Doug Kershaw

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Doug Kershaw
Doug Kershaw playing the fiddle at the 2009 Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.
Doug Kershaw playing the fiddle at the 2009 Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.
Background information
Birth nameDouglas James Kershaw
Born (1936-01-24) January 24, 1936 (age 86)[1][2]
Tiel Ridge in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, US[1][2]
GenresCajun music, country, folk, bluegrass
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, fiddle, cajun accordion, guitar
Years active1948–present

Douglas James Kershaw (born January 24, 1936[1][2]) is an American 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 that charted on the Hot Country Songs charts. He is also a member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, being inducted in 2009.

Early life[edit]

Born in an unincorporated community called Tiel Ridge in Cameron Parish, Kershaw did not learn English until the age of eight. 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.[3] His first gig was at a local bar, the Bucket of Blood, where he was accompanied by his mother on guitar.[4]

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.

"Doug and Rusty"[edit]

Doug 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.[4] With the departure of Peewee from the group, in the early 1950s, Rusty & Doug continued to perform as a duo. In 1955, when Kershaw was nineteen, he and Rusty performed on the Louisiana Hayride KWKH radio broadcast in Shreveport, Louisiana.[5] The two also performed at the WWVA Jamboree (later renamed Jamboree U.S.A.), in Wheeling, West Virginia.[6]

Although the brothers initially sang in French, J. D. "Jay" Miller, owner of the Feature Records label, persuaded them to incorporate songs in English into their repertoire. In 1955, Doug and Rusty recorded their first single, "So Lovely, Baby." Released on the Hickory label, the tune went to number 14 on the country music charts. Later that same year, Doug and Rusty were invited to become members of the Louisiana Hayride cast. The Kershaws appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee and became regular members of the Opry cast the following year.[3][7] Despite the demands of his music career, 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.[4]

"Louisiana Man" and solo career[edit]

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.[8] The song was eventually covered by more than 800 artists.

There were three albums released by the duo on Hickory Records, only one being released before they split up. The first was Rusty and Doug Sing Louisiana Man (LPM 103) in 1961. Kershaw (Genus Cambarus) (LPS 163) was released in 1972 and was a double LP. Louisiana Man (HR 4506) was the final Hickory album, released in 1974. By 1964, the brothers had elected to go their separate ways. It took another three years before Kershaw signed a songwriters' contract with BMI, in 1967.

In June 1969, Kershaw made his first network television appearance on the debut of the Johnny Cash Show.[4] After watching Kershaw's Johnny Cash Show performance as an eight-year-old boy, Mark O'Connor became inspired to learn to play the fiddle.[9] He capped the year with a week-long engagement at the New York City's Fillmore East as opening act for Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominos. 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. "Louisiana Man" had been a Top 10 country hit in 1961 and its follow-up, "Diggy Liggy Lo", had done almost as well. His performance in front of a national audience led to Warner Bros. Records signing him to a long-term contract.[10] In July 1969, he performed at the Newport folk festival along with Joni Mitchell, Arlo Guthrie, Ramblin Jack Elliott, Big Mama Thornton, and Mimi Fariña, among others. Newcomers that year were Don McLean, James Taylor, and Jerry Jeff Walker. In November 1969, "Louisiana Man" was broadcast back to earth by the crew of the Apollo 12 moon mission.[11] Beyond the southern venues, Kershaw became widely known in mainstream America as he played at major urban concert halls.

In 1970, Kershaw contributed a violin part to Arlo Guthrie's record single "Alice's Rock and Roll Restaurant."[12]

In 1971, Kershaw had an acting and musical cameo in the Western film Zachariah, starring Don Johnson and John Rubinstein.[13]

Kershaw's playing was featured in the Richard Brooks 1971 film, Dollars (also known as $, Dollar$, Dollars or $(Dollars), and in the UK as The Heist).

In 1972, Kershaw played electric fiddle in Grand Funk's "Flight of the Phoenix" off their LP Phoenix. Capitol SMAS 11099[14]

Later life[edit]

Despite the success of his solo career, Kershaw was plagued by depression and sorrow. His father had committed suicide when he was only seven.[15] Marrying his wife, Pam, at the Houston Astrodome on June 21, 1975, Kershaw began raising his own family that included five sons – Douglas, Victor, Zachary, Tyler, and Elijah; and two grandsons and a granddaughter. His son Tyler plays drums in his band, and manages his shows as well.[16]

Kershaw rebounded with his biggest selling hit, "Hello Woman", which reached the country music Top 40. By 1984, Kershaw's battle with drug and alcohol abuse came to a close and his previously erratic behavior changed for the better.[3]

In 1988, he recorded a duet, "Cajun Baby", with Hank Williams, Jr.,[4] that became a Top 50 country hit. Kershaw released a French-language album, Two Step Fever, in 1999, and Michael Doucet of Beausoleil is featured on the duet "Fievre De Deux Etapes". Hot Diggity Doug was released in mid-2000 and Still Cajun After All These Years followed in early 2001. His brother Rusty died on October 23, 2001.[17]

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.[18]

In 2009, Doug was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.[19]

Doug's third cousin is country music star Sammy Kershaw.[20]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country AUS[21] CAN
1969 The Cajun Way Warner Bros.
1970 Spanish Moss 86
1971 Doug Kershaw
1972 Swamp Grass
Devil's Elbow[22]
1973 Douglas James Kershaw
1974 Mama Kershaw's Boy 14
1975 Alive & Pickin' 32 95
1976 Ragin' Cajun 44
1977 Flip, Flop & Fly 47
1978 The Louisiana Man
1979 Louisiana Cajun Country Starfire
1981 Instant Hero Scotti Bros.
1989 Hot Diggidy Doug BGM
The Best of Doug Kershaw Warner Bros.


