Lesa Cormier

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Cajun musician Lesa Cormier took up the accordion at the age of six at the knee of his father, accordionist Lionel Cormier (a founding member of the Sundown Playboys, a dance band that came out of southern…
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Cajun musician Lesa Cormier took up the accordion at the age of six at the knee of his father, accordionist Lionel Cormier (a founding member of the Sundown Playboys, a dance band that came out of southern Louisiana in 1947).

The younger Cormier's heart pulled him more toward the guitar, however, and the entrepreneurial youth began to sell seeds in an effort to scrape together enough money to buy one of the instruments. When he was a teenager, his dad's band was looking for a drummer to a fill a spot in its lineup. With only a week's worth of practice on what was for him a new instrument, he became proficient enough to earn a spot with the Sundown Playboys. Today he remains the only original bandmember, serving as manager, a job he stepped into after his father's death from a heart attack in the summer of 1971.

The music of Cormier and his Sundown Playboys received a bit of international recognition during the early '70s. London's Apple Records released the band's "Saturday Night Special" after listening to a copy submitted by the group's then-teenaged accordion player, Pat Savant. The single was backed by "La Valse de Soleil Couche." Although the song made it into the 1988 film Sister, Sister, little airplay resulted back home in the U.S. In later years, the band's lineup included Cormier's grandson, bassist Brian Cormier, steel guitarist Larry Miller, fiddler Frances Andrepont, and accordionist Milford Simon. In addition to his drum playing, the elder Cormier also contributed vocals.

Born in Lafayette, LA, Lesa Cormier grew up in the smaller town of Elton and later settled in Lake Charles. As well as singing and playing the drums, he also writes songs. Among his compositions are "Waltz of My Heart" and "Louisiana Gumbo." His drum playing can be heard on such other Sundown Playboys' songs as "La Valse a Rosie Mae," "Mermentau Special," "Last Year's Waltz," "Riceville Special," "Cajun Cucaracha," "Don't Stop the Music," "Sundown Playboy Special," "La Valse a Gabriel," "Poche Town Special," "Big Boy Bounce," "Lonesome Waltz," "Cypress Inn Special," "Black Bayou Special," "You're the Only One for Me," and "Chère Bassette," among many others.

The drummer and his wife, Hazel Mott Cormier, raised a daughter and three sons, all of whom are musicians who have performed with the Sundown Playboys. Cormier and his dance band have played numerous festivals, among them Chicago's Folk Music Festival, Festival Acadienne, and the Calcasieu Cajun Festival. They also performed in 1984 at the World's Fair in Louisiana.