Singer, guitarist, producer
OffBeat magazine has described Ann Savoy as "Cajun Music's Cultural Ambassador," and she has done much to live up to that title, compiling what many consider to be a definitive reference book on Cajun music, playing Cajun music in the major Hollywood film Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and producing a Grammy-nominated recording of Cajun music played and sung by well-known pop stars like Linda Ronstadt and John Fogerty. All of this is in addition to Savoy's extensive recording and live performance career as a Cajun music guitarist and singer with several different bands, including the Savoy-Doucet Band, the Magnolia Sisters, and the Savoy Family Band.
Ann Savoy (pronounced "Sah-vwah") was born Ann Allen on January 20, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, and she grew up in Richmond, Virginia, far from the Cajun culture that was to become her passion. She learned to speak French at the age of 13, when she and her family went to live for a year in the French-speaking Swiss Alps, and began playing the guitar at age 12. She majored in French in college, spending her junior year in Paris. Along the way, she developed a strong interest in photography—another calling that would later help her in her career as a Cajun music historian.
Although speaking French and playing music were two of her loves, Savoy didn't discover the joys of playing Cajun music until she met her future husband, Marc Savoy, at Washington, D.C.'s National Folk Festival in 1975. Marc Savoy was an accordion maker and player, and came from deep Cajun roots. He later taught Savoy the rudiments of Cajun guitar and singing, and she fell in love with the man and the music as well. Leslie Berman in Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine reported that Marc's first words to Savoy—in Cajun French—were, "You're so pretty like a little speckled turkey egg." And Savoy recalled to Dan Willging in OffBeat, "I fell in love with him instantly." Ann and Marc Savoy were married in 1976, and have been performing together ever since. Together with fiddler Michael Doucet they formed the Savoy-Doucet Band, touring the United States and recording many acclaimed albums, including Two-Step d'Amédé, Home Music with Spirits, and Live! At the Dance, all on the Arhoolie label.
Cajun music is a folk music form developed by descendants of French-speaking colonists in the bayous of Louisiana. The lively dance music features the accordion, fiddle, guitar, and lyrics in Cajun French as mainstays. It has remained popular in rural Louisiana and is played increasingly in dancehalls throughout the United States and in Europe. Interested not only in playing Cajun music, but in its history as well, Savoy wrote a book titled Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People. To complete the book, she conducted interviews with many of Cajun music's brightest stars. In addition to information obtained from interviews, the book features music and lyrics for Cajun songs, in both French and English, including phonetic pronunciations for English speakers, many historical photographs, and articles about Cajun music styles and instruments. The book was published in 1985 by Bluebird Press, and has remained a definitive source for learning about Cajun music.
In addition to playing with the Savoy-Doucet Band, Savoy has performed and recorded with the Magnolia Sisters, an all-female Cajun band. In addition to Savoy, the group features Jane Udrine, Tina Pilione, Lisa Trahan Reed, and Christine Balfa. The group's 2000 release, Chers Amis, was produced by Savoy.
In 2000 the Savoy-Doucent Band released Sam's Big Rooster, which featured both traditional and original songs. Besides the band's usual lineup, the album included Savoy and Marc's son Joel on fiddle. Joel Savoy also engineered the album. Sam's Big Rooster was well received by fans of Cajun music and critics alike, and was given OffBeat magazine's award for Best Cajun Album of 2000.
In 2002 Savoy made a brief appearance alongside her son Joel as a musician in the major Hollywood film Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which starred Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd. Savoy's music was also featured on the film's soundtrack. Continuing her work in the field of Cajun music scholarship, Savoy contributed a chapter to the book American Roots Music. Published in 2001, the book served as the companion volume to a series on the subject that was broadcast on the PBS network. Savoy appeared in the series, and was active in the show's production. She also contributed Cajun music-related photographs—some of which she had taken herself.
