Yvette Landry, Grammy-nominated artist, two time State of Louisiana Music Ambassador, 2019 inductee into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, author, lifelong educator, cross-country and volleyball coach, and record producer is a force to be reckoned with. Known today for her soulful storytelling shared through her inspired lyrics and beautiful voice, Yvette’s current life path didn’t begin until she was forty years old and had reached a crossroads in her life. She turned to the electric bass guitar, a choice prompted by an inner spiritual urging, a bit of serendipity, and the need to find a release from the unrelenting stress that threatened to break her spirit.
The interesting part of this story is that Yvette had never picked up any kind of string instrument in her life. She hadn’t played music since she put down the woodwinds (flute, saxophone, and oboe) and closed the keyboard on the piano upon graduation from high school in Breaux Bridge years before. While she never enjoyed playing music as a young girl, she enjoyed the thrill of competing against others in a similar fashion that she enjoyed the competitive nature of athletics in which she really excelled.
Growing up in a musical family, however, was something that she did enjoy, and it is definitely in her blood. Her aunt was a music teacher who played the piano and organ. Her dad was in a barbershop quartet. Her grandmother, Viola Hebert Landry, played with her family in the Louisiana Six. Her dad’s grandparents were both musicians and came from a large family of musicians. Incredibly, her family descended from the Acadians who settled here generations ago and “the first Hebert in our family who settled here was a fiddler.”
Dealing with a marriage that was ending and facing the reality of her father’s brain cancer, Yvette was driving down Johnston Street one day and pulled into the parking lot of C & M Music Center in Lafayette on a whim. She looked up at the wall and saw guitars in different colors, knowing nothing about guitars but knowing that she wanted one. The first one she tried was too heavy, the second one she tried was too wide, but the third one was perfect….sort of in the Goldilock’s vein of being “just right.” So she purchased it along with a small amplifier that the clerk told her she would need since it was an electric bass guitar.
Yvette’s initial hope was that she could “mess around with the guitar” when she was on the way to M. D. Anderson for her dad’s treatments. Not knowing how to play it, she fell in love with the instrument and played by ear. She believes the reason she fell in love with music the second time around was that there was no teacher standing over her, telling her to play louder or change the way she approached a song. There was no need to read music as she could just listen to what she liked and figure out the chords.
Never having picked up a string instrument until that fateful day at C & M Music, playing the guitar clicked for Yvette. She knew that “this is where I’m supposed to be.” A friend’s husband, Brazos Huval, invited her to join a Cajun Jam that met every week, a group of about 50 to 60 people, “aged six to eighty-six years old.” Yvette hadn’t grown up listening to Cajun music; she had actually grown up listening to Swamp Pop but was intrigued by the music that sang of her family’s roots and joined the group that welcomed her with open arms.
A couple of months later, Randy Vidrine invited Yvette to play at Randol’s Restaurant with his band, the Lafayette Rhythm Devils. While it was “the most stressful three hours she had ever spent,” as she was still learning how to play guitar, she was hired and spent ten years playing regularly on Wednesday nights at Randol’s, as well as touring festivals throughout the U. S., Germany, and France. She’s recorded three albums with Randy Vidrine.
A scholarship to Louisiana Folk Roots to attend a weeklong, intensive session on Cajun music led to Yvette learning to play the accordion, fiddle, and guitar. While there, she met Kristi Guillory, “a great Cajun musician,” and they formed Bonsoir Catin, along with Anya Burgess and Christine Balfa. Their album, Light the Stars, was Grammy-nominated for Best Regional Roots Music Album in 2015.
Yvette Landry, along with Kristi Guillory, Anya Burgess and Christine Balfa, formed Bonsoir Catin and their 2015 album, Light The Stars was Grammy nominated for Best Regional Roots Music Album.
While still performing, Yvette was also a full-time educator and coach. From 1990 to 2000, she taught in the public education system, and thereafter taught and coached at Episcopal School of Acadiana in Cade. She was also a semi-professional volleyball player.
I was born to be an educator but I don’t believe you’re born to be only one thing. I believe I was also born to play music and write.”
She began writing and singing her own songs while playing with Bonsoir Catin, Randy Vidrine and a host of other musicians. She calls it the “Clash of the Titans,” getting up at 4 a.m. to go meet her cross-country and volleyball teams for practice before school, and then playing at night until 2 a.m. While still an educator today, her current schedule is more flexible and she serves as a private home-school educator and teaches American Sign Language and Song Writing at UL – Lafayette.
