“Cajun Interstate”: Cajun-Built

Thanks to the bibliographic notes in 2003’s The Cajuns:  Americanization of a People by Shane K. Bernard, I was able to affirm that “Cajun Interstate” by Rod Bernard is, indeed, about the building of the highway that traverses the bottom of Louisiana – Interstate 10:

Atchafalaya Basin Bridge

Atchafalaya Basin Bridge

As Shane K. Bernard writes:

“South Louisianians were fascinated by the construction of I-10, particularly an eighteen-mile section known as the “Atchafalaya Expressway” [which opened in 1973].  The monumental elevated causeway cut directly through the Atchafalaya Basin, a vast, snake-infested wetlands that to many symbolized South Louisiana’s cultural isolation.

‘They said it couldn’t be done — building a highway over the swamps,’ mused a journalist.  The engineering feat so impressed one South Louisiana musician that he composed ‘Cajun Interstate,’ a rock ‘n’ roll paean to the structure that also manifested a growing grassroots ethnic pride movement.”

Here comes the superhighway,

That superhighway boss,

But it’s gonna take a Cajun crew

To get that road across…

Fifty mile of concrete,

Fifty miles of steel,

Louisiana sunshine,

Shining down on me.

Mama make a gumbo.

Tonight we’ll celebrate

And sing about your Cajun boy

That build that interstate.

Released on Shelby Singleton’s SSS International label in December 1970 — backed with “A Tear in a Lady’s Eyes.”  Both tunes were written by Rod Bernard (who, earlier in his career, helped pioneer a musical mix of New Orleans rhythm & blues, country, Cajun and black creole known as “swamp pop“), along with “E. Futch” — birth name of country singer/songwriter, Eddy Raven, who would later write a song also voicing praise for the Cajun work ethic, “Alligator Bayou,” on which he sang, “Working on a board road running through the swamp for a dollar and a half an hour / A Cajun man with a love for life and a whole lot of muscle power.”

Cajun Interstate 45

Thanks to Shane K. Bernard, who provided the back story on Eddy Raven (above) as well as the tip to Rod Bernard’s 1964 labor lament of working for the “Boss Man’s Son” – featuring the backing of Johnny and Edgar Winter: