Heart of Louisiana: La's oldest record shop

As you drive the two-lane highway between Mamou and Ville Platte, you can still find Cajun music on the am radio. It's part of the soul of the landscape of rice farms and cattle pastures that are the Cajun prairie.

Floyd Soileau opened his Ville Platte record store in 1956. He says it's Louisiana's oldest record shop that's still run by the original owner.

"My late brother Kurt and I went to New Orleans, went on Baronne Street, met with the distributor over there. I came back with $250 worth of records and a $60 phonograph to play them on," Soileau said.

Country was popular and Rock and Roll was brand new. There were very few Cajun artists making records. But many of Floyd's customers were looking to buy regional music.

"That's when I decided that if I had the chance I was going to start making records, and Cajun records were the first ones we started making," he says.

A juke box operator funded the first recordings. Then word got out that a guy in Ville Platte was making Cajun records again.

"I had a roster of some of the better names in Cajun music and we just kept turning the records out and people kept buying," Solieau said.

And they were buying some of the most popular Cajun songs of all time.

"That's the first gold record we got for Tommy McClain's Sweet Dreams," he recalled.

Floyd Soileau's Cajun, Swamp Pop and Zydeco records went from regional to national hits. Even the Beatles' Apple Records label picked up one of his songs.

Soon other artists like Jean Knight and John Fogerty would record their own versions.

"When I was releasing those records naturally I was happy that it was helping me to sell more music in my store. But I didn't envision this Cajun music would ever leave Louisiana," Soileau said.

When Floyd started selling music, it came on large 78 rpm records, then there were the 45 rpm hit singles. The vinyl LP's. And then music became digital with CD's and downloading on the Internet.

And it's the popularity of the regional music that's been drawing customers there for more than a half century.

"We would like to be the last one to turn the lights out in Louisiana," he says.

Soileau says he never dreamed the music would gain worldwide popularity. He credits the success to the talent and the songs of local musicians who grew up on the farms and along the two-lane roads of the Cajun prairie.

Floyd Soileau still has a large selection of Louisiana music in his Ville Platte record store, but he says he's selling more and more of his music by catalogue and online.

For more information, go to http://www.floydsrecordshop.com/Default.aspx