Beau Jocque at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, 1997
|Born||November 1, 1953|
Duralde, Evangeline Parish, Louisiana
|Died||September 10, 1999 (aged 45)|
Mardi Gras Records
Beau Jocque (born Andrus Espre; November 1, 1953 – September 10, 1999) was a Louisiana French Creole zydeco musician and songwriter active in the 1990s.
Beau Jocque is known for his gruff vocals, his fusion of many musical styles into zydeco, and above all, for the powerful energy of his rhythm and sound. Backed by the Hi-Rollers, he became one of the top dance-hall acts of his musical decade. He wrote, recorded and performed many songs in both Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole languages, as well as in English, primarily on the Rounder Records label.
Beau Jocque was born Andrus Espre in Duralde, Louisiana to Sandrus and Vernice (née Allen) Espre. His father (nicknamed "Tee Toe") was a well-respected accordion player who performed at many local dances, but who quit playing music when Andrus' older brother was born. Andrus played guitar in a high school band but his influences were not zydeco musicians but rather acts such as War, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Santana.
He enlisted in the Air Force after high school, and eventually made it to the rank of sergeant, had a top security clearance and was stationed in London and Germany. He once escorted Henry Kissinger around Europe. Espre had his first near-death experience while in the Air Force, when an explosion left him in the hospital with amnesia. He spent nine years in the military, then came home to work as an electrician and welder. He was a long time resident of Kinder, Louisiana. He was also known to write poetry, and preach about respecting nature.
Working in an oil refinery after leaving the Air Force, Espre experienced a work-related accident on September 4, 1987, which left him temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. During his recuperation, as part of his therapy he began playing his father's button accordion. After a year of practice and gaining proficiency on the accordion, Espre and his wife Michelle began to study the styles of the successful groups on the zydeco circuit. "We checked out C. J. Chenier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Boozoo Chavis, John Delafose and I'd watch the crowd. When they got real excited, I'd try to feel what was happening at that point. Was it the rhythm guitar? The drums? The accordion style? I realized that when you get the whole thing just right, it's going to move the crowd."
Espre grew up speaking Louisiana Creole French and spoke it fluently. As he was physically a large man at 6 ft 6 in (198 cm) tall and 270 pounds (120 kg), he took the stage name "Beau Jocque," which was a childhood nickname in Louisiana Creole meaning "Big Guy." In 1991, he put a band together, including his wife Shelly on rubboard. They initially talked themselves into a few gigs in small clubs or for trail ride parties, and word spread quickly about a new zydeco artist. He especially appealed to a younger crowd by incorporating rock guitar solos, blues-rock beats, and rap lines into his songs, along with his bass vocals and growling lyrics. His initial recording got airplay on local radio stations and the larger zydeco clubs began to take notice. Within a short amount of time, Beau Jocque was playing clubs four to five nights a week and just a few years after his accident, Espre was one of the biggest draws on the Louisiana zydeco circuit. In June 1995 one newspaper stated that "There has simply never been a zydeco phenomenon like Beau Jocque and the Hi-Rollers" who have "thoroughly modernized zydeco". His major zydeco influence was Boozoo Chavis who also played the button accordion, with hypnotic riffs and two-step stomps that were favorites with south Louisiana dancers.
In 1995 Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers were the headliners on the Rounder Records "Louisiana Red Hot Music Tour". In June 1999 they were a featured band at the first annual New Jersey Arts and Music Festival.
Beau Jocque's first recording was a 1992 vanity release titled My Name is Beau Jocque (Lanor Records 1031), which was re-issued in 1994 by Paula Records. Espre sent cassettes of this release to area radio stations and also sold them at his gigs. He had to re-order more copies because they sold very quickly.
Scott Billington, a producer for Rounder Records who was familiar with the Louisiana zydeco scene, picked up on the buzz surrounding Beau Jocque and signed him to his label. Beau Jocque Boogie was released in 1993, and it contained the song that became his first hit and signature song, "Give Him Cornbread". The song, written by Espre, includes elements of Willis Prudhomme's zydeco arrangement of "Shortnin' Bread" and FM's hip hop song "Gimme What You Got (For a Porkchop)". Audiences demanded that the band play that song multiple times at dances, and as the song gained popularity, fans would throw pieces of cornbread onto the stage.Beau Jocque Boogie became the highest-selling zydeco album ever.
