|"It all started with a man named Chris
Johnson that opened up the fire that was yet to burn. With a guitar in my hand I was mixing sin from delta blues,
soul music and rock & roll. Playing in a little clubs in Church Point, The Me To Club and Ben Butler’s. Working
in the fields to support my family. As you know I have one finger that departed from a work injury but that did
not stop the hard-core sound of Roy Carrier. After years passed working offshore I again picked up the accordion
and the traditional music stays with me even today."
-- Roy Carrier
Joseph Roy Carrier was born in 1947 to a sharecropping family
along with 8 siblings. A hard-scrabble life working the fields. The Carrier Family had another side to it as one
of the most influential and far reaching music families of Southwest Louisiana. Starting with pioneering Creole
fiddler Joseph Bébé Carriére handed down to his nephew Calvin Carriére on to cousin
Roy Carrier, it is a family that has often found itself at critical junctures in the development of LaLa, Zydeco & Cajun music. Add
to that the fact that the Carriers, Cheniers and Broussards are all part of an extended related family, it gives
you a main reason why the word FAMILY is so intertwined in the history of Zydeco. More so than just about any other
form of music.
Roy’s father, Warren was an accordion player and at the age of six Roy was recruited to accompany his father on
scrub board (frottoir) playing LaLa at night in the living room with relatives and friends that would stop by.
The passing on of music tradition is ingrained in the families of Zydeco. It is a tradition that continues today.
LaLa began it’s evolution to Zydeco with Boozoo Chavis’ Paper in My Shoe and Clifton Chenier’s Louisiana Stomp
both in 1954 when Roy was the ripe old age of 7. Other players that took up and helped develop the music from the
late 50’s on into the 60’s were Rockin’ Dopsie, Marcel Dugas, Delton Broussard, John Delafose and Fernest Arceneaux.
Clifton, In addition to being Roy’s cousin, was also his mentor and main musical influence. Roy as a youngster
brought up the rear of this class of what I call the first tier of Zydeco players. [photo: Tom Wibble]
By the age of 10 Roy was working with his father playing house parties at night to help supplement the meager pay
they earned by day in the fields. Roy soon graduated to drums and then guitar when his parents presented him a
Sears Roy Rogers insignia guitar as a present. All this time though the accordion is what Roy had his eyes on.
In 1961 at the age of 14, Roy on guitar along with his brother Murphy on drums, his Uncle John on scrub board and
Chris Johnson on accordion formed the first Night Rockers Band. By 1962 he had begun to get in more work on the
accordion when a well-pulley accident cost him most of the index finger of his right hand. Roy would be limited
to guitar and it would be 2 years before he tried to play an accordion again. In the meantime Roy was following
his idols soaking up as much pure Zydeco as he could in the clubs around Church Point, Lawtell & Opelousas.
He early on was not old enough to get in to see his mentor Clifton so he would stand on a crate outside a window
to take it in. At 17 he picked the double row accordion back up determined to overcome the lack of a finger on
his chord hand. In the process he developed a style of "crossing chords". It is a technique that has
made Roy’s music difficult for others to copy.
At the age of 18 in 1965 while continuing to work as a rice farmer, Roy regrouped the Night Rockers and began working the clubs of
the area. In 1973 at the age of 26 Roy went to work as an offshore driller. The next 16 years of his life were
spent in the cycle of 7 days hard labor offshore platform work and 7 days on land playing his music. All through
this period of time there would be impromptu jam sessions playing for the horses in the barnyard that included
Boozoo Chavis, Delton Broussard, John Delafose and Chris Johnson. In following the family tradition, Roy started
his sons Chubby (Joseph Roy Jr.), Troy (Dikki Du) and daughter Elaine along the path of music as members of the
Night Rockers before they were 10 years old.
In 1980 while still working the rigs, Roy purchased a neighborhood roadhouse in Lawtell and christened it The Offshore
Lounge. Throughout the 80’s it became THE place for aspiring Zydeco musicians to meet, learn and jam with other
Zydeco musicians. It is difficult to find any Zydeco musician that came of age in the 80’s and 90’s that weren’t
encouraged and tutored by Roy. From helping Beau Jocque find his boogie to encouraging John Delafose to perform
publicly and giving him a bunch of songs in the process to loaning equipment to Zydeco Force to giving Geno Delafose
his first paying gig, Roy was at the center of Zydeco music development.
Roy’s music has never veered far away from the blues-based style of Zydeco’s origins though he will let a younger
band member throw in something new. While many of the newer players moved towards other styles Roy would not. Roy and sons
Chubby & Troy often refer back to the ridicule they were subjected to for playing the music that only the old-timers
liked. I once saw Roy play a church benefit in Lafayette. He played two sets that were noted for their distinct
styles. The first set was almost totally slower paced, R&B and blues-based Zydeco. The dance floor was filled
with his older fans. The second set turned up the heat and once again the dance floor was filled but with a younger
crowd determined to keep up the pace.
Roy’s first recordings occurred in 1987 for Lee Lavergne’s Lanore label. From 87 to 1992, four cassettes were produced
and from that material two CDs were licensed to other labels.
In 1989 Roy left the offshore
oil worker lifestyle behind to focus full time on his music. At the urging of his elder son Chubby who had already
broken away leading his own Bayou Swamp Band, Roy began touring outside Southwest Louisiana. His first trip to
the East Coast was in 1992 and included a stop at Marc Gretchl’s second Twist & Shout incarnation Tornado Alley.
It was there where I first experienced Roy’s blistering, hard driving, blues-based Zydeco that left me wringing
wet with sweat by the end of the night. I was hooked. In 1996 I ran into Roy in New Orleans and told him I had
begun taping bands in the clubs around DC. He suggested I try taping him when he came to town and we have been
working together ever since with 4 acclaimed CDs released under the Right on Rhythm label.
Roy’s CD "Living Legend" provides listeners with
a great education on the roots of Zydeco. LaLa was a music played by just two instruments. Fiddle or accordion
as the primary accompanied by scrub board. For example, there are three LaLa cuts in two different styles. The
frenetic pace of Whatcha’ Gonna Do with a Man Like That, and two slower tempo bluesy songs, Do the LaLa Dance and
I Come From the Country. Four great examples of Roy’s trademark peddle-to-the-metal Zydeco, Put a Hump In Your
Back, I Got Something For You Baby, She Burnt the Bacon and You Got Me Dancing. The rhythm & blues flavored
Take Me Crosstown and Everybody Call Me Shoon. Two Zydeco cuts on the button or Cajun accordion with Bring Me Coffee
In the Morning and Don’t Touch That. No Roy Carrier set would be complete without a healthy dose of straight ahead
blues and that slot is filled ably by You Told Me That You Love Me.
The first tier of original Zydeco players are all but gone. Clifton
Chenier, Boozoo Chavis, Rockin’ Dopsie, John
Delafose, Delton Broussard, Marcel Dugas all left an indelible mark on the music. Bringing up the end of that class
is Roy Carrier. Roy is the bridge from Zydeco’s beginnings — to where it is today. He has been performing for over
40 years and recording for more than 15.
-- Wayne Kahn (District of Columbia),
Right on Rhythm