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The Savoy Cajun Band: The First Family of Cajun Music

Story and photos by Lynn Rosen   August 1, 2011

  You really do have to have an inside connection to know about this inside secret, but nearly every Saturday morning, there’s a Cajun Music Jam goin’ on at the Savoy Music Center out in Eunice, LA, along Hwy. 190, about 40 miles northwest of Lafayette. You can tell if it’s happening that morning because there’ll be lots of cars parked along the highway in front of a small music shop just off the road.  
  Cajun Creole jam session  
  Musicians from all over St. Landry Parish gather to share their love of Cajun and Creole music every Saturday morning.  
  three cajun jammers  
three cajun jammers
  Joel Savoy, son of owners Mark and Ann Savoy, often sits in and plays with the jammers Many Saturday mornings, the jam session includes a young blind pianist, a local musician and a 92-year-old fiddler  
  As you make your way down the gravel driveway, you can hear that great music of Louisiana, of Acadiana—strains of accordion, fiddle, keyboard and piano. Inside the modest music shop, folding chairs spill out over one side of the room, some filled with musicians of all ages and degrees of talent and experience, playing their hearts out, and others filled with those who have come to listen, appreciate and applaud.  
  Ann Savoy   Three rub boards  
  Ann Savoy minds her granddaughter Anna behind the busy retail counter selling CDs, books and musical instruments Rub boards, played/scraped with metal thimbles or spoons, come in sizes for the whole family  
jam session rules
  No one comes empty-handed in Acadiana. It’s a tradition that everyone brings his and her own favorite boudin (Cajun sausage) and six pack to share for breakfast treats Owner Mark Savoy is not shy about posting his provisos on who is welcome and who is not. No prima donnas allowed in these sessions  
  On the other side of the room are retail counters with CDs, books and musical instruments, all for sale. Beside the counter is a card table with numerous and well-used open cartons of boudin (Acadian sausages), lots of napkins and plastic cutlery and six packs of beers. The room is rocking with rhythm, music and soul. The ambience is at once welcoming, inclusive and infectious. Who could stand still or frown?!  

Todd Mouton, here in his casual red Saturday morning t-shirt. Our “insider” guide, Todd Mouton, local music aficionado and descendant of Alexandre Mouton, “The Acadian of the Acadians” and the 9th Governor of Louisiana, 1843-46, gained us entrée into this amazing, early morning musical experience. Todd is Executive Director of Louisiana Folk Roots, a non-profit group dedicated to the continuation of Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole heritage. And this is certainly right up his alley. Check out their offerings at

The Savoy (pronounced sah-VWARE) Music Center is the provenance of Mark and Ann Savoy, both legendary musical artists in this Cajun/Creole culture. Mark opened the Center in 1966 when “Cajun was a dirty word. Cajuns were considered illiterate,” Mark explained. He was sternly told this location was way too far out of town to run a business, especially one catering to “those French.”

  Todd Mouton  
Todd Mouton
  Mark Savoy   Mark Savoy   Mark Savoy   Mark Savoy's workbench  
Mark Savoy, acting on his own gut feeling that this music was going to boom, coupled with some inside information from a Newport Jazz festival talent scouting Cajun music in 1964, persevered. When the Cajun music genre made a big smash that year during their first exposure at the Rhode Island festival, Cajun music, and Mark’s business took off.

Beyond their individual musical prowess, both Mark and Ann have made huge dents in other disciplines. Mark handcrafts diatonic accordions made to order, which he now ships all over the world.

Cajun music and the accordion bug struck Mark when he started playing at 12 and hanging out with “the old guys.” “The music was so great, it’s going to boom. I felt it in my bones.” Sidney Brown from nearby Lake Charles, was the first to hand-make these diatonic (harmonic, chorded/keyed like a harmonica) accordions. (Like a harmonica, when you breathe in, you get one note; when you blow out, you get another. BTW, you can order your accordion in any key you want. Another BTW, pianos are chromatic and play in any key you want.) But Sidney, a craggy ole guy, wasn’t about to share his blueprints. Mark decided that he was going to figure out how to make this remarkable instrument on his own. Over a number of years, he taught himself how to craft these instruments.

He now has three people working with him and ships these instruments, which are beautiful art forms starting at $2,000 and up, to people around the globe. The whole accordion is crafted here in his workshop in Eunice, LA, except for the reeds and bellows, which come from Italy, where this whole accordion thing began.

  Ann, also a photographer and author, has written the much-acclaimed encyclopedic tome on Cajun and Creole artists with pictures, songs and translations never before published, “Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People,” Their whole family records Cajun music together and individually. Ann has also recorded a Grammy-nominated album and a CD with good friend Linda Ronstadt.  
Mark & Ann Savoy with granddaughter
Ann is minding the store here with Mark and her granddaughter, Anna, while her daughter, Sarah, who lives in Paris, is in the local recording studio

People come from around the world to visit, play music and record with them and their family. These folks don’t seem to be too far out of town anymore.

For more great information and some fabulous music, check out these links:

Listen here for samples of the Savoy family Cajun music.

The Savoy family makes it a point to travel to the Centrum Fiddle Festival at Port Townsend, WA, every summer. Check out this link to hear their tunes.

Ann Savoy’s “Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People,”

The Savoy Family Band,

Louisiana Folk Roots,

For the best information about this region, its history and its people, visit


How in the world can you distinguish between all the different genres/flavors of Acadian music? Well, maybe you can't. But let's have a go.

Toss the musical tones, sounds and strains of Irish, German, Spanish, Afro, Anglo, Amerindian, Caribbean, French and Quebecois into a great big blender, push the go button, et voila! C'est Cajun/Creole music of Acadian Louisiana and you cannot sit still.

The word Creole signifies a rich cultural mix and Cajun more specifically refers to white French influence and tilts towards country music. Creole swings more towards black and African music, but they're both influenced by the same indigenous ingredients. Zydeco is more influenced by blues and western. Creole music became more rhythm and blues and swung into Zydeco which was also influenced by rock.

Zydeco bands typically use the "frottoir," the metal washboard or rub board, played with thimbles, spoons or whatever metal devices might be in the kitchen drawer. And all Southern Louisiana bands use the accordion and the fiddle. Swamp Pop is where Fats Domino meets Fey Do Do...Rhythm and blues gone funk with rock & roll. In other words, Louisiana French culture and its eclectic music is a Creolization of many flavors. A reduction sauce of caramelized cultures. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

  Fiddle case  
Fiddle case
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