Gerald Gruenig — best known for his larger-than-life personality on KLFY's morning show Passé Partout — will bring that energy to the stage at the fourth annual Acadiana Po-Boy Festival.
After picking up the accordion less than two years ago, the TV journalist will perform with local musicians in a group they're calling Gerald Gruenig and Gentilly Zydeco.
"I'm the only non-professional musician in my band," Gruenig said. "I'm lucky. I got to choose from very talented people. My job at Channel 10 has put me in a lot of positive situations, and I'm thankful for that."
Gruenig will play accordion and lead vocals Saturday alongside local musicians Thad "Dr. Chad" Duplechin on rubboard and backup vocals, David "Pokey" Guidry on guitar, Lee Allen Zeno on bass and Greg Gordon on drums.
When organizers of the Acadiana Po-Boy Festival asked Gruenig to play at the event, he said he was initially hesitant. It wasn't his ability that had him concerned.
"I know how competitive the local music scene is around here," Gruenig said. "My job is to help give these guys exposure and help these guys make money and get attention. I never want to take away from these guys."
His mentors encouraged him to accept the gig. Some of them will perform alongside him in the band Saturday.
"To watch Gerald advance and become confident with this has been fantastic," said Guidry, the guitarist. "I've been telling him to get it because he's got confidence in himself, and that's what it takes to perform as a musician."
Gruenig played drums as a child and tried his hand at bass in college, but he didn't stick with either instrument.
In September 2017, he purchased a $20 toy accordion from Vermilionville on a whim and felt an instant connection to the instrument.
"I taught myself how to play 'Happy Birthday' and 'The Chicken Dance' that weekend and was all geeked out about it," Gruenig said with a chuckle.
Duplechin, who will play rubboard and sing Saturday, loaned Gruenig a real accordion soon after his impulse purchase.
"Gerald is very enthusiastic and very talented," Duplechin said. "I bought an accordion years ago and can tinker around with it, but I don't really have an ear for it the way he does."
By January 2018, Gruenig had bought his own accordion.
Local musicians such as Horace Trahan and Geno Delafose, who he met through his music segment at KLFY, taught him the ropes.
Now, he plays for about an hour a day and knows about 30 songs.
"The accordion just calls me because it's such a high energy instrument," Gruenig said. "It's like the electric guitar around here."
Gruenig isn't just excited for Saturday's event for the performance. He's also an avid po'boy fan.
His family operates a po'boy shop called Koz's in his hometown of New Orleans.
"I used to get home from school and get a 16-inch fried shrimp po'boy and make red beans and rice mixed with macaroni and cheese while I was waiting on the po'boy," Gruenig said. "It's my equivalent to potato salad and gumbo. And I'd eat all that with a Hubig's pie and a root beer. I was playing offensive line at the time, but I could still eat all that, to be honest with you."
Gruenig's go-to po'boys in Lafayette are the fried shrimp from Olde Tyme Grocery and the roast beef debris from Pop's Poboys.
He's sure to work up an appetite Saturday during his band's debut, and he plans to taste as many samples during the festival as possible.
The Acadiana Po-Boy Festival happens from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Parc Sans Souci, 201 E. Vermilion St. in downtown Lafayette. The free event will include live music, samples from more than 20 vendors, children's activities, pop-up shops and an eating contest. Proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana.
Learn more at acadianapoboyfestival.com.