|Note: Nonc Allie
Young died April 21, 2003, just a few days short of his 91st birthday.
When Vincent Fontenot, a member of the Basile Cajun Band, began to make plans for a 90th birthday party for the band's former leader, Nonc Allie Young, he soon found that he would need larger quarters to accommodate the many people who wanted to attend. He rented the Basile Town Park Barn and invited all musicians interested in taking part to show up at 12:30 Sunday, May 5, 2002, for a weekend gathering two days after Nonc Allie's actual birthday on May 3.
Fontenot, who is a park ranger at the Acadian Prairie Cultural Center in Eunice, also got help in organizing the event from Claudia Wood, another Cajun musician who is also a ranger.
Musicians both young and old turned out for the birthday celebration, which also commemorated the 70th anniversary of Allie Young's marriage to his wife, Viola. A crowd of friends and admirers was on hand to dance to the music and offer their congratulations to a man who truly deserves the titled of "living legend" bestowed on him in April 2002 by the Acadian Museum in Erath.
As recounted by The Basile Weekly in its May 15, 2002, issue, Nonc Allie Young was only eight years old when his father paid $16.95 to buy him his first accordion. When he was 12, he was already performing at house dances.
The biography provided by the Cajun French Music Association when Nonc Allie was inducted into the CFMA Hall of Fame in 1999 provides an overview of some of his activities over the decades: "he played four years with The Frugé Family Band, seven years with the Balfa Brothers Band, made four tours of Canada with D.L. Menard, toured France in 1975 and 1977 with the Balfa Brothers, played a world tour for the U.S. State Department in 1980 with the Whites and Ricky Skaggs performing in Japan, Thailand, Burma, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Oman, Cairo, and Italy."
Nonc Allie used to take part at the Thursday night jam sessions held at Basile's Main Street Bar (the building has since been demolished). Nonc Allie, Vincent Fontenot, who ran the bar, and other friends organized The Basile Cajun Band in 1984 for an appearance at the World's Fair in New Orleans. Nonc Allie Young has retired from performing with the band, but, as he demonstrated during his birthday party, he has not lost his touch as one of the great Cajun accordionists.
Shown on this page are photos of Nonc Allie Young's 90th birthday celebration.
In the second photo in the left column, Nonc Allie paused during his performance to accept a congratulatory call that came in over Ray Landry's cell phone.Viola
Young gives her husband a 70th anniversary kiss in the next photo.
Next, Curtis Joubert is shown presenting Nonc Allie with a certificate from the Office of Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Blanco. The next photo shows fiddler Vinesse LeJeune (a cousin of Iry LeJeune), who played with Gladius Thibodeaux and Dewey Balfa in the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Next, Vincent Fontenot is shown playing the upright bass.
The photo immediately below in the right column shows Paul Daigle (with Eston Bellow on drums behind him).
Beneath that is a photo of visitors from Australia who decided to make Nonc Allie Young's birthday part of their travel itinerary. Shown from left are Darryl Green and Jan Green from Adelaide, Australia, with their American friends from Tampa, Fla., Mike Stone and Joan Stone.
All photographs and text by David Simpson.