Cajoun-Creole band member dies at age 63

By Suzy Thompson Special to the Daily Planet
Tuesday May 01, 2001

The great Cajun-Creole accordion player Danny Poullard died Friday morning of a massive heart attack while in his back yard. He was 63 years old. 

After nearly two decades of playing music with Danny in the California Cajun Orchestra, I have remained fascinated by the way he ornamented Cajun tunes. He was a master at taking the simple and embroidering it in a completely natural sounding way – and now that I think of it, Danny's way of embellishing the tunes was exactly like Danny himself: stylish, but not flashy, elegant, full of power and grace. 

Danny Poullard was born on January 10, 1937 near Eunice, La., where he grew up. His father, John Poullard, played the diatonic accordion and two uncles played regularly for dances in the area. In the early 1960s, Danny moved to the San Francisco area where he began playing with Cajun accordionist John Simeon. After John Simeon’s death, Danny became the leader of the Louisiana Playboys, performing at church dances in the local Creole communities. In 1982 he joined with Eric and Suzy Thompson to form the California Cajun Orchestra. 

Influenced heavily by the playing of Amade Ardoin, Nathan Abshire, Lawrence Walker and Aldus Roger, Danny developed an instantly recognizable accordion style. A virtuoso in speed and groove, Danny also had a uniquely elegant style of ornamentation. He was a mentor and teacher to many accordion players from all over the United States. He also was the major force in creating the thriving Bay Area Cajun-zydeco scene; virtually every diatonic Cajun accordion player here learned to play from Danny Poullard. 

Danny’s recordings include two CDs with the California Cajun Orchestra (both of which won national awards) and a cassette with fiddler Michael Doucet and guitarist Alan Senauke, all on the Arhoolie label.  

Danny was incredibly generous with his music and I know that all of us feel grateful to have experienced that generosity. I can't begin to express how much I will miss hearing him play the accordion. 

There will be a celebration of the life and music of Danny Poullard (1937-2001) with the California Cajun Orchestra and many special guests Saturday, May 5 at the Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center at 1317 San Pablo Av. with a dance lesson at 8:30 p.m. and live music at 9:30 p.m. Call  

848-5018 for information. 

Suzy Thompson is a member of the California Cajun Orchestra