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Leroy Thomas

Known as "The Jewel of the Bayou," Leroy Thomas was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana and raised in Elton, a town of about 2,500 people in Western Louisiana, where zydeco music was born after World War II. He was surrounded by family immersed in the zydeco tradition: his father, Leo "The Bull" Thomas, is known for being the only zydeco musician to lead his band from the drums; Keith Frank (Soileau Zydeco Band); Geno Delafose (alumnus of the 2001 National Folk Festival in East Lansing); and Brian Terry (Lil' Brian Terry & the Zydeco Travelers).

When Thomas was 8, he decided to become a drummer like his father, so he and his younger brother Lee fashioned a set of drums from five-gallon paint buckets and used tree branches as sticks; a cardboard tube was his microphone. As a teenager, he became enamored of the accordion, and—upon hearing one was for sale in town—he traded a used a cassette player he’d obtained from his father for it. Thomas taught himself how to play and at 18, he joined his father's band, playing more and more each night as he gained experience.  Eventually, he became the band’s full-time accordionist, and for fifteen years, father and son played together.

With a need to supplement his musical income, Thomas worked odd jobs—on rice and soybean farms and in auto body shops. Frustrated, he moved to Houston in the early 1990s, and went to a trade school, eventually getting work as a welder. It was in Houston in 1998 that Thomas decided to form a band of his own—The Zydeco Roadrunners and began touring throughout Texas and Louisiana.

Visit the Zydeco Roadrunners web site at:  http://zydecoroadrunners.com

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