Acadiana musicians remember Paul Sinegal — better known as Lil' Buck or Buckaroo — as a legendary blues guitarist who was always willing to mentor others over food, drinks and jokes at his home.
Lil' Buck died Monday morning at the age of 75.
He is remembered as one of Lafayette's most beloved artists in musician circles. He's been featured in thousands of recordings and has toured internationally for decades with local groups.
"I would call him one of the unsung heroes of the local music scene," said Herman Fuselier, a Cajun and zydeco music expert. "He's always been a side man. Just walking through the mall, most people wouldn't know or recognize him, but every musician could tell you a story about him. And every one of them has tons of admiration for him."
Lil' Buck is best known for playing with Grammy-winning zydeco legend Clifton Chenier and in the Grammy- and Emmy-winning band Buckwheat Zydeco.
"It wasn’t about just the music with me and Lil' Buck," said Sir Reginald Dural, son of Buckwheat Zydeco. "He was really my family member. He’s kin to me. And we used to talk just like me and my father. And that’s what hits me so hard. It’s like reminding me of when my father passed."
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Lil' Buck played with dozens of local musicians and recorded his own music too. He played guitar on more than 300 recordings in each decade since the 1950s, according to the liner notes on his "Bad Situation" CD.
Acadiana remembered him Monday for a bluesy, zydeco sound that poured out of him during every performance.
“He played the way a Creole Frenchman speaks," said local musician C.C. Adcock. "He had that same sly patois and dialect in his guitar phrasing as he did when he was speaking, which is not only uniquely Lafayette, it’s also the highest level, I think, an artist can get to. There was no show with Lil’ Buck. His art was just a total extension of his personality and his true soul.”
Lil' Buck is also remembered for mentoring younger musicians.
They would regularly swing by his childhood home on St. Charles Street — which he referred to as the "real House of Blues" — for guitar lessons and jam sessions that often turned into an afternoon of eating, drinking and joke-telling.
"What I would say about Buckaroo is that he was as good a comedian as he was a musician," said zydeco musician Corey Ledet. "He had jokes. He could sit there for days and tell you jokes and never repeat one. Every joke was a fresh joke, and there wasn't any weak jokes. It was a rib-buster, you know? He could make you smile, make you laugh, and when he got on stage, he was all business."
Greg Gordon, a drummer who's performed in multiple groups with Lil' Buck, said he looked up to the guitarist.
"He was like a father, a mentor, a fearless band leader," Gordon said. "He was always real nice to me, always treated me real nice. And I'm going to miss him. I'm going to miss him dearly."
Adcock also described Lil' Buck as a father figure. He and Lil' Buck formed a group in the early 1990s called the Cowboy Stew Blues Revue.
“He learned to play from an old man in the neighborhood called Shwank," Adcock said. "He'd take his lessons under a chinaberry tree in the front yard of the house he was born and raised in and that he died in this morning. He came into the world in that house, and he left the world in that house. It really should be historically preserved. It’s literally the real 'Lafayette House Of Blues.'"
Adcock was scheduled to perform with Lil' Buck later this month at Antone's Nightclub in Austin, Texas.
Lil' Buck was inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame in 1999, and he was recognized with a lifetime achievement award in the ICON Arts and Cultural Awards earlier this year.
“It’s a style of blues and guitar playing that just won’t ever be replicated again," Adcock said. "Lil’ Buck is truly the last of a generation that understood and played music from a place in his heart and a life lived that’s just harder and harder for people to come from these days. He’s the king of the swamp blues guitar.”
Although Lil' Buck is best known for accompanying other musicians, he's also written and recorded his own music.
The song that stood out to local musicians on Monday is his soulful tune called "The Blues is Killing Me."
"I made the blues. It's killing me. Let it be. Oh, let it be. But when I go, just let me down real slow," Lil' Buck sang during a 2010 performance at the Blue Moon Saloon. "I had my fun. Day and night. No more fussing. No fight. But when I go, just let me down. Real slow."
Syrie Funeral Home in Lafayette is handling arrangements.