Bal du Dimanche with Sheryl Cormier & Cajun Sounds
Sheryl Cormier is the queen of Cajun Accordion and Cajun Music. The oldest of four children, Cormier grew up surrounded by Cajun music. Her father was the leader of the Sunset Playboys, a band that included her mother on drums. Learning to play the Cajun accordion at age seven, Cormier performed with her parents’ group throughout her teens. Although she left the band when she got married, she continued to play occasionally with the group as well as with other similar bands. As a bandleader, Cormier assembled a group that featured her husband, Russell, on vocals and son Russell, Jr. on drums.
When Sheryl Cormier was honored March 9, 2002, as a “Living Legend” at the Acadian Museum’s Café in Erath, Kermit Bouillion, museum program director, described her many accomplishments. In an environment that used to be almost totally dominated by men, Sheryl Cormier was the first Cajun female musician to record playing the accordion, but her achievements go far beyond that.
Known as “La Reine de la Musique Cadienne,” Cormier was born in Grand Couteau. The family subsequently moved to Sunset. Her father, a sharecropper, played the accordion, and her mother played drums. When she was seven, Sheryl began to learn to the play her father’s accordion while he was working in the fields. Initially, he did not approve, but eventually, Sheryl began performing occasionally in her father’s band, Andrew Guilbeau and the Sunset Playboys. In an interview with Dominick Cross published in the Baton Rouge Advocate in 1997, Sheryl Cormier described the importance of these early memories: “It’s just a great feeling when I play. It’s just a sound that comes from the old roots. All I can say is I grew up around it.”
After she married Russell Cormier, she retired from music, but eventually she began performing again after Blackie Forestier asked her to play with his band one night in Lewisburg. Forestier eventually persuaded her to record her father’s tune, “The Guilbeau Waltz.”
By the late 1970s, she formed her own band, and for a while performed in an all-female band (with Becky Richard, Gina Forsyth, and Danish native Elsebeth Krogh). After joining with her husband and son, Russell Jr., to form Cajun Sounds, Cormier went on to record 45s and released her first album, La Reine de Musique Cadjine in 1990 on the Swallow label. Several cuts from that album are included on the CD Queen of Cajun Music, also released by Swallow.
According to Kermit Bouillion in a biographical sketch prepared for Cormier’s induction as a “Living Legend,” she says that her own accordion style has been influenced by Nathan Abshire, Aldus Roger, and Lawrence Walker.
The membership of Cajun Sounds has changed over the years, but, always at Sheryl’s side is her husband, Russell, who serves as manager and chief vocalist. Some of the numbers from the CD like “The Bottle” and “Jolie Fille” are part of the group’s standard repertoire that audiences around Louisiana and far beyond expect to hear when Sheryl Cormier and Cajun Sounds perform.