Year Single Chart Positions Album Label
US Country CAN Country
1967 "Ain't Gonna Get Me Down" single only K-Ark
1969 "You Fight Your Fight (I'll Fight Me)" The Cajun Way Warner Bros.
"Diggy Liggy Lo" 70 1
1970 "Orange Blossom Special" 9 Spanish Moss
"Natural Man" Doug Kershaw
1971 "Mama Said Yeah"
"Play, Fiddle, Play"
1972 "My Sally Jo" Devil's Elbow
"Jamestown Ferry"
1974 "Mama's Got the Know How" 77 83 Mama Kershaw's Boy
"Nickel in My Pocket"
"All You Want to Do Is Make Kids" single only
"Louisiana Sun"[1] Pacemaker
1976 "It Takes All Day to Get Over Night" 76 Ragin' Cajun Warner Bros.
"House Husband"
1977 "I'm Walkin'" 96 Flip, Flop & Fly
"You Won't Let Me"
1978 "Marie" The Louisiana Man
1981 "Hello Woman" 29 Instant Hero Scotti Bros.
"Instant Hero"
1982 "Keep Between the Ditches" The Dukes Of Hazzard (Various Artists)
1985 "My Toot Toot"[2] (with Fats Domino) Hot Diggidy Doug Toot Toot Recordz
1988 "Cajun Baby" (with Hank Williams, Jr.) 52 BGM
1989 "Boogie Queen" 66


1.^ This recording of "Louisiana Sun" dates from the 1960s, and likely features an uncredited Rusty Kershaw.
2.^ Promo copies exist with a re-recording of the song as "Don't Mess With My Popeye's", done specially for the fast food chain.


  1. ^ a b c Simmons, Michael (March 1, 2003). "Doug Kershaw: The "Real Deal" in Cajun Fiddle". Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c McCall, Michael; Paxman, Bob (2012). The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Oxford University Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0195395631.
  3. ^ a b c "Doug Kershaw Bio". Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Aswell, Tom (2013). Louisiana Rocks!: The True Genesis of Rock and Roll. Pelican Publishing. ISBN 9781455607839. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  5. ^ Stambler, Irwin (2000). Country Music: The Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). St. Martin's Griffin. p. 233. ISBN 978-0312264871.
  6. ^ Dregni, Michael (2011). Rockabilly: The Twang Heard 'Round the World: The Illustrated History. Voyageur Press. ISBN 9780760340622. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  7. ^ "Opry Timeline – 1950s". Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  8. ^ Woodstra, Chris (1997). All Music Guide to Country: The Experts' Guide to the Best Country Recordings (1st ed.). Backbeat Books. p. 255. ISBN 978-0879304751.
  9. ^ Himes, Geoffrey. "Mark O'Connor's Art: Fiddling With The Best". Retrieved May 5, 2022.
  10. ^ "Richard De La Font Agency, Inc: Doug Kershaw". Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  11. ^ "Born on the Bayou: Exploring Louisiana in 18 Songs". Rolling Stone. June 11, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  12. ^ "Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Rock And Roll Restaurant / Ring-Around-A-Rosy Rag (Vinyl)". Discogs. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  13. ^ Greenspun, Roger (January 25, 1971). "Zachariah (1970) Screen: 'Zachariah,' an Odd Western". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Grand Funk* - Phoenix (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  15. ^ Tucker, Tanya (May 11, 2010). 100 Ways to Beat the Blues: An Uplifting Book for Anyone Who's Down. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781439106020. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  16. ^ "Doug Kershaw and Steve Riley". French Quarter. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  17. ^ Morris, Edward (October 23, 2001). "CMT: Rusty Kershaw, of Rusty & Doug, Dead at 63". Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  18. ^ Haas, Kyle (May 28, 2008). "Bayou House closes its doors". Greeley Tribune. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  19. ^ "D.L. Mendard to be Inducted Into LA Musical Hall of Fame". Vermilion Today. October 7, 2009. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  20. ^ The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Oxford University Press. February 2012. ISBN 9780199920839. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  21. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 165. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  22. ^ Phil Hardy, Dave Laing Da Capo companion to twentieth-century popular music 1995– Page 510 "Doug Kershaw's demonic instrumental style, however, made him much in demand for recording sessions. ... Swamp Grass (1972) had a heavy-rock emphasis while Devil's Elbow swung towards psychedelic music and Douglas James Kershaw ..."

Relevant reading[edit]

  • Kershaw, Doug with Cathie Pelletier. 2019. The Ragin' Cajun: Memoir of a Louisiana Man. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

External links[edit]