Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011
Dr. Tommy Comeaux’s legend plays on. By Anna Purdy
|Photo by Robin May|
If the measure of a man is how well he treats his friends, a new ruler needs to be made for the late Tommy Comeaux. Fifteen years after his death, both friends and strangers revere and remember Comeaux. He was Dr. Comeaux at Our Lady of Lourdes as a pathologist. He was Tommy to friends on stage with his bands BeauSoleil, The Basin Brothers, The Clickin’ Chickens and Coteau, and to his friends who shared his passion for horticulture and bicycling.
It was this last passion that tragically led to his death. In 1997, Comeaux was biking when a driver of a vehicle suffered a seizure, lost control and struck him. A few weeks later Comeaux’s friends, coworkers and family put together the very first Medicine Show to raise money for the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Memorial Endowed Fund for Traditional Music at UL.
By 2010 the committee behind the endowed fund had raised more than $600,000 and, coupled with state matching funds to reach $1 million, hired ethnomusicologist Dr. Mark DeWitt to build the indigenous music program at UL. Students are now taking classes in Cajun music at the university in the heart of Cajun country.
Wilson Savoy of the Pine Leaf Boys is teaching one of its first classes. In a turnaround that would no doubt bemuse Comeaux, Savoy is teaching the very thing that caused some discord at UL several years ago.
“We used to play music on the campus at UL and put out a guitar case for whoever wanted to throw in a few dollars,” recalls Savoy, brother of fiddler/multi-instrumentalist Joel Savoy; both are sons of Eunice accordion maker/player Marc Savoy and chanteuse Ann Savoy.
“One day, while a few of us were playing music on the street on campus, a cop told us to tear down and stop playing. All the while, cars were zooming by blasting crap music on their radios and we were playing acoustic Cajun music on campus. Needless to say, we were upset and the media jumped in and began writing stories.
Before long, the Pine Leaf Boys was formed.
“It’s the very definition of irony as well as a sign of maturity,” Savoy adds. “I never admitted that we were doing anything wrong because I know we were not, but when the university asked me to come back [to teach] I was interested in doing it through an academic setting with kids who were interested in learning Cajun tunes. That was our mission from day one, six years ago — to spark interest in college kids’ ears and get them involved with our music.”
An Ohio native, DeWitt first tasted Louisiana music while studying in Berkeley, Calif. “Everyone who knew Tommy thought they alone had a special relationship — only to find out that there was a thousand other people who had just as special of a relationship. There was something about the way that he related to people that was very generous and made them feel like there is this special connection,” DeWitt says.
Although DeWitt never knew Comeaux, you get the impression he did — that is how pervasive Comeaux’s memory remains. This year the Medicine Show is held at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at Vermilionville featuring Sonny Landreth, Al Berard, Steve Conn, Pine Leaf Boys, special guest Cedric Watson and plenty more. All funds raised benefit the endowment.
Traditional music programs, says DeWitt, aren’t too common around the U.S. His hope is that this program can preserve and perpetuate Cajun and zydeco music and also teach students about world music in general and how many crossover styles and instruments exist.
Medicine shows were traveling wagon shows with people peddling elixirs to fix everything from earaches to balding. These “snake oil salesmen” offering cures that were not much more than moonshine diluted with water and herbs often traveled with a circus or musical acts to draw a crowd. In the case of this Medicine Show, it’s a loving wink at Comeaux’s career and offers music as an audible cure for hearts that can’t forget the man who never knew a stranger.
KLFY TV10’s longtime anchor and investigative reporter Chuck Huebner has responded to his recent termination from the station, confirming that his departure was a long time coming.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Emmy nominations announced; immigration compromise possible; FTC sues Amazon and more national and international news for Friday, July 11, 2014.
Grab this Friday special at everyone’s favorite Saint Street sandwich stop
Stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, who played detectives tracking a ritual killer, nominated for best drama actor. "Treme" and "Coven" get nods, too.
The Crawfish Capital of the World joins Beaufort, SC, Fredericksburg, Texas, Senoia, Ga. and Moorseville, Ala. on the magazine's list.
Education leaders are seeking to broker a compromise with Gov. Bobby Jindal on the standardized tests used in public schools next year.
The Women Who Mean Business honorees and trailblazers will be featured as a cover story in the September issue of ABiz, which publishes Sept. 15.
Three bedroom Breaux Bridge traditional or four bedroom Abbeville Victorian home
Summer's toss on and go pieces
Despite the bizarre fake handgun incident that ultimately led to his resignation, former Lafayette Regional Airport Aviation Director Greg Roberts will escape prosecution.
The Lafayette Police Department setup a roadblock in Freetown this afternoon after a body was discovered inside a nearby antique shop.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has scheduled a July 17 meeting with Education Superintendent John White to try to negotiate a compromise in their dispute over testing tied to the Common Core education standards, the governor's office announced Wednesday.
Beloved artist and former professor died Tuesday night after a brief illness.
The council approved an introductory ordinance two weeks ago watering down the zoning ordinance. If it approves it as a final ordinance on Tuesday, well, anyone can put up a sign in their yard or at their business for any future election.
Seared Ahi tuna, greens and a spicy Asian sauce ready for lunch Downtown
Poor TV10, once a ratings juggernaut among Lafayette television-news consumers, reduced now to doddering among its ceramic cat collection in a musty TV parlor, muttering about the good old days as it adjusts the afghan on its lap.
Undergarments for every style
The Lafayette Parish School Board made about $13 million in cuts during Tuesday’s special meeting, but what are the repercussions?
Gay and bisexual men, who are banned for life by the FDA from donating blood, are being urged to make a statement Saturday.
More than 8,800 students have been awarded vouchers to attend Louisiana private schools with taxpayer dollars in the upcoming school year, a 30 percent growth in the program championed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Three bedroom house or two bedroom condo
The Americans for Prosperity ad, which will air statewide on TV and also online, says Landrieu's position as leader of the Senate energy committee hasn't helped Louisiana, a heavy energy-producing state.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his conviction on bribery, money laundering and other corruption charges.
The tumultuous fight between Louisiana landowners and the oil and gas industry over environmental damages and legacy lawsuits is an overly politicized process, which typically results in tainted lands being left as is.
To know the retired UL art history professor was to love him.
Gobble it up with a side of Smith fries
Local attorney helps expand service offerings at Andrus Boudreaux Complete Title, which specializes in commercial and residential real estate closings.