Playing a variety of instruments in several Cajun bands, Landry also fronts her own band, The Yvette Landry Band. Her debut award-winning album titled “Should Have Known” was released in 2010. (The album was named Offbeat Magazine’s “Best Country/Folk Album” and Landry “Best Country/Folk Artist”).
Yvette Landry’s debut album, “Should Have Known” was named Offbeat Magazine’s “Best Country/Folk Album” and Landry was named “Best Country/Folk Artist.”
Since her debut album in 2010, Landry has released four more CDs… “No Man’s Land” with a host of friends including Bill Kirchen, Cindy Cashdollar, Dirk Powell lending a helping hand, “Me & T-Coe’s Country,” “Oh What A Silent Night” with pedal steel ace, Richard Comeaux and “Louisiana Lovin’” featuring Roddie Romero, which was nominated for Offbeat Magazine’s “Best of the Beat Awards” in two categories (Best Roots Rock Artist and Best Roots Rock Album).
Her first children’s book, “The Ghost Tree,” was nominated for “Louisiana’s Young Reader’s Choice Award.” Her second, “Madame Grand Doigt,” along with “The Ghost Tree,” was formally accepted into the Library of Congress Collection for Children’s Literature.
Yvette was excited to share her latest project, “Taking the World, by Storm,”
which showcases her idol, Warren Storm, the “Godfather of Swamp Pop,” who is renowned for his own particular brand of Louisiana Rock and Roll Blues. One evening in 2017, she was playing her weekly Thursday gig with her music partner, pedal steel guitar player Richard Comeaux, at Buck & Johnny’s in Breaux Bridge, when Storm walked in. Yvette and Comeaux had recently recorded Louisiana Loving, an album that featured one of Storm’s signature songs, “I Need Somebody Bad.” Richard coerced Yvette into singing the song that evening. Storm enjoyed their cover of his song and said, “I’ve never heard a woman sing that song before and you did good.”
The next day, Yvette took Storm to lunch and she gave him the Louisiana Loving CD with his song on it. They become fast friends and he invited her to look at the photographs he had amassed over his prolific music career, which included a photo of Elvis from the late 1950s when Storm was 21 years old. Storm met Elvis through Wink Martindale in Memphis when he was performing his first recorded hit on the U. S. charts. He had hundreds of photos and Yvette realized Warren had a story to tell. She wanted people to feel as she did as he recounted his life story and shared his hundreds of photos with her. Yvette’s husband encouraged her to write a book on Storm’s life and she quickly enlisted UL Press as publisher and got funding to cover costs incurred in making the project a reality.
“Taking the World, by Storm” ended up being a two-fold project. The book, “A Conversation with the Godfather of Swamp Pop,” covers the lifespan of living legend Warren “Storm” Schexnider, starting with his boyhood in rural Vermilion Parish. From meeting Elvis at Graceland, to shaking Hank Williams’s hand, to sharing the stage with Robert Plant and his idol, Fats Domino.
Halfway through writing the book, Yvette decided to make a new Warren Storm album. Taped at the legendary Dockside Studios, the album is a two-track, live recording engineered as in the old days where you can’t fix mistakes as you can on a digital track. Yvette described the album as “unrehearsed and beautiful, it came together serendipitously, and most songs were done perfectly in one take.” Artists on the record, produced by Yvette and titled, “A Regional Roots Journey with The Godfather of Swamp Pop,” included John Fogerty, Sonny Landreth, and Marc Broussard. All proceeds from the book, album and t-shirt sales are dedicated to Warren Storm.
I’ve always been a storyteller. Whenever I write the songs, I see the movie in my head.”
Over the past several years, Landry has traveled the world and played countless cultural festivals and venues – from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to the Bluebird Café in Nashville. She toured Russia and served as a Cultural Ambassador on behalf of the Library of Congress to perform at the Festival of Traditional American Music. She has graced the stage at the Library of Congress and John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts in Washington, DC. In October 2019, she was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame at Festival Acadiens, where her band, Yvette Landry & the Jukes played.
Yvette Landry continues to tour worldwide as a multi-instrumentalist, joining other great musicians such as Vince Gill & The Time Jumpers (her next gig with Vince Gill is in Nashville in December 2019), Darrell Scott, Rhonda Vincent, and many more.
Listening to Yvette Landry’s voice in this podcast will convince you that there are no coincidences in the universe, that God’s guiding hand leads us all if we listen, and “just say yes.” Thank you, Yvette, for sharing your beautiful life with Discover Lafayette!