Inducted on October 19, 2002
James Floyd Soileau was born Nov. 2, 1938 in Faubourg, between Ville Platte and Washington, LA. He grew up in Ville Platte and lived there ever since. After graduating from Ville Platte High in 1956, and while employed at radio station KVPI, Floyd opened a small record shop that would eventually change the entire Cajun music scene in South Louisiana. With the financial help of an old friend, Ed Manual, a juke box operator from Mamou who wanted new French records for is juke boxes, Floyd released his first record on the Big Mamou label by artists Austin Pitre and Milton Molitor. It was early 1957, and before the year had past, legendary musicians Lawrence Walker and Aldus Roger would help Floyd launch his own SWALLOW record label.
In 1959, he married his high school sweetheart, Jinver Ortego, and named his Swamp pop music label JIN after her. On the JIN label, there were over 300 - 45 rpm single record releases, as well as 100 albums featuring legendary performers, Rod Bernard, Johnnie Allan, Tommy McLain, Clint West and the Boogie Kings, Warren Storm and others. JIN records had a national hit with “This Should Go On Forever.”
In the past 45 years, using his own small recording studio, SWALLOW released over 300 45 rpm singles and over 200 albums of Cajun French music, including recordings by Adam Hebert, Belton Richard, Dewey Balfa and the Balfa Brothers, Nathan Abshire, Paul Daigle & Cajun Gold, D.L. Menard, Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, and the recordings by Cajun French story teller Marion Marcotte.
CODOFIL president, Warren Perrin said of Soileau, “Floyd is still instrumental in helping to preserve the culture and the French language thereby, encouraging the children to learn to speak French and create new Cajun tunes.”
In 1975, at the urging of legendary Zydeco musician Clifton Chenier, the label, Maison de Soul, was established to promote the Creole, Blues, and Zydeco music from this area. This resulted in over 60 45 rpm singles and over 70 albums released. It was in 1985, Maison de Soul label earned a Grammy Award for Rockin Sidney’s “Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot,” which became an enormous international hit.
A fourth label, KOM-A-Day Records, was later established specializing in Cajun humor. In 1975, he sold his recording studio and started a record pressing plant and served clients throughout the U.S., including RCA for whom he pressed Elvis Presley albums. The plant closed in 1994 due to a tragic fire in which many original photos and recordings were destroyed.
Through the years, Floyd has encouraged his artists to compose new songs to record and his Flat Town Music Co. now publishes over 3000 songs, a majority of which are Cajun songs.
(Photo: Jeffrey Dubinsky in Country Roads Magazine)