Zydeco Pioneer Transitions
Luke Collins
Creole enthusiast and Zydeco music pioneer Luke Collins died on February 19, 2004 in Opelousas, Louisiana after suffering a stroke a week earlier. Affectionately known as "the old man in the field" and "Mr. Luke", Luke Collins, 63, is credited as the first radio personality to develop a radio program dedicated exclusively to Zydeco Music. Mr. Collins began his radio career in 1980 at 1490, KEUN in Eunice, Louisiana where he hosted the Luke Collins Zydeco Special. He spent the last 25 years programming Zydeco and Creole radio shows at various local radio stations and hosted a weekend Zydeco program at 97.1 FM, KSLO from 3:00pm to 5:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
"Mr. Luke was a simple man who lived a very simple life, yet he played an intricate part in the resurrection and development of the Zydeco music we hear today. His influence will never be matched, and his guidance and wisdom will be sorely missed," said Paul Scott, promotions consultant for the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival and member of the Zydeco Historical & Preservation Society, Inc.

Luke Collins worked tirelessly with the Treasurers of Opelousas to develop the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival (the world's first and oldest Zydeco Festival). He assisted in developing relationships with the few remaining Zydeco Bands at the time and helped to guide and promote many new up and coming Zydeco Bands. "Mr. Luke" acquired the persona as the "old man in the field" because he served as the first master of ceremony for the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival, a position he served in until 2004.

"Mr. Luke and the late Mr. (Wilbert) Guillory were mainstays as far as the festival was concerned," stated Mona Kennerson, former development director of the Southern Development Foundation, which is the current caretaker of the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival. "They were always there, and spoke fluent Creole French. They were our link to a very rich past and this year was the first year the festival was held without his presence."

"Mr. Luke was a true Creole from the old school, the pre-integration days," said Paul Scott, "he was an unschooled man, but he understood the value of our Creole culture and was able to critique the music in compelling and profound ways. He kept us in line and helped us to remember what Creole music means to us."

"People like Mr. Luke tend to be ignored, misunderstood and dismissed by the larger dominant society, however, they are custodians of a resilient, rich and vibrant culture forged in the fire of struggle and time. We have the responsibility and charge to facilitate a healthy development of Zydeco music Creole culture and protect its legacy," said Rod Sias, Chairservant of the Zydeco Historical & Preservation Society. One of the projects the Zydeco Historical & Preservation Society (ZHPS) is engaged in is the development of the Luke Collins Memorial Fund. Initially organized by Herman Fuselier and Paul Scott, the Luke Collins Memorial Fund covered the burial expenses and maintenance for Mr. Collins. The ZHPS has planned a series of targeted fundraising events designed to facilitate the development and expansion of the scope of the fund.

"Mr. Luke was known to have one of the largest private collections of Zydeco, Texas and Louisiana blues and swing-out Music in the Southwest Louisiana," said Sias. "These vital cultural treasures need to be archived and preserved." Sias envisions that the Luke Collins Memorial Fund can become a resource to facilitate what he calls "a much needed technology transfer." "There are institutions, organizations, and individuals that can provide important expertise as far as archiving, cataloging, as well as documenting materials, however it is a critical first step that the people who drive the culture are empowered to better understand, critique and tell their own story with their own sensibilities."

To make a contribution to the Luke Collins Memorial Fund, write to the Zydeco Historical and Preservation Society, P.O. Box 2361, Opelousas, LA 70571.