Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Paroi Acadia Breakdown" - Leo Soileau

Leo Soileau was one of the giant figures in Cajun music history. His early recordings from the late 1920s are both powerful and emotive, and rank among the all-time classics of Cajun music. Great contributions to his music were made by legendary Cajun musicians and singers Mayeus LaFleur and Moise Robin.2  The bandleader prided himself on his diverse repertoire that catered to the ethnically diverse audience between southwest Louisiana and east Texas.1 Acknowledging the difference between country and Cajun:

It's more music to it--to me. You can play in different keys. That French music, it's just the one...just like that rock n roll.1

In the 1935 recording was done in Chicago, IL as his Four Aces Leo with Bill ‘Dewey’ Landry on guitar, Floyd Shreve on guitar, and possibly O.P. Shreve and Johnny Roberts on either drums, bass, or rhythm guitar.  The instrumental is a slower version of the Breaux recording of "Vas Y Carrement", better known "Step It Fast". 

For unknown reasons, Decca chose to market this for the French speaking market as well as the English speakers as well.   On their original release, the song is listed as "Pario Acadia Breakdown" (a mixture of French-English title referring to Acadia Parish) and on the re-issue, they gave it a new catalog number, renaming it to "Arcadia County Breakdown".  Oddly enough, the word parish is replaced with county and Acadia is misspelled. The same was done with the records flip-side recording: "Les Blues De La Louisiane" or "Louisiana Blues" respectively. 

Rayne Tribune
Oct 29, 1937

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. Leo Soileau - The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau CD.  Liner notes.
Release Info:
C-9975-A Les Blues De La Louisiane - Decca 17009 A Montgomery Ward M-4485
C-9988-A Paroi Acadia Breakdown - Decca 17009 B Montgomery Ward M-4485

C-9975-A Louisiana Blues - Decca 5116 A Montgomery Ward M-4485
C-9988-A Arcadia Country Breakdown - Decca 5116 B Montgomery Ward M-4485

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"La Valse De Gueydan" - Leo Soileau

Old melodies such as "Jolie Blonde" were popular tunes that Cajuns picked up and learned during the turn of the century.   Melodies such as this one found it's way into pockets of isolated populations where unique names were given to the songs.  Leo Soileau's group took the original Breaux recording of "Ma Blonde Est Partie" and changed it slightly, giving it a new name, "Le Valse De Gueydan" (#2086). After the Hackberry Ramblers recorded the same tune in the same swing style as "Jolie Blonde", many musicians would later simply refer to Leo's version as "Jolie Blonde" as well.

In 1935 in New Orleans, Leo Soileau had his Three Aces group record the tune on Bluebird records under the watchful eye of Eli Oberstein.  The song was an ode to the small Cajun town of Gueydan.  While his Three Aces were fairly constant, occasionally Leo had other members record with him as well.   According to Happy Fats, Tony Gonzales was on drums and Bill Landry or Floyd Shreve was on guitar.  However, Preston Manuel recalls Sam Baker on drums and Jerry Baker on guitar.

Eh, jolie, moi je m'en vas dans grand Gueydan,

C'est pour voir, ma jolie petite fille,

Jolie coeur, je vu pas faire.

Eh, jolie, pourqoui donc mais tu fait ca,
Avec ton vieux neg, jolie petite fille,
Pourquoi donc mais tu fais ca avec ton neg?

Elle etait dans les miseres,
Mais, jolie fille, pourquoi donc,
Tu fait ca avec ton nieux neg,
Et jamais j'avais cru quoi j'ai vu.

Eh ma fille, jolie fille.
Leo Soileau and the Three Aces 5

Not to be confused with John Bertrand and Milton Pitre's recording of "Valse de Gueydan" or Amede Ardoin's "La Valse de Gueydan", it's the version of the melody in which most believe influenced Harry's famous 1946 recording of "Jole Blon".  After his father's death, around the late 30s, Choates joined Soileau's group on guitar and second fiddle for Leo's Aces with Joe and Abe Manuel, and Francis “Red” Fabacher. A great innovator in Cajun music, Soileau mentored Choates, who learned many of Soileau's stage tricks.   During Harry's time with Soileau's group, he was exposed to their song "La Valse De Gueydan".  

According to Happy Fats:
Harry had first performed the tune in Soileau's band but on his Gold Star recording he stepped up the key from G to A.  

