Twistin’ at the Fais Do-Do: The Roots of South Louisiana’s Swamp Pop Music

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Twistin’ at the Fais Do-Do: The Roots of South Louisiana’s Swamp Pop Music

by Shane K. Bernard
Southern Cultures, Vol. 2, No. 3/4: 1996

"Like zydeco and Cajun music, swamp pop is vital to the cultural identity of Cajun and Creole country."

Swamp pop music is a rhythm and blues idiom that combines elements of New Orleans rhythm and blues, country and western, and Cajun and black Creole music. Highly emotional, colorful lyrics, tripleting honky-tonk pianos, bellowing horn sections, and a strong rhythm and blues backbeat typify the genre’s sound. Swamp pop standards include such national hits as Bobby Charles’s “Later Alligator,” Dale and Grace’s “I’m Leaving It Up to You,” Freddy Fender’s “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” Phil Phillips’s “Sea of Love,” and Jimmy Clanton’s “Just a Dream.” In south Louisiana, however—the birthplace of swamp pop—numerous songs less popular nationally are embraced as even more essential to the basic swamp pop repertoire. These include such regional hits as Cookie and the Cupcakes’ “Mathilda,” Tommy McLain’s “Sweet Dreams,” Randy and the Rockets’ “Let’s Do the Cajun Twist,” Clint West’s “Big Blue Diamonds,” Rufus Jagneaux’s “Opelousas Sostan,” and Johnnie Allan’s “South To Louisiana.”

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