A French-speaking native of Opelousas, La., Clifton Chenier's first break in the music biz came in 1954 when Elko Records released "Clifton's Blues," which became a big regional hit. Over the next three decades, Chenier's accordion-accompanied singing made him the definitive ambassador of zydeco -- a swampy, two-stepping blend of cajun, creole, RnB and blues traditions -- and one of the most influential artists of the region. An appearance on the PBS show Austin City Limits in 1976 led to an explosion of interest in his music, and Chenier won a Grammy for his 1982 album I'm Here. He died of diabetes-related kidney disease in 1987, but his legacy lives on in the music of his son, C.J. Chenier, his many singular recordings and his label, Alligator Records.