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Benham Jones: Zydeco Grooves

Benham Jones and his ConcertTB ... Apron? (photo courtesy of the author)

Benham Jones and his ConcertTB ... Apron? (photo courtesy of the author)

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Are your band T-shirts a part of your pandemic work/weekend/constant wardrobe? In our "Concert TBTee" series every Thursday, we're asking the FUV airstaff to dig through their closets for the concert and band T-shirts that mean the most to them and why. Benham Jones, who hosts FUV's Sunday night music mix from 9-11 p.m., takes his wardrobe a step further with a zydeco apron.

Not too many concert tees in my repertoire (let's just say I'm thrifty), but this classic zydeco BBQ bib hangs in my parents' pantry and holds an extra-special place in my heart. (Zoom in for the vintage autograph in the upper left corner!)

Every summer my folks would make the annual trek to Stepping Stone Ranch in Escoheag, Rhode Island for the Cajun & Bluegrass Fest (now known as Rhythm & Roots), a laid-back weekend of music, food, and culture. My earliest memories of Escoheag are culinary ones; even before my sister and I could talk, we knew we loved BBQ and gumbo, washed down with a sassafras root beer or iced tea.

The music was harder for me to understand though; this was the mid-'90s, I was a pre-teen, and alternative/modern rock radio dominated my moody brain space. The joyful affectation of zydeco seemed so corny — too bright and bawdy to take seriously, and at times even leaning towards (gasp!) country music.

That changed for me in 1995 though when I was about 10 years old and afforded more freedom to roam the festival grounds. I found myself hypnotized by Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas. This was the first time I truly communed with dance music of any kind; out of sight from my parents, I quickly fell in line, following Nathan Williams' manic instructions on the two-step or the alligator stomp.

This was the moment I learned to unlock my whole body and lose myself to music — a little touchdown with the divine that I have been pursuing ever since.