Eh, pretty, I am going to big Gueydan,

It's to see my pretty little girl,

Pretty sweetheart, I can't see you.

Eh, pretty, why have you done that,
To your old man, pretty little girl,
Why have you done that to your man?

She was in misery,
Well, pretty girl, why have,
You done this to your old man,
And I never thought I'd see that.

Eh, my girl, pretty girl. 
The Three Aces' efforts were well received in the Cajun community.  Their version of the popular waltz was an instant success that prompted Bluebird to issue the record twice in their 2000 Cajun series.4

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Volume 2 By Steve Sullivan
  3. Label scan by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Cajun and Creole Music Collection - Special Collections
  4. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  5. Country Music Originals : The Legends and the Lost: The Legends and the Lost By Tony Russell
Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 3: The String Bands Of The 1930s (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1971)
Jole Blon - 23 Artists One Theme (Bear, 2002)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Beginner's Guide to Cajun Music (Proper/Primo, 2008)

Friday, February 9, 2018

"Marie Buller" - Cleoma Breaux

Recorded in the summer of 1928 in New York, Cleoma Breaux's singing and guitar work took center stage once again during her performance of the driving valse à deux temps "Marie Buller" (#40502).  Her nasal vocal delivery, though at an uncomfortably low key for the singer, represented the first session to feature prominently a female Cajun vocalist.2 The melody has a slight similarity to her brother's recording of "Ma Blonde Est Partie" a year later.

The song is named after what was once a notoriously violent oil-field community, north of what now is called Mire/Bristol area, called Marais Bouleur.1,5   It lays about a mile from Lafayette Parish and across the road from the Acadia Parish line.  It was already a tough area when the discovery of oil compounded the problem by attracting Anglo-American drillers and roughnecks from Texas and Oklahoma.3  Breaux and Falcon frequented dancehalls in the area which were rough places to play. 

Tu m’as pris dans les bras d’ mon papa, 

D’ ma maman, tu m’as promis,

Je te soignais comme l’enfant de la maison,

Et c’est toi t’as pris, m’quitter moi toute seule.

Mon dieu sait y a pas eu qu’toi dans l’pays,

Mais y a eu qu’toi qu’mon petit cœur désirait d’avoir,

Pourquoi-donc j’ai écouté les conseils, tous les conseils de les autres,

Bon dieu sait j’lui dis toi,

Mais tout ça, ça t'après faire.

Tu voudrais t’en venir avec moi,
J’t’attendrai pour qu’tu sois qui m’appelle,
Bon dieu sait y a pas eu qu’toi dans le pays,
Mais y a eu qu’toi qu’mon petit cœur désirait d’avoir,
Ecoute pas tous les conseils,
C’est juste toi qu’moi je voudrais avec moi.

According to Rev. Donald Hebert, the name Marais Bouleur stems from a story about a horse name "Bouleur" who liked to roll in the mud of the swampy wetlands.  The swampy area, or "marais", remains wet most of the year.4  However, according to author Mary Alice Fontenot:
Some years ago, George Buller, at that time president of the St. Landry Police Jury, told me that his family name was once spelled "Buhler".  One of his ancestors, he said, owned a large tract of marshy land near Rayne, hence the name Marais Buhler, or Buller.  This sounds like a logical explanation, since the name Buller (or Buhler) would be pronounced "Bou-leur" by the Acadians.
Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon

An abundance of ruffians in the nearby Marais Bouleur made it virtually impossible to keep a dance hall open for any length of time (despite the best efforts of club owner Sully Babineaux and others), so folks from that area frequently came to Esta Hebert's hall in nearby Ossun and to Gérald Forrestier's hall in Vatican.  Referred to as "no-man's land", lawmen such as Martin Weber and Joe Hanks became famous for their unwavering maintenance of order in the dance halls around Marais Bouleur.3  

According to author Chere Dastugue Coen:
Weber had a habit of announcing his rules once at the beginning of the dance: No fighting, drinking, smoking, spitting, cussin, or wearing of hats in the hall.  If anyone had to fight, drink, smoke, spit, cuss, or wear a hat, he should go outside.  Mr. Weber did not repeat his rules.  He had a hardwood stick and used it liberally to break up fights and take off hats.3

Even some of the bad local men would make their presence known:
Supposedly some of these Marais Bouleur guys would do was wear a red handkerchief... the bandanna, such that when they would walk in a place, you'd say "Uh oh!".6  

You took me from the arms of my dad,

From my mom, you promised me,

I was treating you (well), like a child of the house,

And you took me, then left me all alone.

