Wasted Days, Wasted Lives (Part I)

In the lobby of Sugar Hill Studios are two sets of display cases that until recently held various testimonials to Huey P. Meaux's improbable success in the music industry.

Prominently exhibited was the platinum record commemorating the million sales of "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," the Meaux-produced smash that revived the career of Chicano singer Freddy Fender back in 1975. Also on view were the gold records for "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and "Secret Love," two other big-selling hits that Meaux produced for Fender at Sugar Hill. There were other gold records -- for Archie Bell and the Drells' "Tighten Up," which Meaux had brought to the attention of Atlantic Records, and for Dale and Grace's "Leaving It All Up to You," a Meaux production that went to number one -- as well as additional mementos attesting to Meaux's achievements and associations in his four-decade career as a producer.

The Houston police officers who brought Meaux to Sugar Hill in the back of a squad car on January 26 hadn't come to gaze at the display. Acting on tips provided by estranged members of Meaux's extended family, they had obtained a warrant to search Sugar Hill and earlier had arrested the producer outside his Scarsdale-area home. Once inside Sugar Hill, the lawmen made their way past Studio B, where Meaux recorded so many of his hits, then proceeded through the lobby, past the display cases and back to the private office Meaux retained after selling Sugar Hill in 1986. There, they forced open a locked door and entered into what investigators say Meaux referred to as his "playroom." Inside were testimonials of an altogether different nature than the ones displayed out front.

Among the items police say they found in the playroom were a physician's examining table, complete with gynecological stirrups, and just under 15 grams of cocaine in one of the drawers. There were also a king-size bed and a dozen or so sex toys nearby. And strewn about the room and stuffed inside a large chest were hundreds of photographs and dozens of videos that police say Meaux had produced himself at Sugar Hill over the past 20 years. According to investigators, some of the photos were of nude girls as young as seven. Some of the videos showed Meaux having sex with girls ranging in age from 12 to 16, among them the two daughters of Meaux's former live-in girlfriend.

The 66-year-old Meaux was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of child pornography and two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. A few days later, he was slapped with a civil lawsuit by his two former common-law stepdaughters, who accused him of having sexually abused them for years. A frail, wasted-looking Meaux showed up for his court arraignment on January 31, but a few days later, he failed to keep an appointment to be fitted with an electronic monitoring device that a judge had ordered him to wear while out of jail on his $130,000 bond.

Huey Meaux was on the run, and he remains at large as of this writing.
In the wake of his arrest and flight, some of Meaux's former associates were puzzled. Sure, they knew him as the fun-loving, wild-ass "Crazy Cajun," who, even in his advanced years, still liked young girls and good times. But few of them claim to have had any idea that he might have liked them that young, or that he was crazy in that way.

Some of those closest to Meaux, however, now say they knew or had long suspected there was another, darker side to the Crazy Cajun. And in the end, it was one of them -- maybe the one person Huey Meaux really loved -- who helped to bring him down.

Huey Purvis Meaux was born March 10, 1929, and raised on the prairie outside of Kaplan, Louisiana, a small town about 25 miles southwest of Lafayette. He grew up in a shotgun shack, speaking French and listening to his father play the Cajun accordion. For a time, Meaux played drums in a band that included his brother and his dad, Stanislauf Meaux. His father made his living shucking rice, and when Huey was 12, his family moved across the Sabine to the rice fields near Winnie, a speck on the map between Houston and Beaumont off of what is now I-10. According to whichever interview you believe, Meaux either never made it past the fifth grade or just barely graduated from high school. His recollection of his education seems to have changed to fit the occasion.

In a deposition he gave in 1991 for a lawsuit he brought against Polygram Records, Meaux said he enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from high school in 1946. Upon completion of a two-year hitch in Germany, he returned to Southeast Texas and enrolled at the Modern Barber College in Houston. A short, stocky man with black hair that he slicked straight back, Meaux said he took up barbering because "people always grow hair." A barber shop was also a good place "to find out what was going on -- who was beating the hell out of who," explained Meaux, a natural raconteur who loved to entertain with his earthy stories.

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Steve McVicker