, later graduated to house dances and fais-do-dos, and then became mainstays at such institutions as the Avalon Club or Rainbow Club in Basile, Richard's at Mallet, the Evangeline in Ville Platte, Green Lantern and Step-Inn Club at Lawtell and dozens of other dance halls that filled to overflowing on Saturday nights.
The early musicians also were the first to record many Louisiana French songs, and thus their versions became the standard used by later musicians, songs handed down from front porch to front porch, often with lyrics changed by each musician, were preserved in recordings that others imitated.
The lyrics and beat and meter of the recorded version became identified as the "right" way to sing or play a song.
Nowadays Cajun and zydeco music is heard around the world and is identified with all of south Louisiana. And there are, of course, dozens of pioneers and modern musicians who come from some place other than the Evangeline and St. Landry area.
But if you want to find where the roots of the music sink deepest, the Cajun prairies might be a good place to start looking.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.