Good God knows there's no one other than you in the countryside,

Well, you were the only thing my little heart desired to have,

So why did I listen to the advice, all the advice of others,

Good God knows I told you,

Well, all that, that you've done.

You want to come with me,
I will wait for you, for you are calling me,
Good God knows there's no one other than you in the countryside,
Well, you were the only thing my little heart desired to have,
Don't listen to the advice of others,
It's just (that) I'd like you to be with me.
It wouldn't be until the 1940s before the first dance hall, Chez Petit Maurice, was able to remain open in the area.3  As far as the song is concerned, the reasoning behind Cleoma's title is unknown, however, it seems it has very little to do with the reputation of the area.  She sings about a common Cajun theme of being left alone, begging for the lover's return.  Over time, the Cajun term to refer to people that caused problems, kidnapping, and stealing, were called  "Marais Bouleurs".

  1. "Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times" By by Janet Allured and Judith F. Gentry
  2. "Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music" by Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. "Cajun Country (Folklife in the South Series)" By Barry Jean Ancelet
  4. Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana By Chere Dastugue Coen
  5. Discussions with Jerry M
  6. "Looking For Trouble". David Brasseaux.  (https://vimeo.com/69744513)
  7. Lyrics by Stéphanie D

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 1: First Recordings - The 1920's (Old Timey, 1970)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

"La Breakdown A Pete" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers were a western-swing group that employed Cajun French lyrics in many of their tunes.  The group, named after the town of Hackberry, Louisiana, started with Luderin Darbonne and Edwin Duhon.  Later in 1933, as their popularity spread, new musicians were added. The Ramblers began regular radio broadcasts, driving from Hackberry to radio station KFDM in the old Majestic Hotel in Lake Charles to make early morning broadcasts.1

According to the recollection of Crawford Vincent, the first drummer to be employed by a Cajun band, the Ramblers played their first club dance in the Blue Andrus Dance Hall in late 1933. They were applauded.  In 1935, the Ramblers moved to Crowley, which was centrally located to the spots across south Louisiana and east Texas where they were being booked.1
Pete Duhon, working as electrician

By 1937, the group had changed and added Claude "Pete" Duhon Sr. to the band's mix.   In 1938, the lineup changed.  Lennis Sonnier got married and was replaced by Floyd Shreve.  Luderin hired Floyd's brother, Danny Shreve shortly afterwards.  Crawford Vincent notes that the Shreve Boys had played with Leo Soileau previously and were good musicians.  Both were local boys who joined by the Ramblers first bassist, Claude "Pete" Duhon, a Crowley native.2  They entitled the instrumental song "La Breakdown A Pete", likely as an ode to their bass player.   

Hackberry Ramblers
Minus Broussard, Crawford Vincent,
Luderin Darbone, Jack Theriot

Pete had come to Luderin, wanting to learn an instrument and begin playing in the band.  So Luderin helped him after he had bought a bass fiddle for $15.00 from a local black man.2  Pete played with the group while working as an electrician in Vermilion parish.  However, this session would be their last before WWII, and the last recordings of Pete completely.   Luderin got married and moved back to Hackberry, and suddenly, their recording career would cease.  

Luderin speculated on why Bluebird Records never called them back:
I suppose they couldn't find me.2 

  1. "Hackberry Ramblers Making music since 1933". DON KINGERY. American Press, Friday, September 24, 2004
  2. Discussions with Ron Yule
The Cajuns: Songs, Waltzes, & Two-Steps (Folkways, 1971)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Valse De Lake Charles" - Harry Choates

Harry Choates played fiddle, guitar, and mandolin throughout south Louisiana and Texas.  His 1946 rendition of “Jole Blon,” the song that would come to be called the “Cajun National Anthem,” had not only been the first French song to crack the Billboard national charts but its ascent above the Number Five position is an achievement unsurpassed to this day.  The audience taste at that time had succumbed to the popularity and influence of cowboy and western swing styles and Cajun Music had followed their trend towards fiddle-led outfits. String bands led by stars like Harry Choates and Leo Soileau were in heavy demand.  

Tu m'as quitté, pour t'en aller,

Dans Grand Lake Charles, mais jolie cœur.

Oh, mais chère petite, mignonne,

Oh, sera pas longtemps.

