Swamp Pop

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Swamp pop music combines New Orleans-style rhythm and blues, country and western, and Cajun and black Creole music. It hails from the Acadiana region of south Louisiana, as well as from the section of southeast Texas inhabited by many Cajuns and black Creoles, and originated around 1955 during the rapid Americanization of south Louisiana’s historically French-speaking parishes. Although many swamp pop musicians played Cajun and black Creole music as children, they generally regarded the music of their parents and grandparents as outmoded by the time they became teenagers during the 1950s. The swamp pop sound is typified by highly emotional, lovelorn lyrics, tripleting honky-tonk pianos, undulating bass lines, bellowing horn sections and a strong rhythm and blues backbeat.

Unlike the New Orleans R&B popularized by Fats Domino, swamp pop drew heavily on Anglo-Protestant country and western music, introduced to the French-speaking parishes by Texas oil field workers and distant high-powered radio stations, such as WSM in Nashville or, closer to home, KWKH in Shreveport. Among the era’s country and western artists, Hank Williams Sr. exerted the most notable influence on the swamp pop sound.

By the mid-1960s several swamp pop songs had appeared on national U.S. record charts, including Rod Bernard’s “This Should Go on Forever,” Phil Phillips’s “Sea of Love,” Joe Barry’s “I’m a Fool to Care,” and Dale & Grace’s “I’m Leaving It up to You,” among others. Like 1950s rock ‘n’ roll in general, swamp pop suffered a dramatic decline in popularity with the British invasion of 1964, although it did directly influence successful mainstream rock performers into the 1960s and 1970s such as Doug Kershaw, Charlie Daniels, Little Feat, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tony Joe White.

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