Harrison Fontenot

HARRISON FONTENOT approached me in the early 60’s to record his Cajun songs and novelty record ideas. He was jamming with his Cajun musician buddies playing his Hohner accordion until he met Cajun music legend and accordion player, Sidney Brown. Sidney was building Cajun replicas of the old Sterling and Monarch German-made accordions that were imported before WWII. Harrison was eager to learn from Sidney and build his own accordion, which he did. He worked as a crop dusting pilot for several years until a stroke prohibited him from flying planes, which he loved dearly and was his living. He could fly crop dusters only a few months of the year and earn enough to enjoy his hobby of building things in his workshop and playing Cajun music with friends and family the rest of the year.  One of his close friends was Clint West, legendary Swamp Pop singer/drummer (who began his music career as a drummer for the Vidrine Playboys, a local Cajun band).  He and Clint persuaded me to record the CAJUN TRIO (Clint-drums, Harrison-accordion, Allen West-guitar).  Their first hit record was a Cajun version of “The Twist”(1962).  Cajun radio DJs played it, the jukebox operators bought copies for their jukeboxes, a fan base bought records, and a recording career was born.  He was like a Cajun version of the legendary country music singer/songwriter Mel Tillis…he stuttered when he spoke but not when he would sing.  Both used stuttering to their advantage. Many times he would phone to pitch an idea for a new record but would stutter so much that he had a hard time getting his message across, so I would have to tell him to SING what he wanted to SAY, and then everything was OK.  We became good friends and besides making records, we shared a lot of laughs over the years.  I once had the idea of calling Mel Tillis when he had a theater, in Branson (MO), to try and convince him that a Cajun singer who plays an accordion and stutters (like he did) would have possibly made a great variety act for his show…especially if both of them were on stage trying to speaking to each other.

Some of the Harrison’s tunes would bring a tear to your eye, but most brought you a smile and laughter. You would have loved to have heard and seen him perform in person! ~ Floyd Soileau, founder/owner Swallow Records

Harrison passed away January 21, 2011.