The Soileau native Keith Frank is pictured here with his usual Cowboy hat and accordion. He has been performing Zydeco music since the late 1980s after performing with his dad Preston Frank. He is now working on recording new music and continues to perform worldwide. (Photo courtesy of Keith Frank)
Mixing up a serving of Zydeco
Along the marshes of South Louisiana and in the musical shadows of Cajun and Swamp Pop, arose a style of music with a unique identity. This style known as Zydeco took its name from the French word “les haricots” for green beans and has since become a popular musical genre around the world.
“Zydeco music would be defined as a mixture of traditional Creole music, Gospel, Reggae, Rap, Funk, and Soul music,” said local Zydeco artist Keith Frank. “It’s a big gumbo of so many different styles and feelings.”
Frank’s brand of Zydeco will be on display for the second year in a row at this year’s Louisiana Cotton Festival in Ville Platte. For him, playing in Ville Platte is awesome because “it’s always good to do a festival that close to home because a lot of my relatives come out to see me.”
Frank is a native of the area known as Soileau in Allen Parish that is about 40 miles from Ville Platte, and he got started playing Zydeco music under his father Preston Frank. “My dad had musicians who would say they were going to show up but they didn’t show up or showed up late,” he said. “So, finally, my dad just turned to his family to have to not worry about those problems.”
Years then went by, and the younger Frank started his first band in 1986 while still in junior high. “We just did house parties, birthday parties, and talent contests in the beginning,” he said. “After I got out of high school is when I started playing professionally.
More years went by, then Frank got connected with the Flat Town Music Company in Ville Platte that was owned and operated by Floyd Soileau. “I got hooked up with Floyd in 1994 through a guy from Eunice by the name of Fred Charlie,” he explained.
“We always recorded in Eunice at the Zydeco Hound studio. I was on Soul Records for the first couple of years of my career before I moved to Zydeco Hound. Then, I did Zydeco Hound and Floyd’s together.”
Ultimately, Frank went on to start his own record label. But, it was his time spent at Flat Town Music Company that yielded his breakout album What’s His Name. “That was kind of the breaking of the doors down moment for us,” expressed Frank. “That was my ticket to a bigger crowd draw. What’s His Name came out in November 1994, and, a week after we released it, the crowds doubled. Then, they tripled. It was steam rolling, and it was a great time for Zydeco music.”
About a year later, Frank released Movin’ on Up with a song by the same name that became a popular hit. For Frank, the song was big because people identified with it. He explained, “The Jeffersons was probably almost 20-years-old at the time, and our song brought a lot of people back to a time and place. It was done in a Zydeco style for those who weren’t familiar with the song, and they had a chance to learn about The Jeffersons. I think our version had a good beat to it, and it was something that everybody could identify with.”
Frank then recorded two other songs that identified his career. The first of which was “Casanova.” As he explained, “That was something I used to listen to when I was growing up. It was one of my favorite songs, and we just did it in Zydeco style.”
The other song “Haterz” was a duet with a local rapper named Lil Boosie. Frank accredited the song that “took a life of its own” to “being at the right place at the right time.”
He added, “He was looking to do something a little different than what he had been doing, and I came along at the right time. It was just magic. The song had been out about six months when he got in on it, and it just took a whole other life of its own.”
Frank recently released his new album Return of the King that quickly climbed its way up the charts. He described it as being urban and contemporary.
All of his albums, according to Frank, are like his children because each has its own distinct personality and mannerism. “I try to put down an expression of what I’m feeling at the time when I record,” he commented.
This blend of musical personalities and mannerisms led to Frank playing around the globe. So far this year he has played in Omaha, New York, and San Diego. He played in Russia in 2015 and has also played in England, Holland, Germany, and France.
While he has taken Zydeco on the world stage, Frank’s favorite places to play were here in South Louisiana. “Most of my favorite places are closed,” he said. “I came up at Slim’s Yi-Ki, at Richard’s Club, and Hamilton’s Club. Those were always my favorite places to play because they were around here.”
He continued, “I’m in the process of finding a new music home right now.”
South Louisiana remains Frank’s favorite place to play also because of how big Zydeco music is to the area. “Here is the only place on the planet where you can go listen to Beyonce or Drake on the radio and, a few minutes later, hear a Keith Frank song or another Zydeco artist’s song on the same radio station.”
Currently, Frank is working on new music that will add to his catalogue of “good ole red hot Zydeco.” His collection of new and old songs combine to form his most satisfying part of recording and performing Zydeco music.
He concluded, “Making people happy and making a song that touches people or tries to help somebody to get through hard times is the most rewarding part for me.”