A modern rock sensibility was brought to the traditional Cajun music of southwestern Louisiana, in the mid-'70s, by guitarist-turned-fiddler/vocalist Michael Doucet and his band Coteau. Although it was together for only two years, the group had an influence that continues to be felt more than two decades later.
Taking their name from the Cajun French word for "ridge" or "high ground," Coteau represented the combined efforts of Doucet, electric guitarists Bruce MacDonald and Dana Breaux, accordion player Bessyl Duhon, drummer Kenny Blevins, and bassist Gary Newman, the son of country music/Cajun star Jimmy C. Newman. Guitarist Sterling Richard and Tommy Comeaux were later members of the group.
Performing at a lengthy list of now-defunct clubs, including Jay's Cockpit and Lounge and Boo Boo's, Coteau attracted attention far beyond Cajun country. Invited to play at a festival in France, the group recorded much of its debut album in a Paris studio.
Unfortunately, Coteau was ahead of its time. Frustrated by the band's inability to break through commercially, they disbanded in 1977. Doucet continued to explore a similar vein with BeauSoleil, a more-acoustic group that was often featured during Coteau performances.
Although the members of Coteau reunited at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1981, they went their separate ways afterward. A few months later, Breaux committed suicide.
Coming together again following the helicopter crash death of Sterling Richard, the surviving members of Coteau recorded a new album, Highly Seasoned Cajun Music. A month after the album's release, Comeaux was killed in a cycling accident. Comeaux's last performance with the band, at Wolftrap in Vienna, VA, was broadcast national by NPR. ~ Craig Harris