Zydeco Flames Concert Promo

Lloyd Meadows Goes with the Flow

“My life has been one happenstance after the other,” says Lloyd Meadows, a founding member of the bands MotorDude Zydeco and Zydeco Flames and a long-time resident of the Grand Lake neighborhood. Lloyd has been a part of the musical landscape in the Bay Area for several decades, playing festivals, farmers’ markets, and various venues including monthly appearances at Ashkenaz in Berkeley and biannual appearances at Rancho Nicasio on New Year’s Eve and July 4th.

If you like, you can listen to a performance as you read this article by MotorDude Zydeco, and by Zydeco Flames.

Lloyd has built a reputation singing Zydeco, a musical genre rooted in South Louisiana, but his musical history began in childhood.  His earliest exposure to music was through his father’s church in Philadelphia. Gospel and choir music filled his house, He recalls singing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Stairway to Heaven” in the church as his first public performance.

At age ten Lloyd’s parents divorced and when he was 15, he was left to fend for himself in Boston. During this time, he continued to pursue his passion for music. He sang in a group called the Prophets and the Motifs, and as he recalls he was just “going with the flow.”

Going to college was another decision Lloyd stumbled into. Not having any concrete plans after high school, he auditioned for and was accepted to Mount Union College, a Methodist School in Ohio, on a music and academic scholarship. The school was known for having a student body of preacher’s kids and children of wealthy parents. “I got a lesson in what privilege was all about,” Lloyd explains. Although he was a classical voice major, he was often told “the classical world is not ready for black singers.”

College was also the place where Lloyd got a taste for the world of secular music.  Though it was frowned upon, Lloyd followed a rebellious urge to venture outside of the campus bubble. He joined rock bands, associated with colorful crowds, and met BB King whom Lloyd persuaded to perform for his social committee.

Lloyd landed here in Oakland in 1978.  He found himself once again without a plan for his future. He held various office jobs for about three years before taking the leap to become a full-time musician. He started by playing at blues clubs throughout Oakland and was soon playing with bassist Bill Wilson and a band called Blues Consultants. During one performance at the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park, Bill told Lloyd that the audience wanted to hear Zydeco. Lloyd learned the basics of Zydeco right then and there. Thus was the band MotorDude Zydeco born. Zydeco Flames is a spinoff band, giving off a more R&B vibe than the French-inspired MotorDude.

Promo poster of Tri Tip Trio

In lead vocals and on the rubboard (also called washboard or frottoir), Lloyd’s broad musical identity is on full display. MotorDude’s album “Big Oakland” sounds like a fusion of French Polka, big band and a hint of Bossa Nova. And in “Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” made famous by the great Fats Domino, we can hear some of those early Blues influences with Lloyd singing in a deep soulful baritone

Lloyd describes zydeco as a melting pot of musical styles, with many cultural identities adding to the flavor. Zydeco might also be a good metaphor to describe Lloyd: a blend of everything that’s touched his spirit through the years.

In addition to numerous recordings and albums with his own two bands, Lloyd’s diverse musical background includes performances and recordings with Mal Sharpe’s Big Money, Tom Rigney, and Elvin Bishop. 

After more than three decades, both MotorDude Zydeco and Zydeco Flames are alive and kicking, which is an unlikely and phenomenal feat for musical bands. They will be performing in the Virgin Islands in May and we will track their performances when they return to the Bay.

Looking back at his life, Lloyd wonders about the “kids who had everything mapped out” while for him “it just happened.” Lloyd’s long and winding road is perhaps a reminder that creativity is often the result of confronting and taking advantage of the unexpected and the unplanned.


By Madhavi Athanikar & Susi Vogler

Headshot: Susi Vogler

Susi Vogler moved to the Grand Lake neighborhood in 2003, having spent most of her life in the East Bay. She recently earned the trail name “Snapchat” since she enjoys snapping photos of things that catch her eye, and her curiosity encourages chatting.

Headshot: Madhavi Athikanar

Madhavi Athanikar has lived in the Grand Lake neighborhood for 3 years and recently left her job in fashion and retail management to look for her next adventure.


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