Born: June 25, 1925 in Opelousas, La.
Died: Dec. 12, 1987
“The King of Zydeco", Clifton Chenier moved to Port Arthur in 1946 and worked at the Gulf refinery. He formed a band and played at clubs in the 1940's and 1950's. Chenier began his recording career in 1954, when he signed with Elko Records and released “Clifton's Blues”, a regional success. His first hit record was soon followed by "Ay 'Tite Fille (Hey, Little Girl)" and "Bopping the Rock" (1955). With the Zydeco Ramblers, Chenier toured extensively. He also toured with Clarence Garlow, billed as the 'Two Crazy Frenchmen'.
In April 1966, Chenier appeared at the Berkeley Blues Festival and was described by Ralph J. Gleason, jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, as "... one of the most surprising musicians I have heard in some time, with a marvelously moving style of playing the accordion." Chenier was the first act to play at Antone's in Austin, Texas and reached a national audience on the premiere season of Austin City Limits in 1976. Three years later, he returned to the show with his Red Hot Louisiana Band.
Chenier was recognized with a Grammy Award in 1983 for his album “I'm Here”. He followed Queen Ida as the second Louisiana Creole ever to win a Grammy. Chenier is also credited with redesigning the tin washboard into the vest frottoir, an instrument that would easily hang from the shoulders.
Since 1987, C. J. Chenier (born Clayton Joseph Thompson) has carried on the zydeco tradition by touring with Chenier's band and recording albums. Paul Simon, John Mellencamp, Zachary Richard, Rory Gallagher, and the jam band Phish all consider Chenier to be one of their musical influences.
Chenier was inducted posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1989.