Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Roots rocker C.C. Adcock may operate in that musical space where rock meets the blues, but his albums shout the praises of the unmistakable sounds of his native Louisiana. The singer-songwriter, known for his "freight train drive," tailored suits, and reptile skin boots, represents the continuance of a rich regional tradition that has spawned musical legacies such as Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco. Having played with many of the foundational figures of modern Louisiana music, Adcock has used the musical patterns of Southwest Louisiana as a launching pad to further innovation and experimentation.
Adcock was born Charles Clinton Adcock in the early 1970s and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana. In addition to the pop and rock sounds coming in from other parts of the country, he was exposed from an early age to the blues and to a regional music—Cajun, Creole, Zydeco, and a newer strain called "swamp-rock"—that still thrived in Southern Louisiana. At age 14 he was playing guitar and performing with the teen group "Boogie Chillun'." On the nights when he wasn't performing, he acted as a disc jockey, playing 1980s new wave records at high school dances. Late in the night he would often move on to the region's zydeco or blues clubs, where he was was able to see legends like John Lee Hooker and Stevie Ray Vaughan. "Adcock is a collector of rhythms. He grew up in the Springsteen years on Cajun strings and the rippling currents of zydeco, which was breaking nationally as Adcock headed out of high school," wrote Jason Berry in New Orleans Magazine.
Adcock left high school and headed to Hollywood, California, where the musical scene wasn't entirely to his liking ("It was full-on glam metal, which I hated—couldn't stand it"). The guitarist's Louisiana upbringing and sound opened doors for him, allowing him to play with established roots musicians such as Bo Diddley and Buckwheat Zydeco (with whom he toured as a guitar player for more than a year). But his situation as a Louisiana expatriate led him to reconsider his move to California. As a songwriter who wanted to record and perform his own music, he quickly realized that he wanted to write songs about life in the South. Adcock decided he might as well move back to Louisiana and start working on fulfilling his desire to collaborate with artists back home.
"The greatest thing about living down here is that you can still go and knock on the door and hang out with all your heroes, and you can even start bands and play with 'em," Adcock said in a Yep Roc label press release. "I have been able to hang out with cats who played with Howlin' Wolf and Clifton Chenier and lots of first and second generation real-deal cats whose blues turned into rock 'n' roll. To me, it's just amazing, in this day and age, to be this close to it all and to still be able to make that connection."
While some musicians might defend adhering more closely to musical tradition, Adcock has said he feels he has "the duty—to redefine and reinvent rather than just replicating what they've already done … you let all the styles rub off on you." Some of those influential musicians included Diddley, Vaughan, Excello Recordings' artists Slim Harpo and Lightnin' Slim, and guitarist Paul 'Little Buck' Senegal. Adcock told Guitar Player that Senegal "pretty much invented rhythm guitar for zydeco, and as a soloist, man, there's nobody bad like Buckaroo!."
More than just a fusion of traditional Cajun and rock music, Adcock's sound is a hodgepodge of roots music influences, which he disassembles and reconstructs as something all his own. "Adcock's influences run the gamut, including Creole, Cajun rockabilly and zydeco," described a reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Despite returning to Lafayette to start work on some demo recordings of his own compositions, Adcock reaped unexpected benefits from his California sojourn. He met British producer Tarka Cordell in Hollywood, and Cordell befriended Adcock, passing on some of Adcock's demos to his father, Denny Cordell, who was A&R (artist & repertoire) head at Island Records. Island quickly signed Adcock, also drafting the talents of swamp pop pioneers like Warren Storm and Tommy McLain. The resulting album, C.C. Adcock, was recorded primarily between Los Angeles studios and Lafayette, and was released in 1994, when Adcock was 23 years old.
"Adcock's self-titled Island debut delivers a heady brew of swamp riffs wrapped in slapback echo, slippery tremolo, and other exotic sounds," wrote Guitar Player. In addition to original compositions, the artist's mix of rock, R&B, and traditional Louisiana sounds lent itself to covers of hits by Arthur Alexander, Gene Terry, and Art Neville.
Upon the death of Denny Cordell, Island Records let Adcock go without recording a follow-up album. His second chance came with veteran composer and producer Jack Nitzsche, who reportedly heard Adcock's album at a party and decided they had to work together. The two musicians became friends and traveled to Mexico, where they recorded some new songs. Nitzsche died in 2000, but not without leaving his mark on the younger musician.
According to Adcock, Nitzsche was the person who helped him recognize a direct correlation between roots and pop music. He told the Lafayette, Louisiana, Advertiser that "as long as something is infectious and popular," the gap between disparate musical styles can be bridged, in order to "make something that sounds strangely new again out of the roots you grew up listening to." He added, "You can carry on in the traditions of your home and still be current and modern—you can actually use the traditions to invent new things."
For the Record . . .
Born Charles Clinton Adcock c. 1971, in Lafayette, LA.
First performed with teen group Boogie Chillun', mid-1980s; played as backup performer for Bo Diddly and Buckwheat Zydeco; released C.C. Adcock, 1994; formed group Lil' Band O' Gold, c. 2000; released Lafayette Marquis, 2004.
Addresses: Record company—Yep Roc Records, P.O. Box 4821, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-4821, website: http://www.yeproc.com.
After Nitzsche's death Adcock embarked on an ambitious musical project, that of joining three generations of top Gulf Coast musicians into one live band, to play in the region's honky tonks and other live venues. The result, Lil' Band O' Gold, was a Cajun-influenced blues-rock band that captured the swamp pop sound of the 1950s-1970s. The endeavor brought older artists like swamp pop veteran Warren Storm together with younger musicians like Steve Riley of the Mamou Playboys. Other members included Pat Breaux, Dickie Landry, and David Greely. Adcock is also credited with bringing Little Buck Senegal back into the limelight with a band called Cowboy Stew.
The songs recorded with Nitzsche became the basis for a new album. Culling from the musical influences and studio recordings of the last decade, Adcock began to mix together work in different formats and from various sessions. In some cases, he took Nitzsche's vocals or guitar work and put it over sound from Adcock's earlier cassette demos, later integrating other studio recordings. The result was Lafayette Marquis, released in 2004. The album "heralds the arrival of a major talent," wrote the Advertiser.
C.C. Adcock, Island, 1994.
Lafayette Marquis, Yep Roc, 2004.
Advertiser (Lafayette, LA), November 5, 2004.
Chicago Sun-Times, October 17, 2004.
Guitar Player, September 1994.
New Orleans Magazine, April 2001.
Philadelphia Enquirer, October 17, 2004.
"C.C. Adcock," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (November 6, 2004).
"C.C. Adcock," Yep Roc Records, http://www.yeproc.com/artist_info.php?artistId=371 (November 3, 2004).
—Brett Allan King
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