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Monday, March 12, 2018

Amédé Ardoin's Legacy Marked by Statue,Lemon Trees

Amédé Ardoin's Legacy Marked by Statue,Lemon Trees

Father of Creole & Cajun Music Comes Home!

March 12, 2018

Bobby Ardoin
The Daily World

Amede Ardoin Tribute (photo credit: Freddie Herpin)

Amédé Ardoin's enduring impact upon Cajun French music was obvious Sunday afternoon as a hundred people gathered to pay tribute to the artist, whose mournful lyrics often made women cry inside dance halls across southwest Louisiana.

No one knows the exact final resting place of Ardoin, who "came home" Sunday as a full-length, steel-forged image looking southward across Interstate-49 from the St. Landry Parish Visitors Center.

Ardoin, a native of the rural Eunice and Basile area, was honored during an outdoor statue unveiling ceremony, as some held lighted candles and tributes were delivered in Cajun French and English.

Guest musicians played the accordion and guitar while singing many of his iconic compositions.

The event was one phase of an ongoing Bringing Amédé Home project, saluting Ardoin’s musical legacy in addition to funding scholarships for young Louisiana musical artists who plan to study Louisiana zydeco and French music.

Darrell Bourque, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette English professor, said another part of the Bringing Home Amédé effort is encouraging individuals to plant lemon trees.

Bourque and resident Patricia Cravins helped secure much of the funding for the project.

Amede Ardoin Statue (Photo courtesy of The Zydeco Historical & Preservation  Society)

Bourque said according to legend, Ardoin kept a lemon in his picket during performances in order to preserve his voice.

Money for the project, Bourque said, ranged from donations of a few dollars to $3,000.

Daily Advertiser music and entertainment writer Herman Fuselier told the crowd wedged into the Visitors Center that it’s perhaps ironic that Ardoin, who couldn’t write his name and composed only 34 known songs, has attracted such attention 76 years after his death.

However, Ardoin’s musical influence has affected several generations, Fuselier said, serving as a root system of sorts for modern zydeco and Cajun musicians who have recorded and routinely play some of Ardoin’s favorite songs.

Many of Ardoin’s relatives posed for photographs and recorded video tributes following the unveiling of the statue by artist and sculptor Russell Whiting, who said capturing Ardoin was a challenge since there is only one existing visual image of the musician.

Whiting’s creation shows Ardoin standing atop an accordion while an outstretched right hand holds a lemon.

Bourque said the Bringing Home Amédé effort started nearly three years ago and was sparked by Ardoin's relatives' desire to find his grave, which is among nearly 2,500 others at the Central Louisiana Hospital in Pineville.

Amede Ardoin Statue (Photo courtesy of The Zydeco Historical & Preservation  Society)

The time spent at the facility in Pineville was a tragic end to a career during which Ardoin often teamed up with renowned Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee to entertain during the 1930s.

Ardoin was beaten and left for dead along a roadside after he supposedly borrowed the handkerchief of a white woman to wipe away sweat from his face during a performance.

He was sent to the Central Louisiana Hospital where his injuries never fully healed. He died there in 1942 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who attended Sunday’s event, said he is inspired by Ardoin’s life story and plans to plant a lemon tree at the State Capitol in his honor. Nungesser encouraged those in attendance to do the same thing.
Amédé Ardoin's Legacy Marked by Statue,Lemon Trees
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