The Savoy Family Cajun Band
The partnership that eventually led to the formation of Eunice, Louisiana’s Savoy Family Cajun Band began much farther north, at the 1976 National Folk Festival at Wolf Trap. That’s where mutual friends introduced Richmond, Virginia, native Ann Allen to Eunice’s legendary Cajun musician Marc Savoy, who was demonstrating accordion building and playing tunes under the trees with the Balfa Brothers and Michael Doucet. Today Marc and Ann and their sons Joel and Wilson, award-winning musicians in their own right, return to the National as a veritable all-star Cajun band of their own.
Cajun music is rooted in the traditions of the French-speaking Acadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia by the British in 1755. They settled in southwest Louisiana alongside Native Americans, Spanish, Germans, and French Creoles of African descent. Out of this rich cultural gumbo, a distinctive Cajun music emerged. Each performance of the Savoy Family seamlessly integrates a lesson in the history of this unique American art form, from front porch twin fiddles and French ballads to accordion-driven house party waltzes and two-steps.
Marc Savoy was born in 1940 on the family rice farm. His grandfather Louis and uncle Ariel played fiddle, and legendary Cajun musician Dennis McGee was a tenant farmer on his grandfather’s farm. Marc was particularly drawn to the accordion. His father bought Marc a Hohner when he was 12; by 20, he was building instruments. Marc is the leading maker of Acadian-style accordions at his Savoy Music Center, and has performed with many of the greatest names in Cajun music. In 1992 Marc Savoy was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor for folk and traditional artists, for his central role in nurturing Cajun culture.
Ann (Allen) Savoy married into the Cajun tradition, but has become one of its key performers and chroniclers. Ann is the author of the Botkin Award-winning history Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People Volume I and produced the Grammy-nominated Cajun music tribute Evangeline Made. Ann is a founding member of the all-female Cajun band Magnolia Sisters and performs with Marc and Michael Doucet in the Savoy-Doucet band. Earlier this year, she published the much-anticipated Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People Volume II.
Marc and Ann’s elder son Joel Savoy is renowned for his fiddle playing, garnering awards including 2007 Fiddler of the Year from the Cajun French Music Association. Joel is also a Grammy award-winning producer with his Cajun and Creole label Valcour Records. A founder of the Red Stick Ramblers, he now headlines the Cajun Country Revival band with Jesse Lége. Younger son Wilson Savoy is a filmmaker as well as a star on accordion, fiddle, and piano; he fronts the Pine Leaf Boys, and plays with Cajun legends Steve Riley and Wayne Toups in the Grammy-winning Band Courtbouillon. The brothers are at work on a new album of twin fiddle songs using instruments handed down four generations from Louis and Ariel Savoy, tracing the family’s lineage through over a century of Cajun music—further demonstrating the family’s determination, as Marc has famously said, to not simply be performers but rather “to live the Cajun culture and be Cajuns.”