John Delafose Interview

John Delafose and his band, the Eunice Playboys, represent both a return to old time zydeco as well as a unique modern sound. He plays the old time button accordion in a staccato style that emphasizes syncopated rhythm over melody; at the same time he plays the more melodic modern soul/blues sound often on the piano accordion. As to the meaning of the term ‘zydeco,’ Delafose comments: “It’s the old traditional music. We call it ‘zydeco’ when we add a rocking beat to just plain Cajun music.”

John Delafose was born in Duralde, near Eunice, in 1939. The community was founded in the 1930’s in part by Cyprian Ceazer, a free man of color and a maternal ancestor of John Delafose. Today the surrounding area is famous for its Cajun and Creole musicians alike: Dewey Balfa, Nathan Abshire, Cheese Read, Bois Sec Ardoin, Amadie [Amédé] Ardoin, Canray Fontenot and Wilfred Latour among others. Delafose recalls making guitars and violins as a boy with window screen wire stretched taut over a board and cigar box.

Delafose, who came from a sharecropping family of five, farmed until about twenty years ago. He raised cotton, corn, rice and sweet potatoes. As small farmers gave way to what are locally called the gros chiens (big dogs) of agribusiness, john switched over to repairing electric fans, a needed occupation in torridly tropical south Louisiana. He also began to make hot music on harmonica and accordion with a variety of pickup bands. He met the Prudhomme brothers, Charles and ” Slim;’ his current guitar and bass players, in nearby Kinder and they formed a stead y band about six years ago. This later came to include his teenaged sons, seventeen-year-old John “T.T.” and Tony Delafose, eighteen, on frottoir (rubboard) and drums respectively.

Today John Delafose and the Eunice Playboys are one of the most popular bands on the Louisiana/Texas Gulf Coast from Slim’s Y-Ki-Ki Club in rural Opelousas to church dances in urban Houston.

-Nicholas R. Spitzer – Folklorist, State of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, November 1980, excerpts from the notes to John Delafose & The Eunice Playboys – Joe Pete Got Two Women (Arhoolie CD 335)

  • John Delafose Interview 00:00
Interviewee: John Delafose
Interviewer: Chris Strachwitz
Date: May 1, 1980
Location: Eunice, LA
Language: English

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission.

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.