2016 Line-up: Jo-El Sonnier


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The music of Jo-El Sonnier is a way of life. Steeped in passion, relentless dedication …he has been the undisputed “King of Cajun” for the past 30 years and occupies a significant place in the rich artistic landscape of this country. His fans are undeniably dedicated, while the music industry elite – Dylan, Costello and Hank Williams Jr., to name a few, admire his work to no end. He is a “musician’s musician” with a wonderful gift to sing and entertain you in a way often imitated but never duplicated.

Jo-El was born in Rayne, Louisiana to poor, French speaking sharecroppers. He began to play the accordion at three years of age, first as a toy to occupy Jo-El while his parents visited with neighbors. As he grew, so did his love for the instrument and his ability to play it. Singing only in French, his Cajun heritage was very strong and clear. News of this gifted child spread, which led to a radio debut at the age of 6 and his first recording session at the age of 11. As a favorite in local clubs, Sonnier remained a Louisiana sensation during his early life, but decided to try his luck at recording Country music and in 1974 he signed a recording contract with Mercury Records. The success he sought after continued to elude Sonnier and after four years in Nashville, he decided to try his luck in California where he began performing solo shows with the help of many notable friends including guitarist Albert Lee and the Band’s Garth Hudson.

By the middle 80’s, Jo-El had a Grammy nominated recording to his credit with Cajun Life. The recognition achieved with the success of Cajun Life provided the freedom to fuse Sonnier’s deep Cajun roots with country, rock, and other pop influences.

1987 brought about a new recording deal with RCA records and the result was Come On Joe. Containing several Top 10 hits including “Tear-Stained Letter” and “No More One More Time”. In 1988, Jo-EL was named by the “Performance Magazine”, “New Country Touring Artist of the Year.” Later Jo-EL was nominated by the Academy of Country Music For the “NewMale Vocalist of the Year Award”.

His new album “Come On Joe” was the only Nashville album chosen by People magazine as one of the ten best albums of 1989. He also won Cashbox magazine’s New Male Vocalist award.

With radio success under his belt, Jo-EL began to stretch out by becoming a sought after session player in Nashville.



Big Head Todd & the Monsters


The Wailers

Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown