American Routes Shortcuts: T-Lou
Each week, American Routes brings you Shortcuts, a sneak peek at our upcoming show. This week, our program travels to Los Angeles, where host Nick Spitzer spoke with Creole accordionist T-Lou. He moved from his home in Grand Coteau Louisiana, and made a new one South Central LA.
TL: Hey, how ya’ll doin?
NS: Alright, T-Lou!
TL: How you been?
NS: Ca va?
TL: Hey Man
NS: Parle un petit peu en Creole?
TL: Oui, oui, un petit peu…
TL: I came to California in I think, 1964
NS: What got you out here?
TL: Uh, jobs, money, adventure, I was always from a small little town where all you have is service station work but I wanted to get a more professional type of job and make a little better living for my family. Once I got here and I kind of learned my way around the city, I got into a furniture place, I’m a furniture man, I used to make furniture cabinets, stereos, you name it, I did it. And then from there, I left off and I went to the aircrafts. North American, Rockwell, I worked for Outresearch, and then my last, final job was with Lockheed Martin. I worked with them 31 years.
NS: Are there a lot of Creoles out here in this area?
TL: There are a lot of Creoles out here, but they’re not in one are. One lives over there, one lives over here, and…
NS: So how do the Creoles get together?
TL: How do the Creoles get together? Well by Zydeco. You say you got a Zydeco dance going on, I’m gonna tell you, you’ll find some Creoles there. I play waltzes, two-steps, you name it, I’ll do it in Zydeco.
NS: And all these Creoles out here, they still know how to waltz and two-step?
TL: Most of ‘em do, I mean, you know, they don’t forget that you know. Once you’re like - you’re like an old dog, you know, you can’t teach ‘em new tricks. If they like to waltz, they do that. A lot of times I’m requested to play waltzes, you know?
You know, in Zydeco music though, you don’t actually have to be a Creole or you don’t have to be a Frenchman, or you don’t have to be from Louisiana, we get African American, Japanese, we get Mexican, you name it. I guarantee, you know, if you ever come out to hear the Zydeco, you can’t keep still. I don't care what kind of dance you do, you’ll be up there doin’ it.
NS: When did you first pick up an accordion?
TL: I first picked up an accordion first thing I came to California and I got married, and then after that I -
NS: That’s picking up a wife.
TL: That’s picking up a wife, that’s the first thing I did. Then the accordion came second. I don’t know, I went to a Clifton Chenier dance one night, and I was up there on stage and Clifton was up there playin’ and seemed like he was enjoying himself playing Zydeco. Coming back, my brother in law and I, we had gone to the dance together, and coming back I told him, I said, “hey John,” I said, “you know what man, I think I would like to play that accordion.” He said, “Oh, T- Oh, man.” Well at that time they didn’t call me T-Lou, they called me Louis, you know Louis is my middle name. Said, “Oh Louis, you don’t want to play the accordion,” said, “I dare you go back. Well, next day I went out and bought an accordion, the piano-note accordion. So I’m all self-taught music. I can’t read music. Didn’t go to school to read music. By can understand what I want to hear.