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

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Lil' Nathan

and the Zydeco Big Timers

Click for high res photos of Lil' Nate and the Zydeco Big Timers on Flickr.

Click on thumbnails to access larger photos.

New 2007 CD:
Doin' It Big Time

Be sure to check out Lil Nathan’s Official Web Site. And go to his MySpace Page.

Lil Nathan (Nathan Williams Jr.), who released his first CD at the age of 14, has matured into a highly accomplished musician. Like a lot of Zydeco performers, he grew up playing music, surrounded by a musical family. As the son of Nathan Williams Sr., leader of the Zydeco Cha Chas, as the nephew of Sid Williams and Dennis Paul Williams and great nephew of the late Harry Hypolite, and with connections through his family to many musicians in the Zydeco community, Lil Nathan was born with musical talent and nourished in a musical environment throughout his childhood. He has now moved beyond his Zydeco upbringing to expand his knowledge at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he is majoring in jazz studies and music media. Interviewed for Herman Fuselier’s liner notes to his 2007 CD, Doin’ It Big Time, Lil Nathan explains that in college he has “been exposed to chord progressions and different types of music that have influenced me in a lot of ways. I’m open-minded. I’ll listen to anything and make it work.” Instead of directly entering into the traditional rivalry for the claim to be at the top of the Zydeco mountain, Williams simply tells it like it is: “I’m not saying I’m better than anybody. I’ve just been exposed to some things other people have never been exposed to.”  It’s that education combined with his musical background from birth that helps him turn the name of his band, the Zydeco Big Timers, into a CD that delivers on its title by Doin’ It Big Time.

Lil Nathan wrote and arranged all of the songs on the CD. Included are several songs close to the Williams family Zydeco roots and a number of songs that branch in new directions such as the lush sound of “Big Timers’ Anthem” and the smooth verdure of “If I.” He also includes lyrics that present a bit of social commentary as in “That L’Argent,” in which, in both English and French, Lil Nathan describes our obsession with money. In songs like “My Sqeezebox,” he gives us a great contemporary Zydeco dance groove.  In “We’re Going to the Zydeco,” he manages to include the names of dozens of Zydeco venues from Lafayette to New Orleans. “Louisiana Is Zydeco Country” is a celebration of the culture that nourishes the music. “Charge It to the Game” is about learning from experience, with a second remixed version as the last cut on the CD, for a total of 15 cuts.  By the end of the CD, listeners will agree that, as Lil Nathan announces in the opening title cut, “We’re doin’ it big time.”

Other musicians on the CD are Isiah “Sanchez” Williams on rubboard, Dennis Paul Williams on lead guitar, Julian “White Chocolate” Primeaux on rhythm guitar, Junius “Jun” Antoine on bass, and Jay-Pray-Jean on drums.

Photos in the left column were taken on a warm Louisiana evening May 27, 2007, at the 21st annual Zydeco Extravaganza in Opelousas.

By April 2005, when these photos were taken at Lafayette's Downtown Alive!, Lil' Nate was no longer so little. He has also continued to build on his musical talent, and, like his father, he knows how to command the stage.
Click here for more photos.

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With the release of Zydeco Ballin', Nathan Williams Jr.’s first CD, the Williams family joins the other great Zydeco dynasties–Ardoin, Broussard, Carrier, Chavis, Chenier, Delafose, Frank–families that have passed on a rich musical legacy to a new generation.  Lil' Nathan's father is the leader of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, one of the top Zydeco bands touring across the country. His uncle, Sid Williams, who is serving as manager of his nephew's band, is owner of El Sid O’s in Lafayette, one of the principal venues for Zydeco music, a club where Buckwheat Zydeco used to perform regularly and where he recorded his last live album.

According to Herman Fuselier in his liner notes to Zydeco Ballin’, Lil’ Nathan began playing rubboard in his father’s band at age 5. He moved on to the drums and then the accordion, finding in his father an excellent teacher and role model.

At age 14 when the CD was recorded, Lil’ Nathan demonstrates that he has already mastered all three types of accordions–diatonic, triple-row, and piano (he posed with his accordions on the CD cover). The photos on this page, taken at the Zydeco Extravaganza in Lafayette in May 28, 2002, also show that he knows how to establish a stage presence that gets the crowd moving.

His father wrote the songs on the CD, ranging from the flowing groove of "Ballin' on Zydeco" and "Where the Zydeco At?" to the nouveau Zydeco beat of "Bounce with It!" to the more traditional waltz rhythms of "Louisiana Boy," sung in English and French.

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There's also the Williams' family version of "Why You Wanna Make Me Cry?" titled "Why You Wanna Make Poor Cha Cha Cry?" and, instead of another Zydeco with animal sounds, Lil' Nathan's "Bad Dogs" is about aching feet. In "Billy Goat," he is not reprising Boozoo Chavis' "Johnnie Mon Cabri" but looking at a goat tied to a tree and seeking answers to his own problems.

Nathan Williams Sr. sings Clifton Chenier's "I'm Coming Home," which also showcases his brother, Dennis Paul Williams, on guitar and Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural on organ (an instrument he used to play in Chenier's band). 

The CD was recorded at El Sid O's Zydeco and Blues Club in Lafayette and mastered at Nathan Williams' own studio. It was released in 2002 by Mardi Gras Records, 1-800-895-0441, 1013-A Harimaw Ct. West, Metairie, LA 70001.

On February 7, 2003, Lil' Nathan and the Zydeco Big Timers received offBeat Magazine's 2002 Best Emerging Zydeco Band Award.

Sid Williams is show performing with Lil' Nathan and the Zydeco Big Timers during the 2002 Zydeco Extravaganza held at Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette. Williams manages the band. He can be reached at (337) 235-0647.

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Posted 8-20-02

All photographs and text by David Simpson.

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