Oh, vilaine manière,

Moi j'connais, t'as pas fait bien.

Oh, mais chère petite chérie,
Oh, mais moi j'connais t'as fait de la peine.

Nathan Abhsire's main recording outlet, O.T. records, was gaining some momentum with his music and the producer, Virgil Bozman, easily saw Harry's popularity.  In 1949, he convinced him to land two sides, one of which was "Valse De Lake Charles" (#107), the town in which Virgil had his operations based.  Recording closer to his home town at the KPLC radio station, Harry dropped most of his regular Melody Boys for some local Cajun musicians, most notably Leo Soileau's drummer Crawford Vincent and Happy Fats' pianist Harold "Popeye" Broussard.  B.D. Williams remained on bass guitar.   The tune is clearly a rendition cut from the older versions by Anatole Credure in 1929 and The Four Aces' instrumental done in 1938 called "Lake Charles Waltz".
You left me to go away.
To big Lake Charles, my pretty sweetheart,
Oh, well, dear little cutie,
Oh, it hasn't been long.

Oh, how terrible it is,
I know, you aren't doing well,
Oh, dear little darling,
Oh, well, I know you hurt (me). 

Harry's lyrics were limited by what he knew, often repeating the same words, general phrasing and his signature "Eh! Ha ha!".  In this case, writer's love interest is leaving to the big town of Lake Charles. This was the first and only time Crawforrd Vincent teamed up with Harry.  Vincent was still a member of Leo Soileau's band, but Soileau was in the process of building his own club, so Vincent had time off.   He played with Harry during events near the Green Lantern near Opelousas.  Then, suddenly, Harry left, as he usually did, just when his musical fortunes were beginning to turn in a positive direction.  Vincent remembered that Harry received calls for engagements and booking dates, and over half of these he didn't fulfill, many times failing to show up.1 

  1. Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates, a Cajun Legend by Tim Knight
Release Info:
107-A Jole Blon's Gone 107 O.T.
107-B Valse De Lake Charles 107 O.T.

Cajun Music - The Early 50s (Arhoolie, 1969)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Taunt Aline" - Amede Ardoin

In the 1920s and '30s, Amédé Ardoin was the zipper of Cajun and Creole music. While he was performing, the two genres - though distinct - came together in a groove that shared his repertoire and style.  Breaking Jim Crow era barriers, he routinely played with Cajun musicians.6  After witnessing his friend Douglas Bellard record in New Orleans, Amede Ardoin got an opportunity to pursue his first recording session with Columbia that same year. Along with Dennis McGee as his accompanying fiddle player, the song would be the first listing of an Ardoin recording for Columbia known as "Taunt Aline" (#40514).  The duo cut their first recordings together in 1929 at a joint Columbia/Okeh field session in New Orleans under the direction of the Okeh A&R man and talent scout Polk C. Brockman.7

Born in 1898, Ardoin lost his father in an accident when he was nine months old. His mother and seven brothers eked out a living as sharecroppers in Eunice in St. Landry Parish. As a teenager, Ardoin acquired an accordion and taught himself to play it. Illiterate, he also “wrote” songs that seemed to vary with every rendition.1 Poet Darrell Bourque states:

He never sang a song the same way twice. He’d change the lyrics. He made up the songs. It’s all in the oral tradition.1
He, chère catin, malheureuse,
Tu connais moi j't'aime avec tout mon coeur, malheureuse,
Tu devrais, mais, pas fair ce ça, mais, t'après faire, mais, malheureuse,
C'est pour ça, chèr 'tit monde, tu fais du mal à mon coeur.

Malheureuse, tu connais, chère 'tit fille, tu vas pleurer,
Pour ça tou t'es après faire, tu m'as dit, chère 'tit fille, mais criminelle,
Malheureuse, tu connais tu vas pleurer, mais, malheureuse.
Amede Ardoin

This song is something the Cajuns call a 'valse à deux temps', or a 'two-step waltz', as it has two dotted quarter notes per measure for rhythm guitar.2  Sometimes referred to as a 'waltz in two beats', the pattern was made popular in France during the 1840s and involved the gentleman beginning with his left foot and the lady with her right, and together they'd take one step forward and then one step back.3 Joshua Caffery makes note of songs with this particular rhythm.
A 'valse à deux temps' originally referred to a dance step rather than a song type.  Although the notion of a "two-step waltz" seems counterintuitive, as waltzes and two-steps are generally considered two discrete, even opposite, steps, particularly in Louisiana and Texas, the 'valse à deux temps' is simply another style of dancing to a triple meter.5 

According to Dr. Barry Ancelet, it was a style already familiar to Cajuns before Americans had migrated into the area.

