Certainly one of the most exciting musicians to come out of Acadiana is Wayne Toups, who has been dubbed "the Cajun Springsteen." His electrifying stage presence is underscored by the musicianship he displays on the accordion, performing a brand of music he calls "zydecajun." As its name suggests, this style fuses the traditional Cajun country sound with the bluesier sound of zydeco, with a rock & roll twist. In other words, it is Cajun roots rock.
Toups, born in 1958, was immersed in Cajun heritage as a child in Crowley, Louisiana. He started playing accordion at 13 and soon headed for the stage, performing the music of accordion masters like Iry LeJeune and Belton Richard. After a stint with Camey Doucet, Toups was inspired to try to reach a new generation of music listeners. He became a revolutionary when he created his zydecajun art form, and released an album by that name in 1987. His rock & roll style and primarily English lyrics had an instant appeal for a new mainstream audience, as well as Cajun music aficionados open to something new. And new it was, with Toups listing as musical influences R&B stars Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, as well as the Allman Brothers and the Doobie Brothers. He added them to the musical gumbo of his culture for a sound all his own that won him a huge following.
Toups stormed on, with numerous recordings to his credit, while keeping up a frenetic touring pace. He was on the road most of the time and took his unique sound all over the world. Festival and television appearances made him one of the most visible musicians of his culture. His music appeared on soundtracks for television (Broken Badges) and films (Steel Magnolias). He backed many renowned singers, including Mark Chesnutt and Clay Walker. His recordings such as Blast from the Bayou (1988), Fish Out of Water (1991), Back to the Bayou (1995), and More Than Just a Little (1998) are considered party music staples in Louisiana and other parts of the world. Toups then returned to his roots, but in his own inimitable way. His 2000 release Little Wooden Box (his debut for Shanachie Records) is a case in point; it contains songs in both French and English and traditional tunes reinvented as rockers. Whether "Southern Girls" or "Les Filles de la Ville," the common denominator was high-energy music.
Toups' second Shanachie date, Whoever Said It Was Easy, was issued in 2004. Reflections of the Past appeared a year later. It was a tough year for Toups: he was arrested and convicted on federal charges of cocaine distribution. He spent ten months in prison but the event proved to be a turning point. He got sober and earned his high-school equivalency diploma. He didn't release another record until Live in 2009. Toups was married in 2012 and released Band Courtbouillon (a trio record with Steve Riley and Wilson Savoy). The album won a Grammy for Best Regional Roots Music Album at the following year's ceremony. Live at Jazzfest, from his set that spring, was issued by MunckMix as well. In 2015, Toups signed with Malaco and began working on a new record. The following January he became a father. Wayne Toups was released in April, continuing to offer his zydecajun sound steeped in modern and classic country and R&B. ~ Rose of Sharon Witmer