At the start, the Tiel Ridge, Louisiana native played under his mother Mama Rita Broussard Kershaw. In 1939, young Doug picked up the fiddle at five years of age. In 1941, Kershaw became the man of the house when his daddy died. He was 7.
Fiddle in hand, he hit the town.
“We decided we needed some eating money…so I started shining shoes”. He made $10.20 cents his first day on the streets. “They wanted me to keep playing so I said the only way I’d play is if you’ll let me shine your shoes”
With ten dollars in his pocket he went back home “and we cried and ate beans and everything”
It wasn’t long before Kershaw, his mother and his brother Rusty began playing at Lake Charles club The Bucket of Blood.
It was aptly named.
“Screaming wild around the bandstand, and the beer bottles and people would hit you” Doug remarked in a 1970 interview.
Crowley, Louisiana’s Feature Records magnate J.D Miller saw gold the first time he watched Doug playing with brother Rusty and shepherded the duo into the studio. The pair recorded and played around Acadiana honing their act before pulling up stumps and heading to Nashville where they recorded So Lovely Baby for the Hickory Label.
In the November 17th 1958 edition of the Tennessean, the brothers arrival at the Grand Ole Opry was first heralded in a brief blurb in the Music City Beat column.
Barely three years later, Kershaw achieved superstardom with his 1961 classic Louisiana Man, it became the first song broadcast to earth from space via the Apollo 12 spacecraft, and went on to sell millions of copies.
Long gone are the days when Doug Kershaw would sell his own tickets to shows at the Rimrock Saloon in Acadiana. Back then (the 70s) you could send Kershaw a few bucks at his post office box: 51145 Lafayette 70505 and get the tickets that same week.
Nowadays you have to go online or visit a local box office to make that purchase.
This year’s Ponderosa Stomp is filled with big acts and acts that should have been big but here in Louisiana they all pale in comparison to native son Doug Kershaw. He’s an icon in a state filled with them and with the passing of D.L Menard, he’s now the senior statesman of that old rural Cajun sound.
Back when Kershaw was a kid, Jim Crow ruled the land, and bathrooms had placards telling the black folks and white folks which privy to use. In an old newspaper interview Kershaw wandered aloud why they didn’t have a third option: one for Cajuns.
Those old hardscrabble days are long gone and when Kershaw takes the glittering stage of New Orleans music palace The Orpheum Theater the crowd will lose their mind over the Cameron Parish fiddle man.
But never forget Doug’s words: “You don’t change a man, you just dress him up a bit, I’m still a coon-ass Cajun in a velvet suit”
Ponderosa Stomp Oct 5 – Oct 7, 2017
a deeper dive on Mr Kershaw