A brief history…
Although Cajun music was the folk (and only) music of a greater part of southwest Louisiana for two hundred years, it was virtually unknown outside of the area until the late 1920s and early ’30s, when some 78-rpm records published. Cajun music made it’s live debut when the Mamou Cajun Band – the traditional three-piece Cajun band of Cyprien Landreneau on the accordion and Adam Landreneau on the violin, accompanied (at different times) by either Jerry Devillier or Isom Fontenot on a triangle or ‘tit fer – played at the National Folk Festival in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1957.
It was this Mamou Cajun Band that also toured Europe in 1966, played at several National Folk Festivals since 1967, played the 1964 Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, the 1968 New Orleans Jazz Festival, the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota, theJewish Community Center in Houston, Texas in 1966, the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park in New York City, and at various cultural and official functions in the major cities of Louisiana. They were the only group to receive two standing ovations and to perform two encores at the 1965 Newport Festival. They’ve also appeared on the folk documentary film shown by Pete Seegar throughout the world and were filmed by the United States Information Service for television broadcasts throughout South America.
As if those accomplishments weren’t enough, The Mamou Cajun Band and both Cyp’ and Adam, individually, were also selected for recognition in Who’s Who in America in 1968.Though they never claimed to be professional musicians, Cyprien Landreneau and Adam Landreneau participated in Festival of American Folklife Company, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution under a contract with the U.S. Department of State.
Cyprien “Cyp” Landreneau (born April 7, 1903 – died Feb. 1, 1981) was a farmer and grew rice, soybeans, corn and cotton, along with vegetables for his table. He raised chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, hogs, cattle and sheep to supply meat for himself, his wife, and his thirteen children and numerous grandchildren.
Adam Landreneau (born Sept. 4, 1909 – died Dec. 28, 1972) was a farmer like Cyprien. His farm was located along one of the many natural streams in Louisiana, furnishing a constant supply of catfish, soft-shell and logger-head turtle, and crawfish to his large family and a few chosen customers. He learned violin from his father and he played like his grandfather taught his father to play as a young boy.
Although Cyp & Adam were both members of the large and prominent Landreneau clan, they were only distantly related (third cousins).
Jerry Devillier spent his early years growing up on a small farm between Eunice & Mamou. Raised speaking only French, Devillier had never heard a word of English until he started school. He was still in school when he started performing with the Mamou Cajun Band, and was with the band when they were invited to perform at the Newport Folk Festival. Along with being a talented musician, Devillier’s other accomplishments include a stint in the military (which was cut short after his father was involved in an auto accident), a high school math teacher and girls’ basketball coach, a photographer, and more.
Isom Fontenot was a well-rounded musician from the Mamou, LA area, probably most famous for his unique harmonica skills. Although information on Mr. Isom is not widely available, the imprint he left in Cajun music’s history is firmly established.