Ca­jun mu­sic's mil­lion seller song 'The Back Door' turns 55

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Asong the writer's band­leader hated has be­come one of Ca­jun mu­sic's all-time great­est hits, and the writer's home town salutes him and the song's 55th an­niver­sary to­day. D.L. Me­nard was 30 in 1962 when he wrote "La Porte en Ar­riere" ("The Back Door ") - a jaunty ditty in Ca­jun French about a guy who gets so drunk he has to sneak into his house through the back door. Me­nard says band­leader Elias Badeaux told him it stunk. But that song helped make him a good­will am­bas­sador for Ca­jun mu­sic and cul­ture, trav­el­ing to dozens of coun­tries on State Depart­ment tours. Me­nard is in the Louisiana Mu­sic Hall of Fame and the Ca­jun Mu­sic Hall of Fame, and in 1994 was named a na­tional her­itage fel­low by the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts.

Now 85, Me­nard will be per­form­ing "The Back Door" and other songs to­day in a trib­ute cre­ated as part of the town of Erath 's Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tion. The ex­hibit about Me­nard in the Aca­dian Mu­seum in Erath is also be­ing ex­panded. Count­ing other artists' cov­ers, "La Porte en Ar­riere" has sold more than a mil­lion copies, said Floyd Soileau, whose Swal­low Record Co. re­leased it as a sin­gle in July 1962 and whose com­pa­nies also hold the song's copy­right.

"Peo­ple say 'Jolie Blonde' is the Ca­jun na­tional an­them. That's long past," he said. "'The Back Door' is the an­them for Ca­juns to­day. Ev­ery­body knows it. Ev­ery­body loves it." Me­nard grew up on a farm, speak­ing Ca­jun French but learn­ing the coun­try mu­sic he heard on the ra­dio - there weren't any Ca­jun mu­sic shows - and lov­ing Hank Wil­liams. At 16, he bought his first gui­tar af­ter his fam­ily moved into the town, where about 2,100 peo­ple live now, about 100 miles west of New Or­leans.

An un­cle had a band, and let Me­nard at­tend a re­hearsal. The teenager fell for the gui­tar and got the band's gui­tarist to teach him. Six months later, he said, he had his first pay­ing gig with Badeaux and the Louisiana Aces. Badeaux hired him be­cause he could sing songs in English, Me­nard said. Me­nard said "The Back Door" was the se­cond song he wrote, jot­ted down in be­tween pump­ing gas, check­ing oil and fix­ing flats at the gas sta­tion where he worked. "I had the story and I knew what to say," he said in a phone interview. The Louisiana Aces came in to cut four tracks, Soileau said. He said he was chang­ing the tape reel af­ter record­ing the first two when Me­nard picked up his gui­tar and started sing­ing.

"It caught my ear. I said, 'That sounds great, guys. Are we do­ing that tonight?'" The ques­tion brought si­lence, Soileau said. Then Badeaux said "yes." A decade or so later, Soileau said, he learned that Me­nard and Badeaux had ar­gued all the way to the stu­dio about whether to record the song. "Thank God he de­cided to play it for me," Soileau said. Me­nard re­calls the ses­sion dif­fer­ently. He said the group was prac­tic­ing his tune dur­ing the break, and Soileau said, "Fel­las, we got to make that one right. That's go­ing to be the hit."

What­ever hap­pened, the song got recorded, and soon brought so many re­quests that Me­nard got sick of it. "I told my wife I was sorry I wrote that song, be­cause I had to sing it five, six times. My wife sat me down and made it straight to me that I had a hit. I didn't know. I had no idea," Me­nard said. Now, he said, it's his fa­vorite song: "That song brought me to 38 coun­tries."— AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.