When Harry Hypolite was killed in a car accident on June 22, Acadiana lost one of his most soulful bluesmen and an important tie to Clifton Chenier, the king of Zydeco. Hypolite played with Chenier until Chenier's death in 1987, and the two men shared many musical and personal traits: fierce pride, love of their craft and unwavering work ethic.
In recent years, Hypolite has been a staple on the Acadiana club scene, playing regularly in venues such as 307 Downtown, Artmosphere and Clementine's in New Iberia. The last time I visited Hypolite in her caravan at Cade in the spring of 2004 was a reminder of her warmth, determination and optimism. He never faltered in the face of financial difficulties and health problems, and our conversation was filled with his hopes for international festivals and the recording of future albums.
Harry Hypolite finished his day at the Fruit of the Loom plant in St. Martinville, Louisiana, and Clifton Chenier came to see him. Hypolite sometimes plays guitar with Chenier, the king of Zydeco, but Chenier challenges him.
More than two decades later, these words speak volumes about Hypolite. After listening to Chenier's call and playing with the zydeco legend until his death, and more recently on tour and recording with Clifton's son, CJ Chenier, 63-year-old Hypolite, is shadowing in the light. Louisiana Country Boy is his first release, a moving testimony of the power of faith and conviction.
"Nobody gave me a chance before," he notes. "But I said," I'll show them what I can do. "For me, it comes from the depths of my soul, I want to play blues, and I want to talk to people about my Creole heritage.
Although he has toured the world with the Cheniers, the heart of Hypolite has always been in southern Louisiana. He was born in St. Martinville on April 19, 1937 and the landscape was literally in his blood. As a child, he picked cotton, okra and sweet potatoes and worked in the fields of rice and sugar cane. Shoes were considered a luxury, and an exhausting day under the brutal sun of summer could cost 75 cents and a plate of potatoes a good day. The fight was magnified when his mother died when he was young. "I had difficult times ahead," he says. "I never forget where I come from."
Music became an outlet for him, and he began buying records by artists like BB King, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. He learns to play, but he does not learn just by copying 45-rpm records. St. Martinville was home to the Dew Drop Inn, a popular juke joint on the chitlin circuit (and no relation to the renown New Orleans nightclub), and Hypolite took a job there.
"I used to stack these crates of wooden soda, then lift them out and watch the guys play inside," he recalls. "I could see T-Bone and Gatemouth Brown, Albert King, Albert Collins. I've been able to see Guitar Slim a few times. But Lord have pity, thinking of 'The things (that I was doing)' When I was young, I knew it was a song that would never be forgotten, and I had it in mind to redo it.I saw Slim many times, always in these colorful clothes, yellow green , purple. "
The stamp of these years of training is everywhere Louisiana Country Boy. Like his peers Gatemouth Brown, Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker, the Hypolite guitar game sings with the influence of the Gulf Coast, blending sweet single-note notes as wide as Texas with syncopated licks for grooves Louisiana swamps. He takes a nonsense approach to playing zydeco and blues. Wide ThumbClearartFanart Banner User Comments