Remembering Al Berard.

pyookIt was the Spring of 1995.  I had just dropped out of graduate school…for no reason, I might add. I was in Lafayette visiting a friend on a Wednesday night. We had dinner at Randol’s. The band that was playing that night was the world famous Basin Brothers. Being a Cajun music enthusiast, and a musician, I knew all too well who this band was. The line up was different though. I recognized one of the guitar players, Tommy Comeaux, and the accordion player was 14 year old Kyle Hebert who I had met at a couple of jam sessions. The other guitar player, I didn’t know.

During the break, I walked over to say “Hi” to Kyle. While we were visiting, bandleader, Al Berard, walked up and introduced himself. I told him that I was a musician and that Kyle and I had jammed together a few times. Kyle looked at Al and said, “He plays bass.” Al turned to me and asked,”Do you wanna play some?”

The next thing I knew, bass player, Dwayne Brasseaux, was passing his fretless Jazz bass over my head. He walked off stage to the bar, and I never saw him again until we played the final song of the night. While they were packing up their gear, Al said, “Hey, what you doing next Wednesday?” I just shrugged my shoulders and said I didn’t have plans. “You wanna start playing bass with us?,” he asked. He explained that he was firing the guitar player (whose name I still don’t know), and the bass player was going to start playing guitar. And that’s how I became a member of the Grammy nominated Basin Brothers.

It was that chance meeting that led to the opportunities that I never imagined that I would ever have. Al “Pyook” Berard took me up and down the Atlantic seaboard. He invited me on a tour with Sheryl and Russell Cormier that took me to Canada for the first time. Not knowing what the future of the Basin Brothers would be, while we were playing a festival in Rhode Island, he met secretly with Christine Balfa and Dirk Powell and traded me like a rookie ball player, and that led to an opportunity to perform in 43 of the 50 states and 5 countries.

Now, here we are nearly twenty years later. Though we haven’t communicated as often as we should have, we have stayed in touch. I often share stories about the experiences that he and I had together during those few short years. Who woulda thunk that a Cajun fiddler, Rock guitarist extraordinaire, would introduce me to the stylings of Eric Johnson? I will never lose the memory of his excitement when he called me into his kitchen so that his teenage daughters could perform a No Doubt song, for me. Oh such sweet harmonies.

The loss of loved ones is never easy. I have seen a lot of losses in my musical family over the last few years, but this one is a tough one. He has touched the lives of many, many people.

Rest in peace, my friend. I will always remember you.