From their Anglo-American neighbors, [Cajuns] learned jigs, hoedowns, and Virginia reels to enrich their growing repertoire which already included polkas and contredanses, varsoviennes and valses à deux temps.4 

Hey, dear little doll, oh my,

You know I love you with all my heart oh my,

You shouldn't, well, do what you're doing, well, on my,

That's why, dear little one, you hurt my heart.

Oh my, you know, dear little girl, you'll cry,
For what you're doing, you told me dear little girl, well, it's criminal,
Oh my, you know you'll cry, well, oh my.
Soon Ardoin was in great demand to play and sing—in a voice that has been described as haunting and unearthly—at house parties and little country honky-tonks. Ardoin reworked his "La Valse A Austin Ardoin" into this more well known song, "Taunt Aline".  It would later become Iry Lejeune's 1954 recording "Viens me Chercher" and the Balfa's 1974 recording "J'Sus Orphelin".

  1. http://www.countryroadsmagazine.com/culture/history/bringing-amede-back-home
  2. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valse_%C3%A0_deux_temps
  4. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  5. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  6. http://theind.com/article-16337-l'effet-papillon.html
  7. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold
  8. Photo by Jeremy S
Release Info:
W111384-2 Taunt Aline Columbia 40514-F, OKeh 90014
W111385-2 Two Step De Mama Columbia 40514-F, OKeh 90014


Amadé Ardoin – Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 6 : Amadé Ardoin – The First Black Zydeco Recording Artist (1928–1938) (Old Timey)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994) 
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie)" - Cleoma Breaux

Much of recorded Cajun music had converted from accordion-led bands to Cajun string bands by 1935.   In fact, the Falcons were the last Cajun recording artists to still use the accordion in their sessions.   Almost all others had either converted over to the contemporary style or retired from recording all together.   Given their unique position and popularity, Cleoma and Joe not only adopted regional folk songs into their string band sound, but also covered popular radio tunes of the day. 

Peut-être c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimais,

C’est un péché de dire une menterie,
Une million de cœur qu’a été cassé,
Par la parole a été parlée,
"Ouais je t’aime, ouais que je t’aime
Tu connais que je t’aime",
Si tu casses mon cœur, ça va me tuer,
T’es sûr que c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimes?
C’est un péché de dire une menterie.

Peut-être c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimais,
C’est un péché de dire une menterie,
Une million de cœur qu’a été cassé,
Par la parole a été parlée,
"Ouais, je t’aime, tu connais que j't’aime, chère",
Si tu casses mon cœur, ça va me tuer,
T’es sûr que c’est vrai quand tu dis ouais tu m’aimes?
C’est un péché de dire une menterie.

Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon

"It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" is a popular 1936 Fats Waller song originally created by Billy Mayhew.2   Billy was featured on singer Kate Smith's popular Washington D.C. radio show where the tune was introduced to the world.1  Waller's rendition was produced early that year on records with many dance bands including Dick Robertson.2  By 1937, Cleoma, probably along with her brother Clifford, was covering Waller's "Lulu's Back In Town" and as well as this classic "C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie)" for Decca (#17028)

Maybe it's true when you say you loved me,

It is a sin to tell a lie,
One million hearts that have been broken,
By the words that were spoken,
"Yes, I love you, yes, I love you,
You know I love you",
If you break my heart, it will kill me,
Are you sure it's true when you say you love me?
It is a sin to tell a lie.

Maybe it's true when you say you loved me,
It is a sin to tell a lie,
One million hearts that have been broken,
By the words that were spoken,
"Yes, I love you, you know that I love you, dear",
If you break my heart, it will kill me,
Are you sure it's true when you say you love me?
It is a sin to tell a lie.

A version by Somethin Smith and the Redheads reached #7 on Billboard's 1955 listings.1  Other artists who have recorded versions include Billie Holiday, The Ink Spots, and Tony Bennett.2  

  1. Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era By Don Tyler
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Sin_to_Tell_a_Lie
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A

61910-A C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie) DE 17028 A
61906-A Prairie De Pin (Pine Prairie) DE 17028 B

Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)