Friday, October 18, 2019
Douglas James Kershaw (born January 24, 1936) is a fiddle player, singer and songwriter from Louisiana. Active since 1948, he began his career as part of the duo Rusty and Doug, along with his brother, Rusty Kershaw.
He had an extensive solo career that included fifteen albums and singles. He is also a member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, being inducted in 2009.
Born in an unincorporated community called Tiel Ridge in Cameron Parish, Kershaw did not learn English until the age of eight. See Cajun French. By that time, he had mastered the fiddle, which he played from the age of five, and was on his way to teaching himself to play 28 instruments.
His first gig was at a local bar, the Bucket of Blood, where he was accompanied by his mother on guitar. Kershaw became interested in Cajun music during parties his parents would host on the family's houseboat in Louisiana, where he first heard Cajun bands playing the music. He grew up surrounded by Cajun fiddle and accordion music.
After teaching his brother, Rusty, to play guitar, he formed a band, the Continental Playboys, with Rusty and older brother Nelson "Peewee" Kershaw in 1948. With the departure of Peewee from the group, in the early 1950s, Rusty and Doug continued to perform as a duo.
In 1955, when Kershaw was nineteen, he and Rusty performed on the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcast in Shreveport, Louisiana and, also, at the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia Although the brothers initially sang in French, the owner of the Feature Records persuaded them to incorporate songs in English into their repertoire.
In 1955, Doug and Rusty recorded their first single So Lovely, Baby and the it went to number 14 on the country music charts. Later that same year, they were invited to become cast members of the Louisiana Hayride. The Kershaws appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee and became regular members of the Opry cast the following year.
Doug enrolled in McNeese State University, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he earned an undergraduate degree in Mathematics. At the peak of their early career, in 1958, Doug and Rusty both enlisted in the United States Army. They devoted their attention to the military until their discharge three years later.
After fulfilling their military obligation, the two brothers recorded "Louisiana Man", an autobiographical song that Doug had written while in the Army. The song not only sold millions of copies but over the years has come to be considered a standard of modern Cajun music.
In June 1969, Kershaw made his first network television appearance on the debut of the Johnny Cash Show. While it seemed to many rock and pop fans that Kershaw had appeared out of nowhere, he had already sold more than 18 million copies of the records he had made in the early '60s with his brother, Rusty.
Despite his success Kershaw was plagued by depression. His father had committed suicide when he was only seven. Marrying his wife, Pam, at the Houston Astrodome on June 21, 1975, Kershaw began raising his own family that included five sons. By 1984, Kershaw's battle with drug and alcohol abuse came to a close and his previously erratic behavior changed for the better.
Kershaw formerly owned and operated The Bayou House, a restaurant in Lucerne, Colorado, but parted ways with his partners in 2007 due to his displeasure with management and ambiance.