NEW ORLEANS — Stanley ''Buckwheat'' Dural Jr., who rose from a cotton-picking family in southwest Louisiana to introduce zydeco music to the world through his namesake band Buckwheat Zydeco died Saturday morning. He was 68.
Ted Fox, his longtime manager, said Mr. Dural had lung cancer. The musician and accordionist was "one of the world's true genius musicians, a completely natural musician who could just fit in in any scenario,'' Fox said.
The music was well known across southwest Louisiana, where people would often drive for miles to small dance halls where zydeco bands featuring an accordion and a washboard would rock the crowds for hours. But Mr. Dural took zydeco music mainstream, launching a major-label album — the Grammy-nominated ''On a Night Like This'' — with Island Records in 1987. He went on to jam with musical greats like Eric Clapton, play at Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration, and perform at the 1996 Olympics closing ceremony in Atlanta.
He jammed with Jimmy Fallon on the final episode of ''Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.'' Fallon played the guitar backed up by the Roots while Buckwheat Zydeco rocked the accordion. (Mr. Dural got his nickname because he had braided hair when he was younger that resembled Buckwheat's from "The Little Rascals" television show.)
Born Nov. 14, 1947, in Lafayette, La., Mr. Dural was one of 13 children. His father played the accordion, but Mr. Dural preferred listening to and playing rhythm & blues and learned to play the organ, his obituary said.
By the late 1950s, he was backing up musicians and eventually formed his own band. It wasn't until 1978, though, that he took up the accordion so closely associated with zydeco music and later formed his own band, the obituary said.
It was the 1987 Island Records five-record deal that eventually brought Mr. Dural to a wider audience, and he went on to tour with Clapton and record with artists such as Ry Cooper, Paul Simon, Dwight Yoakam, and Willie Nelson.
Fox called him an ''old-fashioned showbiz professional'' who was always focused on giving the audience — regardless of either they were eight or 80,000-strong — a good time.
''He had this incredible charisma both onstage and personally,'' he said. ''He was a real genuine person. To the end of his days with all the stuff that he'd done, all the awards, he was still the same Stanley Dural Jr. who was picking cotton when he was 5 years old.''
Mr. Dural leaves his wife, Bernite, and five children. Fox said Mr. Dural's daughter, Tomorrow, has created a fund-raising campaign to help with medical and other expenses.