Floyd Soileau’s record shop and his Flat Town Music Co. founded in 1956 and 1957, began because Floyd, then a disc jockey at KVPI in Ville Platte, needed some extra money. His part-time record sales became so popular that he was told by the station’s management to either spin records or sell them.
He chose to sell them, and did at his record shop, turned wholesale distributor, until Saturday, Dec. 22, when Floyd’s closed its doors for good.
But he had a good, long—and important to local artists—run at the business of both selling and producing records over the last six decades or so. When he began, Cajun music records were hard to find. Legendary producers like George Khoury and Eddie Shuler were having some trouble. Shuler’s star artist, Iry Lejeune, died an untimely death and Khoury’s titles were going out of print because his manufacturing plant in California burned. Other producers like Jay Miller in Crowley, were turning from Cajun music to rhythm and blues.
One of Soileau’s early successes was Bernard’s “This Should Go On Forever” in 1958. It became a national hit, making it to No. 8 on the Hit Parade and to the Top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100. Bernard even found himself on American Bandstand—three times.
“The shop, and especially Floyd, have been an important part of my life,” Rod said “Almost everything that I have, I can date back directly to Floyd and ‘This Should Go On Forever.’
“Unlike many record producers who don’t take time to pay royalties, Floyd has sent me a royalty statement every December since 1958. Once, when he leased ‘This Should Go On Forever’ to another company, Floyd received a payment of $5,000. He made a copy of the check, made out a separate check for $2,500 to me, then sent all the documents to me.
“This shows how honest Floyd is. I wouldn’t have had any way of knowing about the lease deal. Some record producers would have kept all the money.”
Soileau also produced swamp pop hits like Jivin’ Gene’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” (1959), Joe Barry’s “I’m a Fool to Care” (1961), Tommy McLain’s “Sweet Dreams” (1966), Johnny Allan’s “Lonely Days and Lonely Nights” (1959), and Rufus Jagneux’s “Opelousas Sosthen” (1973), as well as songs by Warren Storm, Don Rich, Cookie and the Cupcakes, and the Boogie Kings
He also recorded many legends of Cajun music, including Dewey Balfa and The Balfa Brothers, Nathan Abshire, Adam Hebert, Dennis McGee, Vin Bruce, Hadley Castille, Paul Daigle, Aldus Roger, Lawrence Walker, Austin Pitre, Belton Richard, D.L. Menard and more recently BeauSoleil, Wayne Toups, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Jambalaya Cajun Band, Kevin Naquin, and the Lost Bayou Ramblers.
His heyday was during the time when 45 rpm records were most popular, and as vinyl record sales declined, so did Floyd’s. His sales and his staff dwindled and three years ago he decided to make 2012 his last year.
He said he has few regrets. “I outlasted Kodak and Polaroid,” he said, and he will continue. to operate floydsrecordshop.com, an online store that specializes in Cajun, zydeco and swamp pop,
Bernard thinks that at least part of the demise of Floyd’s Record Shop is because of the people downloading songs from the Internet.
“The public doesn’t realize that when they take a CD and make 15 copies for their friends, they are taking money from the record shop, record company, music publishing company, songwriters, singers, distribution centers and many others,” he said. “Floyd has even caught some people making 20 or 60 copies of our music, then selling those bogus CDs at convenience stores, gas stations, and other places.
“God bless Floyd and Jin Soileau,” Bernard said, “if they don’t make it to heaven, I don’t have a chance.” He’s not alone in that sentiment.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O.Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.