Merlin Fontenot (1923-2017) and Friends at the Liberty Theater, Nov. 26, 2011, other photos
Note: Merlin Fontenot died Jan. 10, 2017, at the age of 93. I have added some additional photos of him taken at various times to the set of shots from 2011.

Fiddler Merlin Fontenot, who is 88 years old, performed at the Liberty Theater Nov. 26, 2011, accompanied by Bubba Frey on fiddle and Claudia Wood on guitar.

A native of Eunice, Merlin Fontenot first began playing a homemade cigar box fiddle when he was about seven years old. Later, according to the profile in Ron Yule’s book “Louisiana Fiddlers,” he bought a Sears and Roebuck fiddle, and, as a teenager, played at house dances and then in dancehalls. He served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater during World War II. Following the war, he and his wife settled in Jacksonville, Fla. He played western swing and country music and in the late 1950s performed twice at the Grand Ole Opry. After he moved back to Eunice in 1971, he went on to play with many Cajun bands and to record with musicians like Nathan Abshire and Jo-El Sonnier. He recorded three albums with his father-in-law, accordionist Ambrose Thibodeaux, as well as a solo instrumental album titled “Fiddlin’ Cajun.” In 1996, he began performing at the Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park in Lafayette while continuing to play with various bands in the region.

Merlin Fontenot has been a mentor to Bubba Frey, and they, along with Claudia Wood, and other musicians used to perform at Bubba Frey’s Restaurant in Mowata. (The restaurant is now closed. The building that housed it has been moved a ways north on Highway 13, and soon Frey’s Mowata Store will be relocated there. The store is famous for its boudin and other specialty meats.) Wood, who did double duty as host of the Liberty Show, is a park ranger at the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, which is part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

During the Liberty set, the trio played “Orange Blossom Special,” “Faded Love,” “Listen to the Mockingbird,” “Over the Waves,” “Rose of San Antone,” and “Amazing Grace.” As an encore after receiving a standing ovation, they concluded with “The Family Bible.”

For a listing of Cajun and Zydeco bands and Mardi Gras photos included on these Flickr pages, go to www.cajunzydecophotos.com
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