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Roots Run Deep : Music 'with no limits' has been the focal point of Buckwheat Zydeco's life and career.

September 03, 1993|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Steve Appleford writes regularly about music for Valley Life

The man who would become Buckwheat Zydeco had never actually given the accordion much thought in his early days. His father had played the wheezing keyboard instrument around the house, of course, but it sure didn't seem right for the passionate rhythm and blues young Buckwheat hoped to play.

Born Stanley Dural Jr. in 1947, he, like so many of his generation, looked at the accordion as that aging novelty instrument of the polka and Lawrence Welk. That was until he was invited in 1976 to join a band led by his father's good friend: zydeco master Clifton Chenier.

Dural's own R & B act, the 15-man Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, had by then broken apart. So he soon found himself and his organ on the road with Chenier and his rousing Creole party music.

"From the very first night I went on the stage, I couldn't believe this," Dural says now. "The energy, the roots and the people having so much fun. It just took me away."

Chenier's accordion playing inspired Dural enough to start his own band in 1979, when Dural picked up the accordion for the first time. It has remained his instrument of choice ever since, just as his father had always hoped.

"My father turned out to be my best friend," says Dural, on the road in Salt Lake City last week. "He would never listen to me before and had never been to one of my engagements when I played the organ. But when I picked up the accordion, he was there."

Buckwheat Zydeco and his band will bring Dural's personal version of zydeco to the Palomino in North Hollywood on Thursday night. It's a sound that Dural says he was attracted to for its "culture, its roots. This zydeco music was Creole black traditional music. This is what my father played, and my grandfather, and great-grandfather played. It took me back."

The musician hasn't left his interest in rhythm and blues behind. In fact, the Buckwheat Zydeco sound is identifiable for its use of a variety of styles. Over the course of nine albums since 1980, Dural has recorded songs by Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and others, and has played alongside such varied players as country singer Dwight Yoakam and blues-rocker Eric Clapton.

This mixture has inspired critical praise. The New York Times called his 1987 album "On a Night Like This" one of that year's 10 best. And the new "Rolling Stone Album Guide" calls Buckwheat Zydeco "rarely less than entertaining."

"I never leave the roots," Dural says. "But I'm not going to perform just one set of music, and that's it. That's for the birds. I mix it up.

"My type of music has no limits. I can take the music into whatever it is: rock 'n' roll, country and Western, blues, funk. And it works. People didn't think the accordion could do this. Since when do you have an accordion playing the blues, man?"

While he typically spends 10 months of the year on tour, Dural spends his vacation time on a ranch about four miles outside Lafayette, La., where he was born. He grew up there surrounded by his five brothers and seven sisters, all of them musicians of one kind or another.

"So I go way back. As long as I can remember, we always had music in the house. One time, we had three pianos in the house. And everybody plays. I'm the only one who played in public, but the rest of my family played in the church."

Dural shares his siblings' interest in playing for crowds of mixed backgrounds and ages. "When I started playing the accordion, I said I was not going to play just for the older generation, or just the younger generation, but for everybody. We can all have the same good time in one place."

Where and When Who: Buckwheat Zydeco. Location: The Palomino, 6907 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Hours: 9 p.m. Thursday. Price: $15. Call: (818) 764-4010.

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