Boozoo in action at the American Legion in Rosedale, MD on Oct. 20, 1995. I just hope I have this much energy two days before my 65th birthday. (Photograph by: Marty Katz, copyright 2001, please do not copy)
Boozoo - That's who!!!
Boozoo has a place of importance in my zydeco memories. He was the last of the originators - Clifton Chenier, Rockin' Doopsie, and Boozoo Chavis. For this reason, he was larger than life. He was also accessible and familiar. He reminded me of my grandfather in some ways - lots older than myself, but still sharp and ornery, with a few dirty jokes to tell you when no one was listening. When I heard the news of his death, I was greatly saddened. I decided to I put together a few memories on webpage as a little memorial. If you are looking for a biography, there are links below to other Boozoo sites. These are just a few photos and some random memories that I felt like writing down.
I can remember what a thrill it was to go to his Dog Hill Festival at his house in 1995. I had heard the song, but I didn't know that it was real place. We drove a couple of hours from Lafayette on I-10 west to get to Dog Hill, on the east side of Lake Charles, LA. Once we got there, the party seem more like going to family cookout than going to a big, commercialized festival. Most of Boozoo's family seemed to be helping out. The sons were parking cars when they weren't playing. The women were selling food including homemade sweet potato pies. The youngest nieces were selling raffle tickets on the front porch. I bought a pair of souvenir women's undies imprinted with "Let me play with your poodle" (not for me, but for my honey, or course!)
Dog Hill was quite a scene. The top picture shows him with all the D.C. and Baltimore dancers who ventured down. Second frame shows Boozoo with the pretty women, Lois and Marjorie Lefkowitz, either giving or receiving dance lessons. Last frame shows Boozoo's scarecrow (made in his own image - you be the judge) in the garden next to the chickens and farm animals, located out behind the Boozoo's ranch-style house . It's not hard to see where Boozoo gets the inspiration for his songs with all the barking and braying. The origin of the animal sounds in Boozoo's music (and zydeco in general) now seemed clear- think Dog Hill, Johnnie Billy Goat, and Zydeco Hee-Haw.
Bands played all day under a carport. We thought it must be the world's largest carport - big enough for a tour bus (see photo below). Maybe 6 or 7 bands played throughout the day. I had a really great time just dancing, talking to guests, and drinking a few beers. Somehow I remember laughing at the portable toilet provide by a company called K-John .own. Second frame shows Boozoo with the pretty women, Lois and Marjorie Lefkowitz, either giving or receiving dance lessons. Last frame shows Boozoo's scarecrow (made in his own image - you be the judge) in the garden next to the chickens and farm animals, located out behind the Boozoo's ranch-style house . It's not hard to see where Boozoo gets the inspiration for his songs with all the barking and braying. The origin of the animal sounds in Boozoo's music (and zydeco in general) now seemed clear- think Dog Hill, Johnnie Billy Goat, and Zydeco Hee-Haw.
(Right p hotograph by: Suzanne McQueen, Copyright 2001, please do not copy)
Other highlights of this trip we seeing Boozoo and his wife Leona dancing together. I also remember after Boozoo played, he said, "I'm done and I'm laying down my badge" as he cracked a cold Budweiser (the official event sponsor) and started to enjoy the party. As I recall, Boozoo was an official deputy and did have a real badge. He seemed to be a well known in town, and a local politician brought his family by the party as one stop on the campaign trail.
Another memory of Boozoo and his band, the Magic Sounds, was at JazzFest. I can remember that just as the band started, the skies opened up. The field was getting pretty muddy also. We danced through the mud and rain while Boozoo cranked out the zydeco. I don't think I got cold until the music stopped. I finally just took everything off except for shorts - the clothes were just cold and wet anyway. I also remember telling my friend Bob that every bit of me was soaked except for my taint (don't ask). Boozoo also played in the evening at Carrollton Station in New Orleans. I remember this because I just figured out how to zydeco and was finally getting it. I remember how nice it felt to dance with someone, to be on the right step, and have the whole dance thing finally working.
One thing that my wife and I always like about Boozoo was his vast repertoire of songs, and his desire to try to fit them all in at his performances. One Fourth of July in Washington, D.C., Boozoo was playing at the Mall near the Washington Monument. He made a statement to the effect that he had 45 minutes to play and he wanted to play as many songs. Every once in while, Boozoo would play the dirty lyrics to Uncle Bud. As I recall, he did ask to make sure no one in the audience was under 21 before he let loose with the bawdy version.
Found this bumper sticker in my collection - note Boozoo's signature.
Don't You Worry About Boozoo - Previously unpublished 1999 interview, from the Lafayette Independent. July 7, 2006.
Boozoo Chavis' biography on Wikipedia.