|On the cover: Comeaux Fund Campaign Committee members, from left to right (seated) Sonny Landreth, Todd Mouton, Jen Mouton, Gwyn Hutslar, Renée Roberts, Megan Barra, Bruce Gray, Karl Fontenot, (standing) Dr. Steve Abshire, Frank Camalo, Allen Bacqué, Kent Hutslar, Robbie Bush, Michael Doucet, Dr. Frank Bacqué, Pat Mould, Gary Newman, Len Springer and Reese Fuller.|
|photo by Robin May|
|Dr. Tommy Comeaux
|photo by Robin May|
|Gary Newman, bassist and founder of Coteau, says Tommy Comeaux was “the perfect human being.”|
| photo by Robin May
“It seems to have a life of its own, and I think that’s the way of things when you hit on something that really works. Maybe it’s greater than the sum of its parts.” — Sonny Landreth
|photo by Robin May
| Dr. Walter Comeaux
| photo by Doug Dugas
Dr. Walter Comeaux laughs when he thinks back upon first hearing about the idea for the endowed chair. “I thought it would never occur,” he says. “I think they were kind of skeptical themselves as to the final outcome of it. But of course as they went along and began to produce these professorships, it became obvious that sooner or later it would become a reality.”
Since their inception, the Comeauxtians have produced 11 Medicine Shows at Grant Street Dancehall every Christmas. The shows have resulted in three CDs worth of music that have also benefited the fund, along with poster and T-shirts sales. In all, the group has produced and hosted some 40 fund-raising events since 1997. Within the last few years, a group of Landreth’s fans, Sonny’s Krewe, has traveled to his shows across the country at their own expense, sold merchandise and contributed some $30,000 to the effort.
“When any of us had time we just did what we could,” Mouton says. “A lot of people sacrificed parts of their holidays and a few hours and minutes here and there. But it’s amazing what you can squeeze into the cracks of your life, and it’s amazing how that can make your life so much better.”
Along the way, the committee also birthed a Cajun jam band powerhouse. The Traiteurs was composed of committee members Landreth, Newman, and Mould, along with Al Berard, Errol Verret, Danny Kimball, Tony Latiolais, and Valerie Breazeale. Much like the committee itself, the band was loosely knit but highly focused. The Traiteurs never rehearsed, never had a set list, and never even considered signing a record deal. Its only “tour” was in 2000 when it performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Festival International and Festivals Acadiens. In all, the group performed on 30 occasions (dubbing the appearances as the “Good For What Ails You Tour”), and any fees paid to the band were donated to the Comeaux fund. “Along with the creation of the Medicine Show,” Landreth says, “The Traiteurs has been one of the best ongoing musical experiences I’ve ever had.” The group recently disbanded, as quietly as it came together.
|In its decade long run, The Traiteurs performed 30 shows and donated all its musicians’ fees back to the Comeaux fund.|
|photo by Kent Hutslar
Last Christmas, nearly a decade to the day of the first Medicine Show, the Comeauxtians hit their goal. Mouton made the announcement from Grant Street’s stage at Medicine Show 11, with then UL President Ray Authement, Dr. Walter Comeaux, and Comeaux Committee members on hand.
On Oct. 28, at the UL Foundation’s annual Distinguished Donor reception, the Comeauxtians were honored for their work in creating the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Eminent Scholar Chair in Traditional Music. Landreth and Michael Doucet performed “Chez Seychelles,” the same song they played at Tommy’s funeral. For each endowment that’s established, the university gives the donor an actual chair. The Comeauxtians, however, managed to get the university’s first rocking chair.
David Comeaux, the director of planned giving for UL, says that in his 21 years in higher education development, he’s never encountered a group like the Comeauxtians. “I have not seen a group work as tirelessly as this one did to honor the memory of a friend,” he says. “He must have been a very special and unique person because the manner in which this memorial fund was created is certainly special and unique. I can only imagine how good his family must feel knowing that a group of friends stayed the course over a 10-year period to help honor the memory of their loved one.”
Now that the endowment has been made in the music department, it’s up to the university to determine its best use. “There’s so much good to come out of this,” Landreth says. “It’s really in keeping with Tommy’s spirit, how he was always helping people and all the things he really loved about music.”
Although the $1 million goal for the endowed chair has been met, the matching of donations can continue. For every $60,000 raised, the state will still match it with $40,000 to create a $100,000 endowed professorship. And since the group has already created a well-oiled fund-raising machine, it’s decided that the show must go on. Medicine Show will continue to be held every Christmas to raise money for the endowment. This year, as with the first year, the doors to Grant Street will open on the night after Christmas for Medicine Show 12. “I’ll keep on doing it for the rest of my life,” Newman says. “Even though we’ve met our goal that doesn’t mean we have to stop. We can just keep on going in Tommy’s name — because he would be doing the same thing.”
“It seems to have a life of its own,” Landreth adds, “and I think that’s the way of things when you hit on something that really works. Maybe it’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s been a journey about healing and value fulfilment that offsets that loss. Then the individuals involved, I can easily brag on the other members of the committee because they’ve all done an amazing job. It just shows the quality of the character of the people as individuals. I think that all of that, coming together, really becomes a sustaining force.”
“We all thought we had this special friendship with Tommy,” Mouton says. “And the more people we met, we found out that they had this special friendship with him and that maybe he did something really nice for them or that he was always kind to them. But then there are all of these people who haven’t met him and didn’t know him, but his story still resonates with them. He’s the kind of guy they don’t build monuments for but they probably should. So I think everyone’s been able to plug into that. It amazes me how when you make a copy of something it’s usually degraded in some way, but I think Tommy’s memory has made perfect copies, and his legacy is these ideas that his life represented and continues to represent.”
| photo by Doug Dugas
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
The board hopes to recover all fees paid, plus one-half, along with what could amount to hundreds of thousands in additional penalties.
Oh, the irony... or something like that.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
St. Patty's Day crafts
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.