Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie
One of the nation's most exciting performers of zydeco, Geno Delafose heats up the clubs and honky-tonks of Southwest Louisiana every weekend with this irresistible dance music—that is, when “The Creole Cowboy” is not busy operating his Double D Ranch in Eunice. For Geno Delafose, life is divided equally between being a cowboy at home and a world-class zydeco accordionist on stage. Hailing from the small prairie town of Eunice, Delafose grew up on his father’s farm and still makes his home there today, breeding cattle and raising quarter horses. “I’m just a country boy, quiet,” he says, “but my other job takes me in front of a lot of people.” Indeed, with his charismatic Louisiana cowboy spirit and lively presentation, he’s become one of zydeco’s international stars.
Zydeco is a truly American music that springs from the rich cultural mix of South Louisiana and East Texas. The style emerged during the musically fertile period just after the Second World War, but has roots in a much earlier era. French-speaking black musicians combined traditional Creole French music with blues and the more modern sounds of R&B to create a pulsing, accordion-driven style that packed the dance halls. Today’s zydeco continues to evolve, often incorporating hip hop elements, but musicians like Geno celebrate its roots through traditional instrumentation, two-step and waltz rhythms, and French lyrics highlighting the trials and joys of life in Creole Louisiana.
Geno Delafose’s father John was a leading figure in the popular resurgence of zydeco in the early 1980s, with his stellar band the Eunice Playboys. Geno, who was born in 1971, began sitting in with the Playboys on rubboard at age 7; soon he also took up drums, and then taught himself to play the accordion by age 13. Geno shared vocal and accordion leads with his father, and when the senior Delafose passed away in 1994, Geno led the band into a new incarnation that eventually evolved into French Rockin’ Boogie. His bandmates are family to him, literally and metaphorically. The band today includes his longtime bassist Popp Esprite, his co-worker Dale Patrick Stelly on guitar, his “baby brother” and fellow rancher Demetric Thomas on rubboard and vocals, and his cousin Germaine Jack on drums.
Geno Delafose mixes the traditional Cajun and Creole repertoires with other genres and his own compositions to create a rich blend of zydeco, R&B, Cajun, country, and blues. He sings in both French and English, playing the single-row and triple-row diatonic button accordions for more traditional “French-style” songs and switching to the piano accordion when pounding out contemporary zydeco tunes. “We have that old country feel, that soft swing, and then we have that loud bluesy get-down thing going on, too. We try to mix it up, give everybody something they can dance to.”