Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, only a few men held enough water to influence the sounds of soul music on a commercial scale in Houston. The men that could put your record in the Billboard charts or put your musical career in the ground, the gate keepers so to speak of the Bayou City.
There was Don Robey, owner of the illustrious Duke-Peacock-Backbeat family of labels. He recorded everyone from Bobby Bland and Junior Parker to OV Wright and Carl Carlton. He built a small empire from his office over on 2809 Erastus Street (The building which still stands today as the Charity Baptist Church) including the legendary nightclub the Bronze Peacock.
Skipper Lee Frazier split his time as a radio DJ on KCOH 1430AM (he still broadcasts today on KWWJ 1360AM) and as owner of his Ovide Records imprint. The 1968 release of Archie Bell and the Drells “Tighten Up” firmly cemented Lee’s stature amongst the heavyweights of Texas record label men. But even if it didn’t, having other acts like the TSU Toronadoes and Masters of Soul on his roster certainly did.
But neither Robey nor Lee had the influence on the scale that Huey Meaux had.
Huey Meaux, moved from Louisiana to the minuscule East Texas town of Winnie as a child. As an adult, Meaux learned to cut hair and not long afterward opened up his own barber shop. From then, a short series of events led to a career as a radio DJ where around 1948 with his thick Cajun drawl he quickly earned the nom de plume the Crazy Cajun. An alias he would continue to be known as throughout his career. Naturally as most radio deejays did in the post war radio era, he started his own record label. But quite unnaturally for most label owners, Meaux went on and produced nothing short of a litany of different labels and hits.
Meaux moved his operation over to Houston early on, figuring it was the place to be for a man in his line of work. It was in Houston where the production powerhouse kicked into high gear, laying anything and everything to tape imaginable. From the country pop works of Freddy Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” to early garage rock masters like Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About a Mover” to Beaumont’s finest soulstress , Barbara Lynn’s “You’ll Lose a Good Thing.” Meaux produced and released more records in Houston than any other person and or label could ever possibly contemplate and more often than not, quietly had a hand in other label’s workings to boot. The Crazy Cajun himself was the one that arranged for Archie Bell and the Drells “Tighten Up” to find its way on to Atlantic Records.
One of his more famous contributions to Houston’s musical history, Meaux bought out International Artists Recording Studio in the early 1970s and rechristened it SugarHill Studios. You can read more about that in Roger Wood and Andy Bradley’s fantastic book House of Hits. But for all the different avenues of music he oversaw, the one that remained a fixture was his continual work in radio.
Thanks to the marvel that is Youtube, some kind soul has uploaded a video of Huey Meaux doing his final Crazy Cajun show on Houston’s KPFT in 1974. This occurred right before Meaux saw the pinnacle of his success with Fender’s “Before the Next teardrop Falls.” What you get to see here in nothing short of a history lesson in how it’s done down in Htown.
The future however wasn’t to be so kind to Meaux. He went on to find trouble with the law in the latter half of the 1990s and ended up spending a number of years on the wrong side of a prison wall along with the same inmates who’s letters he’d read on the air during his radio show.
4 responses to “How a Crazy Cajun Shaped Houston’s Musical Landscape”
That Huey video is absolute bonkers!
It gets to a point where you have to wonder what language he’s speaking.
Pingback: When Tejano Found Its Soul Power « Bayou City Soul
Pingback: RIP Huey Meaux the Crazy Cajun | Bayou City Soul