By Amanda Main
Tyler-based blues and rock ’n’ roll band King Richard & the Bayou Boys first stepped onto the East Texas music scene in 2010. Founded by “King” Richard Doredant, who sings and plays the guitar and harmonica, the retro band also includes drummer Robie Morgan, bass-player Ben Carter, and tenor and alto saxophone-player Sean Fuller.
Richard, 50, began life in a New Orleans neighborhood near the home of “Blueberry Hill” singer-songwriter Fats Domino. He brings with him a respect for deep musical history.
He and his wife, Laurie, evacuated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The move brought them to Tyler, and he says they had no trouble adapting to East Texas life. “It was seamless; there was no real problem at all,” he says. “Texas was very welcoming, and it was a wonderful place to make a home and raise a family.” Their 8-year-old daughter, Becky, was born soon after making Tyler their home.
Richard recently spoke with EGuide about his band and love for writing and playing blues and rock ’n’ roll music.
EGuide: How did you get your start in music?
Richard: I’ve been playing music since I was a kid; a lot of people at my age had a guitar. I was a big rock ’n’ roll fan and (of) blues music, and being that I lived in New Orleans, there was a lot of blues music around, and a lot of concerts, so I kind of always wanted to play the guitar. And that was the thing, so that was the generation for it – the rock ’n’ roll generation.
EGuide: What do you see in the East Texas music scene compared to the New Orleans music scene?
Richard: Well, it’s apples and oranges; it’s really two different things, but the best thing I see about East Texas is, it’s growing, especially since we started the band. We’ve been going at it for four years here, and I see a lot more venues and a lot more artists, and people coming up and different groups, and it’s really exciting. I think it’s a good time to come along. I feel like the world is kind of wide open to us right now.
EGuide: What do you miss about New Orleans?
Richard: The food! But you know, you guys eat in Texas, too; they have food here, too, in case you didn’t know. I miss some of the music, the history of some of that. … You’re not gonna see artists like that here; you don’t have the history for that, but it’s gonna take off – it’s an incredible growing music scene here. And Texas has such a huge style of different music. Gospel music – I see a lot of these praise bands, people working with churches. … Jazz. There’s a Mexican influence, so you get the Tejano music, and country – country’s really big here. … and I’m just a big blues fan, and I’m just interested in preserving and performing the history.
EGuide: What did you do in your time in Tyler before forming your band with the Bayou Boys?
Richard: Well, we were actually the praise band for the Pleasant Retreat United Methodist Church. That’s how we met. I went to church there, and we started playing music there. (Richard says the band later found their saxophone-player, Sean, online.). I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid and decided to start a group here. I had 15 songs that I had recorded in a recording studio in New Orleans that has yet to be released. And I guess I just got that itch to do it again, so we got it started, and we’ve been really happy. We’ve had a lot of highlights with the band since we have started.
EGuide: What kinds of highlights?
Richard: Well, although we’ve got a lot of original music, there’s a certain kind of retro aspect of it. So I was really pleased when we got to play with The Coasters, which was a really iconic ’50s doo-wop group (their hits include 1950s songs “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown”). We came to Hideaway Lake and got to perform for them and be the backing band and open up for them. It was totally fun!
EGuide: How would you describe your collaboration process with your band?
Richard: Well, of course, it’s a benevolent dictatorship. I’m the king, after all (he laughs). No, seriously, you take everybody’s contributions and their experiences into consideration of course. Somebody has something to bring to the table, and you listen and work together on it. That’s probably the thing we’ve really been lucky with – everybody’s mature and stable, and we’re listening to each other and we’re working with each other, so the collaboration process is good. I come with this general idea, and they kind of help me hammer it out. The general idea is a real aficionado for the history of blues and rock ’n’ roll music. And it’s comedy. Comedy is a huge part of this. In addition to T-Bone Walker and ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan, I count The Three Stooges among my inspiration.
EGuide: What types of subjects inspire the songs you write?
Richard: The lyrics usually come from a place of desperation. I think the characters in the songs, people are usually at a point where they’re desperate and pleading. … The subject matter for the songs can be anything from the comical – I’ve got a song about crawfish, for example – to, like I said, desperation. Loss, love. I’ve got a song about a car, “you only love me for my car.” What’s that about? It’s kind of an American dream, this guy’s got a car, but he’s got a full bar and a king-size bed in the back seat.
