A brief history…
D.L. (Doris Leon) Menard, a carpenter by trade, was born on April 14, 1932, in Erath, LA.On stage and off, he is an old-fashioned teller of tall tales. When asked what D.L. stands for, he replies, “Darn Lucky.”
D.L.’s earliest inspiration was furnished by his father, who played harmonica, and an uncle who played in a Cajun band. Attending a rehearsal by the group, D.L. became enchanted by his uncle’s guitar playing. Convincing his uncle to teach him a few rudimentary chords, he took to the instrument quickly.
D.L. first started out playing with Elias Badeaux’s band, the Louisiana Aces, but in 1952, he took over the band’s leadership. In 1962, he recorded the modern Cajun classic “La Porte d’En Arrière (The Back Door),” which he based on Hank Williams, Sr.’s “Honky Tonk Blues,” which sold more than 500,000 copies. Because of Williams’ obvious influence, D.L. is nicknamed “the Cajun Hank Williams.”
In 1994, D.L. Menard received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In 2011, D.L.’s Happy Go Lucky CD was nominated for Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Albumat the 2010 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Sadly, Mr. D.L. passed away July 27, 2017. He was 85.
Paul Harris, Juke Blues, Issue #71
Happy Go Lucky SW 6219
This is more like it! Pure Cajun music throughout with all songs written by Doris Leon Menard, the man with the nasal Cajun voice and the excellent rhythm guitar skills. He is accompanied by top musicians including Sonny Landreth guesting on slide guitar on two numbers.
Where do I start? There are no tracks that stand out because they are all outstanding. There are five wonderful Cajun waltzes taken at various speeds. “C’est la place que je vas rester” is about arrival in Paradise; “Il etait comme un frere” is a heartrending story about a friend killed in an accident; “Un mauvaise barguine” tells of a wife leaving for another man, then realizing it was a mistake but being too ashamed to return home and ‘”Une Bamboche” tells of a drunk who cannot even remember where he lives. Best of all is the contemplative “Les portraits sur le plafonage.”
The seven remaining tracks similarly cover tales of life and death in Cajun communities and are all of high quality. “Les herbes parait plus vert” warns that the grass is not always greener on the other side while the while the closing “La vie d’un vieux garcon” tells the story of a happy bachelor. This Is followed by a short interview with D.L.
Age is no barrier for Monsieur Menard as he continues to produce uplifting and outstanding performances He has long been my favorite Cajun artist and this superb album fully justifies my choice.
Dale “LeBlanc” Johnson, KMVR
Happy Go Lucky SW 6219
D.L. Menard has been a “legend in his own time” for many years now. This new release is performed by the 78-year-old “Cajun Hank Williams” with members of Terry Huval’s “Jambalaya Cajun Band.” Also joining in are Sonny Landreth (electric slide guitar), Beau Thomas (fiddle), and Al Berard (fiddle and guitar). As always he writes all of his own songs. This winner of the National Heritage Foundation Award in 1994 is a songwriter’s songwriter, who has had a lot of life to tell stories about.
This CD will grow on you if you read the English lyric translations and are able to understand his stories sung in Cajun French. Good examples of this are “Crazy People of the Country,” “It’s the Place I’m Going to Stay” (about not just going to Heaven but ‘staying’ there) and “The Pictures on the Wall” (most likely about the ones his deceased wife placed there). The pretty song “The Light in the Graveyard” is about a rare spiritual experience. In “The Town of Erath” (the place where he has always lived and had his chair factory) he tells about a small town of very friendly Cajuns. The closer, and source of the album’s title, reflects his early carefree “A Bachelor’s Life.”
Dennis Rozanski, The BluesRag
Happy Go Lucky SW 6219
From the pointed tips of his cowboy boots and curved shoulders of his acoustic guitar up to that warble emanating from his throat, the great D.L. Menard owns up to every inch of his given title as the “Cajun Hank Williams.” Even simply based on 1962’s anthem, “The Back Door,” alone, his place would be cemented in Acadian legend. And in American roots history too (validated by the National Heritage Foundation Award sitting on his mantle). At 78, he’s yet to hang up that patented voice, still crooning, cawing, and crowning out nasal French like it’s those dancehall days all over. And he remains a songwriting machine, recently scrawling down these 12 tales teetering from Saturday night frolics to stone-cold mortality. The circle of homegrown musicians gravitating around him imparts a prevailing melodic grace toHappy Go Lucky, even when stoking up a honky-tonk hop. So while “The Little Cajun Musician” kicks up its heels with a slide duel between Terry Huval’s steel and Sonny Landreth’s electric guitar, “It’s the Place I’m Going to Stay” prefers a gently winding waltz. Menard even breaks out comedic shtick on “A Bachelor’s Life” finale.