4100 Redwood Rd #406
Oakland, CA 94619

Zydeco in Northern California

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Arts & Culture: Blues, Folk, International Dance , Popular/Participatory Dance, World Music
Human Development: Migration, Urban
Information & Media: Culture

Project Geography

US: California, Louisiana
International: North America

Identity Niches

African American, Women


Raised to date: $44,000.00
Estimate to complete: $31,000.00
Total Estimated Budget: $75,000.00
The budget numbers above are accurate as of 03/01/2012



Media Type


Project End Use


Key Personnel

Richard Ziglar
Project Director and Producer

Radio documentarian Richard Ziglar is a graduate of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Ziglar is also a graduate of Deep Springs College and has a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an independent radio producer whose work has aired nationally on the American Public Media show The Story with Dick Gordon. Ziglar has produced work for AARP Prime Time Radio, Oprah’s Harpo Productions, Duke University and the North Carolina Arts Council. Selections of his work are archived here: http://www.richardziglar.com/. In 2010 Ziglar, with fellow producer Barry Yeoman, produced three major radio documentaries. All of these radio documentaries are about aging blues artists in the South. The first is a one-hour documentary commissioned by AARP Prime Time Radio, called "Truckin' My Blues Away." The other two documentaries focus on New Orleans and South Louisiana blues and are financed, in part, by a generous grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This two-hour series is called Still Singing the Blues. You can learn more about it here: http://stillsingingtheblues.org/. Before he became an independent radio producer, Ziglar was a corporate financial analyst. In his last position at IBM as a financial analyst, Ziglar was responsible for an annual budget of $150 million. He holds an MBA in finance from North Carolina State University.

Barry Yeoman
Writer and Producer
Producer Barry Yeoman is a well-respected national magazine writer.  Over 29 years in the field, Yeoman has won numerous honors for his work, including a 2009 National Gracie Award for Outstanding Mid-Length Documentary.  This Gracie was for a radio documentary he produced (with Steve Mencher and Janelle Haskell) for AARP’s Prime Time Radio called “Picking Up the Pieces.” Columbia Journalism Review has called Yeoman “(one of) the best unsung investigative journalists working in print in the United States.” He has won the National Magazine Award for Public Interest and the Green Eyeshade “Best in Show” Award. In 1998 he was awarded the Batten Medal for journalism that demonstrates extraordinary humanity. In early 2011 Yeoman, and fellow producer Richard Ziglar, were hired by KRVS-FM in Lafayette, Louisiana, to report on the ongoing impacts of the BP oil spill. This oil spill coverage is part of a local reporting initiative called GulfWatch that is sponsored by Louisiana Public Broadcasting and supported by a grant from CPB. Yeoman is currently a contributing editor for AARP The Magazine. Other recent clients include O, The Oprah Magazine, Audubon, OnEarth and Good Housekeeping. For more information on his work you can see his website: http://barryyeoman.com/biography.html.

Outreach/Engagement Plan(s)

This radio documentary should appeal to the general public. Since the most likely distribution venues will be through NPR affiliates and community stations, the targeted listener will resemble the typical NPR member but we will work to reach a more diverse audience. We will make a focused effort to get additional pick-up from stations at historically black colleges and universities, as well as stations that serve other minorities, in order to broaden the audience. Further, this documentary will be posted on NPR’s PRSS Content Depot as well as PRX.org. We also plan to hire a well-respected PR firm that specializes in promoting radio documentary specials, Creative PR.

Our last independently distributed documentary series, Still Singing the Blues, has been carried by over 130 broadcasters and an additional 85 translators across the country in the first 10 months of its broadcast. This wide coverage can partly be attributed to the expert marketing campaign organized by Creative PR. We feel confident, based on previous experience, that we can bring this zydeco documentary to a national audience.

