1969 was a pivotal year in the musical career of Doug Kershaw (born Douglas James Kershaw). An appearance on the premier broadcast of The Johnny Cash Show, on June 7, brought him to the attention of his largest audience and led to a contract with Warner Brothers/Seven Arts. Two months later, Kershaw’s autobiographical tune, “Louisiana Man,” became the first song broadcast back to Earth from the Moon by the astronauts of Apollo 12. Kershaw capped the year with a much-publicized, week-long engagement at the Fillmore East in New York as opening act for Eric Clapton’s Derek & 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 done in the early ’60s with his brother, Rusty. “Louisiana Man” had been a Top Ten country hit in 1961 and its follow-up, “Diggy Diggy Lo,” had done almost as well. The son of an alligator hunter, Kershaw was the seventh born to a family that eventually included five boys and four girls. Raised in a home where Cajun French was spoken, he didn’t 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 an amazing 28 instruments. His first gig was at a local bar, the Bucket of Blood, where he was accompanied by his mother on guitar. After teaching his brother Rusty (born Russell; February 2, 1938) to play guitar, he formed a band, the Continental Playboys, with Rusty and older brother Peewee in 1948.
Although they initially sang in French, J.D. Miller, owner of the Feature record label, persuaded them to incorporate songs in English into their repertoire. With the departure of Peewee from the group in the early ’50s, Doug and Rusty continued to perform as a duo. The brothers quickly built a solid reputation for their high-energy performances of Cajun two-steps and country ballads. In 1955, they recorded their first single, “So Lovely, Baby.” Released on the Hickory label, the tune became a Top Five country hit in August 1955. Shortly afterward, they were invited to become cast members of the Louisiana Hayride, a popular radio show broadcast from Shreveport, LA. In 1957, they recorded a Top 40 country hit, “Love Me to Pieces.” They became members of the Grand Ole Opry the following year. Despite the demands of his music career, Doug enrolled in McNeese State University and earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics. At the peak of their early career, in 1958, Doug and Rusty decided to simultaneously enlist in the United States Army. They devoted their attention to the military until their dismissal three years later. Picking up where they left off in February 1961, the two brothers recorded “Louisiana Man,” a song Doug had written while in the Army. The song was eventually covered by more than 800 artists. By the time their debut album, Rusty and Doug, was released in July 1964, however, the Kershaw brothers had elected to go their separate ways.
It took another three years before Doug signed a songwriter’s contract with BMI. Despite the success of his solo career,Kershaw continued to be plagued by depression and sorrow. His father had committed suicide when he was only seven. Until 1984, Kershaw battled drug and alcohol abuse and he became known for erratic behavior. Although he continued to perform and record, his albums of the 1970s failed to duplicate the commercial success of “Louisiana Man” and “Diggy Diggy Lo.” In 1981, Kershaw rebounded with his biggest selling hit, “Hello Woman,” which reached the country music Top 40. In 1988, he recorded a duet, “Cajun Baby,” with Hank Williams, Jr., that became a Top 50 country hit. Marrying his wife, Pam, at the Astro Dome on June 21, 1975, Kershaw began raising his own family, which included five sons — Douglas, Victor, Zachary, Tyler, and Elijah — and two grandsons. His son Tyler plays drums in his band. Kershawreleased a French-language album, Two Step Fever, in 1999. 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. Easy appeared from Cooking Vinyl in 2002.