Stanley Dural Jr.—known to the world by his stage name, Buckwheat Zydeco—has died. A superstar of the Creole musical form from which he took his public persona’s name, Zydeco spent nearly 40 years elevating and promoting the accordion-driven staple of Louisiana folk.
Born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1947, to a farmer father well-versed in traditional Creole accordion technique, Dural initially resisted his family’s musical background, favoring rhythm and blues. In 1978, though, he fell into the orbit of Clifton Chenier, “The King Of Zydeco,” who invited the young musician to play organ in his Red Hot Louisiana Band. “I had so much fun playing that first night with Clifton,” Dural later said. “We played for four hours and I wasn’t ready to quit.”
Taking up the accordion, Dural formed a band of his own (formally known as the Ils Sont Partis Band, but usually just called Buckwheat Zydeco). As the zydeco craze of the 1980s took off, Zydeco became one of its leading members. Over the next decade, he secured numerous Grammy nominations, appeared in films, and rubbed elbows with musical superstars like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. But the biographical details of Zydeco’s life pale in comparison to the music he left behind: up-tempo, jazzy, and blistering with enthusiasm.
Dural reached his arguable peak in the mid-’90s, when he performed at not just one, but two presidential inaugurations (both for Bill Clinton), and performed in front of a televised audience of billions as part of the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. That being said, continued to tour and record well into the new millennium, releasing a new album as recently as 2009, and appearing regularly on the music festival circuit. (He also won an Emmy, for music contributed to the 2001 basketball documentary Pistol Pete.) He died this morning of lung cancer, at the age of 68.