Dural and Buckwheat Zydeco
The death of Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr. of Carencro, La. was reported in the New York Times, Billboard, Rolling Stone, CNN, USA Today, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and other worldwide media outlets. Dural’s name may have drawn blanks stares from many. But music fans who knew Buckwheat Zydeco, the Grammy- and Emmy-winning band that carried his nick-name, Dural and his passing were indeed major news. Dural died at the age of 68 on September 23 in Lafayette, following a three-year battle with lung cancer.
For more than 35 years, Dural introduced millions to zydeco, which is a form of Creole accordion dance music that originated from southwest Louisiana. Besides signing with a major record label and achieving other firsts for zydeco music, Dural toured and played with Eric Clapton, Keith Richard, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Ry Cooder, and other major stars. The band performed in the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, which reached a TV audience of 3 billion people. They played at both inaugurations for former President Bill Clinton and countless TV shows and commercials.
Buckwheat Zydeco received an Emmy for the music in the CBS TV movie from 2001, “Pistol Pete: The Life and Times of Pete Maravich”. The band won the Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album Grammy for the 2009 CD, “Lay Your Burden Down,” which featured Trombone Shorty, Sonny Landreth, and other stars.
Last November, Dural and band members were part of an all-star tribute to country music legend Willie Nelson, who received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The TV special aired on PBS stations across the country.
Despite Dural’s worldwide fame, Ted Fox, his longtime manager, said Buckwheat’s heart and soul never left Louisiana. “He played for presidents,” said Fox at Dural’s Oct. 3 funeral, “He played with presidents and the biggest rock stars in the world. But he remained the same person he was when he was growing up with 12 brothers and sisters, in a two-bedroom house here in the Truman Addition of Lafayette. “...He traveled the world – everywhere. But really, he never left the north side of Lafayette. He belongs here. He belongs to you, this community. He never left you, and now, he will be with you here for eternity.”
At the funeral, Fox read condolences from Paul Shaffer - longtime band leader from the TV show “Late Night with David Letterman”. Shaffer said out of the musical stars he worked with during his 33 years on Letterman’s show, there was “none finer than my friend, Stanley Dural Jr”. Shaffer’s statement added, “I was proud when, while working on the 1996 Olympics closing ceremony in Atlanta, a zydeco tribute was called for. I could casually pull out my phone book and call the master, Buckwheat, who handily carried the segment with genius and aplomb. May Stanley rock in eternity.”
In his statement, music legend Paul Simon called Dural “a brilliant zydeco player who brought smiles to faces when he came into a room”. Simon said, “We last played together in Washington, a few months back, when Willie Nelson received the Gershwin Prize. In the rehearsal, we messed up the ending to Willie’s song that we were doing. Buck said to me, ‘Show me how that goes again.’ I said, ‘Man, you taught it to me.’ “We lost a great musician and a blessed soul.”
Anthony Dopsie, an accordionist who tours with Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, said Dural was an inspiration and a friend. “It’s just hard for me right now,” said Dopsie. “He gave us so much to remember. But no matter where he went or what he did, he was the same person every time. He never changed. I’m going to miss the calls from him. But at the end of the day, he’s up in heaven, with the rest of them, at a zydeco party.”
Musicians and fans filled social media with pictures and videos done with Dural. Eric Adcock of Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars - a protégé of Dural on organ - wrote in a Facebook tribute, “They say when a great musician dies, a library burns down. So true in your case. I’m sure Marley and Hendrix are making you feel welcomed right now...”
Herman Fuselier is a music writer and broadcaster living in Opelousas, La. Fuselier is the author of “Ghosts of Good Times,” a book on south Louisiana’s disappearing dancehalls, with photographer Philip Gould.