Chenier began his recording career in 1954, when he signed with Elko Records and released Clifton's Blues, a regional success. His first hit record was soon followed by "Ay 'Tite Fille (Hey, Little Girl)" (a cover of Professor Longhair's song). This received some mainstream success. With the Zydeco Ramblers, Chenier toured extensively. He also toured in the early days with Clarence Garlow, billed as the 'Two Crazy Frenchmen'. Chenier was signed with Chess Records in Chicago, followed by the Arhoolie label.
In April 1966, Chenier appeared at the Berkeley Blues Festival on the University of California campus and was subsequently described by Ralph J. Gleason, Jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, as "... one of the most surprising musicians I have heard in some time, with a marvelously moving style of playing the accordion .. blues accordion, that's right, blues accordion."
Chenier was the first act to play at Antone's, a blues club on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. Later in 1976, he reached a national audience when he appeared on the premiere season of the PBS music program Austin City Limits. Three years later in 1979 he returned to the show with his Red Hot Louisiana Band.
Chenier's popularity peaked in the 1980s, and he was recognized with a Grammy Award in 1983 for his album I'm Here. It was the first Grammy for his new label Alligator Records. Chenier followed Queen Ida as the second Louisiana Creole to win a Grammy.
Chenier is credited with redesigning the wood and crimped tin washboard into the frottoir, an instrument that would easily hang from the shoulders. Cleveland Chenier, Clifton's older brother, also played in the Red Hot Louisiana Band. He found popularity for his ability to manipulate the distinctive sound of the frottoir by rubbing several bottle openers (held in each hand) along its ridges.
During their prime, Chenier and his band traveled throughout the world.
Read more about this topic: Clifton Chenier
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