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California Cajun Orchestra

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Biography

The only full-time band in California to specialize in Cajun music, the California Cajun Orchestra prove that the two-steps and waltzes of Cajun music are no longer limited to southwest Louisiana. An outgrowth of the Blue Flame Stringband, the California Cajun Orchestra transform the traditional sounds of the bayous into an exciting, dance-inspiring music.

The only authentic Cajun in the band, Eunice, Louisiana-born Danny Poullard, inherited his love of music from his father, John, who played accordion. Moving to San Francisco in the early 1960s, he spent several years performing with Cajun accordionist John Simeon's band, the Louisiana Playboys. Upon Simeon's death, he assumed leadership of the group. In 1982, he helped to form the California Cajun Orchestra with Eric and Suzy Thompson of the Blue Flame Stringband.

Although Suzy Thompson had studied classical violin as a youngster, she became absorbed by Cajun music after attending a concert by the Balfa Brothers. During one of her subsequent trips to Louisiana, she studied under Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa. In addition to performing with the California Cajun Orchestra, she's been an active session musician and has recorded with the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, Laurie Lewis and Sukay. In 1994, she represented the United States on a "Fiddlers On Fire" tour of the United Kingdom, which featured fiddlers from seven countries.

Thompson's husband, Eric, first attracted attention as a sideman for many of the performers of the early-1960s Boston/Cambridge folk scene. For a short time, he was a member of the Charles River Valley Boys. An ultra-melodic guitarist, Thompson was influenced by the playing of Cajun steel guitarist J.B. Fuselier. In the mid-'60s, he won the world flatpicking championship at the Union Grove Fiddlers' Convention. In addition to working with the California Cajun Orchestra, he's performed and/or recorded with David Grisman, Mike Seeger, Michael Doucet, the Balfa Brothers and the late Jerry Garcia. The California Cajun Orchestra is rounded out by second fiddler Kevin Wimmer of the Good Ol' Persons, washboard player Charlie St. Mary and drummer Terry O'Dwyer.

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