Swamp Pop was the name given to the South Louisiana Rock N Roll music that filled the airwaves and the local dance halls in the mid-1950’s through the early 1960’s. “It’s a little bit of (Fats) Domino and it’s a little bit of Fais do-do”, says Mark Layne, General Manager of KVPI Radio in Ville Platte, Louisiana. The station still features “Swamp Pop Fridays”.
swamp capital of the world
Layne helped convince the Louisiana Legislature to proclaim the town of Ville Platte the Swamp Pop Capital of the World in 1995. That’s because the area played a key role in the development of the music. Ville Platte record producer Floyd Soileau got many of the bands playing the south Louisiana Rock n Roll into his studio and released their songs on his Jin record label. And the town has turned an old railroad depot into the Swamp Pop Museum. The small museum tells the story of the development of the Swamp Pop sound with photographs, record albums, musicians’ costumes and instruments and a few furnishings from old dance halls.
preserving a unique louisiana sound
In addition to helping found the museum, director Sharon Fontenot organizes an annual reunion of musicians. They gather during the Mardi Gras season and perform their most popular songs to a packed house at the Ville Platte Civic Center. The musicians, who are now in their late 70’s and early 80’s, have been a part of the reunion concert for the past 16 years. “We do this to honor these wonderful people who created this wonderful genre of music,” Fontenot tells me. Her biggest concern is passing on the music to the next generations, “so it will never be forgotten.”
telling the story of swamp pop
Fontenot told me she had tried unsuccessfully for years to get someone to do a documentary that told the story of this unique genre of music. Being a music-lover and a fan of all things Louisiana, I agreed to do it. I attended the 2022 Swamp Pop Reunion concert, an event that featured dozens of musicians and non-stop live performances that lasted more than four hours. I followed up with one-on-one interviews with many of the musicians. KVPI radio gave me an interview recorded years ago with Cookie and the Cupcakes. And historian Shane Bernard and videographer Mark Ducote provided taped interviews with his father Rod Bernard and friend Warren Storm, both swamp pop pioneers. In some cases, the young musicians had switched from playing Cajun to rock n roll. Others, who loved the sound of Fats Domino, started with rock n roll. After nine months of interviews, collecting photos, music and memorabilia, and writing and editing, these musicians tell their stories. The documentary was broadcast in December, 2022 on WVUE Television in New Orleans.
watch the tv documentary
The Louisiana Swamp Pop Museum is located at 205 NW Railroad Ave, Ville Platte, LA. Phone (337) 363-0900.
Floyd Soileau’s Flat Town Music Store is located at 700 S. Chataignier St., Ville Platte, LA. Phone (337) 363-2177.