Rockin' Sidney Simien - lead vocals, accordion; Herman Guidry - guitar, vocals; Davis "Youngblood" Robinson - bass; Tony Charles - drums; R.C. Carrier - washboard, vocals
Working in the dancehalls and nightclubs of Lake Charles, Louisiana since the 1950s, Rockin' Sidney Simien began his musical career as a teenager providing guitar and harmonica backup for his uncle Frank Simien, with local legends like Slim Harpo and Cookie & the Cupcakes as early influences. Despite Simien's Creole heritage, his earliest recordings were R&B-styled singles cut for the Louisiana-based Fame and Jin labels during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He initially gained attention with a bluesy 1962 regional hit "No Good Woman."
In the mid-1960s, Simien formed a band and continued cutting R&B, blues, and soul recordings as Count Rockin' Sidney & the Dukes, where he often performed wearing a turban. Between this time and the late-1970s, he cut dozens of singles for the Louisiana-based Goldband label, working in a variety of contemporary blues, soul, and R&B styles, but nothing achieved more than moderate regional success.
Despite being a talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, during this time, Simien was primarily earning a living performing solo organ gigs at Lake Charles hotels and lounges. It was during this time, while yearning for another outlet for his creativity, that he recognized the growing popularity of zydeco, a traditional form of Creole music that evolved in southwestern Louisiana during the early part of the 19th century. Typified by a fast tempo and instrumentally dominated by the accordion and washboard rhythm, zydeco was becoming a popular style of dance music that was long familiar to Simien through his Creole heritage. Through the recordings of its two most popular practitioners, Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco, this largely forgotten form of music had become far more compelling.
Sensing the potential, Simien added accordion to his instrument arsenal and started writing zydeco two-steps with English lyrics instead of traditional Cajun French, in an effort to make it more accessible. His first zydeco recording, "Give Me A Good Time Woman" was recorded for the Maison de Soul label in 1982, but only generated modest attention. Over the course of the next two years, Simien began blending his R&B, country, blues, and modern soul influences into this older Cajun style of music, coming up with a modernized hybrid that was distinctly his own. Recording under the name Rockin' Sydney in his home studio and playing all the instruments himself, he cut the album My Zydeco Shoes Got the Zydeco Blues which would spawn a smash hit with the lyrically suggestive single, "My Toot Toot."
In early 1985, "My Toot Toot" was released as a single in Louisiana and Texas, and became his first true hit. Leasing the recording to Epic Records, who released it nationally, the song made musical history by first rising into the country Top 40 (where it remained for 18 solid weeks) and then crossing over, getting airplay on rock and pop stations alike. This was the first time a zydeco song had ever achieved such national popularity and before long, dozens of cover versions were appearing both in the United States and overseas, where Rockin' Sydney's recording became a global million-selling phenomena.
Later that same year the song was recognized with a Grammy Award, having become the biggest selling zydeco song of all time and the album, My Zydeco Shoes Got the Zydeco Blues would become a benchmark in the modernization of zydeco music. Thanks to the popularity of this album, his inventive nature, and dynamic live performances, Rockin' Sidney became a cultural icon, featured in People magazine, Rolling Stone, Billboard and Music City News, to name but a few. He also appeared on numerous television programs, including Nashville Now, Hee Haw, and Austin City Limits, as well as appearing as a special guest of John Fogerty and Charlie Daniels on their respective television specials that year.
All of which makes this 1985 live recording all the more intriguing as it captures Rockin' Sydney and his band performing nothing but choice material from the My Zydeco Shoes Got the Zydeco Blues album shortly after its release before a live audience in Hampton, Virginia. He never lost his flare for old-style showmanship, and this performance is a prime example, as he thoroughly engages the audience, even inviting children on stage to help out during "My Toot Toot."
Following the success of "My Toot Toot," Sidney toured the United States and Europe extensively, and despite nothing ever matching that monumental success, many of his songs such as "My Zydeco Shoes," "Jalapeño Lena," and "If It's Good For The Gander" have become zydeco staples, while others, like "You Ain't Nothin' But Fine" have been covered by the likes of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Rockpile. All of these songs are included during this high-energy set, which captures Rockin' Sydney near the peak moment of his multiple-decade spanning career.