The Ark 316 S. Main Ann Arbor, MI 48104 United States
We’ve had several protégés of the great CJ Chenier at The Ark, including Sonny Landreth (the first white member of his band) and Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural. So we thought it was time to go to the source. Clayton Joseph (CJ) Chenier was born September 28, 1957. He’s the son of the great King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, the first Creole musician to win a Grammy Award. CJ spent his childhood in the tough tenement housing projects of Port Arthur, Texas. His earliest musical influences were an eclectic mix of funk, soul, jazz, and Motown, and his first musical instruments were piano, tenor saxophone and flute. It wasn’t until his 21st birthday, after winning a scholarship and studying music at Texas Southern University, that CJ first performed with his famous father and the legendary Red Hot Louisiana band. When Clifton died in 1987, his son said it only felt natural to carry on the legacy—and he stepped up to lead the Red Hot Louisiana Band. He recorded his debut album for the great American independent label, Arhoolie Records. As he told a journalist at the time, he does not try to imitate his father’s playing: “I play it the way I play it. All my father really told me was to do the best I could do with my own style.” Today, CJ continues to record and rack up honors and awards. This year, he is being honored along with his late friend, Clifford Antone, in Port Arthur’s acclaimed Museum of the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame, where he will join the likes of Janis Joplin, Tex Ritter, Percy Sledge, George Jones, Marcia Ball, Johnny Winter, The Big Bopper, ZZ Top and, of course, his father, Clifton Chenier.