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Living Legends

Wayne Toups
Inducted on December 29, 2001

Wayne Toups Wayne Toups was born on October 2, 1958, in Lafayette, and grew up in Crowley. His father was a French-speaking rice farmer. When he was 13, his older brother showed him how to play Cajun accordion and almost immediately Wayne was in local contests performing the music of his early idols, Iry Lejeune, Belton Richard, and Aldus Roger. Toups also credits Milton Adams and Shine Mouton with teaching him how to play the accordion.

As he matured as a musician, Toups began incorporating the soul music of Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Wilson Pickett into his sound creating a whole new style of music for the younger generation. Wayne first recorded for a European company in a strictly traditional fashion as "Wayne Toups and the Crowley Aces." Some of us may even remember when he was performing in a Lafayette country bar called Cowboys with future Nashville recording star Sammy Kershaw.

He debuted his fusion style on a 1987 album called ZydeCajun and he's been criss-crossing musical genres ever since. Signed to Mercury Records, Toups became the first Cajun act to crack the Top Pop Albums chart when his CD, "Blast From the Bayou," appeared in 1989. He was tapped to sing the theme song for TV's Broken Badges series and his "Two Step Mamou" appeared on the soundtrack of the hit movie Steel Magnolias.

Mark Chestnutt is a big fan of Wayne and hired Toups and his accordion to back him on his No. 1 hits "Gonna Get a Life" and "It Sure is Monday." That's Toups on Clay Walker's chart-topper "Live Laugh Love." That's also Toups on the giant Alan Jackson hit "Little Bitty." Sammy Kershaw featured Toups in both his video and his recording of "Christmas Times A-Coming." George Jones, Mark Wills and others have requested the Toups touch on Music Row. The most recent time he was up in Nashville was to work with Garth Brooks and Ty England.

His own recording career has continued as well. His Back to the Bayou album of 1995 yielded a substantial regional hit, "Take My Hand" and other Toups tunes appeared on the soundtrack of the film Dirty Rice.

Toups calls his band ZydeCajun, which is an attempt to describe his distinctive fusion. He draws on French-language traditional material of his Cajun ancestors, but adds the unmistakable r&b textures of Zydeco music. "I thought it would be good to touch my roots again," says the musician who is equally revered by Nashville and critics who rave about his albums. "This album is my roots, but I wanted to give the people something extra. It's not an all-French record. I wanted to reach back, yes, but I call this creating tradition within the tradition. So we took these old songs and made them 'Wayne Toups' songs."

Wayne Toups became the first Cajun act to crack the Top Pop Albums chart when "Blast from the Bayou" was issued in 1989. His mastery of the traditional folk music of his native South Louisiana has taken him around the world as a touring attraction. Toups usually performs 100 or 125 shows per year and most are sold-out. Today Wayne Toups is one of the most commercially successful Cajuns, having produced 8 CD's and toured in over 26 countries and four continents. He appeared on MTV, on the 1990 Super Bowl telecast and as the opening act on Carole King's national tour.

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