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Buffalo fans will cherish memories of Buckwheat Zydeco

Tavern lights should dim for an hour in tribute to the great Buckwheat Zydeco, who died Sept. 24. Zydeco, whose real name was Stanley Dural Jr, was only 68. It ain't right.

The accordion kingpin, who died in his hometown of Lafayette, La., was here a lot, especially back when blues was big. He was a regular at the Lafayette Tap Room, where he would mingle with the rowdy crowd. The big question always was, what would he play as an encore. It was always one of two numbers. One, my preference, was the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden." Jeff Miers, The News' pop critic, had a special admiration for the other one, Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe."

"It was awesome," Miers said of that rendition. "He really made Hendrix sound zydeco."

Buckwheat was also a big draw at Lafayette Square when the Thursday concerts were held there.

"Now, people might say, Buckwheat, you're a greedy man. But I know what I like," he told the huge audience at the square on one such occasion. "And I like what's going on right here in Buffalo."

Buckwheat's friendship with Buffalo continued until the end of his life. He had an appearance planned for Sept. 14 at the Buffalo Iron Works. The concert was canceled a couple of weeks beforehand.

It turned out that he was suffering from lung cancer. News outlets reported that it wasn't his first health issue, and that was kind of a shock. Buckwheat always looked hale and hearty. One memory especially lingers. One distant springtime, Buffalo was trying its darnedest to celebrate Mardi Gras, even though it was freezing.  Buckwheat was in town. You had to love him, for spending Mardi Gras here, and not in New Orleans. He was playing the barely insulated patio of D'Arcy McGee's. The band wore down coats. The trumpet player threw a blanket over his trumpet. Only Buckwheat was running around in his shirtsleeves, happily warbling "Walkin' To New Orleans."

"This is like the weather in Louisiana," he declared. "I don't want to walk to New Orleans. I'd rather stay right here in Buffalo, N.Y."

Aw, Buckwheat. You don't know what we'd give for one more encore, whether "Beast of Burden" or "Hey Joe."

We just know you'll be in that number, when the saints go marching in.


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