With his own family including Broussards, Ardoins, and Cheniers, Roy Carrier learned from Zydeco’s creators. He remains close to his roots. Born in 1947, Roy was playing rubboard by age six. With his father, Warren and other relatives and friends that would come by to cut up, Roy played “La-La” at night in the living room.
Roy moved on to drums, but it was the accordion that caught his fancy. Since accordions were hard to come by, Roy’s daddy wouldn’t let him play, fearing damage to his instrument. Undeterred Roy “borrowed” his daddy’s accordion and taught himself to play in the barnyard. When he got caught, he got a whippin’. However, Warren understood his boy’s determination and eventually allowed him to play.
At 14 Roy formed The Night Rockers with his brother Murphy on drums and Chris Johnson on accordion. Playing guitar, Roy all the while watched what Chris was doing with the accordion and played it himself whenever he got the chance. A farm machinery accident a year later cost Roy half of the index finger on his right (chord) hand, and he nearly lost the ability to play the music he loved. Limited to the guitar it would be two years before Roy would return to the accordion. Meanwhile, Roy soaked up as much pure Zydeco as he could in local clubs around Lawtell and Church Point, LA following Clifton Chenier, Rockin’ Dopsie, Fernest Arceneaux, and Marcel Dugas. Without the use of his right index finger, he developed a unique technique of “crossing” chords, something other musicians don’t even try – they just can’t do it.
Roy came up front to play the accordion when Murphy and Chris Johnson quit the band. His own son Chubby, age eight, played drums. At the time the band featured two rubboards, with Roy’s uncle, John, teaching Roy’s other son, Troy then six. As Roy recalls, he felt he was being laughed at for playing music only old timers played. Roy nevertheless continued, often getting together with Boozoo Chavis, Chris Johnson and Delton Broussard to play for the horses in the barnyard because they wouldn’t be allowed to make so much “noise” in the house.
Roy took a job on the offshore oil rigs around 1972 and the seven-day-on, seven-day-off shifts allowed him to continue playing Zydeco. Whenever Clifton Chenier, the King of Zydeco, was in the area he made it a point to come out to see Roy, often sitting in with him. Roy remembers what Clifton told him: “Roy, don’t ever let nobody beat you. You’re the best. Whether you’re in the mud or the water or wherever, be a hog.” Roy, in turn checked out Clifton’s music whenever he could.
Other than his cousin Clifton Chenier, Roy’s Uncle Bebe Carrier had the most influence on Roy’s music. Bebe would pull out his fiddle and play whenever Roy asked. “I always would get excited watching him stomp his feet and work out on his fiddle. Accordion players would always get tired, but not Bebe. He was one of the best I ever heard.”
1981 marked the establishment of Thursday night Zydeco jams at Roy’s Lawtell, LA club, The Offshore Lounge. Patrons can still enjoy as many as six bands for a two-dollar cover charge. Roy shows younger musicians what Zydeco is all about. “I’ve taught a lot of people in that club.” Most of today’s active musicians played The Offshore Lounge on Thursdays, honing their Zydeco chops.
In 1987 Roy gave up the oil fields and took his band, The Night Rockers, on the road. Their first Washington, DC area appearance was in 1992 at Mark Gretchel’s club, Tornado Alley. Roy continued delighting fans in the Northeast every few months, sometimes staying for a couple of weeks, and always leaving his fans in the area looking forward to his next visit.
Sadly, on May 4, 2010 Joseph Roy Carrier passed away suddenly of a heart attack. He was 63.
Roy was a bridge from all that Zydeco was to what it is today. He belongs at the head of any list of Zydeco influences. RIP Roy! We will always miss you!
Living Legend (Severn CD-0031)
Nasty Girls (Right On Rhythm)
Twist & Shout (Right On Rhythm)
Offshore Blues & Zydeco (Right On Rhythm)
Whiskey-Drinkin’ Man (Right On Rhythm)