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American Routes Shortcuts: Pine Leaf Boys

Pine Leaf Boys
Pine Leaf Boys

This is American Routes live for Labor Day weekend with some favorite performances from our series of concerts created with the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. To kick it off, we asked the Pine Leaf Boys to make a big journey across the Atchafalaya swamp from Lafayette and their South Louisiana Cajun prairie homeland down the Mississippi River to New Orleans to play on a live stream as the pandemic closed the dancehalls of French Louisiana. It’s “Pine Leaf Boy Two-Step” on American Routes.

“Pine Leaf Boy Two-Step” Pine Leaf Boys
            American Routes Original Recording

Nick Spitzer: Hey is it hard to play dance music when there’s nobody dancing?

Wilson Savoy: Yes it is very hard. But they are dancing!

NS: We just can’t see them.

WS: They are dancing.

NS: I see you’ve got that accordion. Is that one you made or your daddy made? Who made that one?

WS: My dad made this for me. It’s my first accordion.

NS: Is that right?

WS: Yeah my dad made it for me. He gave it to me when I was about thirteen, and this was made from a tree that my grandfather planted. Yeah and when he died the tree had died shortly after.

NS: *laughs*

WS: It’s true! My dad cut the tree down. It was a dead tree at that point. It was a sassafras tree and made this accordion for me.

NS: That is roots music. *laughs*

WS: Absolutely! I actually ran over it one time with my car. Oh I shouldn’t say that my dad might hear that but I put it behind my car one time and ran over it, and it was fine.

NS: Your dad is a deep traditionalist, makes accordions, plays fiddle. How does he feel about all the changing music? His son’s out there playing French music all over the world. I’m sure he’s proud of you, but does he have an opinion on any of this?

WS: He likes the really old stuff. There’s no question. Anything like 1960 and before, you know. He loves all that stuff. He doesn’t really relate or understand the more evolutionary Cajun music like what’s happening after all that, you know.

NS: You mean there’s a difference between a father and a son in Cajun culture generationally? What are we talking about here?

WS: Yeah my dad was born in 1940.

NS: Uh-huh

WS: Right, so he just loves old–my dad likes the kind of music, he says, that when the power goes out you can still play.

NS: *laughs*

WS: That’s what he likes, nothing electric, which is weird because he asked me to play electric keyboard in the family band many years later.

NS: You know speaking of the keyboard we do have a piano here.

WS: I noticed. A little honky-tonk piano.

NS: Yeah I know you’re not alienated by honky-tonk pianos.

WS: No that’s my first love was the piano.

NS: Is it?

WS: Which in Cajun music, you don’t hear too much piano because when you do hear it they usually only play these last ten buttons, you know, on the piano. It’s always like *plays* they don’t realize there’s a whole ‘nother like seventy-something–

NS: But you however have gone–

WS: My goal was to play the other seventy buttons on the keyboard, so yeah. We can do it!

NS: Wilson Savoy at the 88s.

WS: This one’s called “Keep Your Hands Off of It” which I think is very relevant in day and age.

“Keep Your Hands Off Of It” Pine Leaf Boys
            American Routes Original Recording

To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 5 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.