Flat Town Music Company, 1964: The British Invasion, the Folk Revival, and Recording Traditional Cajun Music

In 1964, Flat Town Music Company, an independent record company in Ville Platte, Louisiana, responded to two disruptions in the music industry. First, The Beatles arrived in the US and ushered in the British Invasion, obscuring the popularity of American-made music for many years. That same year, the Newport Folk Festival organized its first festival and established a new stage for the growing folk revival. Flat Town’s proprietor, Floyd Soileau, found early success by recording swamp pop, or Louisiana rock and roll, throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. When British bands captured America’s attention in 1964, Soileau knew he could no longer compete with his lineup of swamp pop stars. Fortunately, the presence of Cajun music at Newport that same year revealed a new market for traditional music. Today, Soileau is perhaps best known for the traditional recordings he produced after 1964. Focusing only on the content of these recordings, however, obscures the savvy business strategies that made them possible in the first place. Considering 1964 as a pivot point, this paper shows how the resourcefulness of Floyd Soileau allowed Flat Town Music Company to thrive as a local company in the music industry. Flat Town diversified to include a record store, multiple record labels, and even a pressing plant. Through these endeavors, Soileau provided job opportunities for local artists and residents that placed them within the global music industry. Remaining rooted in the local community meant that Soileau was able to pivot from swamp pop to traditional Cajun music, bringing the sounds of South Louisiana to local, national, and international audiences. This paper disrupts notions about the resilience of traditional cultures in the face of modernity and argues that traditional Cajun music found a place in the music industry not in spite of commercial recording, but because of it.