Article by Louis in Talkhouse:
In this article Louis discusses his background and relationship with Louisiana French and how it is interwoven with our family and music and culture.
TCM interviews on KRVS:
Tommy did two interviews on the University of Louisiana's Public Radio Station KRVS. The interviews were aired on a program called J'savais pas; they aired on successive Tuesdays in November, before and after Thanksgiving, 2018. Program host Esther Tyree asked Tommy questions about the origins of Les Freres Michot, about life growing up in the Michot family, and about musical connections and collaborations within the family. The two interviews are linked below.
The Flying Vet of Lafayette
Les Frères Michot provided the music for this film about Dr. "Lippi" Leonpacher who was a good friend of both of our grandfathers and he used to service the dairy cows on Idlewild Farm in Patterson where our grandfather WB Smith was general manager. Lippi would often bring his kids and they would hang out with mama and her siblings and play at the house on the banks of the Lower Atchafalaya River. One of Lippi's sons, Alfred Leonpacher, became a lifelong friend and fishing buddy of my dad. The Leonpacher family grew up with us in the Pilette area and rode the bus with us to school in Lafayette. Lippi kept a detailed journal and had hundreds of photographs and reels of film documenting his life and career. His granddaughter Leslie Leonpacher enlisted one of Lafayette's most talented film makers in Eric Breaux to weave all of this archival material into a wonderful documentary about one of the pioneers of early Lafayette who used his airplane to service ranches and cattlemen throughout south Louisiana, including the vast marshlands and cheniers of Vermilion Parish. I was honored that Eric and Leslie used our music for the film, including cuts from our first album, "Élevé à Pilette" and some solo pieces that I recorded with Eric in his studio on accordion and violin and tinwhistle. I am excited about the world premiere showing at the Southern Screen Film Festival on November 13 at ACA. Hope to see you all there! Click here for trailer of the film.
Les Freres Michot on American Routes with Nick Spitzer.
Rick and Tommy speak with Nick about their album, La Roue Qui Pend, focusing on the background stories of several songs: La Jument de Michot, La Roue Qui Pend, L’un pas de Bayou Vermilion, La Chasse de Lapin.
LJM on Louisiana Legends 2010
Louis J. Michot, "le pere de Les Freres," was inducted as a Louisiana Legend by LPB in 2010. This episode of the series “Louisiana Legends” from August 31, 2010, features an interview with Louis J. Michot conducted by Beth Courtney. Michot, a native of Lafayette, is a businessman, philanthropist, and politician. The program includes commentary by brothers Tommy and Mike and others, as well as various shots from LJM's past. He served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1960-1964, the State Board of Education from 1968-1972, and as the Superintendent of Education from 1972-1976. He also created the Burger Chef restaurant chain. In the interview he discusses: growing up in Lafayette with French-speaking parents; joining the Marine Corps during World War II; his family; his business ventures; the qualities of a successful small business owner; his drive-in theater; the Burger Chef franchise; his successful run for the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1960; his role as the Superintendent of Education; the need for career-focused education; his hopes for the future of Louisiana; the challenges facing the state; and his humanitarian work.
Lfm and Dylan cross paths
On May 11, 2019, LFM played for a private party in Lacomb, LA, St. Tammany Parish. Rick, Tommy, Andre, and Louis Michot played for the event and when it was over, Louis and Andre drove down the street for an LBR gig at the Dew Drop Jazz and Social Club in Mandeville. Tommy and David sat in with them for a few songs. During a break, the Michot’s were approached by a woman who asked if we were the same Michot’s who used to play at a bar called Muddy Waters on Oak Street in uptown New Orleans (Nola). David said yes indeed, we played there every two weeks for several years in the late 1980s. We played from 10 pm to 2 am and always had a big dance crowd. The woman said that she would often come to our shows there to dance and listen to our music. There was one particular night, she said, that she saw Bob Dylan watching our show and listening to our music. She said that it was around Mardi Gras 1989 when Bob was in Nola recording an album (“Oh Mercy”) at Daniel Lanois’ studio on St. Charles Street, not too far from Muddy Waters. She said that on that night Bob kept a low profile and he didn’t let anyone know that he was there, he just stayed in the background and blended in with the crowd. She said that being there at that location, near the river, and hearing our music, inspired Bob to write the song, “The Man with the Long Black Coat,” which he wrote in the studio and recorded on that album in Nola, Oh Mercy. We looked up the lyrics to the song (see below) and there are many things that certainly fit the description of the setting there at Muddy Waters: crickets chirping, high water (the Mississippi River), windows open, African trees, hurricane breeze, old dance hall on the outskirts of town, she asked him to dance, smoke on the water (fog), tree trunks uprooted, all create images typical of the scene that night. Also, the chord progressions are Am, C, G, same as our “Chanson de Mardi Gras” which we undoubtedly played that night since it was Carnival season. The album was recorded in March of 1989. The album cover was an artistic painging of a couple dancing. All the connections fit. It seems we had a small part in a song written and recorded by Bob Dylan, and we never knew it!
