Only a few zydeco artists can claim a gig at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome which is home of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, the Super Bowl, NCAA Football Championships and other major events. Nathan Williams Jr. was blessed with the opportunity to perform at the Superdome for the prestigious 2013 Bayou Classic. The Bayou Classic is an annual football event that features the showdown between Southern University and Grambling State University. This event draws an astounding 50,000 fans to the Superdome. Lil Nate stole the stage performing his original hit, “Go Hard or Go Home,” during the halftime show with the renowned Grambling State Marching Band. The show is a great accomplishment for any artist, but big events have become business as usual for Lil Nate, an artist at the top of his zydeco career.
Lil Nate’s unique sound, broad experience and magnetizing stage presence is rooted back to his childhood. At the budding age of 5, he was introduced to the rhythmic southern Louisiana music of zydeco where he played rubboard in his father’s band, the legendary “Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas”. Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas were one of the top Zydeco bands who toured across the country at that time. Lil Nate soon moved on to playing the drums and then on to the accordion. His father, Nathan Williams Sr. was an excellent teacher and role model to Lil Nate.
In 2002, at the age of 14, Lil Nate was a freshman at Lafayette’s Northside High School when he recorded his first studio album project with the Big Timers, “Zydeco Ballin.” Lil Nate then followed-up with his second album release “Doin’ It Big Time”. This disc gave birth to his classic radio hits, “That L’argent,” an English and Creole dance tune about the pitfalls of money. His fans called him “The L’argent Man” and the “Baby Boy of Zydeco”. Lil Nate skyrocketed to become one of the top attractions touring the highly competitive zydeco circuit. With his continuous string of hits, like “Dead Wrong,” “How You Feel Tonight,” “Cuddle Up,” Don’t Hit Me Catin” and “Dead Wrong”, Lil Nate remain at the top of the zydeco food chain still today.
Over the years, Lil Nate has opened up concerts for many national recording artists such as Keith Sweat, Tank, New Edition, Dru Hill, and many others. He has graced the stages of Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, the Houston International Festival and numerous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festivals. He shared the studio with triple-platinum R&B artist Cupid of “Cupid Shuffle”, Hip Hop artist Juvenile, Hip Hop artist Kevin Gates, Southern Soul artist Tucka, and many other musical greats in the industry.
Although zydeco has helped him gain great success, Lil Nate has not only relied on it. In 2008, he earned a bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This accomplishment allowed him to obtain just a fragment of his future goal of becoming a music and vocals teacher.
A master of the single note and triple row accordion, Lil Nate currently serves as an instructor for UL’s “traditional music” program which is part of the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music. He instruct students in the Zydeco Ensemble which completes each semester with a public showcase of their new skills. “Life is good,” quotes Lil Nathan. “I’m truly grateful for where I’ve been and the blessings to come. I don’t take any of my success for granted, if I couldn’t continue to perform or play zydeco anymore, I find peace in being blessed and knowing the impact I’ve made and the music I will leave behind.”
(Herman Fuselier is a music writer and broadcaster living in Opelousas, La. His Zydeco Stomp radio show airs from noon to 3 p.m. Central time Saturdays on KRVS 88.7 FM and www.krvs.org.)