Bass

This page contains web resources that complement topics covered in my book, Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California: Modern Pleasures in a Postmodern World, which can be ordered from amazon.com.

As such, it does not pretend to comprehensive coverage of general subjects like Cajun culture or zydeco music. You can pick up the book and read plenty on those subjects and consult the references at the back for more books to read. For those unfamiliar with Cajun and Creole culture, however, I can make a few quick suggestions:

I cannot even say that this list is anything close to a comprehensive guide to the Northern California scene, as Andrea Rubinstein's sfbayou.com has been, although that site is not getting updated as frequently now that Andrea has moved to Louisiana. My goal here is mainly to provide a reader of the book some guidance for further reading and discovery. That is why certain individuals' names appear in black below; they are people to whom an entire section of a chapter is devoted (see the table of contents elsewhere on this site).

Drums
Dancing  •  Bands  •  Food
 

Northern California Cajun and Zydeco Dancing
Dancing

Dance Calendar

One-stop reference for where dances are happening in the region, a month at a glance. The value to the dance scene of this long-term compilation effort by a single volunteer, Ellen Papper, has been enormous. She started publishing the calendar in pre-Internet days, making and distributing hundreds of copies of the calendar each month at dances all over the Bay Area.

Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center

This folk music and world music dance club in Berkeley started hosting occasional Louisiana French dances in the 1970s, including some shows with Queen Ida early in her career. The club now has Cajun or zydeco dances with live music on most Tuesday evenings, once in a while on a Saturday night, and occasionally books bands from Louisiana.

Alameda Zydeco Dances

Friday night zydeco dances have been going on in the Bay island city of Alameda for some fifteen years, primarily at the Alameda Eagles Hall. For most of that time, they have been organized by dance teacher Dana DeSimone.

Louisiana Sue

As she told me in her interview for the book, Louisiana Sue (Susan Appe Ramon) is from New Orleans and moved out to California from the Gulf Coast with her family. She had her own cooking show on a local Sacramento television station and got into producing music events by using Louisiana music on her show. She put on several large festivals in the 1990s and is still active organizing events and cooking on television.

The 23 Club

An historic honky tonk on 23 Visitacion Avenue in Brisbane. Recently known for monthly Sunday afternoon dances hosted by the fabulous Betty Leblanc, the 23 Club has started having some zydeco dances on Saturday night as well.

Ardenwood Festival

Held in August or September each year since 1996, this festival has its origins in the house parties of (now retired) East Bay Regional Parks employee Maryanne Canaparo and her husband Gary, a photographer who generously shared several black and white shots he took in the 1970s-80s for inclusion in the book.

Northern California Cajun and Zydeco Bands

Bands Photo by Mark DeWitt

Aux Cajunals

An old-time Cajun band led by Eric and Suzy Thompson, formerly of the California Cajun Orchestra (with Danny Poullard) and long-time contributors to the Bay Area traditional music scene in old-time country, bluegrass, Irish, and other styles.

Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic

Andre is a second generation Californian from a Creole family and takes a back seat to no one in any state when it comes to playing the zydeco accordion. His mother, dance teacher Olivia Guillory, and grandmother Lena Pitre were instrumental in putting on dances at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Richmond, CA, where Clifton Chenier and John Delafose performed several times.

Creole Belles

Delilah Lee Lewis, a California-born fiddler who learned of Cajun music through Suzy Thompson and subsequently went to live in Louisiana and learn from the masters, leads this band. Andrew Carriere, son of Creole fiddle Bebe Carriere, makes frequent guest appearances with the Belles on accordion, triangle, and vocals.

Gator Beat

Founded by the late Richard Domingue, who combined a diverse set of influences including a Cajun upbringing, Harvard education, and Zen Buddhism in his approach to songwriting and bandleading. This band continues to entertain audiences with the help of former Zydeco Flames accordionist Bruce Gordon.

Motordude Zydeco

This band, one of the earliest spinoffs from Danny Poullard's mentorship, was started by Billy Wilson, who added accordion to his list of instruments after playing bass behind Poullard in the California Cajun Orchestra. Motordude was the original "house band" for the Friday night Alameda dances and continues to give dancers all kinds of reasons to keep moving.

Queen Ida

Ida Guillory, better known as Queen Ida, is the superstar of Northern California's Cajun and zydeco scene, having made a meteoric rise from a housewife playing accordion for her own enjoyment in her San Francisco home to recording several albums, touring internationally, and winning a Grammy award. She is mostly retired but still performs occasionally, for example the 2008 Ardenwood Festival.

Sauce Piquante

Led by husband and wife, fiddler Steve Tabak and accordionist Blair Kilpatrick, who moved to the Bay Area from Chicago in the late 1990s and were stalwart attendees of Danny Poullard's garage jams in his later years. Blair's memoir Accordion Dreams is also coming out from University Press of Mississippi.

Zydeco Flames

This band, started by some veterans of the Bay Area blues scene, has been playing at a very high level for a very long time. Their versatility in playing zydeco, rhythm and blues, New Orleans second line numbers, and other styles keeps them in great demand at dances and other functions.

Northern California Cajun and Creole Food

Food Photo by Mark DeWitt

Bobby's Cajun BBQ

Bobby's Cajun BBQ in El Sobrante featured the same great food that Bobby Gradney used to offer at Bobby's Back Door BBQ in Richmond, minus the space for music and dancing. Gradney first learned Cajun cooking from his mother growing up in east Texas and added barbecue to his repertoire later. Unfortunately when I went there in November 2008 I found a "temporarily closed" sign on the door. If anyone knows when and where Bobby's may reappear, please email me!

Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen

Like the tourism industry in Louisiana, the menu at this Berkeley restaurant creatively mixes New Orleans Creole with Cajun and Creole country recipes from the other side of the Atchafalaya. My favorite items are the jambalaya and the oyster po'boy. Who has room for beignets?