C. J. Chenier
Born: September 28, 1957 Port Arthur, TX.
Clayton Joseph (C.J) Chenier was born September 28, 1957, and is the son of the legendary 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 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. As a teenager in the early 1970s, he played in black Top 40 bands in Port Arthur.
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 and run the family business. Along the way, C.J. developed a passion for Zydeco music that had eluded him in his youth. By 1985, as his father was growing ill from diabetes, he invited Chenier to start playing the accordion in a more significant role with the band and open the shows. When Clifton died in 1987, his son said it only felt natural to carry on the legacy, and he stepped up to lead the Red Hot Louisiana Band.
He recorded his debut album for the great American independent label Arhoolie Records. Paul Simon first heard Chenier in 1990 and featured him on the album The Rhythm of the Saints and that year's 'Born at The Right Time' tour. Chenier won the 1997 Living Blues' Critics' Poll Award and also an AFIM Indie Award for Best Zydeco Album for his next release, The Big Squeeze. In 2001, Chenier played in front of 60,000 fans at the Chicago Blues Festival.
Chenier has stated that he does not 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." C.J. Chenier was inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Music Hall of Fame, in January of 2019.