King Clifton’s Influence

Like many musicians, Chubby was heavily influenced by Clifton Chenier. Chubby remembers waking up early as a child and watching Clifton perform on Passe Partout, which eventually inspired him to learn how to play the accordion.

Every morning when I was coming up as a kid my dad would wake up at 5 a.m. and you could hear him making his coffee and breakfast. Passe Partout, our local channel, would come on and you could hear Jim Olivier talking in French. One morning I heard Clifton Chenier on the TV.

I woke up when I heard that accordion and Clifton Chenier signing. I woke up with some fog in my eye. Couldn’t see, but I could hear. I sat in a fetal position right in front of the TV, mouth hanging open because I couldn’t believe how this man was playing the accordion.

Clifton Chenier was the Ray Charles of Zydeco music to me. I was a little boy always wanting to see that man play because of the way he played that accordion, the way he sings, the way he composes his songs. So I turn to my dad, “How does that man play the accordion?”

First of all it’s not a three row accordion. We were brought up on the three row diatonic accordion. If you take the reeds out you can play it just like a harmonica. I wasn’t raised on the single row accordion. Daddy always had a double or triple row at home. Clifton played the piano accordion so he could get more out of it. He could play Blues, Rock n Roll, Soul, R&B, Cajun or Zydeco. I was blown away.

You know the bad thing is he was born in 1925. He was a little boy like me at 8 years old and he had to work the fields. He couldn’t read or write. I said, “Daddy how does he compose these songs and everything matches the way he is playing his solos? They’re not the same solos because I listen. Every song is a different solo, how is he doing that?”

God gives talent my friend. Because he sits there and he plays these songs and he writes these songs in his mind, heart and soul. I got everyone of his albums and would sit and listen to his songs on our stereo system. I turn to my grandpa and said, “He’s crying the Blues.”

Yeah he’s a poor man, his wife left him, he got no money and he has to eat poor boy sandwiches. He’s singing about that but I bet he’s cured. The music is his medicine.

Me watching Clifton as a little boy inspired me so much to where I would get up in the morning and I told daddy I want to learn how to play the accordion. I am inspired. I love what y’all do. I want to learn.

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