Doug Kershaw started singing with his brother Rusty, in the mid '50s. If like me, you were largely ignorant of Cajun music in the '60s, Doug's appearance on the seminal Johnny Cash Show in 1969 knocked you on your ass. And check out the great photos in the YouTube above.
Born Douglas James Kershaw in Tiel Ridge, Cameron Parish, in an area known as Cajun country, he traces his ancestry to Acadians who were part of the Great Expulsion by the British authorities from their homeland in eastern Canada in 1755. He grew up surrounded by Cajun fiddle and accordion music, and as a 19-year-old, in 1955, he performed with his brother Rusty Kershaw on the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcast. The two were so popular that they were invited to perform at the Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia and in 1957 appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
After fulfilling his military obligation, Doug Kershaw returned to the music business scoring with an autobiographical song he wrote called "Louisiana Man". The song not only sold millions of copies but over the years has become the symbol of Cajun music. In June of 1969, Kershaw made his first network television appearance on the debut of the Johnny Cash Show. He capped the year with a much-publicized, week-long engagement at the New York City's Fillmore East as opening act for Eric Clapton's Derek & the Dominos. While it seemed, to many rock and pop fans, that Kershaw had appeared out of nowhere, he had already sold more than 18-million copies of the records he had done in the early '60s with his brother, Rusty. "Louisiana Man" had been a Top 10 country hit in 1961 and its follow-up, "Diggy Diggy Lo", had done almost as well. His dynamic performance in front of a national audience led to Warner Bros. Records signing him to a long-term contract. In November of that year, "Louisiana Man" was broadcast back to earth by the crew of the Apollo 12 moon mission. Beyond the southern venues, Kershaw's popularity soon extended to mainstream urban America, playing for packed audiences at major concert halls.
Like a lot of "vintage" artists, Doug's shows have become pretty camp. The songs get played too fast, and some of the rich subtlety of the early music gets lost. That said, the last time I saw Doug was around '88, and he was still rocking pretty hard.
Here he is from 1990:
For the curious who can't quite follow the Cajun French references, here are the lyrics to Louisiana Man .
Also, there are a few videos from the same show on YouTube that seem awfully post-produced. The sounds are beyond what would come from a good recording with Kershaw's likely budget, and some of the instrumental parts don't seem to match. Still good recordings, but with a caveat on the "live".