It has been four years since Chubby Carrier brought his accordion-laced dance party of a live show to Wichita, and he’s feeling it.
“I’ve been missing my fans in Wichita,” Carrier said during a phone interview earlier this week from his home in Lafayette, La. “It’s going to be an honor to get back there and see everybody.”
Until 2010, Carrier and his Bayou Swamp Band came to Wichita at least once a year, if not more often. They were at the now-closed Roadhouse in 2006. They played the Sedgwick County Zoo’s summer concert series in 2007, then headlined Zoobilee in 2008. They played both the zoo and the Wichita River Festival in 2009, then made a return appearance at the zoo in 2010.
Then they won a Grammy. Carrier and the band won for Best Zydeco or Cajun Album in 2011 for “Zydeco Junkie,” and Carrier, 47, slowed down a bit. Until then, he said, he was playing about 275 dates a year.
Now, he said, he’s more of a regional act – by choice.
Lucky for Wichita, we’re in his region.
Carrier and his band will play twice in Wichita this year, starting on Wednesday with a show at the Crown Uptown Theater, 3207 E. Douglas. He’s also scheduled to play on Oct. 3 as part of the zoo’s “Zootoberfest” music series.
“I started slowing down after I won the Grammy,” Carrier said. “I started doing less and less days on the road, because after a while, it was ‘been there, done that.’ ”
Carrier, a master of the accordion, grew up with Cajun and zydeco music all around him.
He was raised in Church Point, La. His grandfather, Warren Carrier, worked in the bean fields and loved to play Cajun and zydeco music on his accordion. Warren passed his instrument and his profession down to his son, Roy, who made a career in music during the last 15 years of his life.
Carrier picked up the accordion as a young boy.
“I reminisce all the time about watching my grandfather and my daddy make this wonderful music when I knew they couldn’t read or write,” he said. “But they played this music from their heart and soul, working in the bean fields, picking cotton and singing the blues away.”
Carrier said he loves Cajun and zydeco music because it’s happy music, and that rubs off on the people who hear it.
It’s nearly impossible, he said, for people to hear the accordion and the washboard and keep their feet still.
“When you see someone come to the show, it’s such happy music that you see mamas and kids and nieces and nephews just dancing and smiling,” he said.
After his Grammy win and self-imposed slowdown, Carrier said, he started to think about ways he could ensure that the Cajun and zydeco tradition survived past his generation.
While touring, he often stops in local schools to offer his “Zydeco A-Z” program to children. The morning after his Crown Uptown gig, he’ll take the program to the Derby Rec Center for 200 pre-registered children.
During the program, he explains to the children the history of the genre, the difference between Cajun and zydeco music, and he puts on a little performance.
“I kind of educate them on the importance of keeping zydeco music alive in the culture,” he said. “They’re learning how to play Wii or PlayStation or Xbox more than they’re learning to play instruments.”