Wayne Toups

It seems every American region has its own version of Springsteen. As always, the Gotham media sees fit to describe to the outside world its own artists in terms that New Yorkers feel most comfortable with. As such, any male rocker who plays fast and loose with genres, writes literate songs and can sing better than Dylan soon will be described in the pages of Rolling Stone as "Possumneck, Mississippi's answer to Springsteen" or somesuch.

In Louisiana, this peculiar designation fell on singer-accordionist Wayne Toups, or "Le Boss." A purist's worst nightmare, Toups's precocious invention of "zydecajun" in the 1980s was seen as an affront to two "pristine" folk traditions. Toups has since further roiled the stream by texturing in rock rhythms and, lately, blue-eyed soul. As always, few artists go broke confounding purism, and for 15 years he has been one of the most popular draws along the I-10 circuit.

Raised in a French-speaking family in Crowley, the "Rice Capital of Louisiana," Toups first took the stage as a teenager leading the Crowley Aces, a "moldy fig" chank-a-chank band. Toups soon folded in a dash of the sounds from across the tracks and came up with zydecajun, which in the mid-'80s Louisiana music craze was enough to win him a deal with Mercury. Despite becoming the first Cajun artist to crack the Billboard pop album charts and gracing the 1990 Super Bowl stage, Toups was let go after four albums.

The Mercury years exposed his talent to musicians as diverse as Thomas Dolby and George Jones, both of whom have employed his squeezebox skills on albums of their own. But it's been with his importance as a solo artist that Toups has made his mark. As his near-contemporary Buckwheat Zydeco has done for zydeco, so Toups has done for Cajun music, which is to make it understandable and palatable to a new generation of native fans.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax