Jivin' Gene Bourgeois
Born: February 9, 1940, in Port Arthur, Texas
When the band he put together in high school was paid with all the crawfish they could eat, Port Arthur’s Jivin’ Gene was on the path to Swamp Pop stardom.
Rewinding to a few years earlier, Bourgeois’ brother came home from a hunting trip with a guitar, Bourgeois bought a book on how to play it, taught himself to play and started a garage band, Gene and The Saints. His friends John Piggot also played guitar and Butch Landry played the drums, and soon Jimmy Fowler was added on piano and they began playing at sock hops and high school functions. High schoolers themselves, they played at the Beehive in Port Arthur for teen dances where they were paid in all the crawfish they could eat.
Gene and The Saints grew into Gene and the Jokers and while playing at Stewart’s Club one night, Huey Meaux walked in. Record producer Meaux had a cajun music program on Port Arthur radio station KPAC. Bourgeois had already written and was performing what would become his two biggest hits, "Out With the Tide,” and “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” He asked Meaux if he would like to record his songs.
To keep the costs down with an unproven talent, Meaux recorded “Out With the Tide '' at the radio station. Gene’s vocal tracks were recorded in the restroom. Meaux also gave Bourgeois his nickname - Jivin’ Gene.
"Going Out With the Tide" and "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" were hits. Released in 1959, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” has also been recorded by artists including Cookie and The Cupcakes, Freddy Fender and Jimmy Vaughn.
Bourgeois worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline during the 1970s. For many years, he worked construction through Insulators Local No. 22, along with fellow musician John Piggot. When Piggot asked him to play at some dances, Bourgeois returned to music and soon after recorded an album appropriately titled "It's Never Too Late."
He still performs and is sometimes seen in local venues around southeast Texas and at Antone's in Austin. - M.B.