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About Fernest Arceneaux

A torch-bearer for the classic zydeco traditions personified by Clifton Chenier, Fernest Arceneaux earned the title "The New Prince of Accordion" for his virtuosic prowess. Born August 27, 1940 to a large sharecropping family based in Lafayette, Louisiana, he first picked up his brother-in-law's accordion while working the fields as a child, and learned his craft by copying his father, himself a rural musician whom the youngster often backed at local house parties. However, by the 1960s, Arceneaux had abandoned his zydeco roots to play guitar in a rock & roll band, a group which originally featured two drummers and created such a mighty racket that they were dubbed Fernest and the Thunders. Only during the late 1970s -- and only at the behest of his hero Chenier himself -- did Arceneaux return to the accordion, and soon the Thunders made the move from rock to zydeco. Discovered in 1978 by Belgian blues aficionado Robert Sacre, the group -- also featuring singer/bassist Victor Walker, guitarist Chester Chevalier and drummer Clarence "Jockey" Etienne -- mounted the first of many European tours, and within months they recorded their debut LP Fernest and the Thunders; albums like 1979's Rockin' Pneumonia and 1981 Zydeco Stomp! followed, but shortly after recording the latter, Walker was killed in a barroom brawl. Arceneaux himself then assumed vocal duties, although as a result of asthma his presence failed to pack the same punch; still, the Thunders remained a popular live attraction, especially on the Gulf Coast crawfish circuit, and continued issuing LPs including 1985's Zydeco Thunder, 1987's Gumbo Special and 1994's Zydeco Blues Party. Gumbo Special appeared in fall 2000. ~ Jason Ankeny

Lafayette, LA
27 Aug 1940

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