American musical legend Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr.—along with his band,Buckwheat Zydeco—is the preeminent ambassador of Louisiana zydeco music. 2009 marked Buckwheat Zydeco’s 30th anniversary, and Buckwheat celebrated with the release of his Grammy Award-winning CD (and Alligator Records debut), Lay Your Burden Down. On February 1, 2010, the album won for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album. Buckwheat Zydeco has been nominated five previous times in three different categories. This is their first Grammy win.
The New York Times says, “Stanley‘Buckwheat’ Dural leads one of the best bands in America. A down-home and high-powered celebration, meaty and muscular with a fine-tuned sense of dynamics…propulsive rhythms, incendiary performances.” The Louisiana vocalist,accordion and organ master recorded his Grammy-winner at Dockside Studios in Maurice, Louisiana with Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) producing, as well as leading the horn section which also boasted New Orleans’ own Trombone Shorty.
Lay Your Burden Down, the album OffBeat calls “the band’s most adventurous disc yet,” was released on May 5, 2009. Guests on the album include Sonny Landreth, Warren Haynes, Steve Berlin, JJ Grey and Trombone Shorty. As New Orleans author Ben Sandmel writes in the liner notes, “Lay Your Burden Down pulses with music that tells a story. Since it’s zydeco, this album will naturally get feet to moving. But Lay Your Burden Down speaks with equal eloquence to the head,and the heart.” It is a remarkably conceived, rocking album featuring five new Buckwheat originals and complete reinventions of songs by Memphis Minnie (When The Levee Breaks, made famous by Led Zeppelin), Bruce Springsteen (Back In Your Arms), Gov’t Mule (Lay Your Burden Down),Captain Beefheart (Too Much Time),Jimmy Cliff (Let Your Yeah Be Yeah)and JJ Grey & Mofro (The Wrong Side).
Lay Your Burden Down received some of the best reviews of 2009 for a roots/blues album. Living Blues says,"Buckwheat Zydeco returns with a new release on famed Chicago blues label Alligator Records, and the results are stunning." Blues Revue continues, saying the album"is as steeped in blues as in the joyous Louisiana soul at the heart of this outstanding, wonderfully diverse set." Chris Morris, writing in Sonic boomers.com,which named it an "Album Of The Week," called it "a vastly entertaining and appealingly diverse package." Allmusic.com says: "Lay Your Burden Down ends up being Dural's most accomplished and mature album yet, moving from start to finish like everything belongs together…He has given us something else again, an album that works both at the dance party and still rings clear the next day when maybe it's time to dig deeper and do a little thinking. It's the best kind of musical synthesis."
Scott Simon, on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday - in a nearly 10 minute feature airing shortly after the album's release - brought Buckwheat Zydeco's music to millions of listeners across the country. Simon called leader Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr.,"the go-to guy for Zydeco music...a master of accordion and organ,"and praised the new CD's scope from "feel good, get-up-and-dance music to slow R&B grooves and brooding blues." Simon's far ranging discussion with Dural was heard by more than five million listeners worldwide, helping to start the 30th anniversary celebration.
The album remained on the Billboard Blues Chart for weeks, and has landed in rotation on top tastemaker radio stations nationwide including WXPN in Philadelphia, WYEP in Pittsburgh, WYMS in Milwaukee, WFDU in Teaneck, NJ, KRSH in Santa Rosa, CA, KUT in Austin, TX, with new music airplay from WXRT in Chicago and WFUV in New York City, among many others.
As Living Blues says, "The entire work is a vibrant testament to Buckwheat Zydeco's spirit, reminding us that Louisiana's musical heritage has taken all the hurricanes could give. This is an album that can introduce a new generation of music fans to the world of zydeco music and serve as a wonderful reminder about what a great zydeco band can do."
