GRAMMY Nominated, Andre Thierry is a phenomenal talent who has been capturing the attention of other musicians and music lovers since he was a toddler. Andre’s French Creole heritage is deeply rooted in Louisiana although he was born and reared in northern California. Michael Tisserand, author of The Kingdom of Zydeco, considered the definitive book on the history of Zydeco music, wrote, “In America, great migrations produce great music. Just as Delta musicians took Highway 61 to Chicago and electrified their blues, so did the Creoles and Cajuns migrate to California and establish vital dance communities. Now the California scenes rival anything back home in Louisiana, and that’s due to players like Andre Thierry, a standard bearer for the new generation. Thierry is among the best of both the West Coast and the Gulf Coast, and he combines youthful vigor with a mature appreciation for his inherited tradition.”
Andre’s story begins July 9, 1979. Born in Richmond, California to Olivia “Tee” Guillory originally from Basile, Louisiana and Gregory Thierry, originally from Jennings, Louisiana. Andre’s childhood was deeply influenced by his maternal grandparents, the late Houston Pete Pitre (Pa-Pa as they called him) from Basile, Louisiana and his loving grandmother, known to all as Mama Lena Pitre from Soileau, Louisiana.
Andre grew up experiencing the French Creole (La-La) dances his grandparents held at their church parish, St. Mark’s Catholic Church. The best Zydeco musicians Louisiana had to offer traveled to California to play at the dances and spent time at the Pitre’s house while in the area. On one such visit, the “King of Zydeco,” the late great Clifton Chenier, grabbed three-year old Andre by the arms and deemed him a future accordion player. From then on, Andre’s Pa-Pa, Houston Pete, encouraged the young Andre to play the accordion.
Andre captivated by Clifton Chenier, he began teaching himself to play by listening to Clifton’s music. Andre demonstrated an innate musical ability and his skill quickly grew. Andre played his first song, Willis Prudhomme’s version of “Give’m Cornbread” in the backyard of his grandparent’s home, for his delighted family. He soon began playing Clifton Chenier’s music on stages all over Northern California.
His grandparents continued to host Louisiana musicians and this exposure to his heritage allowed him to develop his love for, and mastery of, traditional French Creole music. By age twelve, with the help of his mother, Andre formed his own band, “Zydeco Magic.” Andre’s repertoire grew by leaps and bounds as he was regularly invited to play with visiting bands, such as the late John Delafose, his son, Geno Delafose, and many local Zydeco and Cajun bands, including the late Danny Poullard (California Cajun Orchestra).
Andre is a virtuoso on all the accordion types, single row, double row, triple row and piano key. He effortlessly moves across types to deliver an energetic two-step, hard-driving blues or a blend that is his own alternative Creole sound. Although Andre’s instrument of choice is the accordion he also displays talent on bass, guitar and keys. Thanks to his parents and grandparents he sings traditional songs in original Creole French. He is a gifted composer and song-writer and his music and CDs feature many of his original tunes. As quoted from an article published in Eh Toi magazine 2002, “There is no accordion player in Zydeco that uses his left hand as well as Andre Thierry.”
While playing Washington, D.C. in 2003, the Washington Post called Andre “a master at pumping out fast, funky rhythms on an instrument not usually associated with earthy syncopation. A versatile student of the music, Thierry can’t be lumped into Zydeco’s old-school R&B-influenced camp or its nouveau, rap-inspired one: He and his band, Zydeco Magic, lay down both soulful, traditional slow-dances and bottom-end-booming kinetic groovers.”
In his 30’s, he has already been deemed a legend. There is widespread agreement that he is an exceptional multi-dimensional musician who has a finely-honed ability to merge his accordion with blues, r&b, jazz, latin and rock. His musical mastery enables him to create a unique sound for his and future generations while staying true to the past.