Les personnes: In Tune
For decades, the Savoys have proven time and again that the family that plays together, stays together
LEFT TO RIGHT Joel, Marc, Ann and Wilson Savoy of the Savoys, whose work is about a lot more than music.
This is about so much more than music.
For the Savoys — husband and father Marc; wife and mother Ann; and their sons Joel and Wilson — this is about community, about cultural identity, about a willingness to share what makes being Cajun so compelling with the outside world, while at the same time serving as responsible stewards of it and taking on the burden of preserving its authenticity. This is about staying true to your roots. It’s about this 100-acre plot of land in Eunice, claimed by family ancestors in the Acadian Exile, and the eight generations (most of them rice farmers) that called it home.
Even now, with all of their success and all the places they’ve played, the Savoys come back here — Marc and Ann in the main house, Joel in a nearby “funky shack.” This is about leaving a legacy while still living a life. It’s about informal Saturday Jam Sessions at the Savoy Music Center where fiddlers, accordion players and singers from across Acadiana sit down and ha play together, a tradition going on 40 years now. There, in that room, those pillars — community, cultural identity and staying true to their roots — manifest into song for the Savoys. Which is remarkable when you consider the foundation to all of this was built upon one of the worst pickup lines of all-time.
Rewind back to July 1976 at the National Folk Festival at Wolf Trap Farm in Vienna, Virginia. Marc, a key figure in the Cajun Music Renaissance a decade earlier, is done performing and is meandering through the crowd when he spots a pretty girl from Richmond with whom he’d like to dance. Speaking only French, he gives the girl a compliment. When asked to translate, Marc tells Ann: You are freckled like a turkey egg.
“And I went, ‘oh how charming!’” Ann says through laughter all of these years later, as she turns and looks at Marc sitting beside her. “That was definitely an ice breaker.”
“You know, I don’t know why I said that,” Marc says. “Maybe I had a few drinks too many.”
Well, God bless that liquid courage, because that moment begot a whirlwind romance with Marc buying Ann plane tickets to come with him across the country, a marriage, kids and a family musical catalog that might be unrivaled. Collectively, the Savoys have performed on dozens of albums, produced several others, and — considering Marc is one of the premier accordion makers in Acadiana — have crafted instruments featured in hundreds more.
“I heard a lot of music in this house here,” Marc says. “And as I was growing up, my father would sponsor House Dances for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras time. Our friends and neighbors came and I just fell madly in love with the music to the point where I didn’t want to listen to anything else.
“You’re speaking to a man who has never heard one Beatles song,” Marc says, “and doesn’t know anything about rock n’ roll, or anything else, and would prefer to keep it that way.”
Unapologetic preservationists, Marc and Ann have performed in various bands throughout the years, but decided in the early 2000s to form a group with their sons Joel and Wilson, The Savoy Family Band. That’s Marc on accordion, Ann on guitar, Joel on fiddle and Wilson on fiddle or keyboard, depending on the song. Together, the Family Band has recorded two studio albums and one live album from their appearance at New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2013. Most recently, The Savoy Family Band performed at the 2018 Celtic Colours International Festival in Nova Scotia.
“Once we had the babies, and they grew up, well, we had to make a band with them,” Ann says. “So really, we’ve been hitting the road, spreading The Good Word. The integrity of the music is a big deal with us — we’re trying to play the real old and true Cajun music. We’re sticklers for it. Whether they like it or not, that’s what we do.”
Asked why that lack of deviation is so important, Marc answers succinctly:
“It’s simple. Cajun Music is the glue that holds the entire culture together.”
Savoy Musical Timeline
1976 Marc Savoy releases his first solo album, “Under a Green Oak Tree.”
1992 Marc Savoy receives the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor given by the U.S. Government in folk and traditional arts.
2002 Ann Savoy produces the Grammy-nominated album, “Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music.” The album featured notable acts such as Linda Ronstadt and John Fogerty.
2006 Ann Savoy releases her most-commercially successful album, “Adieu False Heart,” with Ronstadt. It received two Grammy nominations and peaked at No. 146 on the Billboard charts.
2010 Wilson Savoy appears as himself in the HBO series “Treme.”
2013 Wilson Savoy wins a Grammy Award with The Band Courtbouillion in the category Best Regional Roots Music Album. Joel Savoy also wins a Grammy Award for production work performed on that album.
Dec. 1, 2018 On this Saturday, like every Saturday when the family isn’t touring, the Savoys host a Jam Session at the Savoy Music Center in Eunice from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information on the weekly Jam Sessions, visit www.savoymusiccenter.com.
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