SMITHSONIAN ACQUIRES FROTTOIR !
Background and Story by Mister Mojo:
An exclusive new story connects our National Museum (The Smithsonian) with True, Original Acadiana Culture, Heritage, and Music! The Smithsonian has acquired two hand-made American musical instruments called the FROTTOIR (rubboard) unique to Southwest Louisiana music from Tee Don Landry, son of the Frottoirs first maker!!! These instruments are housed in the National Museum of American History.
"Tee Don and I have been talking about documenting the story of the Frottoir since the 1980s. You see, Tee Don's daddy, Mister Willie Landry, was the man Mister Clifton Chenier always spoke of when he told the story of drawing the Frottoir in the dirt for the man at the refinery to make. Obviously, Mister Willie had no idea that Mister Clifton would become the "King of Zydeco". The story just remained a quiet, respected source of family pride for the Landry family with a connection to the Cheniers for more than fifty years."
When Tee Don made a couple of Rubboards for Mister Billy Gibbons of Z Z Top, Mister Billy made the observation that the Zydeco Frottoir is just about the only musical instrument invented in America. Then we figured it was time to contact America's museum, the Smithsonian, to preserve the history. And it seems Mister Billy was right.
"We invested almost two years communicating with the Smithsonian, adding documentation, and such. Tee Don even reconnected with an almost 90-year-old cousin still in Port Arthur who was there in '46, worked with Mister Willie, and remembered the whole thing. He even remembered the machine Mister Willie bent the metal on. And considering Tee Don's mama is about to make 80, we are very thankful we succeeded while she could enjoy it too."
The Frottoir- A True, Original American Musical Instrument
A Cajun Father to Son Legacy.
Texaco Refinery worker Willie Landry was working as a master welder/ metal fabricator in Port Arthur, Texas during 1946. There he met two fellow Louisianans by the name of Clifton Chenier and his brother Cleveland. Little did Willie Landry know that one day Clifton would be acclaimed the "King" of Zydeco music. In those early days, brother Cleveland rhythmically strummed his old time, hand held, washboard with "bottle openers". Cleveland played the rubboard to support Clifton's unique brand of emerging Zydeco music. The wood frame washboard was supported on Cleveland's neck by a rope.
One day Clifton approached Mr. Willie with a design for a musical rubboard, the "Frottoir" as it is known in our Cajun language. Mr. Clifton sketched the new design in the dirt, and asked "can you make one like that?". Mr. Willie replied, "I can make anything you want!".
The first Frottoir to be used strictly as a musical instrument was born from that historical, chance encounter between a now famous, Creole musician and a Cajun metal craftsman . The story of this historic musical invention remained a quiet, respectfully-held source of family pride for the Landry family with a connection to the Cheniers for more than fifty years.
And now, the time had come to historically record this event; Tee Don and his mother, Ms. Myrtis Landry, and C.J. Chenier (Mr. Clifton's son) are the sole surviving keepers of this story.
To this day, Tee Don continues the valued tradition first established by his father in 1946. All Tee Don's Rubboards are still shaped and finished by hand.
Tee Don is from Lafayette, LA. He was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1957. His mother and father moved back to Lafayette when he was only three years old. He is a local musician who has performed around the world, deeply rooted in both Zydeco and Cajun music. His heritage and strong commitment to preserving a very unique musical instrument results in the high quality production of Rubboards.
Today's stainless steel, musical rubboards are in demand around the world. For example, the modern frottoirs made by Tee Don Landry are used by many leading Zydeco band members and celebrities including "Billy F Gibbons" of ZZ Top, "Buckwheat Zydeco", "C.J. Chenier", "Chubby Carrier", "Zydeco Joe", Cyril Neville of the famous "Neville Brothers", David Peters drummer for "Louisiana Laroux" and currently with "Gatemouth Brown", Richard Innes drummer for "The Fabulous Thunderbirds", Dan Tomlinson drummer for "Lyle Lovette", "Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies", Earl Sally, the rubboard man for Chubby Carrier, "Boo Zoo Chavis", Caveman, the rubboard man for "Geno Delafose", Kid Rock, Harry Connick Jr, just to name a few.
The FROTTOIR- a piece of American Music History.
Or you may contact the Smithsonian Manager we worked with.
L. Stephen Velasquez
Museum Specialist/Collections Manager
Division of Cultural History, MRC 616
National Museum of American History
Washington, DC 20560-0616