Beau Jocque recorded five studio albums for Rounder, with a sixth live album titled Give Him Cornbread, Live released on the label posthumously in 2000. The label also issued two posthumous compilation albums. All were financial successes for both the label and the artist. His contract with Rounder was not exclusive, so Beau Jocque also recorded two albums for New Orleans-based Mardi Gras Records as well as a mini-CD on his own label.
Beau Jocque's rapid rise to the top of the zydeco circuit created some tension with the older musicians, who felt he hadn't paid his dues. Zydeco pioneer Boozoo Chavis even recorded a song called "Boozoo's Payback" that included the lyrics "He plays my music and he does me wrong, but he can't sing my song", directed at Beau Jocque.
But the rivalry was also good for business. The Mid-City Lanes Rock n' Bowl in New Orleans staged annual mock battles billed as "Boo vs. Beau" during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which each year drew more than 1,000 patrons and set attendance records at the venue. One year, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones paid the $5 admission charge to experience the showdown. One such "battle of the bands" was the centerpiece of a 1994 documentary film The Kingdom of Zydeco by director Robert Mugge.
It was a friendly rivalry. The two musicians often traded insults in public but they were supportive of each other in private. Beau Jocque often played Chavis' songs during his performances, and even performed at a benefit concert to raise money to pay the costs of surgery for Chavis' wife. In the 1994 film, both musicians admitted that the battle of the bands was a promotional gimmick.
The final "Boo vs. Beau" battle in New Orleans was held on May 2, 1999 at the Rock n' Bowl.
Espre and his wife Michelle ("Shelly") had two sons, Andrus Adrian and Justin Travis.
In 1995, Espre suffered a heart attack in Austin, Texas while touring with Marcia Ball and Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Radio stations in Louisiana had reported the 1995 heart attack was fatal, and he surprised his fans (including the town's mayor) by shortly thereafter appearing in the local supermarket in Kinder.
On September 9, 1999, Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers performed a two-set show at the Rock n' Bowl in New Orleans, and afterwards drove the approximately 200 miles on Interstate 10 back to Kinder. The next morning, Beau Jocque was found collapsed in the shower by his wife, dead of an apparent heart attack at the height of his career. He is buried in Saint Matilda Cemetery, Eunice, Louisiana.
Espre's death was preceded only two weeks earlier by the death of his father, Sandrus.
Members of the Hi-Rollers include:
|Album title||Record label||Stock number||Release year|
|Beau Jocque Boogie||Rounder||CD 2120||1993|
|Pick Up on This!||Rounder||CD 2129||1994|
|My Name is Beau Jocque||Paula Records||PCD-1031||1994|
|Nursery Rhyme||Beau Jocques Music||1001||1995|
|Git It, Beau Jocque!||Rounder||CD 2134||1995|
|Gonna Take You Downtown||Rounder||CD 2150||1996|
|Check It Out, Lock It In, Crank It Up!||Rounder||11661-2158-2||1998|
|Zydeco Giant||Mardi Gras Records||MG 1043||1999|
|I'm Coming Home||Mardi Gras||1046||2000|
|Give Him Cornbread, Live!||Rounder||11661-2160-2||2000|
|Song title(s)||Album title||Record label||Stock number||Release year||Note(s)|
|"Pop That Coochie" / "My Name Is Beau Jocque"||My Name Is Beau Jocque||Paula Records||461||<unknown>||7", 45 RPM|
