Danny Poullard

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Danny Poullard left Louisiana behind when he moved to California as a young man, but he never turned his back on the Cajun music of his youth. When the accordion player settled in the San Francisco Bay…
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Danny Poullard left Louisiana behind when he moved to California as a young man, but he never turned his back on the Cajun music of his youth. When the accordion player settled in the San Francisco Bay region during the '60s, he became the driving force behind the area's burgeoning Cajun movement. But driving force is a hard and cold term for a man whom other musicians described after his death in 2001 with warmer, more personal terms. They eulogized Poullard as the California Cajun scene's "heart and soul" and "guiding spirit."

Poullard was an accordionist who developed his interest in music and in the instrument through his father, who also was an accordionist. He didn't begin to play, however, until after he'd left Louisiana for California, perhaps holding back due to his father's wish that he not take up the accordion. It was an issue of safety for the elder Poullard, since he had once been shot after performing at a local house dance. The younger Poullard's interest in the accordion was revived when he became a bass guitarist early in the '60s for the Opelousas Playboys, a band led by John Simeon, a Cajun accordion player. As he learned the accordion, Poullard culled songs and style from both Simeon and his dad. He went on to lead the Louisiana Playboys. During the early '80s, he joined forces with the husband and wife team of Eric Thompson and Suzy Thompson to establish the California Cajun Orchestra. The group's Not Lonesome Anymore album earned the Cajun French Music Association's Prix Dehors De Nous, which is Cajun music's version of the Grammy.

The accordionist can be heard on a number of recordings, among them those of Michael Doucet, D.L. Menard, and Canray Fontenot. His final release was titled Poullard, Poullard, and Garnier. The album features the accordion player with Edward Poullard, a brother who plays fiddle, and D'jamier Garnier, the guitarist from File. He also made appearances in a pair of movies by Les Blank, Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers and J'ai Ete au Bal. He passed away at the age of 63. The cause of death was a heart attack. Poullard suffered from heart trouble for many years and had undergone at least three bypass surgeries as well as a number of other procedures. Toward the end of his life, doctors were testing to find out if Poullard was a possible candidate for a heart transplant.