Zydeco music is one of the most culturally unique art forms in the United States. A product of the Creole culture of southern Louisiana, Zydeco is known for its traditional rhythms and more modern, fast paced grooves. Once considered an art form on the brink, young talents like GRAMMY Nominated Andre Thierry have helped resurrect Zydeco for the next generation.
Every person on planet Earth is born with a set of innate skills or characteristics that will help that person succeed. From farmers with a hard-working, never quit devotion to their job to actors with a knack for perfectly bringing words to life on stage; everyone has a talent that makes them unique. Some people will find that natural ability overflowing from the beginning; gifted with raw talent that some others might never possess no matter how much they study. There are also those who show signs of natural ability but need help perfecting their skills in order to prosper from them and share their gift with the world. Then there are those like Andre Thierry who not only possess a wealth of raw, natural talent, but also the drive, support, and desire to refine those skills and share their gifts with the world.
The Californian Creole
When Americans hear the term “Creole”, their minds automatically shift to the swamps and bayous of southern Louisiana where the French speaking Acadiens settled in the mid-1700s. Their unique French Creole culture, developed over three centuries, is one of the most distinct sub-cultures in American society. Andre Thierry, though not directly himself, is a by-product of this truly unique creole culture in American society. Born on 7 July 1979 and raised in Richmond, California, Thierry has deeper roots in Louisiana’s French Creole world than others could ever hope to have. Thierry’s parents (now residents of California) were born and raised in Louisiana, as were his maternal grandparents. From a very young age, Thierry displayed a certain aptitude for not just music, but the Zydeco music made famous by generations of Creoles from Louisiana’s bayous. Unlike these other musicians, however, Thierry was neither born nor raised in Louisiana. This didn’t stop his parents and grandparents from working hard each day to ensure that Thierry did not forget who he really was. He first displayed a knack for music at the tender age of three. Just as blues musicians had migrated north before them, Creole and Zydeco musicians migrated west beginning in the 1960s and brought with them their soulful beats. Thierry’s parents and grandparents would routinely play host to Zydeco musicians visiting California, and it was at the age of three that a legend of Zydeco declared Thierry the next great accordion player of Zydeco.
Introduction to Zydeco
It was the late Clifton Chenier, on a visit to the San Francisco area, that grabbed three year old Andre by the arms and declared him a future accordion player. A young Thierry was forever impressed by Chenier, and would later use his music as an inspiration for his musical studies. But it was local musician Billy Wilson (currently a member of MotorDude Zydeco) that gave him his first accordion. Over the coming years, Thierry would largely teach himself to play the accordion by listening to Chenier’s music. His wealth of natural talent was quickly moulded into shape and by the age of 12 he had formed his own band, Zydeco Magic. Even at that young age, Thierry’s ability and talent were recognised and embraced by other acts in Northern California. In no short order, he was invited to play alongside some of the greatest visiting Louisiana bands and local Zydeco groups including John Delafose, Geno Delafose, the California Cajun Orchestra, MotorDude Zydeco, and Zydeco Flames. As Thierry’s exposure increased, his repertoire grew. Over time, he was able to master a variety of accordions such as the single, double, and triple row as well as the piano key. His musical talents were not confined to playing the accordion. As he got older and gained experience, he began to venture into songwriting and even gained proficiency in other instruments including the bass guitar, rhythm guitar, and drums.
California Raised with Roots in Louisiana
It was not Thierry’s skill with the accordion alone that helped him become the Zydeco legend he is, even at the still young age of 34. Instead, it was the grooming of his parents and grandparents. With both previous generations born and raised in Louisiana, it was impossible f or Thierry to escape his French Creole roots. Throughout his youth and his studies, his parents and grandparents made sure that Thierry remained in touch with his Creole heritage. This was made possible not solely because of the string of Zydeco artists staying with his grandparents while visiting California, but because of his family’s tight knit culture. His parents and grandparents believed that Thierry should never lose sight of who he was culturally. He may have been a Californian by birth, but he was a Creole by blood. As a result of their deep involvement in Thierry’s life, he is able to write and perform songs in original French Creole as well as English, and, as he has matured, has developed a truly rich and soulful voice.
Accolades and Future
Thierry has reached great heights already in his young career. As an artist, he has managed to blend traditional Zydeco with more modern approaches to the genre. He is capable of laying down a traditional, soulful slow song or a fast paced kinetic groover with equal talent and skill. His fusion of Zydeco’s past with its present and future have propelled him to the top of his genre, he was 2012 GRAMMY Nominated in the Best Regional Roots Music Category and his band was awarded the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame award in 2008 and 2012 for its exceptional presence in the Zydeco genre. It is no suprise that Andre is in high demand across the country at some of the most known live music venues and festivals in the USA.
Andre Thierry a name highly regarded amongst industry figures and fans throughout the music scene. True to his Creole culture and for his love of music he has crafted a career well beyond his years as an artist. At a very young age, he embarked on a path with distinctive knowledge, soulful energy, captivating audiences with his traditional and “Alternative Creole” music.