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NIGHT LIFE

Music of Wayne Toups Rises From the Swamp : He prides his Zydecajun band on its hybrid sound. And regardless of the origins, it makes people want to dance.

August 18, 1994|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In this Wayne's World, there's no heavy-metal dudes, no Led Zeppelin, no Queen, but about as much understandable English. This is the world of Wayne Toups and Zydecajun, who will have the local yokels grooving twice in front of the Miller Stage on Sunday night at the Ventura County Fair in Seaside Park. This sweaty guy in a tank top is worth missing reruns of "60 Minutes" and "Married With Children."

Don't worry about taking notes because Toups usually sings in French. Hey, the thirty-something accordion player can't help it--he's from Crowley, La., the heart of Cajun and Creole country. Toups mixes Southern rock with the indigenous Louisiana swamp rock, and wants to make the whole world dance.

Toups put out a few small-label albums in the '80s, then got signed to Mercury. But Toups hasn't released an album since his fourth, 1991's "Fish Out of Water." He still plays a lot, has made some guest appearances on country albums and seems in no danger of slowing down, all of which he discussed during a phone conversation before a gig in Michigan.

So Wayne, no album for three years, wassup?

Well, I got into a bad management deal, which ended up in a big legal hassle. But we have kept playing, not as much as we used to, but still 15 to 20 times a month. We have a great cult following and our base of support continues to grow. We've been all over--Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador. We played for 5,000 people in Nicaragua, and they loved us. You don't have to understand the words because music is for the ears.

So do you play zydeco or Cajun music, or what?

I don't do either. We're a zydecajun band, and it's more than just a band name, it's a type of music I invented in 1985. We play Cajun, zydeco, R & B, rock 'n' roll, plus there's soul influences like Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, the Motown sound, plus Creole music. The Creole culture goes back a long way. At one time, the Acadian people moved to Louisiana and mixed with people of color and created the Creole tradition. They play zydeco music on a full-scale accordion and sing in French. I think a lot of Creole music today sounds like R & B, but that's just the natural advancement of the music.

At one time most people under 100 years of age associated the accordion with Lawrence Welk, but that's over?

Sure. The accordion is becoming commercial; it's everywhere. It's in Burger King and Buick commercials, in country songs, and people are becoming more and more accustomed to the sound.

You're a successful road dog with no airplay. Is that a problem?

I think that's gonna change with the right songs. I mean, if I sing in French, they ain't gonna play it. But if I do a ballad in English, and the song is good, then it'll have to be played. The Allman Brothers are a hard-working band, but they don't get much airplay.

When you play, people gotta dance?

Oh yes, they definitely dance. We just played the Wisconsin State Fair. The Platters played first, and they were wonderful. People sat there and clapped and sang along to all those old songs. But once we started, everyone stood up and started dancing in front of the stage. Our music isn't quite as raw as it used to be. We take the music and sand the rough edges off, but we're not gonna perfect ourselves out of business.

Why does Louisiana rock so hard?

I think there's great music all over the South, and not just Louisiana. I never finished high school; I got started playing when I was in eighth grade. All I know how to do is sing and play an accordion. The music business is concentrated in New York, Nashville and Los Angeles--that's the inner circle. I think they're just starting to notice the outer circle.

What about a new album?

I think we'll be in the studio by September or October with a release date in 1995. We're gonna get the record in the can, then try and shop it. We have the band and we have the songs.

What's up with this country crossover thing?

We're apparently becoming quite the thing in Nashville. People say what Stevie Ray Vaughan was to rock 'n' roll, we are to Nashville. We've done a couple of tunes with Mark Chesnutt, then a Christmas song with Sonny Kershaw. I mean what are Travis Tritt and Garth Brooks doing? They're making millions playing rock 'n' roll in the country market. Before, I've always tried to stay clear of all that because I'm not a country act.

Next month you're doing Farm-Aid?

Yeah, we dug meeting Willie Nelson, he's a really nice guy. I'm from a very poor family, so I can relate to the whole thing. It'll be in the Superdome on Sept. 18.

Details

* WHAT: Wayne Toups and Zydecajun.

* WHERE: Ventura County Fair, 10 W. Harbor Blvd.

* WHEN: Sunday, 7 and 9 p.m.

* HOW MUCH: $6 general admission to the fair.

* CALL: 648-3376.

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