Man in the Long Black Coat
By Bob Dylan
Crickets are chirpin' the water is high
There's a soft cotton dress on the line hangin' dry
Windows wide open African trees
Bent over backwards from a hurricane breeze
Not a word of goodbye not even a note
She gone with the man in the long black coat
Somebody seen him hangin' around
At the old dance hall on the outskirts of town
He looked into her eyes when she stopped him to ask
If he wanted to dance he had a face like a mask
Somebody said from the bible he'd quote
There was dust on the man in the long black coat
Preacher was talking there's a sermon he gave
He said every man's conscience is vile and depraved
You cannot depend on it to be your guide
When it's you who must keep it satisfied
It ain't easy to swallow it sticks in the throat
She gave her heart to the man in the long black coat
There are no mistakes in life some people say
It is true sometimes you can see it that way
But people don't live or die people just float
She went with the man in the long black coat
There's smoke on the water it's been there since June
Tree trunks uprooted beneath the high crescent moon
Feel the pulse and vibration and the rumbling force
Somebody is out there beating on a dead horse
She never said nothing there was nothing she wrote
She gone with the man in the long black coat
Story of LFM swim across the Mississippi River
Tommy, Rick, and David swam across the Mississippi River from Algiers to the Chalmette Ferry back in about 1986 when we were young and crazy! We had just returned from a tour of Communist Poland, where we were the first Cajun Band to play behind the Iron Curtain (see below). We were playing music in New Orleans every couple of weeks. We would usually stay with one of our two aunts that lived in NOLA on the west bank, Aunt Jacqui and Aunt Mary Lois. Rick had been living in NOLA while he was studying for the Louisiana Bar exam. He had been staying at Aunt Jacqui's and swimming in the Mississippi River almost every day. On the day in question, we all went for a run along the levee on the west bank at Algiers, then we swam in the River to cool off. While swimming, Rick commented that he always thought about swimming across the river, but wanted someone to follow him in a boat. Tommy suggested that they do it now because they had all been swimming alot during the summer. So Rick, Tommy, and David agreed to swim across and to stick together; Bobby and Mike opted out, though they agreed to take the van and cross to the other side on the Algiers to Chalmette Ferry to pick us up afterwards. So, we set out swimming across the Mississippi River.
We started about 1.5 miles upstream from the ferry. We figured that the current would carry us downstream as we swam across, so we wanted to ensure that we would not miss the ferry landing. There were a couple of ships anchored in the river on the west bank side of the channel, so we planned our swim so that we would pass between the two anchored ships.
The swim across took us about 40 minutes; we started out doing the crawl swim stroke, then we switched to the side stroke and the back stroke at times to pace ourselves. There were times when the southerly wind blowing against the current produced waves of about 3 feet in height, which made swimming a little more difficult. Several large tankers passed, heading upstream, during our swim. We could see them coming from a long way off and we planned our crossing so that we would either be well ahead of them or well behind. For one of them, it took us longer to cross it's path (ahead of the ship) and we had to quicken our pace, using the crawl, in order to put some space between us and the ship. As the ship passed behind us, we could feel pull of it's wake pulling us back toward the ship. That was a little scary, but we made it without being sucked back into the ship.
When we got near to the other side, we were adjacent to a refinery just upstream from the ferry landing. We saw some workers in hard hats; they were looking at us and talking on hand held radios. We waved to them as we drifted downstream toward the ferry landing. As we got closer to the ferry landing, we could see that something was going on, and we saw the flashing red lights of emergency vehicles. We also noticed that no ferry boats had crossed the river recently, and it appeard that traffic was backlogged at the ferries on both sides. We said to each other, "something is going on!" As we got closer, we noticed that there were policemen on the dock of the landing and they were all looking our way and pointing at us.
When we arrived at the landing they helped us out of the water and questioned us as to where we came from and they asked us what were our intentions. It just so happened that a Russian mariner had jumped off of a ship into the Mississippi River a few weeks earlier, and had caused quite a news event when he asked for asylum in the United States. As it turned out, the authorities and the workers had thought that we had jumped off a ship,
which accounts for their questioning.
After numerous questions, they told us to get into the back of a squad car. We asked, "are you arresting us?" They said, "Look, wise guy, we are not arresting you, we are detaining you for questioning, all right?" So we complied.
They drove us over the levee into Saint Bernard parish bc there was a big discussion about jurisdiction. They were not sure who had jurisdiction: Jefferson parish Sheriff’s office, Saint Bernard parish Sheriff’s office, the city police of chalmette, the NO Levee Board police, etc. There were at least 7 police cars, from various jurisdictions, at the scene. One officer drove up just as we crossed the levee; the officer asked another officer, “Who are they? Do they speak English?” Officer #2 replied in his Saint Bernard Parish accent, “Yeh, it’s just 3 fricking morons from Lafayette who wanted to swim across the river!"
At that point they let the traffic start loading up on the ferry again so that things could get moving. Then after their big jurisdiction discussion they decided that they didn’t have anything to hold us on so they let us go.
LFM trip to Krakow, Poland, 1986
LPB has archived its episodes from the program “En Francais” from the 1980s. Click on the link below to see tcm interview in French with James Fontenot in 1986, including film clips from the LFM trip to Poland. LFM was the first Cajun band to play behind the "Iron Curtain," before the fall of the USSR in 1989.
Michot Family musical heritage
The Michots descended from musicians from several lines. Their 3rd great grandfather, Peter Friedrich Engstfeld, was an organist and composer in Germany who wrote and published several songs in the early 19th century. Their great-grandmother Laura Normand Michot played diatonic accordion and sang. The Michots' paternal grandfather, their maternal grandmother, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides played musical instruments and sang, many professionally. The Michots' parents both sang and played piano; their father also played accordion and guitar. Their Aunt Jacqui Ceballos sang in the opera and started her own opera company in Bogota, Colombia. At least three first cousins on the Michot side play or have played music professionally. Among the neices and nephews, at least three sets of brothers from different Michot siblings play professionally in bands around the Lafayette area.
Andre Michot accordions:
CFMA Album 1986 featuring LFM:
Louis J. Michot Jr. bio:
Tommy and Louis playing in Pilette:
Mike Michot interview with Jan Swift where he speaks of the origins of LFM: