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Fremont Fontenot

Cajun music was always such an important part of Fremont Fontenot's life that it remained all around him even when he decided to give up accordion playing for close to three decades following the unfortunate death of his son. But how could the music not be around him, since he was running a dance hall and then began living in it when his own house burned down. A spot in his living room is where a once-unknown Clifton Chenier sat and performed every two weeks or so; some gnarly grooves in the floor nearby is where the jukebox used to rest. Fontenot was the fourth child in a family of 11, with a combination of black and Spanish influences coming from his mother and father respectively. In typical Creole fashion, the Spanish side of the family was regarded as "blanche" or white. He began to play accordion at the age of 15, learning from his second cousin Adam Fontenot, the father of the equally important Cajun player Canray Fontenot. The senior Fontenot and legendary fiddler Bebe Carriere were both disciples of the great black fiddler, Amadie Ardoin, and the music being passed around was a combination of polka, zydeco, and contredanse much different than later blends of Cajun music. Dances at which performers made about 25 cents each after a hat was passed were the type of gigs he came up on, building up to three or four dollars per musician if it was a Cajun (white) event rather than a Creole (black) gathering. A bigger difference than this nickel counting was the type of rhythmic accompaniment at these events; the whites liked the ringing sound of the triangle, while the Creole dances were marked by the gutsy sound of the washboard or "frottoir." One of Fontenot's regular playing partners on the former instrument was Joe "Azinot" Guillory, with whom he recorded several beautiful duets for Rounder. Fremont Fontenot managed to raise ten children himself, many of them carrying on with the family musical traditions. Fontenot's brother, known simply as B. Fontenot, took over the accordion during Fremont's period of retirement, and upon returning to music in the late '70s, Fremont began teaching his style and music to Lawrence Ardoin, son of Bois Sec Ardoin. Fremont Fontenot was also active in leading church music events. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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