By Eric Brace
"SHUCKS MAN, we gon' throw down! I'll tell you that right now, yeah yo' right!!" That's Fred Carter, better known around here as Texas Fred, the Zydeco Cowboy, talking on the radio about an upcoming zydeco show at Taliano's (7001 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park; 301-270-5515).
If you listen to WPFW-FM (89.3) Friday afternoon from 12:30 to 1:30 or late on Friday night (12:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.), you'll recognize Carter's signature line, "Yeah, yo' right." Carter is one of the liveliest and best DJs in town, bringing the sounds of zydeco to Washington's airwaves for nearly three years. And for the past two years, Carter has been the most active promoter of live zydeco, hiring well-known bands from his native Texas and Louisiana to play in the area, mostly at Taliano's.
"I've done 20, 25 shows there by now," says Carter in his distinct East Texas accent, one that turns "by now" into "ba na." It's a voice that always sounds like it's got a grin behind it, and usually brings one to the listener's face as well. Born in Prairie View, Tex., where his father is a professor at Prairie View A&M, Carter came to Washington to attend Howard, graduating in 1985 with degrees in political science and business administration. His specialty became housing issues, working first for the Montgomery County government, then the State of New York before returning to Washington and becoming a private consultant.
"But the entertainment thing is really what I've always wanted to do," says Carter, who caught the zydeco bug in a big way in 1994 when he went home to Texas for a "trail ride." "A long time ago the trail rides started in the rural areas of Louisiana and Texas when the poor people would get on their horses and go to the boucherie," Carter explains. "In Creole French, that was the butcher, and people would bring their pigs or their calves to the boucherie on the weekend, and the whole community would have their meat for the week. After the man would carve up the meat, there'd be dancing and liquor and 'lala' music -- it wasn't called zydeco back then. Man! They'd throw a party!"
The modern version of a trail ride is more a musical parade, and at that Houston ride eight years ago, Carter was surrounded by zydeco bands. "It was almost like an epiphany," Carter says. "It reopened my eyes to that music I'd heard all the time growing up, and I said, 'Man you gotta come home to D.C. and do this.' "
He talked WPFW into giving him a shot, and his immediate success with the listeners inspired him to start promoting shows and hosting his own trail rides in rural Maryland. (A true horseman who's been riding since he was a boy, Carter was for a while president of the Maryland Arabian Horse Association.) Carter threatens to start playing the accordion, but for now, he just plays emcee at the shows he hosts, introducing the band and then working the crowd, visiting with folks, almost all of whom he knows by name.
"I don't want people to get hung up on if they know how to two-step and whatnot," Carter says. "People should come out to my gigs knowing they're coming to a party." He hosts one Friday at Ford's Wonderbar in Pomonkey (301-283-5324), featuring Louisiana band Lil' Malcolm & the Houserockers.
Sunday at Taliano's Carter will be in the house with area zydeco band the Canecutters. The following week, on Nov. 24, Carter brings another area band to Taliano's, the Junkyard Saints. For more information on his shows and his trail rides, send Carter an e-mail go to texasfred2002.tripod.com/index.html.
"Texas Fred" Carter practicing what he preaches, to the tunes of Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic, at Taliano's.