This story appeared in the October issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door nine times a year? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!
During Louisiana Folklife Month, six Folklife Ambassadors will honor tradition bearers with whom they have worked. Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser has recognized October as the fifth annual Louisiana Folklife Month, highlighting the state’s rich living traditions and the people who sustain them. He emphasized the importance of the folklife program for Louisiana.
The tradition bearers who will be honored include a singer-songwriter from Alexandria, an Italian-American club in Bogalusa, a Choctaw/Houma Nation storyteller, educator and musician from Mandeville and three Creole musicians.
The Louisiana Folklife Program identifies, documents, preserves and presents folk traditions from the state’s diverse ethnic groups, from Native Americans and the earliest colonial settlements — French, Spanish, Acadian, Creole, African American, Anglo American and Isleños — to immigrant communities, including Irish, Filipino, German, Italian, Lebanese, Hungarian, Cuban, Jewish, Vietnamese and more.
Louisiana Folklife Month is a project of the Louisiana Folklife Commission in collaboration with the Louisiana Folklore Society and partner organizations in each of the host communities. It is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
Folklife Month will showcase the tradition bearers, as well as highlight overlooked cultural communities and increase appreciation of the vital role folklorists play in sustaining the state’s distinct culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events are still being determined. More information can be found online at LouisianaFolklife.org.
Let’s meet the tradition bearers.
Influenced by country, folk and rock and roll, as well as bluegrass and blues, RICK ADAMS is a Central Louisiana musician who began playing guitar and writing songs at a young age. For the last 20 years, Adams has been active in the music community, performing locally and regionally in two bluegrass groups and becoming a founding member of Reverend Charley’s Patent Medicine Show, an eclectic folk group whose songs frequently reference Louisiana’s distinctive cultural landscape.
Multi-instrumentalist KATRICE LACOUR leads a zydeco trio that plays with the goal of bringing the distinctive musical sounds of the state’s southwest parishes to north Louisiana audiences. Also featuring Rainey LaCour and Denver Shoup, The LaCour Trio plays a mixture of old-school zydeco, Creole LaLa music and R&B zydeco. LaCour’s passion for zydeco stems from the French Creole culture that shaped his upbringing in the Cane River town of Cloutierville.
For the past 46 years, the BOGALUSA ITALIAN-AMERICAN CLUB has prepared an altar to St. Joseph and educated the public about this centuries-old Sicilian tradition of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. The group is composed of 26 active members, descendants of the Italian immigrants who, drawn to jobs in the town’s timber industry, began arriving in Washington Parish in the early 1900s. This tradition instills not only pride in their Italian heritage but also reverence for those who helped define Bogalusa’s distinctive culture.
Of Choctaw and Houma Nation descent, Mandeville-based GRAYHAWK PERKINS is a lifelong storyteller, educator, musician and one of the last speakers of Mobilian, an ancient trade language once used by the indigenous peoples of the Gulf South. He has worked to share Native American culture with the public for more than 25 years. Drawing from his tribal folklore, Perkins has performed as a storyteller and has been active in the New Orleans music scene for decades.
GOLDMAN THIBODEAUX is one of the only musicians who performs the rural, pre-zydeco, house-dance, early 20th-century music of the communities around Lewisburg, Lawtell, Mallet and Prairie Ronde. Goldman preserved the native music of his culture and time, Louisiana LaLa music. He played in a mixed-race band echoing Amédé Ardoin’s experiences. The music he preserves is a music that is distinct from zydeco, but it is the music that zydeco was built upon.
LAWRENCE “BLACK” ARDOIN, seventh child of Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin, is the musical link between traditional Creole music and the zydeco of today. Born in Duralde to a sharecropping family that supplemented its income with music, he eventually took his father’s spot on accordion in the family band. He calls the music he plays Cajun-Creole, a product of the rural communities. Today, he plays with his son Sean and André Thierry with Creole United.
Maida Owens is the Folklife Program Director for the Louisiana Division of the Arts.