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Zydeco queen Rosie Ledet's life took a left turn at 16, and she's followed the road ever since



Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys
9 p.m. Saturday
Oklahoma City Limits
4801 S. Eastern

The "night that will change your life" is a hoary conceit generally reserved for movies and sexual come-ons, but in the case of zydeco performer Rosie Ledet, it's the honest-to-God truth.

Her entire world changed after attending a zydeco " roots music with Creole roots " performance by the legendary Boozoo Chavis. She wouldn't have even gone, had her aunt and uncle not pestered her.

"Growing up, until I was a teenager, I didn't pay (zydeco) too much mind, because I figured if (my parents) liked it, of course, I wouldn't," Ledet said. "I was really surprised, because when we got there, that place was packed. There were kids my age " 16-17, older and younger. I couldn't believe it. I totally fell in love with it."

Not only did she discover her future career, but her future husband, Morris Ledet, sitting in with Chavis' band. He asked Rosie to dance during a break, and would court her for several years before they married. While she cared for their child, Morris worked a day job. But Rosie found her calling in that time alone at home, picking up the unattended accordion and teaching herself how to play.

"I still play just by ear. I listen to something and I pick it up like that," she said with an infectious giggle.

Mirth and joy are clearly two of Ledet's best friends, and it comes out in her music. The lively beat is accompanied by her sultry croon, an instrument so warm and inviting, one could curl up inside it.

Soon, Morris had moved over to bass, with Rosie usurping his accordionist role. Along with Morris' dad on washboard and nephew on drums, they recorded their debut album, "Sweet Brown Sugar," in 1994. The group has been going strong ever since, releasing eight albums.

Not bad for a painfully shy girl, whose only singing experience had been with her church's junior choir, where Ledet lip-synched so she could go on trips with her mother, who was in the main choir. The first time she really sang was in front of the band, and only because she had no choice.

"To this day, I can play a complete show with my eyes closed. They'll say, 'Rosie what are you doing that every picture I get of you, your eyes are closed?' 'Oh, I'm just feeling the music.' Really, I'm petrified," she said. "But once you get on stage, get the energy from the crowd, and the music's feeling right, you kind of do go somewhere else. You kind of do forget."

A wrench was thrown into the machinery when Morris and Rosie divorced seven years ago, although they remain friends. Suddenly, she found herself doing all the things her ex would do to keep the ship running smoothly. It's part of the reason 2005's "Pick It Up" is her most recent album. She's been too busy touring and handling facets of her personal life, that another disc was put on the back burner.

That will change soon. Ledet has already recorded more than a dozen tracks for her next release. Of course, who releases it is another question. For the first time, she's considering doing so on her own. Regardless, she promises a mix of rambunctious, danceable music; slow "belly-rubbing" songs; and fun, clever lyrics. She's got a knack for the latter, as heard on the 1999 song "You Can Eat My Poussière," employing the French word for "dust" to great effect.

"Some people take it the wrong way; others don't. Eh, you can't please everybody," she said.

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