south louisiana music
What happens when the rock ‘n roll sound of Elvis Presley and the New Orleans rhythm and blues of Fats Domino collide with the Cajun and Zydeco music of Louisiana’s bayous and Cajun prairie? You get a style of dance hall music that exploded across southern Louisiana and eastern Texas that became known as “swamp pop”.
the birth of swamp pop
If you think of the rhythmic piano sound of Fat Domino’s Blueberry Hill, you get the foundation of swamp pop. In the 1950’s, Cajun teens put down their fiddles and accordions and picked up electric guitars, the piano and horns to play and record this new style of music. They called it “South Louisiana Music”. The term “Swamp Pop” came from England in the early 1970’s. Music writer Bill Millar used term to describe the unique form of south Louisiana rock and roll.
Singer and swamp pop band leader Johnnie Allan came from a family of Cajun musicians. In fact, his great uncle Joe Falcone recorded the first Cajun song in 1928. Allan was performing in a Cajun band in Lafayette when he and his bandmates heard rock and roll. “I could hear the winds of change blowing down the bayous of Louisiana,” explains Allan. “Rock and roll was the thing that was going to be the music of that time.” They quit their Cajun band and started performing what he called south Louisiana music. They scored hit records with the songs “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights” and Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land.”
Musical reunion in ville platte
Ville Platte, Louisiana, is officially known as the Swamp Pop Capital of the World. Local radio station KVPI still plays the songs made famous by Louisiana musicians in the 1950’s and 60’s. The town is also home to a music museum that tells the story of this unique Louisiana sound. Once a year, the Swamp Pop Museum hosts a musical reunion. The musicians, some in their 80’s, perform the hit songs that played to a generation of teens at south Louisiana dance halls.
swamp pop reunion concert featured on tv
train depot celebrates musical history
The old train depot in downtown Ville Platte preserves this Louisiana town’s musical history. An old juke box, the flashy tuxedos of musicians, their instruments, hit records and photographs tell the story of swamp pop music. Museum manager Sharon Fontenot organizes the annual reunion concert. She also has a passion for the music, “This was my music,” Fontenot says. “This was what the teenagers of the late fifties and early sixties danced to every Friday and Saturday night.” She hopes the museum and the annual musical reunions will pass on the sound of swamp pop to the next generation.
Ville Platte museum featured on TV
The Swamp Pop Museum is located along the railroad tracks in downtown Ville Platte at 205 NW Railroad Ave. Phone (337) 363-0900.