Documenting Cajun music through photographs had by this time become something of a passion for Savoy, and she had scoured the Louisiana countryside to find old photos, many of which were featured in the PBS series. She then made copies before they could be lost or destroyed. Speaking of the need to preserve the photos she collected, she explained to Willging that "some of the houses burned down with all the pictures in them shortly thereafter or the people died and their photo collections disappeared." Savoy's photo collection is now recognized as a valuable resource by other scholars of Cajun music and history.
Savoy served as producer for Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music, an album released by Vanguard Records in 2002. The album featured well-known singers such as Linda Ronstadt and John Fogerty performing Cajun music. At first intimidated by producing an album full of guest artists who did not know Cajun French, Savoy initially refused the project, but finally reconsidered, and plunged into the project with the same passion that has marked all of her efforts. The result was a resounding success, and the album received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album. The year 2002 also saw the release of The Best of the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, which included tracks covering the history of the band going back to 1981.
For the Record . . .
Born Ann Allen on January 20, 1952, in St. Louis, MO; married Marc Savoy (a Cajun accordion player and maker), 1976; children: Joel (a fiddle player and sound engineer), Sarah (a singer), Wilson (a singer and keyboardist). Education: Graduated from Mary Baldwin College, bachelor's degree in French.
Formed Savoy-Doucet Band with husband, Marc Savoy, and fiddler Michael Doucent, 1976; toured United States with the Savoy-Doucet Band and cut several albums, including Two-Step d'Amédé, Home Music with Spirits, and Live! At the Dance, all on the Arhoolie label, 1970s-2000s; author of Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People, 1985; formed band the Magnolia Sisters with several other female Cajun musicians, 1990s; released several albums with the Magnolia Sisters, 1990s-2000s; actor and music contributor in Columbia Pictures film Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, 2002; produced Grammy-nominated Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music, 2002; released The Best of the Savoy-Doucet Band, 2002; formed Savoy Family Band with husband and children, released The Savoy Family Band, 2003.
Awards: OffBeat magazine, Best Cajun Album of 2000 for Sam's Big Rooster, 2001; Best Cajun Album of 2002 for Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music, 2003.
Addresses: Record company— Arhoolie Productions, Inc., 10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, CA 94530, website: http://www.arhoolie.com. Agent— The Rose bud Agency, P.O. Box 170429, San Francisco, CA 94117.
In 2003 Savoy and her family marked a new direction in their musical careers by releasing an album as the Savoy Family Band. The self-titled debut featured performances by Savoy, Marc, and Joel, and children Sarah and Wilson as well. In addition to new studio tracks, the album featured live performances of several songs, including "Sam's Big Rooster."
Savoy has continued to play music and record with her various bands, and especially with her own family in the Savoy Family Band. Besides playing in concerts throughout North America and Europe, the family plays together at home and at semi-public, once-a-week jam sessions at Marc's music shop, the Savoy Music Center.
With the Savoy Family Band
The Savoy Family Band Cajun Album, Arhoolie, 2003.
With the Savoy-Doucet Band
Home Music, Arhoolie, 1983.
With Spirits, Arhoolie, 1987.
Two-Step d'Amede, Arhoolie, 1989.
Live! At the Dance, Arhoolie, 1994.
Sam's Big Rooster, Arhoolie, 2000.
The Best of the Savoy-Doucet Band, Arhoolie, 2002.
With the Magnolia Sisters
Prends Courage, Arhoolie, 1995.
Chers Amis, Rounder, 2000.
Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music, Vanguard, 2002.
American Roots Music (contributor), Abrams, 2001.
Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People, Bluebird, 1985.
Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), March 29, 2002, p. 8.
OffBeat: New Orleans' and Louisiana's Music Magazine, April 2002.
Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine, Fall 2003.
"Ann Savoy," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 29, 2004).
"Contemporary Louisiana Cajon, Creole and Zydeco Musicians: Marc and Ann Savoy," Louisiana State University at Eunice, http://www.lsue.edu/acadgate/music/savoy.htm (January 29, 2004).
"Savoy, Marc and Ann Allen," Encyclopedia of Cajun Culture, http://www.cajunculture.com/People/savoymarc.htm (January 29, 2004).
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