Skip to main content

On The Bayou

March 2023
1min read

Cajun Country
Don’t Drop the Potato

directed by Alan Lomax, American Patchwork Series, PBS Home Video, 60 mins., 524.95 . CODE: MVD-8

At the start of this engaging hour-long documentary, a historian describes Cajun culture as “something new that happened only here in Louisiana.” That’s certainly true, as this program makes clear. The video is part of the American Patchwork Series, in which Alan Lomax—writer, director, producer, and narrator—traces specific forms of American music and the culture that fostered them. To present the Cajun world, Lomax combines a lively soundtrack with historical background, live performances, trips through the bayous, and interviews.

The film’s best moments occur when Lomax visits tiny villages in search of Cajun elders. With cameras rolling, he lets them tell their stories in clipped Southern-French accents so thick they must be subtitled. The black “music sage” Caryne Fontenot tells of using old cigar boxes and wire from a friend’s new screen door to make fiddles when he was young. Others recount the tragic story of Amedie Ardoin, a popular black musician of the 1920s. One night he accepted a handkerchief from a young white woman to wipe the sweat from his face, and because of it, a group of white men beat him up, ran over him with a car, and left him to die in a ditch. They were never charged with any crime.

Lomax describes how the culture was threatened by modernization during the oil boom of the 1930s, and the music held it together. In fact, he says, an oftrepeated lyric is “Don’t drop the potato,” meaning, hold on to the culture.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "December 1994"

Authored by: Gene Smith

Forty years changed almost everything—but not the author’s gleaming, troubling memories of Miss Clark. So he went looking for her.

An Interview with the President and the First Lady

Authored by: The Editors

Manhole Covers

Authored by: The Editors

Something Permanent

Authored by: The Editors

The Kingdom of Matthias
A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th Century America

Authored by: The Editors

Victory: The Reagan Administration’s Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Authored by: The Editors


Authored by: The Editors

Watch the Skies!
A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth

Authored by: The Editors

Code Name: The Long Sobbing
The Allies, the Axis, and the Victims: An Anthology From D-Day to V-E Day

Authored by: The Editors

Froth & Scum
Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and the Ax Murder in America’s First Mass Medium

Featured Articles

Famous writers including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts turned Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into our country’s first conservation project.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.

Roast pig, boiled rockfish, and apple pie were among the dishes George and Martha enjoyed during the holiday in 1797. Here are some actual recipes.

Born during Jim Crow, Belle da Costa Greene perfected the art of "passing" while working for one of the most powerful men in America.