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date: 21 October 2019

Swamp Poplocked

  • Shane K. Bernard

Extract

Musical genre combining New Orleans rhythm-and-blues, country-and-western, and Cajun and black Creole music. Invented in the mid-1950s by teenaged Cajuns and black Creoles, the sound hails from the 22 parish Acadiana region of south Louisiana, as well as a small portion of east Texas.

Most swamp pop pioneers were born during the period 1935 to 1945. As children they imbibed French-language performances by Cajun and black Creole musicians; some played Cajun or black Creole music. They also listened to country-and-western music, and, coming of age in the 1950s, the new rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll sounds. Putting aside the fiddle and accordion, young “swamp poppers” embraced the lilting piano triplet style of Fats Domino’s love ballads. They also borrowed from Domino and other New Orleans artists the emotive saxophone sections, the electric guitar and bass, and the modern drumming trap set.

Swamp pop, however, is more than merely a duplicate of New Orleans rhythm-and-blues. Country-and-western roots help to set swamp pop apart from its more urbane counterpart, as do, most importantly, the infusion of Cajun and rural black Creole elements. For example, swamp pop musicians recorded rock-and-roll versions of Cajun and black Creole songs, and they sang both in French and Cajun-accented English. Swamp pop has thus been described wittily as “half Domino and half fais do-do” (the latter term referring to the Cajun house dance tradition)....

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