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

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Shelton Manuel

Click here for high resolution photos posted on Flickr.

Note: Shelton Manuel died January 4, 2005, at the age of 83. He was, as his obituary in The Eunice News noted, "a world class musician."

Eunice native Shelton Manuel at age 80 in 2002 was guided to the  CA Guitars Scène Louisiane stage at Festival International de Louisiane in downtown Lafayette. There, he eased into his seat, pulled out his fiddle, and, grasping the microphone when he sang, proceeded to treat the crowd to old-time Cajun music drawing on more than six decades of experience performing. As he played traditional songs like "Jolie Blonde," he added his own words to include a brunette in the lyrics and on other songs he improvised lyrics as he went along.

Blinded 30 years ago in a hunting accident, he first began playing the fiddle when he was 16 years old. He has also learned to play the accordion, guitar, and drums, performing with well known Cajun musicians such as J. B. Fuselier, Papa Cairo, and Nathan Abshire, among others, as well as with country and western bands across Louisiana and into Texas.

Today, he sometimes plays at the Saturday morning jam sessions held at Marc Savoy's music store east of Eunice, and he also often plays on the stage next to Fred Charlie's recording studio in downtown Eunice during festivals. The week before his appearance at Festival International, he served as a master artist at the Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week. Manuel has also gained recognition outside Louisiana. He has been a  guest at the Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia, where he taught fiddle, drums, bass, and accordion.

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Bruce Schultz, bureau chief of the Baton Rouge Advocate's Lafayette bureau profiled Manuel in the March 30, 2002, issue in an article that ran some 1,100 words. As Manuel tells it, a rich uncle offered to send him to college to become a doctor, but instead Manuel chose to stick with farming and continued to play music on the side at night. "I don't regret it," he told Schultz. "I did what I wanted."

The article also describes Manuel's first public performance at Abe's Place, a dance hall above Ardoin's Hardware in Eunice, a job that paid the considerable sum of $2 in quarters. Manuel also told Schultz about playing in Richard Casino in Bosco near Lafayette. The bouncer would use a leather-covered stick on anyone who got out of line.

Like most Cajun musicians, Shelton Manuel has never made much money performing, but his memory is rich with the experiences he has had through the years. Now, after some more than six decades of playing, he is gaining well deserved recognition for his talents as a musician and his devotion to carrying on the Cajun musical heritage.

Most of the photos were taken during an April 2002 performance at Festival International de la Louisiane in Lafayette. The photo in which Shelton Manuel is chomping on a cigar was taken the Saturday before Mardi Gras 2002 in Eunice at the band stand near Fred Charlie's recording studio. In the photos below, Shelton Manuel is shown with Jason Babineaux on accordion in Lafayette and with Wilson Savoy on accordion in Eunice, along with Paul Edwards on drums.

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All photographs and text by David Simpson.

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