Co-authored by Ted Fox
I'm 66 years old, and I've been making music my whole life. I always knew that would be the way I'd make my living. I'm still doing that, but things have sure changed! I've seen it all and been involved in it all from making local records to now creating a YouTube series, Buckwheat's World, to get my music out there.
When I was just nine years old they used to sneak me in the back door of clubs in Lafayette, Louisiana so I could get up on stage and play the Hammond B3 with whoever was headlining. By the time I was a young teenager I was in Sammy and the Untouchables, and we backed up many of my heroes like Ray Charles and Fats Domino. In my twenties I put together a big 15-piece funk outfit with a five girl chorus called Buckwheat and Hitchhikers and we played all over the South. In the mid '70s I joined the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, playing the B3 -- and he showed me what zydeco music was all about. After that I taught myself to play accordion and sing lead, and I went out on my own with Buckwheat Zydeco in 1979.
At first I never thought I'd get to make a record. I jumped at the first chance to do that and got involved in some early situations I regret to this day. Some better deals came along, and in 1987 I signed on with Chris Blackwell at Island Records and made "On A Night Like This" with Ted Fox -- the first-ever major label zydeco album. We made four albums for Island in the late 80s and early 90s, and with their great reach and promotion we all did well at a great time for the record business.
Then Island, and it seemed like every other cool label, got gobbled up by some big corporation and then another big corporation. We bounced around like lots of other artists to other labels which were there and then they weren't. This was not a good scene: Music and the careers of musicians need to be tended to like growing crops; you have to pay attention, be patient, keep working on them and help them thrive.
Ted, who is also my manager, and I got pretty fed up with this, and I told him, "we can do bad on our own!" So, like some other artists at the time, we started our own record label. We called it Tomorrow Recordings named after my daughter, Tomorrow, but also because we felt it was the way of the future. That started out well, but then we, like the whole industry, fell into some giant sinkhole that it seemed no one saw coming.
I'll let someone else much smarter than me try to explain what happened to the music business when the internet started booming. All I know is that not many people seemed to want to buy music any more. Luckily, we've always had a great touring career, and playing live is still where it's at for us, as it is for most artists these days.
We adapted and sold digital music, and we still do of course, but it's a drop in the bucket. We even went back to make a record with Alligator, one of the best blues labels, and "Lay Your Burden Down" won a Grammy. Critics dug it, but not enough records sold.
We bitched and moaned about how difficult things were, but baby, you can't beat The Wheat! We saw that everyone was going to YouTube to find, listen to and watch music. All our old Island music videos were there, people were posting videos of us playing at festivals and clubs. It took some getting used to, because that's our stuff, and it seemed wrong that people were using it. Then we began to see how cool it was that we had so many fans and music lovers who wanted to see us and share their experiences with their friends and the world. That's not bad, that's great! I always say "don't criticize what you don't understand."
Ted said to me, "we should do our own video series and we'll start the Buckwheat Channel on YouTube." So that's what we're doing! If people want to get their music from YouTube that's where we want to be. Our Buckwheat's World series will show people how we do it: filming and recording our music live at one of our favorite places, Dockside Studio, on the Vermilion River bayou back home. Our pals, Louis Alvarez and Andy Kolker, award-winning film makers, are going to shoot it, and also follow me around a bit so our fans can get a better idea about what my world is all about.
We hope people want Buckwheat's World, just like we hoped people would like and buy our records. Only now we're doing it through a Kickstarter campaign, and if people like it and want it, they'll back us. You've got to go along to get along, I always say! We'll see what happens.
Buckwheat Zydeco (a.k.a. Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr.) has been spreading the word about zydeco music and his Louisiana heritage all over the world for more than 30 years. He recently opened the final Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Buckwheat Zydeco tours frequently throughout the year, and they have just launched a Kickstarter campaign for "Buckwheat's World" - a unique YouTube video series.
Follow Buckwheat Zydeco on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BuckwheatZydeco