Elton Cormier *
Inducted on September 22, 2012
On February 18, 1934, Elton “Bee” Cormier was born near Sunset, raised in the Peachbloom community near Church Point and graduated from Church Point High School.
Cormier is a self-taught musician: At the age of five, he purchased two harmonicas for 25 cents and learned to play the instrument within a week. His brother bought a fiddle which he also learned to play. Later, he learned how to play a guitar. A neighbor gave his family a graph-a-phone along with a few records which helped him learn some songs. Finally, he bought and taught himself to play a lap steel guitar.
Cormier had a passionate desire to find ways to keep Cajun music popular with the youth of Acadiana. He recalled from his youth that the Catholic nuns would often read quotes from the bible and one he remembered was from Proverbs Chapter 22 Verse 6: “If you teach a young person to do something when he is young, when he gets older, he will still do it.” With that in mind, he started the band The Church Point Playboys with Alfred Carriere on accordion, Melvin Cormier (his brother) on the fiddle, Ernest “Bee” Venable on the guitar, Johnnie Richard on the drums, and he on the steel guitar.
During his active life, Cormier helped out many young musicians. He asked a young accordion player Jimmie Dale Venable to join the band and he played for about one year until someone then hired him for another group. Then he got another young accordion player named Felton Lejeune who later also started his own band. He aided a very young Reggie Matte (his grandfather played the accordion which was a big help to him) who became an exceptionally good accordion player. Matte also helped many other young musicians learn to play the accordion. When Matte finished school, Cormier took in Terry Cormier who played for a while then went on to another band. When Matte finished college he came back with Cormier’s band and played for several years then he went with another band. Matte played with Cormier for 20 years. Later, Cormier helped Jason Frey get started as a musician and played with him for several years.
Dr. R. L. Savoy asked Cormier to join the newly formed CFMA Chapter and help Eunice Mayor Curtis Joubert promote Cajun music and culture. They sought ways to raise money. Andrew Jagneaux came up with the idea to sell t-shirts made with an emblem. The membership of the CFMA Chapter was still not growing fast enough so Cormier made a proposal that he would record a 45 rpm record and select an unknown accordion musician to do a record every six months to get the area Cajuns to understand that the group was promoting young Cajun musicians. The DJ’s of area radio stations played these recordings on their programs and let their audience know this was a program that would help young musicians. Alley Young was the first to record under this wonderful program. Later, other musicians were selected to back him up.
In 1973, Cormier produced a historic album to promote the Church Point Centennial and in 1976 produced an album called Cajun Heritage which consisted of all French Cajun hymns sung by Father Albert Nunez and the Cajun Choir, with music by Reggie Matte on accordion, Barry Lee Cormier on drums, Kenneth David on guitar and Robert Sonnier on bass guitar.
Cormier is married to Drussella David and they have four children, Barry Lee Cormier, Bonnie Cormier Fontenot, Susie Cormier Robinson and Germaine Cormier Robinson; six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.