The songs, the subject matter ranges widely, but I would say it all fits squarely in the pantheon of the history of American rock ’n’ roll for Texas and Louisiana.
EGuide: What has drawn you and your band to play the style of music that you play?
Richard: On our own recordings, our music doesn’t sound like it came from 1962, it sounds like 2014. There’s a retro aspect to it, but it’s not like we’re just rehashing old stuff. You’re taking influences of the stuff that you really love. And that’s always gonna come out in your own stuff. And what drives us to do it, really, is just my love for that, and I’ve sought out other people who can share that with me or can help me realize that vision.
And that’s kind of my goal. Like when we do a four-hour show, it’s a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of ground to cover, a lot of different styles of music that we do. And it’s a lot of laughs, too.
EGuide: What portion of your shows would you say are original songs?
Richard: We have a lot of originals, but when we do, say, a four-hour show, probably a quarter of it is original. But if you really look at what we do, if you come out and see the band, to say what portion of it is original is hard to answer, because we do stuff that nobody else does. And even the stuff that other people do, they don’t do it quite like us. We don’t do it like the record. So it’s all original, it’s definitely got its own stamp on it.
EGuide: What is your band’s favorite venue to play in East Texas, and why?
Richard: XL’N (on Fifth St.) is always great; Lago Del Pino is really nice. And we love Dick’s (Cajun Grill), which is over in Mount Selman. FRESH by Brookshire’s, we’ve enjoyed that. There’s a place up in Jefferson we go play called The Knight Light Theater.
We really enjoy the people at those places; they really get into it. And it’s good when you get that audience participation. A lot of venues we’ve enjoyed playing, that’s why. If you’re just playing for 10 people and they’re really digging the band and dancing and having a good time, that’s what we’re there for. We’re not like a human jukebox. We have a lot of fun with people; we talk with ’em, we joke with ’em. And the way I view our shows is like, this is my time for my private party with them. They’re as much a part of the show as I am.
EGuide: What advice can you give to people trying to break into music, specifically in the blues and rock ’n’ roll genre?
Richard: Be yourself, I would say; you’ve got to be real. A lot of people copy what others are doing. When people think of Texas blues, a lot of people think of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and you can copy their blues licks on the guitar, but that doesn’t make you a blues band or a blues player. It’s just got to come from your heart. If I could give some other advice, I would say, bring lots of money. You’re gonna need it; bring lots of money.
EGuide: What artists have you been listening to lately?
Richard: I’ve been listening to so much stuff. Clifton Chenier, a Louisiana artist I have recently been listening to. The Black Keys, I really like them. James Brown, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. All of that is really awesome to me. I love the guitar. I listen to a lot of country players because they can really pick that guitar. I listen to Marty Stuart. Buck Owens. I love Little Richard, Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly. You go all the way back to that. But there’s a lot of different, current, contemporary blues artists that are just as fascinating. I love listening to Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who’s also a Louisiana artist. There’s such a variety of other people that you see in the contemporary blues scene such as Tommy Castro and Joe Bonamassa. I just love blues!
EGuide: Well, thank you, Richard. Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Richard: Just, thanks. I want to say thanks to all the people who’ve been supporting us, following us on Facebook, and buying music, coming out and seeing the shows. We’ve got a lot of people who’ve just been die-hards, really good friends to the band, and I just can’t thank them enough. All the people who’ve made all the shows such a success, because it’s really just as much about them as it is me. I love it when the people dance and get up and have a good time with us.
We had an interesting show at FRESH (in May), and there was an older couple that got up and danced to the music, and the lady got up afterwards and told us she was 85 years old, and the man had just turned 90. And they’re up there dancing. But that was just kind of an interesting thing. That’s the kind of thing, that’s who I want to thank – the people for bringing the spirit to it, ’cause that’s the spirit of the show. We put on a show, but that’s the culture, rock ’n’ roll. It’s a party. And you can’t have a party without some partygoers and making some noise and having a good time.
King Richard & the Bayou Boys have an album titled “Life of the Party,” available online at KingRichardtheBayouBoys.com (note that there is no “and” in the Web address), on iTunes, Amazon.com, and other online music retailers.
The band also has a new album in the works titled “Crawfish,” and Richard has his own upcoming solo album, “Tequila Nights,” which consists of 15 original songs recorded in New Orleans. He expects both to be released sometime in the fall.