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Playing this summer: Zydeco Crawdaddys

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 12, 2013: For multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Paul Jarvis, playing music has always been part of his life. But it took a show on KDHX radio to turn his musical interests toward the brand of Louisiana music called Zydeco – and turn him into “Big Chief” Paul Jarvis, the leader of the popular area band, the Zydeco Crawdaddys.

“I’ve been in a lot of bands over the years,” Jarvis says during a recent phone interview. “One called Boulderdash was very popular. But I got into starting a Zydeco band because I happened to be listening to a show on KDHX on a Tuesday night that was hosted by Al Boudreaux and featured Louisiana music.”

Jarvis liked the music so much – especially Zydeco – that he began recording the show every week. He also began to seek out Zydeco musicians who came through St. Louis to play.

“I went to the Broadway Oyster Bar to hear C.J. Chenier, the son of the great Zydeco musician, Clifton Chenier, recalls Jarvis. “People were just having so much fun dancing to the music that I decided that was it for me. I wanted to play Zydeco – and the accordion.”

Fate intervened when a friend called him from a bar telling him a patron there was selling an accordion for $40. Jarvis bought it, and began learning how to play – then starting a band.

“Our first job as the Zydeco Crawdaddys was in February 1996,” he says. “Within a couple of months, I was playing the accordion with the band at the Oyster Bar – scared to death!”

Jarvis and the band make every performance emphasize audience involvement. In addition to passing out shaker cans to the crowd, the band invites people to come up and play the washboard.

“Zydeco is all about having fun and giving people the chance to let go and forget about their problems,” says Jarvis. “And having fun is what we’re all about.”

The Zydeco Crawdaddys perform at Fanetti Park on July 16. Here’s additional background about Jarvis and the Zydeco Crawdaddys. Check the band’s website, www.zydecocrawdaddys.com for more.

HOME: I’m from Troy, Ill.

AGE: The Zydeco Crawdaddys have been together for 17 years.

INSTRUMENTS: Myself - accordion, trombone, trumpet, vocals; “Bayou” Mike Waters - guitar, vocals; “Rascally” Randy Reece – saxophone; “Mud Bug” Mike Szwedo – drums, vocals: "Hurricane" Jimmie - electric bass, vocals. And members of our audience are invited to play washboard and shaker cans.

HOBBIES: I’m a hunter and into taxidermy. Bayou Mike enjoys nature hikes, Rascally Randy is a photographer, Mudbug plays jazz vibes, and Hurricane Jimmie rides motorcycles. 

LAST CONCERT: I’ve seen Willie Nelson more than 50 times, most recently at The Pageant.

LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: I’m working on a new CD of original country songs. I’m finishing up the 13 songs in my home studio and hope to have it out soon.

WHY I DO WHAT I DO: There's something that happens when you're making music that doesn't happen anywhere else. Plus, Zydeco music is all about having a good time and enjoying life ... it's a real kick to be part of this. 

QUOTE: This is something I say to the musicians in the band, “When you get in the Crawdaddys, it’s all about having a good time. And when it’s not fun anymore, it’s time to get out. So while you’re here, let’s make some music and have a great time!”

Fanetti Park Concert Series

The Fanetti Park Concert series is sponsored by the Carondolet Community Betterment Federation. The organization also presents a Sunday concert series in Carondolet Park that runs through August, as well as Monday concerts at South St. Louis Square Park and Bellerive Park in July.

Fanetti Park is located in the Patch neighborhood of south St. Louis at the intersection of Michigan and Ivory, near the Ivory Theater. Access the Park from I-55 at the Loughborough exit, go east on Loughborough to Michigan, then left (south) to the Park. Concerts begin at 7 pm and go until 9 pm. Lawn chairs are advised, and you may bring coolers. This is the final concert of the series.

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He has written for the St. Louis Beacon since 2009. Terry's other writing credits in St. Louis include: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the Riverfront Times, and St. Louis magazine. Nationally, Terry writes for DownBeat magazine, OxfordAmerican.org and RollingStone.com, among others.

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