Chenier's career began in 1954, when he signed with Elko Records and released "Cliston's Blues", a regional hit. It was soon followed by "Ay Tete Fille (Hey, Little Girl)" (cover of Professor Longhair), which released some mainstream success. With the Zydeco Ramblers, Chenier toured extensively and soon signed to Chicago's Chess Records, followed by Arhoolie. His popularity peaked in the 1980s, when he won a Grammy Award, the first Creole to do so.
Chenier died of kidney disease in 1987.