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D. L. Menard, creator of the Cajun music anthem “The Back Door,” has died.
Caitlin Jacob

Fans know the late D.L. Menard, who died early Thursday at age 85 after a long illness, for The Back Door, a 55-year-old, million-selling Cajun two-step song that still fills dance floors on its opening notes.

But for fiddler Terry Huval, who spent 25 years with Menard on stage and in studios, airports and hotel rooms, Menard was an inspiration and friend filled with one-liners that could bring down the house.

Huval recalls a return trip from Virginia, shortly after 9/11. Huval had successfully passed through airport security and looked back to see TSA agents pulling Menard aside.

More: Cajun music’s million-seller song ‘The Back Door’ turns 55

“Three of the guards are around D.L. and his guitar case,” said Huval, leader of the Jambalaya Cajun Band. “One of them opens it up and picks up a pocket knife.

“D.L. looks at them and says, ‘Well, I be dang. I’ve been looking for that thing for three days

Huval is among the musicians and fans remembering Menard, who died early Thursday morning following a long illness. He was 85. Funeral services are pending.

Born as Doris Leon Menard in 1932 in Erath, Menard became a beloved figure in folk music across the globe for his original songs, storytelling and comical personality. Nicknamed “The Cajun Hank Williams,” Menard was heavily influenced by the country music legend and often spoke about meeting him in 1951 at the Teche Club in New Iberia.

Inspired by Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues,” Menard wrote The Back Door, a French two-step about sneaking back home after a night of drinking and carousing. The song, composed in an hour while Menard worked at a gas station, became an immediate hit in 1962. It has since become Cajun music’s most popular song.

More: D.L. Menard’s Back Door makes Rolling Stone list

Today, every Cajun band must play The Back Door at least once during every performance. The tune is often the first song that Cajun and zydeco accordion players learn.

Floyd Soileau, who produced the song in his Ville Platte studio, says the original recording and countless covers have sold well over 1 million copies.

“When the song first comes on, I don’t care if you’re a 2-year-old or an 85-year-old, you’re going to recognize that melody right away,” said Soileau. “That song has…