Archive Files of Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco Musicians
Posted between 1999 and 2008

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Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys  in Erath on National Television

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Pictured are David Greely on fiddle, Steve Riley on accordion, and Sam Broussard on guitar. The other Playboys were also on stage: Blaine Gaspard on bass (visible in the shot below in the right column) and Kevin Dugas on drums.

When Southwest Louisiana appears on network television, it's usually in a news report about a flood, a hurricane, or some other catastrophe. So, on July 4, 2002, when the ABC network aired a live broadcast of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys performing in Erath, the event generated considerable excitement.

The Playboys got to perform only one song at about 9:30 p.m. CDT during a 3-hour program, "In Search of America: A July 4th Musical Celebration," hosted by ABC news anchor Peter Jennings and Nick Spitzer, a folklorist, musicologist, host of "American Routes" on public radio, and professor of folklore and cultural conservation at the University of New Orleans (and more recently at Tulane).   Spitzer, who is fluent in French, is intimately familiar with Cajun and Creole culture, but, predictably, Peter Jennings mispronounced "Mamou."

As the photos on this page show, ABC put considerable effort into preparing for five minutes of air time: a cameraman with a handheld camera was next to the stage, another camera was on a platform on one side to get close-ups of the crowd, and yet another camera was mounted on a boom above the crowd. Not pictured is still another camera that was positioned on top of the Acadian Museum to get a broad shot of the site where Erath was holding its annual July 4th festival.

After Kim Brasso and Louisiana Boogie played, Steve Riley went on stage about 8:45, performing a couple of songs before he announced to the crowd that the next number the band played would be "Laisse-moi Connaître," the song the Playboys would be performing on live TV. "I know it may not be your favorite," Riley said, urging the crowd to practice shouting and yelling as if the song were one of the traditional standards like "Allons Danser" that always evoke a roar from Louisiana crowds.

The next day, several people at LSUE expressed a little surprise at the Playboys' choice of "Laisse-moi Connaître" for their moment in the national spotlight. One reason may have been to give a national audience an example of Cajun music with a more hard-driving contemporary sound.  The song, written by David Greely and C.C. Adcock, is included on the Playboys' Bayou Ruler CD. Yes, it's a little different, but, listen to the close interplay between the music and the lyrics, and you'll see why the song is worthy of a national audience.

In any case, by the time 9:30 was approaching and the cameraman next to the stage was holding up his fingers to count down the three minutes until air time, Steve Riley joked with the crowd about being nervous. Then, the cameraman pointed his finger at Riley, the band started playing, and the crowd went wild, not because they were following stage directions, but because everyone was genuinely excited.  And, just as he does when national TV cameras are not aimed at him, Steve Riley jammed with David Greely, went to the edge of the stage to connect even more directly with crowd, and then jammed a little with Sam Broussard.

Then, all too quickly, it was over. The band began playing Aldus Roger's "Cajun Special" as the network coverage was ending, and soon thereafter, Riley paused to take a big swig from a can of beer before wrapping up the evening's performance with some more songs.

Click here to go to LSUE's page on Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.


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erath4.jpg (25884 bytes) At left is a shot of the crowd taken from near the left side of the stage. As marked on the photo, ABC had a TV camera suspended on a boom that could be moved rapidly over the crowd.  One of the TV lights illuminating the area is on the left side of the photo. Above that photo is a picture of a cameraman on a platform, positioned so that he could take shots of faces in the crowd. The same camera is visible in the photos below. The bottom photo was taken about 7 p.m., looking out across the crowd toward the festival booths in the distance.

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Posted 7-6-02.

All photographs and text by David Simpson.

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