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S.L. to get a taste of zydeco

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Zydeco torch-bearer C.J. Chenier was more into funk and rhythm & blues when he was a child. "I didn't listen to zydeco at all," Chenier said. "I was playing Kool & the Gang, War and Earth Wind & Fire when I was in garage bands in Louisiana. In fact, I didn't start playing zydeco until my daddy (zydeco great Clifton Chenier) asked me to tour with him."

Chenier will bring his new brand of zydeco to Salt Lake City during the Brewers Festival at the Gallivan Utah Center on Saturday, Sept. 15. Admission is $10 at the gate and Chenier and his band — the Red Hot Louisiana Band — will begin playing at 8:30 p.m.

Chenier actually didn't think he was going to be a serious zydeco musician until his father passed away in 1987. The elder Chenier had willed his accordion and his band to his son. "The idea of me singing and fronting a band scared me to death," Chenier said with a hearty laugh during a phone interview from San Jose, Calif.

One thing the younger Chenier wanted to do was not get trapped inside his father's shadow. "I took a different attitude, and I tried to look different than he did. I wanted to be sure when people saw me that they knew I was nothing like my father, except for the love of the music."

And the music is the basis of all that C.J. Chenier is about. "You get to see a lot of things when you're in the music biz. You get to see all the bad sides of it with the record companies and the business deals. I don't get caught up in that stuff. My main thing is just to play music that makes a lot of people happy."

In addition to the recent live shows, Chenier is reaching out to bigger audiences with a new CD — "Step It Up!" — which was released earlier this year.

"It's my first album since 1996," Chenier said. "I just had some stuff I needed to take care of to clear my mind and decided to go back into the studio. I wasn't focused, and it took a few years to get it back into focus. I know I wanted to make my best album I could. And I think I did."

E-MAIL: scott@desnews.com