The McFaddin-Ward House and Lamar University’s Center for History and Culture to host unique outdoor Swamp Pop music event Oct. 20
Beaumont, TX; Oct. 9, 2023 – The McFaddin-Ward House and Lamar University’s Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast are hosting a unique outdoor event exploring the history and sounds of swamp pop music on Friday, Oct. 20, at 6:30 p.m. on the museum’s lawn (located at 1906 McFaddin Avenue in Beaumont).
The evening will feature a free public presentation, “Swamp Pop: History and Sounds of a Gumbo-Combo of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Country, and Cajun Music,” by Lamar University graduate student Rachel Stiles, followed by a Music at the McFaddins’ live performance from original swamp pop musicians including Jivin’ Gene and the band “Eazy”. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs, and snacks as they gather on the grounds of the historic home. Gates open at 6 p.m.
A 2022-23 Fellow at Lamar University’s Center for History and Culture, Stiles is currently working towards her Master of Music in piano performance and has focused her research on the 20th century phenomenon of swamp pop—a regional rock and roll variant unique to Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.
“The narrative surrounding the [swamp pop] genre has evolved significantly over the years,” Stiles said. “As decades have passed, the genre has been subsumed into a broadened and popularized ‘Cajun’ music, and Southeast Texas artists’ contributions have sometimes been underemphasized. I hope to highlight the history and accomplishments of our Golden Triangle swamp pop artists, as well as introduce – or reacquaint – people with some of this great local music.”
An enthusiast for presenting new or forgotten works to the public, Stiles enjoys collaborative musicianship, particularly in her role as pianist and organist at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Beaumont. She’s looking forward to hearing local legend Jivin’ Gene – one of the most well-known swamp pop musicians as well as one of the main focal points of her research – play live at the event.
“Jivin’ Gene is a great performer and has been for decades,” Stiles said. “Most people in Southeast Texas met him or know about him in normal ways – they saw him performing, heard his recordings way back when, or are connected through social circles – but I first learned about him through books, newspapers, and of course his greatest hits.”
As a teenager, Port Arthur native Gene Bourgeois – aka Jivin’ Gene – helped create the new genre music cooked up from a virtual gumbo of influences: country music, rhythm and blues, Cajun ballads, and rock ‘n’ roll. He says it all started when he was about 13 years old, and his brother brought home a guitar from a camping trip.
“I grabbed ahold of that guitar, and I couldn’t turn it loose,” Bourgeois said. “My friends and I formed a little garage band, and we started learning songs off old 45 records. The next thing you know, we added some more musicians, and I started playing clubs, and I started recording. I was very fortunate when I recorded ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’ because it went national.”
The 83-year-old singer, songwriter, and guitarist continues to share his unique sound at local venues throughout Southeast Texas and, more recently, at the iconic blues venue, Antone’s Nightclub in Austin, where he performed for a packed house.
“I’m blessed to still be able to be called on to perform after all these years,” Bourgeois said. “A lot of these people in the older age group love to hear the old songs and reminisce about their high school days and dating and dancing at the teen hops. It brings back a lot of memories, and it’s amazing that our music is still being played after all these years. When you get involved as a musician or a singer, you’re just addicted for life to it. I don’t think any of us could ever really quit. We back off from it, from performing, but it stays in your soul forever.”
The October 20th “Swamp Pop” event on the lawn of the McFaddin-Ward House is part of the 3rd Annual Museum Madness Weekend (Oct. 19-22). The Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont Children’s Museum, John Jay French Museum, Edison Museum, Dishman Art Museum, Fire Museum of Texas, McFaddin-Ward House Museum, Museum of the Gulf Coast, Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, and Texas Energy Museum are each hosting events for a fun-filled weekend in Jefferson County.
Built in 1905-1906 in the distinctive Beaux-Arts Colonial style, the McFaddin-Ward House reflects the lifestyle of the prominent family which lived in the house for 75 years. The museum features free tours, educational programming, year-round events, a carriage house, and gardens.
For more information, call 409-832-2134 or visit mcfaddin-ward.org.