We have already solicited interest from California radio stations by mailing copies of the teaser clip to station managers. Stations that have expressed interest in airing the finished documentary include KCSM, KUSP, KZFR, KRBS-LP and KZYX. Together these stations cover a large portion of Northern California, including San Mateo and San Francisco (KCSM), Santa Cruz and the Central Coast (KUSP), Chico (KZRF), Oroville (KRBS-LP) and Mendocino County (KZYX).

Outreach will be further enhanced with a dedicated project website and facebook fan page. Please see the project description for more information on the website.


Anonymous Donation$200.0003/15/2011
California Council for the Humanities - Production Grant$30,000.0003/01/2011
California Council for the Humanities - R&D Grant$5,000.0003/01/2010


PO Box 61463
Durham, 27715

Short Synopsis

This radio documentary, on the zydeco community of California, will be produced with an eye toward creating a character-driven narrative, exploring how Louisiana Creoles have maintained their ethnic identity by recreating their musical culture in the Bay Area.



This 55-minute radio documentary will explore issues surrounding the maintenance of South Louisiana Creole ethnic identity vis-à-vis the re-creation of the musical culture of their original home. Older Louisiana natives such as Queen Ida, Ray Stevens, and R. C. Carrier will be interviewed. These are all zydeco musicians, or dancers, who moved west and helped create California's great zydeco dance scene during the post-World War II era. Additionally, younger zydeco artists such as Andre Thierry will be interviewed to see how the zydeco culture is being transmitted to the next generation.

The California experience is a microcosm of the national experience. The United States and California are both places that attract migrants wanting to re-create themselves. The ability to go to a place where no one knows your history can be liberating and can feel exhilarating. This is an experience that is being repeated by people of various ethnicities, religions and other identities every day. Though liberating it may feel initially, trying to recreate oneself is not without its own tensions. People in fact do not change radically when they move from place to place. There are many reasons for this. As far as racial or ethnic identities go, for example, racism does not stop at the California border. Ray Stevens has a poignant story about trying to escape the racism of Louisiana, only to find a more insidious form of racism in California.

Stylistically, the narrative of this documentary will be carried by the musicians’ interviews as much as possible. We have already completed a 9-minute teaser that demonstrates our stylistic approach. The teaser is non-narrated, however, while the finished documentary will have some narration. Narration will be kept to a minimum in the final documentary. As in the teaser, the full 55-minute radio documentary will be a character-driven narrative that follows the stories of these older zydeco musicians in their daily lives. The opening scene will be a live field-recording of someone like Andre Thierry playing a traditional zydeco song, mixed with ambient sound found on location. This will segue into a self-introduction by the musician, followed by a humanities expert talking about the history or significance that particular musician, while the same song is still being played in the background. After that there is a cut to Ray Stevens or Queen Ida talking about their lives in Louisiana—but only long enough to set up their migration to California and from there a discussion about what challenges they faced when moving to this new place. Humanities experts will explain the context of the music only when absolutely necessary.

Zydeco experienced an upsurge in popularity during the 1970s after David Nadel introduced it to a more mainstream (i.e. “white”) audience at his dance club Ashkenaz. Zydeco still has a large following in California and is no longer exclusive to the Creole community. We believe doing a documentary on zydeco as an instrument of community cohesiveness is important right now since many of the “founders” of zydeco on the West Coast are in their 80s and will not be around much longer. Barry Yeoman and Richard Ziglar are well suited to tell this story because they have many contacts, not just in the California zydeco community, but also the Cajun/zydeco communities of South Louisiana. They have completed similar documentaries about blues artists, one of which featured Carol Fran, a Creole blues singer living in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Supporting this radio documentary will be a well-developed dedicated website, which will come online by May 2011. This website will feature more information on the zydeco community in Northern California including photos, a current blog, at least one audio slide show and outtakes of audio not used in the documentary. Please see the website www.stillsingingtheblues.org for an example of a website we have created in the past for another radio documentary.

The fiscal sponsor for this documentary is the International Documentary Association: http://www.documentary.org/.

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