Music » Livewire

Terrence Simien and the Zydeco Express

With the Oberlin Playboys. Thursday, February 26, at the Beachland Ballroom.


The Louisiana World Exposition in 1984 was likely the worst world's fair in history. Forget that New Orleans has a festival every February that puts any world's fair to shame. Ignore the fact that the Crescent City is party central every day. In August, New Orleans is so ungodly hot and humid, it's more a place to escape than visit.

But kudos to the fair for being the starting place for the career of Terrence Simien and the Mallet Playboys, whose first performance before a significant crowd was at the gathering two decades ago. Zydeco music hasn't been the same since.

James Brown might be the hardest-working man in show business, but Terrence Simien is at least the hardest-working guy in zydeco. While other band leaders simply exhort crowds to get up and dance, Simien stomps along with them onstage, all the while playing some of the best accordion licks ever heard. He has toured with Paul Simon, Los Lobos, the Dave Matthews Band, and Robert Palmer, co-wrote a song with actor Dennis Quaid for the film The Big Easy in 1987, and performed with Stevie Wonder at President Clinton's second inauguration. His high tenor vocals have been compared to Sam Cooke, Jimmy Cliff, and Aaron Neville.

And his zydeco ambassador duties don't end with performing and recording. Simien is on a mission to promote the Creole culture, the lifestyle and history of the mixed-race African Americans of southern Louisiana. He and his wife Cynthia (a native of nearby Barberton) direct a zydeco community service effort called MusicMatters, and Terrence has lent his brand of zydeco to a cultural educational program called Creole for Kids.

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