My parents took me to my first concert in 1977 to see the O’Jays perform in the Mobile Civic Center. My dad was in the Navy and we had just moved to Pensacola. It wasn’t enough that music was played constantly in our house, but we had to see it, feel it, as well as hear it being played by real musicians. Music was huge in our family, as with many families across the world; the styles may vary, but the bonds created are universal. I cannot tell you which parent is more passionate about their music, but since my mom raised me while dad traveled and served his country, her love of gospel and soul music was closest to my heart most of my young life until I became a teenager and made her endure the craziest of musical rebellions.

“Now that’s real music” is what she would say on road trips whenever her favorite songs would interrupt the miles of dark roads and nights. Mom even developed a physiological response to such music; As soon as the “real music” came on, her elbows would press against her side, her shoulders would lift up slightly and she would slowly sway her body to the music and snap her fingers to the beat. I don’t remember the details of my first concert (I had just turned 3 years old) but I do know that she has taken me to quite a few concerts when I was growing up, so to repay the favor, I try to take her to shows every now and then. I haven’t taken her to any shows recently, so when it was announced that Buckwheat Zydeco was playing Vinyl Music Hall, I decided to ask her. Her quick reply was, “Who?”

Zydeco music and the 2009 Grammy Award winner for Best Zydeco/Cajun album, usually aren’t mentioned alongside Mahalia Jackson, Betty Wright, Shirley Caesar and other artists that are familiar to my mom, but Buckwheat Zydeco (whose real name is Stanley Dural, Jr.) puts on a show that could move just about any lover of music, regardless of genre.

Opening artists for Buckwheat Zydeco’s first performance at Viny Music Hall were Hollowman/Badwater. Comprised of local favorites, Betsy Badwater and Lang Hollowman, Hollowman/Badwater gave the audience a special surprise as they played a set before and after Buckwheat Zydeco’s performance, giving everyone a tasty meal of zydeco music sandwiched between two hearty slices of the blues. Their first set quickly heated up the crowd, preparing everyone for the ensuing Zydeco invasion.

Making a quick entrance to the stage, Buckwheat Zydeco and company fired up the crowd with their fast paced and unique blend of music. Between songs, the Zydeco legend asked those in attendance, “Everybody, having fun?” which was reciprocated loudly by the crowd.

The only real pause in the set occurred when Buckwheat Zydeco haulted the music to tell a story. In what I thought was going to be a serious moment, he told a tale so full of dramatic pauses and tension that it would make the most seasoned of storytellers jealous. It was the story of how he was half asleep during a flight and two twins who were seated nearby, came to his seat, looked at him curiously and said, “Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat say they gonna beat them Saints?” The crowd exploded with laughter. Even I, being a Bucs fan, found the moment amusing.

Towards the end of the set, the group performed a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” which was loudly greeted with approval from the crowd. As the performance was about to close, Zydeco waved to the audience and exited the stage as a band member followed close behind him with a coat extended out, shadowing the performer as he walked away. In a move made famous by James Brown, I anticipated that Zydeco would fall to his knees while his band mate draped the coat over the exhausted entertainer’s back, to which Zydeco would throw it off and return for an encore to everyone’s delight. Zydeco didn’t throw off the coat, but he did return for an encore. This time, leaving his accordion silent, he walked to the piano that he tickled occasionally during the night, only this time, he gave the ebony beauty his full attention while seducing the audience with showmanship, soul and heart.

After finishing a song that he stated was not a cover song, but a song inspired by “Bob Marley, The Master,” he stood with wide open arms, humbly accepted the audience’s adoration, and lifted two loving peace signs. As for the previously mentioned coat, he picked it up, put it on by himself, one arm at a time, and gracefully exited the stage.

If mom had been able to attend the show, I’m pretty confident that she would have given all of the artists performing this night, her “real music” stamp of approval.

-Michael Smith