Over the course of 30 years, Buckwheat Zydeco has gigged with everyone from Eric Clapton(with whom Buckwheat also recorded) and U2 to The Boston Pops. The band performed at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics to a worldwide audience of three billion people. Buckwheat even performed for President Clinton twice, celebrating both of his inaugurations. The band has appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman, CNN, The Today Show, MTV, NBC News, CBS Morning News and many others.
According to Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer, the addition of Buckwheat Zydeco tothe label is huge. “Buckwheat is the iconic figure of Louisiana zydeco music worldwide. It’s a thrill to bring an artist of this stature to Alligator. More important, he tears it up at every show. His energy level and accordion chops are just amazing, and he’s a terrific, soulful singer. Plus,he’s a thrilling Hammond organ player. I’m also excited to reunite Buckwheat with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos as producer. Berlin produced Five Card Stud, one of Buckwheat’s finest albums, and we believe Buckwheat’s Alligator debut is even better. Also, Buckwheat has been booked for years by Concerted Efforts, a great agency for American roots music.”
Stanley“Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. was born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1947. He acquired his nickname because, with his braided hair, he looked like Buckwheat from The Little Rascals. His father was an accomplished, non-professional traditional Creole accordion player, but young Buckwheat preferred listening to and playing R&B. He became proficient at the organ, and by the late 1950s was backing Joe Tex, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and many others. In 1971 he formed Buckwheat and The Hitchhikers, a 15-piece funk and soul band. They were a local sensation and found success with the single, “It’s Hard To Get,” recorded for a local Louisiana-based label. Never a traditional zydeco fan when growing up,Buckwheat nonetheless accepted an invitation in 1976 to join Clifton Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band as organist. He quickly discovered the joy and power of zydeco music, and marveled at the effect the music had on the audience.“Everywhere, people young and old just loved zydeco music,” Buckwheat says. “I had so much fun playing that first night with Clifton. We played for four hours and I wasn’t ready to quit.”
Buckwheat’s relationship with the legendary Chenier led him to take up the accordion in 1978. After wood shedding for a year, he felt ready to start his own band under the name Buckwheat Zydeco, and began his recording career with the small Blues Unlimited label. By the mid-1980s there were more offers to perform than he could possibly accept. Recordings for Black Top and Rounder followed before Buckwheat befriended New York-based journalist Ted Fox, who championed Buckwheat to Chris Blackwell at Island Records in 1986. Buckwheat Zydeco signed a five-record deal and Fox became and still remains his manager. The success of these records kept Buckwheat Zydeco on the road and in constant demand.
In 1988,Eric Clapton invited the band to open his North American tour as well as his12-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall. As even more doors opened, Buckwheat found himself sharing stages and/or recording with Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, David Hidalgo, Dwight Yoakam, Paul Simon, Ry Cooder and many others,including indie music stalwarts Yo La Tengo on the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan bio-pic, I’m Not There. His music has been featured in films ranging from The Waterboy, The Big Easy, Fletch Lives and Hard Target to name a few. BET’s #1-rated show, Comic View, used his live version of What You Gonna Do? as theme music for the program’s 10thanniversary “Pardi Gras” season. He even wrote and performed the theme music for the PBS television series Pierre Franey’s Cooking In America. Buckwheat won an Emmy for his music in the CBS TV movie, Pistol Pete: The Life And Times Of Pete Maravich. Buckwheat Zydeco has played just about every major music festival in the world, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival(numerous times), Newport Folk Festival, Summerfest, San Diego Street Scene, Bumbershoot, Montreaux Jazz Festival and countless others.
During the 1990sand 2000s Buckwheat recorded for his own Tomorrow Recordings label and maintained an extensive touring schedule. Along with his remarkably talented band, he brings his music to fans all over the world. Now, with his new relationship with Alligator and Lay Your Burden Down, his massive instrumental and vocal talents and boundless energy, Buckwheat, already the most popular zydeco artist in the world, will find the largest and most enthusiastic audience of his long and storied career.