Jo-El Sonnier has been producing and singing music before he was a teen-ager and today, at the age of 67, the community of Erath honored him by inducting him into the Order of Living Legends.
The ceremony was held Saturday at the Erath Community Center. Sonnier arrived at the center thinking he was there for a birthday party for a friend.
Eventually he learned it was to honor him, which brought tears to his eyes when he spoke at the podium.
Sonnier first fell in love with Cajun music when he was three years old and
eventually learned how to play the accordion before his fifth birthday.
He was performing in Ville Platte at 13. Eventually, he worked his way on stage and began playing with adult musicians.
“Before I got on stage, I would play for the horses and cows next to the barn at my house,” he told the crowd. “The good thing about that is that they did not leave and they kept coming back.”
Over the years, he has played Cajun music in 49 states and 32 countries. In that time, he has had seven songs break into the Top 100 Country charts, including two that broke the top 10. In 1988, his songs, No More One More Time” reached No. 7, while “Tear-Stained Letter” climbed to No. 6 the same year.
He is still making new music and is working on a new album called “The Legacy.”
During the ceremony Saturday, a couple of people spoke about Sonnier.
Country music star Hunter Hayes, from Breaux Bridge, had a few words to say about Sonnier. Hunter did not attend, but his father, Leo, was on hand and read Hunter’s words.
“To have someone so brilliantly and incomparable musically driven, chasing his passion with the dedication to the heritage of Cajun music. He is one of the greatest ambassadors to Cajun music,” said Hunter Hayes. “He waves the flag of appreciation for our beautiful culture and we are proud of him as he represents the culture.”