This Jam Traffics In Good Times From Alligator Sausage To Zydeco, Fun For Just About Everyone.

Posted: May 29, 1994

The bayou came to Philadelphia yesterday. Fiddles squeaked like tree frogs. Horns shrieked like wading birds. A bass saxophone bellowed like one old bull gator.

Carol Bennis didn't recognize a single bit of it, nope, not one note. And she loved it.

"What's this music called?" asked the Blue Bell resident, yelling above the swamp-stomping good sounds of the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band, one of the first acts to bow at the ninth annual Jambalaya Jam at Penn's Landing. The event continues until tomorrow night. "It's, uh, cajun. Right?"

Well, yes - cajun, or zydeco, or New Orleans-style swing music, it really doesn't matter what the name is. It's feel-good music, the sort of sound that sets old folks to hip-wiggling and young kids to giggling.

It's music for winter-wearied souls, music for blue-domed days when flowers wave hello. It's music meant for summer, and that's what visitors got as Philadelphia ushered in the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

They came in groups large and small, in sneakers and loafers and army boots. Young moms fretting over their stroller-trapped babies while dads hovered nearby, looking awkward. Unsmiling teens trying hard to appear bored. Elderly couples holding hands under cherry trees.

They jostled up to four different stages, where all sorts of music rose in the clear air, rolled across the wind-whipped Delaware River and rattled Camden's windows.

They jiggled to Daigrepont's zydeco, swayed to the smoky rhythms of the Charmaine Neville Band and found themselves caught in the landslide of sound produced by six intense men in black suits calling themselves the Famous Rocks of Harmony.

They munched on alligator sausage and finger-sized shrimp, and swilled lemonade and beer.

And listened.

"This is great music!" said Teresa O'Rourke of Boyertown. She smiled at a nearby couple two-stepping to a cajun song. "I love this."

O'Rourke faced a dilemma when she woke up yesterday. She could do the adult thing, and clean out the rural Montgomery County stalls that house her quarter horses, Missy, Cherokee, Honey and Impressive. Or she could go on a date with a handsome fellow: Spencer Ecker, 5, the son of her fiance.

A sly smile slid across O'Rourke's face. "You see where I am."

Lou McAfoos and Barbara O'Hare greeted the day pondering the same issue: Did they want to do housework - the grown-up thing, admittedly - or should the New Jersey residents leave their homes in Mount Holly and Robbinsville to drink beer, eat alligator sausage and snicker like schoolkids?

"What would we be doing if we weren't here?" McAfoos asked. He licked some froth from his upper lip and thought about the question with all the scholarly attention that lawyers such as himself can muster.

"Laundry," O'Hare answered. "I'd be doing laundry."

"Yeah," McAfoos said. "I'd waste the day doing housework."

But who can do housework when fat clouds tumble on invisible currents, when the river sparkles like scattered diamonds, when locusts rustle in the wind? Nancy Levy certainly couldn't.

"I came out for my love of music," the Cherry Hill resident said. She leaned against a concrete wall and smiled at two dancing women. They jumped and jiggled like electrified marionettes as an appreciative crowd stood back and stared.

It touched a memory. Levy once danced as a performer with the United Services Organization, wowing the troops who were on leave during World War II. For a moment, she looked wistful.

"If my (late) husband was here, he'd be dancing with me," she said. ''We'd be dancing and having a ball. His name was Robert. He loved to dance."

Yesterday, who wouldn't love to dance, high-stepping where ice once covered the very ground where bricks lay warming in the sun?

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