Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers – Git It, Beau Jocque! (1995)

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NICK DERISO: Best to fasten your seltbelts, and put your trays in the upright position.

“Git It” is a frenetic, fun-filled journey, this breathless moment of in-concert glory that comes and goes so fast that it remains sadly emblematic of the meteoric rise of Beau Jocque himself.

During the last decade, Beau became the high-octane face of a new style of zydeco, originally this Louisiana-born old-school blending of Cajun folk tunes with post-war rhythm and blues and Afro-Caribbean beats by the state’s Creole community. The 1990s update included contemporary urban sounds. With Beau, it meant both a ferocious groove as well as a dangerous, almost primal vocal presence in keeping with blues legend Howlin’ Wolf and, at other times, soul stirrer James Brown.

Yet the familiar underpinnings of this music’s roots remain, even on Beau Jocque’s live dates: “Couche’ dehors hier au soir” reclaims zydeco’s French-speaking heritage, while Cannonball Adderley’s “Sack ‘O Woe” and a snippet of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Mister Charlie” tie in the tradition with concurrent jazz and blues trends from its initial hey day.

Throughout, Beau spices things up with flavorful dashes of the contemporary — paying tribute to his peers, for instance, with renditions of Boozoo Chavis’ “Motor Dude Special,” the show opener, and Zydeco Force’s “Shaggy Dog Two Step.” Both are included on “Git It.” The set closes with Beau’s beloved “Give Him Cornbread,” a hip hop-inflected original from his Rounder debut, “Beau Jocque’s Boogie” (embedded below).

This sweaty, hypnotic new concoction drew rafter-raising crowds in the 1990s across the so-called “Crawfish Circuit,” a string of dancehalls, saloons and dives stretching from southwestern Louisiana to eastern Texas. One legend holds that the dance floor at one Beau Jocque show rose a full 8 inches as patrons stomped in time with his accordion.

The Rock ‘n’ Bowl in New Orleans installed extra support beams under the dance floor.

“Git It,” recorded live at Slim’s Y-Ki-Ki Lounge in Opelousas and at Harry’s in Breaux Bridge, includes a tough backing band rounded out by guitarists Ray Johnson (on the right channel for this recording) and Joseph “Cookie” Chavis (on the left), bassist Chuck Bush, Wilfred “Caveman” Pierre on the rubboard and Steve “Skeeta” Charlot at the drums.

The crowd — egged on by Charlot, who consistently urges everyone along by exclaiming “crank it up, crank it up!” — cheers every astounding, genre-melting move. The energy and drive of Beau’s funk-infused shows attracted a new generation of fans to zydeco, one that remains despite the accordionist’s too-short career.

Beau Jocque — born Andrus Espre in Duralde, La., and originally an electrician, welder and oil factory worker by trade before music lured him away — played as hard and as fast as he could, despite some health problems. The robust Jocque, whose stage name roughly translates in Cajun patois as “really big guy,” underwent surgery to unblock an artery the same year “Git It” was released.

By 1999, he had passed away after suffering a heart attack. Beau Jocque was last seen shaking the walls at Mid-City Lanes just the night before.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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