Cajun and Country Fiddle Great Courtney Granger Has Died

photo: Jenny Lyons Simon

A talented and treasured member of both the Cajun and country music realm passed away too soon on Saturday, September 18th. Courtney Granger was the highly-revered and Grammy-nominated fiddle player, guitarist, and singer for the Southwest Louisiana Cajun and creole outfit, the Pine Leaf Boys. He also was a strong supporter and advocate for country music within the Cajun music community and beyond. Courtney Granger was only 39-years-old.

Courtney Granger was born as Cajun music royalty, originally from Eunice, Louisiana. He grew up surrounded by the music of Southern Louisiana as the grandnephew of Balfa Brothers member Dewey Balfa, who was a beloved Cajun fiddler and winner of the National Heritage Fellowship.

Granger made his solo debut as a fresh-faced 16-year-old on the Rounder Records release Un Bal Chez Balfa from 1999, which put him on the map as both a singer and fiddle player in the French Cajun tradition. Later he was a part of the late-term revival band Balfa Toujours. He then joined the Pine Leaf Boys in 2008, who quickly became respected throughout the Cajun community, and were nominated in 2008, 2009, and 2010 in the Grammy’s Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album category. Granger also worked and volunteered as a fiddle instructor at camps across the country, and was respected as both an effective and patient teacher.

Along with his gifts with instrumentation, Courtney Granger was especially revered for the high-lonesome vocal style of Cajun singers that is considered a dying art. This also made him especially equipped to cross over into his second passion, which was classic country music.

“Some people learned to sing in the church,” Granger once said, “but I learned to sing in bars.” While his family would be setting up to entertain in local venues throughout Louisiana, young Granger would be singing along with the old country records that would be playing on the jukebox. This is what imparted him with a love for country at an early age, resulting in what some consider to be one of the best classic country tribute records in the last decade, 2016’s Beneath Still Waters.

Sounding eerily similar to George Jones who was born and raised just over the Texas/Louisiana border in the Beaumont area, Beneath Still Waters was produced by Dirk Powell, and featured recognizable names from the Cajun and roots community such as Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, vocalist Alice Gerrard, and Cajun fiddler Joel Savoy. Songs written by Dallas Frazier, Max T. Barnes, Hank Cochran, Hazel Dickens, Cindy Walker, and Keith Whitley were all featured in the surprisingly straight ahead and impassioned country record from a Cajun singer.

Courtney Granger had long suffered heavily from diabetes, and fell especially ill in 2017 when he was hospitalized with encephalitis. When he passed away, he was on a waiting list for a kidney donation. A Go Fund Me has been set up to help with Granger’s final expenses that surpassed its asking price within hours, speaking to the love and respect Courtney Granger enjoyed throughout the Cajun music community.

“Our dear friend, Courtney, can finally rest in peace,” the Pine Leaf Boys said at his passing.

© 2024 Saving Country Music