|"Don't Sell That Monkey" / "Maria" (performed by Roy Carrier)||<unknown>||Paula||P-463||<unknown>||7", 45 RPM|
|"Make It Stank (Special Aromatic Dance Mix)" / "Make It Stank (Special Aromatic Dance Mix with Spoken Intro)"||Gonna Take You Downtown||Rounder||PR 1077||<unknown>||12", 33 1/3 RPM, Promotional single|
|Album title||Record label||Stock number||Release year||Song title(s)|
|Feet: A Global Dance Party||Ellipsis Arts||CD 1010||1993 (reissued in 2004)||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|Roundup The Unusual Suspects: The Roundup Records CD Sampler, Summer 1994||Rounder||RUP-1||1994||"Don't Tell Your Mama, Don't Tell Your Papa"|
|WWOZ on CD||Friends of WWOZ||<unknown>||1994||"Beau's Mardi Gras"|
|Alligator Stomp: Cajun & Zydeco, The Next Generation, Vol. 5||Rhino||R2 71846||1995||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|The Lanor Records Story, 1960-1992||Zane Records (UK)||ZNCD 1009||1995||"My Name Is Beau Jocque"|
|Louisiana Spice: 25 Years of Louisiana Music on Rounder Records||Rounder||CD AN 18/19||1995||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|The Real Music Box: 25 Years of Rounder Records||Rounder||CD AN 25||1995||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|The Royal Family of Zydeco||Rock 'n Bowl (Rounder Records)||CD 1001||1995||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|"Beau Jocque Boogie"|
|Young Zydeco Desperadoes: Black Creole Sounds of Today||Trikont (Germany)||US - 0204||1995||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|"Beau Jocque Shuffle"|
|All Over The Map||Rounder||CD AN 26||1996||"Nonc Adam"|
|Bayou Dance Party||EasyDisc||ED CD 7014||1996||"Richard's Club"|
|Planet Music Sampler: Vol. 7 Louisiana Fest||Planet Music||<unknown>||1996||"Git It, Beau Jocque"|
|The Real Louisiana||EasyDisc||ED 9002||1996||"Nonc Adam"|
|Roll Up The Rug: Triple Swing Time, volume 2||Living Traditions Music||<unknown>||1996||<unknown>|
|The Very Best of Cajun||Dino Entertainment (UK)||DINCD 127||1996||"My Name Is Beau Jocque"|
|Zydeco's Greatest Hits||EasyDisc||ED CD 7025||1996||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|Bayou Beat||EasyDisc||EDCD 7053||1997||"Beau's Cajun Two Step"|
|CMJ New Music Monthly, Volume 41 January 1997||College Music Journal||<unknown>||1997||"Gonna Take You Down"|
|Discover the Rhythms of Cajun/Zydeco||EMI||LC0542||1997||"Brownskin Woman"|
|Hey Mardi Gras!||EasyDisc||ED CD 7015||1997||"Beau's Mardi Gras"|
|Rounder Essentials: A Baker's Dozen||Rounder||CD 9902||1997||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|Southern Gumbo: The Best of New Orleans R&B, Soul and Zydeco on Rounder Records||Rounder (German release)||BR1||1997||"Make It Stank"|
|Zydeco Dance Hall||EasyDisc||ED CD 7035||1997||"Git It, Beau Jocque!"|
|"Couché Dehors Ce Soir"|
|Cajun & Zydeco Festival||EasyDisc||ED CD 7067||1998||"A Little Love Always Make it Bettah"|
|Crescent City Songbook||Rounder||VS-1||1998||"Gonna Take You Downtown"|
|Mardi Gras Time||EasyDisc||CD 9004||1998||"Mardi Gras Blues"|
|Zydeco Barnyard||EasyDisc||12136-7070-2||1998||"Shaggy Dog 2-Step"|
|Zydeco Fever!: A Sizzling Hot Louisiana Combo of Cajun and R&B||Nascente (UK)||NSCD 029||1998||"Make It Stank (Aromatic Dance Mix)"|
|"Baby Please Don't Go"|
|"Knockin' On Heaven's Door"|
|Zydeco Party||EasyDisc||ED CD 7045||1998||"Comin' In"|
|Zydeco Stomp: All Instrumental||Rounder||ED CD 7065||1998||"Kinder 2-Step"|
