Text by Larry Benicewicz, Photos by Carol Campbell
It is with deep regret that I announce the passing of one of zydeco music’s true legends, ROY CARRIER.
Carrier succumbed to a heart attack in a hospital in Opelousas, LA, on May 3. Battling a blood clot, congestive heart failure, and lung cancer over the last several months, he seemed to be on the road to recovery recently when he suddenly took a turn for the worse. He was 63.
A most beloved figure both here and abroad (where he had voyaged repeatedly), Carrier, with his affability, charm, and humor, made legions of fans everywhere he traveled. And as testimony to his popular acceptance, he was the beneficiary of many worldwide monetary donations which helped in great part to defray his extensive medical bills. Many of these generous contributors were eager to repay his hospitality accorded them during the many Thursday night jam sessions held at his sprawling, ramshackle roadhouse the Offshore Lounge on his property in the hamlet of Lawtell. In fact, at one time, the Offshore Lounge (named for his former occupation as a roughneck in the Gulf of Mexico) inaugurated in 1981 became as much a Mecca for zydeco aficionados as two other nearby venerable clubs, Richard’s and Slim’s Y Ki Ki.
Relatively late in life, Carrier took up the Cajun one-note accor-dion in order to better please Northern dance enthusiasts, especially while on tour. But make no mistake about it. Carrier was a bluesman through and through, who preferred the triple note variety which allowed him to play blues progressions (much to the chagrin of some “purists” who thought this wasn’t in keeping with tradition).
And thus he was a direct link to the parrain or godfather of true zydeco music, the inventor of this style, Clifton Chenier. Whereas Chenier used guitarist Paul “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal to reinforce the blues foundation of his music, Carrier invariably employed the services of equally gifted Raymond Randle on this instrument. Since the death of Chenier in 1987, there have been many pretenders to his throne. But only Carrier truly deserved to wear his crown.
Reluctant for many years to leave the friendly confines of South Louisiana, Carrier first made a foray in the late 1980s to Baltimore’s Cat’s Eye Pub in Fell’s Point, a watering hole near and dear to him, since (in that non air conditioned era) it reminded him of the many smoke-filled, sweaty, close juke joints he had played back home in Acadiana. Carrier wasn’t the first zydeco artist to appear in Baltimore, but he did more than anyone to both introduce and promote this indigenous music to Mid-Atlantic audiences and beyond. Over the years, he relished his role as an elder statesman of zydeco and, in fact, became one of its greatest ambassadors. “I’m looking forward to coming on up [to Baltimore] in July. It’s been too long. I want to take at least one more journey to where it all started for me,” said Roy to me during my recent visit. But, alas, it wasn’t to be.
Larry Benicewicz, Baltimore Blues Society
PS: For Roy’s biography (as well as his recorded history) which I had written a few years back, you can consult this website: www.bluesartstudio.com , January, 2005, archive
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