Clayton Sampy

Hailing from humble origins in rural Louisiana, French Creole musician Clayton Sampy picked cotton before he ever picked up the accordion, but it was a fateful brush with royalty – zydeco royalty, that is – that put him on the path to mastering the squeezebox.

One of eight siblings from Carenco, north of Lafayette, Sampy was already playing bass in his brother's zydeco band, Sampy and the Bad Habits, when he had a life-transforming "road to Damascus" epiphany at the Blue Angel club in Lafayette. There Sampy was floored by a vision of a male accordionist in a regal crown, playing down-home blues and la-la music like no one ever has, before or since, to an overflowing, adoring crowd. Sampy had indeed encountered the undisputed King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier.

Chenier became a mentor to Sampy, who dropped the bass in favor of piano accordion and launched his own band, Clayton Sampy and the Zydeco Farmers, which toured the boudin-and-cracklin' circuit running from Acadiana to east Texas. Sampy served as a frequent understudy to the ailing Chenier and has continued to preach Clifton's gospel since the King passed on to that great boucherie in the sky in 1987.

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