Terry Domingue is a native of Duson, a small community located 10 miles west of Lafayette in the heart of French Louisiana. Coming of age in this hotbed of Cajun and Creole culture, he developed a passion for zydeco. Since emerging on the scene nearly two decades ago with his own band, Terry & the Zydeco Bad Boys, Terry has been hailed as a rising star who is carrying deeply traditional zydeco into the 21st century.
A driving, accordion-led music with signature frottoir (rubboard) percussion, zydeco is an energetic, highly danceable music that springs from the rich cultural mix of Southwest Louisiana and East Texas. The style emerged during the musically fertile post-World War II period but has roots in an earlier era: French-speaking African American musicians mixed older Cajun and French Creole dance music, known as “la la,” with blues, R&B, and rock and roll to create a pulsing sound that packed the dance halls. Zydeco, which is said to take its name from the idiomatic title of a popular song, “Les Haricots [zydeco] Sont Pas Salé,” continues to evolve, often incorporating hip hop elements. Yet, musicians like Terry hold true to its roots through traditional instrumentation, two-step and waltz rhythms, and French lyrics highlighting the trials and joys of life in Creole Louisiana.
Growing up immersed in French Creole culture, Terry first heard zydeco at trail rides he attended with his father. At these community gatherings at the intersection of Creole cowboy and musical heritage, four-year-old Terry would stand at the foot of the stage, enthralled by the accordion. After teaching himself to play, Terry got his first accordion at the age of eight. Learning to speak French Creole was also central to his upbringing; his grandparents would not have it any other way.
Terry quickly gained acclaim when he founded the Bad Boys in 2001 for the group’s commitment to a zydeco sound that can be traced to the music’s roots in la la music. Having released four albums—most recently, 2017’s Allons Zydeco—the band continues to earn praise for playing some of the most interesting zydeco today, both highly innovative and deeply respectful of tradition. In addition to Creole influences, Terry draws upon Cajun music, plus nods to swamp pop, R&B ballads, and more. He proudly sings both traditional and original compositions in French and has recorded zydeco classics by legends like Boozoo Chavis and John Delafose. For Terry, playing this music serves a higher purpose. “Music, to me, is my therapy,” he explains. “When I get on stage, I forget about all my troubles and free my soul.”
In 2016, Terry & the Zydeco Bad Boys were featured on an NBC Nightly News segment that proclaimed Lafayette the “Happiest City in America.” When the band makes their National Folk Festival debut this September in Salisbury, they are sure to inspire happy, infectious smiles and get attendees two-stepping on the dance floor.