“Frenchie passed away with his beloved wife Sara by his side on Saturday at 7:11 PM,” Heart of Texas Records President Tracy Pitcox said. “During the last few years, he had suffered some debilitating strokes and had been diagnosed with cancer. Although he was in a rehab facility for the last couple of months, he still longed to be back on stage. The stage was his life and where he shined brightest.”
Frenchie Burke was born in the small Louisiana town of Kaplan, not for from Lafayette. His grandfather taught him to play the fiddle and he began to play with small bands throughout Louisiana. He began to work the road and attract attention of some well know entertainers.
He joined the United States Air Force and continued to entertain his fellow service men including winning the annual talent contests.
After leaving the Air Force, Burke began working for Ray Price, Little Jimmy Dickens and Johnny Bush touring throughout the United States and Canada. It was while working with Johnny Bush that Frenchie cut his first record, “Warm With Love In Here.”
“After I left Willie, I formed my own band, starting with fiddler Frenchie Burke. He was the very first Bandolero,” Bush recalls. “He was from Houston, and he’d been working singles with me when I was still with Willie. Back in those days, those Texas fiddle players were treacherous, there were some bad fiddle players out there. But Frenchie and I really gelled together because he could play.”
In 1974, he received extensive airplay with his version of the old Cajun waltz “Big Mamou.” It quickly became the number one requested song on several Texas radio stations including KIKK in Houston, KKYX in San Antonio and WBAP in Ft. Worth. 20th Century Records then released it and it became a number one record across the nation. Other chart hits followed including “The Fiddlin of Jacques Pierre Bordeaux,” “Frenchie’s Cotton Eyed Joe” and “Let’s Get Drunk and Be Somebody.”
The highlight of the Frenchie Burke Show was his version of the “Orange Blossom Special.” The show ended with Burke going out into the audience and “fiddling” around with various members of the audience. It was a fan favorite all over the country. Burke’s was a high energy presentation with vocals and instrumentals that became standards in the Country Music industry.
Frenchie was voted the Cashbox Instrumentalist of the Year in 1981 and along with his band was given the Best New Duo of 1975. His album “Fiddlin Frenchie Burke” was ranked the number four album in 1975. He last album was on Startex Records called “Dance Album.”
When asked how he wanted to be remembered last month, Burke simple said “L-O-V-E”.
He is survived by his wife Sara, five childred Buck Roberts, Brenda Vosler, Donna Lynn Bourque, Bobby Gene Bourque and Leah Bourque, eleven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.