James "Chico" Converse
James “Chico” Converse grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois, which is about 35 miles north of Chicago. He graduated from Lake Forest College with a B.A. in French. While in college Chico began playing "folk" fiddle. He lived in Louisiana, residing for 10 years in Franklin and Lafayette. While there he learned to play Cajun music with the band File. Cajun music is an integral part of the culture of Southwest LA. He now lives in Cincinnati, and teaches at AMIS, which is a magnet Cincinnati Public Schools foreign language academy. He is a founding member of Lagniappe.
Yvan Verbesselt was born in Brussels, Belgium and came to the U.S in 1977 to teach French, in Louisiana. He started with percussion instruments around 1978, mainly spoons and refined his spoon skills with a French blues/rock/folk guitarist. Gradually adding, the 'ti fer (cajun triangle), frottoir (zydeco washboard), bongos, congas, ...to his skills. Between 1982 and 1987, he had the opportunity to sit in with a variety of cajun musicians while in Louisiana: the Clement Brothers (composers of “Diggy Liggy Lo”) accordionists Larry Miller & Donald Fontenot, and drummer Lesa Cormier. He moved to Cincinnati in 1989 to teach French for the Cincinnati Public Schools, where he ran into Chico, whom he had met in Louisiana. Yvan hired Lagniappe to play for a Mardi-Gras event at his school, and sat in with them. In the fall of 1992, Yvan joined the band as percussionist and drummer.
Dick Franz is a Cincinnati native, living in New Richmond, who began playing accordion when he was a kid. While at University of Cincinnati, Dick played rhythm guitar with The UC Concert Jazz Band. He began his professional musical career in 1971, when he played accordion with The Hilites, staying with them for 10 years. He then took time off to be a daddy and started with the Jack Frost Accordion Band in 1995. Chico called Dick looking for an accordion player and so he’s been with the band since 1998.
John is a graduate of the College-Conservatory of Music, and received a Masters in Music from VanderCook College in Chicago. He taught music 35 years, and had his own band, "Blue Tater" for 25 years. He has also performed with the Blue Wisp Big Band, the Johnny Mack Super Big Band, the Queen City Big Band, the Avenues, and artists such as the Drifters, Otis Williams and the Charms, the Vogues, and others. He especially enjoys playing with Lagniappe due to happy mood and feel of the music from New Orleans, and the wonderful musicians who make up the group.
(Has since left Lagniappe, but can be heard on the CD)
Jessie is a transplanted New Jerseyan who grew up in Hamilton, Ohio. First starting on the accordion at age 6, with the influences of Clifton Chenier and her mother as fellow accordionist, she has yet to curb her insatiable habit of trying to master all instruments that peak her fancy. After many years of studying to be a classically trained clarinetist, she hungered for something different and rediscovered her love of roots music by listening to her dad's bluegrass albums. She left undergrad picking on the mandolin, and ended graduate school with a fiddle in her hands! Since then, she is now seen playing electric bass and occasionally will sing a song or two.
Not able to choose consistently a favorite instrument or genre of music, she has struggled to find just the right fit for her eccentric tastes. Lagniappe has given her the chance to indulge in them all, with a buffet of musical flavors that shocks the senses.
Jessie has since left Lagniappe do go on to do other things. Her music can still be heard on the band's CD "Irrational Exuberance."
Chris Carmichael, a Cincinnati native, plays trumpet and guitar in a variety of musical styles including jazz and Cajun. Chris and Chico began playing with Lagniappe in 1992. His original songs include “Bobby”, a song about Bob Marley and “Trans Siberian Express.” Chris is a cyclist who rides for transportation and recreation. He graduated from Miami University with a BA in English.
Chris Carmichael has since left the band but is still an occasional fill in when needed. His music can still be heard on the band's CD "irrational Exuberance."