BOB Profile: Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers

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Zydeco is in Dwayne Dopsie’s blood.

The youngest of eight kids born to Alton Joseph Rubin Sr., aka Rockin’ Dopsie, the self-proclaimed “Crown Prince of Zydeco.”

Dopsie Sr. found fame in Europe and, later, in the United States. When he unexpectedly died in 1993, son David – Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. – picked up the torch, fronting his dad’s Zydeco Twisters.

Several of Dopsie Sr.’s offspring learned at dad’s knee, including his youngest, Dwayne.

“This is my calling – zydeco music is in my blood and it is my heart and soul,” he said.

At age 6, Dwayne got his start on the washboard. The following year, he advanced to a smaller, lighter accordion; a cast-off his dad rarely played. His first official gig was that Mardi Gras. The 7-year-old took centerstage, his accordion resting on the edge of its case so he could hold it, and hammered out “Lucille” at the Underpass in downtown Lafayette. The Zydeco Twisters backed him.

“After the song, dad threw a couple of dollars in the case, which caused a chain reaction,” Dwayne said. By night’s end, Dwayne had netted $50 and a roomful of fans.

Dwayne advanced to TV two years later, playing washboard with dad’s band during an appearance on Dolly Parton’s TV show. At age 10, he and brother David performed with dad and the band during a Super Bowl halftime show, as well as on a TV commercial for Louisiana Community Coffee.

“I was too young to go in bars, so we were limited to performing at non-club gigs,” Dwayne recalled.

Everything changed when Rockin’ Dopsie died.

Dwayne was a freshman in high school. His focus shifted from school to music and, by senior year, he’d traded book learning for writing and performing Zydeco music.

In 1999, he formed the Zydeco Hellraisers, a high-energy traditional-meets-rock/blues/R&B/funk/regga/pop Zydeco band. The Hellraisers are Paul Lefleur, washboard; Kevin Minor, drums; Dion Pierre, bass guitar; Klpori Woods, guitar; and Reggie Smith Jr., saxophone.

In a nod to his dad, his musical hero, Dwayne plays Rockin’ Dopsie’s pearl red accordion. The instrument has 80 basses and 37 treble buttons. Those lucky enough to have seen Alton Sr. play will recall the self-taught player wore his accordion upside down.

But it’s a black model emblazoned with the word “MERCY” that catches the most attention.

“It has ‘MERCY’ down the front because when people hear me play, they say exactly that: ‘Mercy!’”

The band was named Best of the Beat 2012 Best Zydeco Artist and its fifth studio album, “Been Good to You,” the Best Zydeco Album. Dwayne is also the winner of the 1999 “America’s Hottest Accordion,” beating out 3,000 competitors. And the band is generating fans worldwide, touring the U.S., Europe and Canada regularly.

The Toledo City Paper said it best when it comes to describing Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers. “Dwayne takes the instruments and traditions of zydeco to new levels, infusing blues, soul and funk with a driving rub-board rhythm. The Zydeco Hellraisers’ sound is relentless, pulsating and funky, easily appealing to fans of all genres.”

Dwayne and the band are raising a little hell, introducing the globe to 21st century zydeco. Papa Dopsie would be proud.