|Allons en Louisiane||Rounder||11161-60993-2||1999||"Going To The Country"|
|Cajun & Zydeco Jamboree||EasyDisc||ED 12136-7076-2||1999||"Just One Kiss"|
|Cajun Heat Zydeco Beat||EasyDisc||ED 1213670772||1999||<unknown>|
|Gaga for Ya-Ya: Zydeco Madness||Winter & Winter (Germany)||910 041-2||1999||"Tequila"|
|"Come Go With Me"|
|Let's Party, It's Mardi Gras!||Mardi Gras Records||JS 1305||1999||"The Second Line/The Back Door"|
|The Oxford American Southern Sampler: 1999||Oxford American||<unknown>||1999||"Don't Tell Your Mama, Don't Tell Your Papa"|
|WWOZ on CD: Roll Wid It!||Friends of WWOZ||<unknown>||1999||"Get It Beau Jocque"|
|Zydeco Essentials||Hip-O Records||767 440161 2||1999||"Low Rider"|
|Absolutely The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco, vol. II||Fuel 2000; Varèse Sarabande||302 061 114 2||2000||"Ma Brunette"|
|Putumayo Presents Zydeco||Putumayo World Music||PUTU 160-2||2000||"What You Gonna Do?"|
|Super Mardi Gras||Mardi Gras Records||MG1045||2000||"The Second Line/The Back Door"|
|Authentic Zydeco Music: From Southwest Louisiana||Jose Suescun Music Distribution||JS 1318||2001||"My Name Is Beau Jocque"|
|"When You Think About Me"|
|"Grand Marais Two-Step"|
|"Beau Jocque Two-Step"|
|Mardi Gras in New Orleans||Rounder||1166-11600-2||2001||"Beau's Mardi Gras"|
|Roots Music: An American Journey||Rounder||11661-0501-2||2001||"Just One Kiss"|
|Ultimate Zydeco||Mardi Gras Records||MG 1056||2001||"Pine Point Trail Ride"|
|"No Good Woman"|
|Au Revoir||Mambito Records||MR003||2002||<unknown>|
|Louisiana: The Rough Guide to the Music of Louisiana||World Music Network (UK)||RGNET 1094 CD||2002||"Mardi Gras Blues"|
|Louisiana Legends Collection||Mambito||MR004||2002||"I'm A Lonely Boy"|
|The Louisiana Party Collection: Cajun & Zydeco Classics||Time-Life Music||M18851||2002||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|The Louisiana Party Collection: 30 Cajun & Zydeco Classics||Time-Life Music||R154-36||2002||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|Zydeco: The Essential Collection||Rounder||1166-11605-2||2002||"I'm On The Wonder"|
|"Give Him Cornbread"|
|American Routes with Nick Spitzer: Carnival||Public Radio International||AR 03-09||2003||"Mardi Gras Blues"|
|Boozoo Hoodoo!: The Songs of Boozoo Chavis||Fuel 2000||302 061 278-2||2003||"Boogie Woogie All Night"|
|Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans||Shout! Factory||D4K 37441||2004||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|Best of Louisiana Music!||Mardi Gras Records||MG 5102||2005||"Morning Train"|
|Rough Guide to Zydeco||World Music Network (UK)||RGNET 1145 CD||2005||"Boogie Chillun"|
|Down South Party Mix||Mardi Gras Records||MG 1092||2006||"I'm A Girl Watcher"|
|New Orleans: Rebuild, Restore, Rejoice||Mardi Gras Records||MG 5104||2006||"I'm A Girl Watcher"|
|Rough Guide to Zydeco: Allons Danser! Creole Accordions Dance||World Music Network (UK)||RGNET 1145 CD||2006||<unknown>|
|Putumayo World Party||Putumayo World Music||PUTU 263-2||2007||"Just One Kiss"|
|The Essential Guide to Cajun Music||Play It Again Sam||6891316025||2008||"Baby Please Don't Go"|
|"Give Him Cornbread"|
|Absolutely The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco, vol. 3||Fuel 2000||302 061 778 2||2009||"Boogie Woogie All Nite Long"|
|The Rounder Records Story||Rounder||11661-3295-2||2010||"Give Him Cornbread"|
|The Heart, The Soul, The Spirit||Larrikin Entertainment (Australia)||<unknown>||<unknown>||"Give Him Cornbread"|