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C.J. Chenier

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The son of late zydeco music pioneer Clifton Chenier, C.J. Chenier (born Clayton Joseph Chenier) has been dubbed "the crown prince of zydeco." Since inheriting leadership of his father's group, the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Chenier has continued to pay tribute to his father's sound and to expand the zydeco tradition. Chenier's interests in zydeco were sparked in his early twenties. Although he studied piano in the third grade, switched to the saxophone a year later, and received a scholarship to study music at Texas Southern University, he was drawn to the funky sounds of R&B and modern jazz. Chenier played saxophone, keyboards, flute, and sang backup vocals in a Top 40 cover band, Hot Ice. In 1978, Chenier was invited to replace saxophonist "Blind" John Hart in his father's band. Although he had little experience with zydeco music, he accepted the invitation. Over the next decade, he apprenticed with his father, assuming his role as accordion player and bandleader following his father's death in 1987. Chenier has remained active in a variety of outside projects. In addition to playing on Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints, he participated in Simon's Born at the Right Time tour. Chenier was a guest performer on Gin Blossoms' New Miserable Experience. In 1997, Chenier was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award. Chenier's own albums include 1988's My Baby Don't Wear No Shoes from Arhoolie Records, 1990's Hot Rod. and 1992's I Ain't No Playboy, both from Slash Records, and 1995's Too Much Fun, 1996's Big Squeeze, and 2001's Step It Up from Alligator Records. The more meditative The Desperate Kingdom of Love, recorded a month or so after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region, was released in 2006 on World Village Records. Recorded live in a single session at Rock Romano's Red Shack Studio in Houston, Texas, the high-energy Can’t Sit Down appeared in 2011, also from World Village. ~ Craig Harris

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