Major Handy is a true “musician’s musician” in the world of zydeco. A 2010 article in Living Blues magazine spotlighted the Lafayette / St. Martinville, Louisiana native and the many contributions he’s made to music during his 40 year career, detailing the time Otis Redding asked a 15 year old Major to play in his band and the 12 years he spent with Rockin’ Dopsie. On top of his lifetime dedication to music, the multi-instrumentalist has worked owned his own auto body shop, worked as a deputy sheriff and spent a chunk of time in northern Canada as a band leader and cooking show host.
In the article, Major gives a full account of his childhood and path to becoming a musician, like the time he bought his first guitar for $25 from a guy down the street:
I never stopped playing it. It was big – huge, for me. I just got to playing it. and people started talking. My cousin had an old guitar and [another guy] had a saxophone. and we used to go out under the tree and practice. We were always practicing and singing. There was another little guy down the street. He was going to be a singer. We used to play for little house parties, and everybody was so amazed.
Following a tour overseas during the Vietnam War, Handy came home to start his own band with some neighborhood kids.
[Their father] had a little shop in the back of his house set up with equipment. We rehearsed for 12 months. A whole year without playing anywhere. They were good, and we started playing gigs everywhere. We were called Major Handy and the Liquid Fire. We played the Sylistics, that kind of thing. The Chi Lites, all the little harmonies, even Chaka Khan.
Then when we weren’t doing much, Rockin’ Dopsie, he came to me one day and he asked me to play guitar in his band. My wife and his wife were cousins. I was happy to go with him. That was about 1975.
His wife, as you’ll see in the video below, is an ebullient rubboard player and accompanies Major whenever possible. It’s clear the two have fun performing together and that Major Handy truly loves what he does.
I have pride in everything I do. I don’t give a shit what people think. I’m just going to be good as I am. Whatever that is. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I know I’m doing the best I can. Every time I hit the stage, I’m going to give it my all.
Watch Major and his wife Frances play “Down On the Bayou” below, filmed by Robert Mugge for Zydeco Crossroads in October. Read the full Living Blues article here.