ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 23, 2002
By Steve Newton
You’ll rarely find Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. without his trusty Hohner accordion—or the mile-wide grin that comes whenever he plays it. But the 54-year-old musician wasn’t always so enamoured of the instrument. When he was a youngster in Lafayette, Louisiana, Dural couldn’t stand the accordion, mainly because his father adored it so.
You know how rebellious kids can be.
“Growin’ up, I wasn’t too much into the accordion,” he notes, on the line from a Rochester, New York, hotel. “I was into the piano and the organ, playing a lot of Fats Domino and Little Richard, you see. But the thing is, I used to hear my dad play all the time—and not with any band. He played roots music for family entertainment only, so I heard it every day, 24/7, and that gave me the blues, man.”
Fortunately for Dural, his accordion-crazed pop was also best friends with Louisiana zydeco legend Clifton Chenier, who inspired Buckwheat to take up the accordion full-time. But learning how to handle the squeezebox wasn’t all fun and games.
“When I first played the accordion I had a lotta problems with them little buttons,” he relates. “You’ve got 120 bass buttons on that thing, on the one side, and you can’t see ’em! So I had problems with that. But once you learn it, you’ll enjoy it, even though you have to just play at home.”
Before long, Dural was proficient enough with those pesky buttons to join Chenier’s band and two years later embark on a solo career that has seen him perform with the Boston Pops, play Bill Clinton’s second inauguration, and take part in the closing ceremonies of the Atlanta Summer Olympics. He has also toured North America as opener for Eric Clapton and jammed with the likes of Ringo Starr, Keith Richards, Neil Young, Robert Plant, and Bonnie Raitt.
“I enjoy everybody I get a chance to work with,” he enthuses. “I mean, everybody has a different vibration, man, and it all winds up back to music, you know.”
Interested parties—party being the operative word—can check out the four-time Grammy nominee’s seven-piece band at the Yale on Wednesday (May 29). The New York Times has called Buckwheat Zydeco “one of the best party bands in America”, and that kind of praise sets Dural all atwitter.
“Oh, that’s touchin’, man!” he spouts with an excited giggle. “This is my reward, you know, when people enjoy the music like that. And I don’t ask for too much. Even if there’s only two people, as long and they’ve got smiles on their faces, then I’m okay. I know somebody’s enjoyin’ it, and that’s what it’s all about.”