Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Le Blues De Petit Chien" - Breaux Brothers

By 1929, the Breaux Brothers were following in the footsteps of their sister, Cleoma.   They were recording tunes for major labels and playing music alongside many other musicians throughout the countryside prairies.  In June of 1934, John Avery Lomax began touring the Cajun prairies in search of musicians to record for the Library of Congress.  He found the Breaux Brothers in Crowley and setup his portable recording machine, probably at one of their homes.   There, he recorded a tune with the brothers on fiddle, accordion and guitar.  You can make out the bluesy rhythm backed by the first line of English vocals "Let me be your little dog, mama, till your big dog come".   Apparently the recording cuts the song short, but does demonstrate the brother's abilities to sing and play the blues.   Lomax entitled it "Little Dog Blues".1,2 

Oh, laisse moi être ton p'tit chien

Jusqu'à le gros chien vient.

Oh, laisse moi être ton p'tit chien

Jusqu'à le gros chien vient.

Là je voulais t'dire 'tite fille
Tout ça ton gros chien t'a fait.

Oh 'yoù t'as resté hier au soir?
Oh 'yoù t'as resté hier au soir?
T'as des cheveux tous mêlés,
Et ton linge te fait pas bien.

Oh moi j'ai peur, ton père est après filer.
Oh moi j'ai peur, ton père est après filer.
Si t'as pas un père,
Tout à perdre d'un bord.

1934 Lomax Session Notes
The sexual innuendo is obvious, especially in the insinuation that the lover is actually a whore, leaving for the night, coming back with her clothes all tattered.   According to French musician Marc Chaveau, the term is even more scandalous:

Petit Chien, or "little dog", is sometimes used to refer to a [male] prostitute. 
By October that year, the Breaux Brothers (known as Breaux Freres), left for San Antonio and re-recorded the tune "Le Blues De Petit Chien" (#03053), this time in it's complete form for Vocalion Records and in their native Cajun French.   It is this song that most likely became the main inspiration for the Nathan Abshire's melody in "Pine Grove Blues".3 
Oh, let me be your little dog,
Until the big dog comes,
Oh, let me be your little dog,
Until the big dog comes,
I wanted to tell you, little girl,
All that your big dog has done.

Oh, where were you sleeping last night?
Oh, where were you sleeping last night?
You have your hair all messed up,
And your clothes are not good. 

Oh, I'm afraid your father has taken off,
Oh, I'm afraid your father has taken off,
If you have no father,
You'll lose everything over the edge.

The Breaux's last verse is quite confusing and mysterious.   In one version, the returned lover is being told her father has fled and she might lose her mind.  In another interpretation, there's no father at all.  He's interpreted as "Oh, moi j’ai faim, t’as fait ça pour m’quitter, si t’as pas de cœur, tout à perdre d'un bord" meaning he's hungry, wondering why she left him and that he's going to lose his mind. 

According to author Josh Caffery, the fact that the Breaux brothers performed an English version for a folkloric collection and a French one for a commercial recording could be because record companies were marketing to a French speaking region and Lomax saw this sort of music commercialized enough to only want it sung in English; a version of the song he may have considered "more authentic".3

  3. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  4. Lyrics by Marc C and Bryan L
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Noir Chaussette's Two Step (Black Sox Two Step)" - Sidney Brown

After the death of Iry Lejeune, Eddie Shuler scrambled to find other artists with such popularity as he had.   In 1956, a Cajun dancehall accordionist in Lake Charles became Shuler's next big thing.   For the remaining decade, Sidney Brown and his Traveler Playboys played to crowds around the region alongside other players such as Lawrence Walker showing off lively tunes such as "Noir Chaussette's Two Step" (#1061).
C'est les veuve de bayou qui est parti au village 

Pour achete les chaussons noir à la boutique 

Pour aller oui au bal pour un tas de  beau temps 

Ça aller, oui, toute seul, dedans chagrin.

C'est la veuve de bayou (elle est) venu au village 
Tout l'monde est content de la voir
On connait chere catin elle est belle et si migonne 
Quoi faire (elle est) comme ça, on connais pas.

Crowley Daily Signal
July 2, 1959
Black Socks Two Step takes on the same melody as Happy Fats' 1942 recording of "La Veuve De La Coulee". The 1958 song would be masked in popularity by the record's flipside "Pestauche Ah Tante Nana".  It featured Sidney Brown on accordion, Vinus Lejeune on fiddle, Bill Matte on drums, Wallace Ogea on guitar and Tilford McClelland on steel guitar.  

It's the widows of the bayou who left to go to the village,

To buy some black socks at the shop,
To go to the dance for there will be good times,
She's going to that, yes, all alone, in sorrow.

It is the widow of the bayou, she came back to town,
Everyone is happy to see her,
We understand, dear doll, she is beautiful and she is so cute,
Why is she like that, we don't know.

By the late 1960s, Eddie Shuler of Goldband records re-released the recording on 45 RPM giving it the name "Chico Two Step" yet keeping the same #1061.   Like many of Shuler's later recordings, it's believed the electric bass guitar was overdubbed, possibly by Robert Bertrand.

  1. Lyrics by Jerry M, Herman M, and Bryan L
Cajun Dance Tunes Vol.2 (Goldband, 1989)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Bayou Man" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc & Al Terry

In the heart of Cajun music came local musicians singing of the Cajun countryside for English country music labels.   The Southerners were a group led by Allison Joseph Theriot on vocals with his brother Charles Edward "Bob" Theriot on steel guitar.  They were better known as Al Terry and Bob Terry.  Al was among the first musicians of Cajun ancestry to succeed in both country and rockabilly music.  The group performed live on KVOL in Lafayette, Louisiana where Terry also worked as an announcer.  It would be people like Happy Fats who would help steer their careers.

By 1952, Happy used Al's band and the song "Bayou Man" (#2) was released on a California label called Bella. The label was run by John Pusateri, a native of Franklin, Louisiana and a good friend of Hank Williams. That same year, Al and Bob was touring with Hank Williams.  After his release of "Good Deal, Lucille" in 1954, he made an appearance on the Louisiana Hayride show; co-billed with Elvis Presley.

Southerners, 1950
Sexton Trahan (guitar), Danny Boulet (piano),
Alton Bernard (drums), Al Terry (vocals),
Bob Terry (steel guitar), Rufus Alleman (bass)

Bayou man, bayou man,
Wild and free to roam, bayou man.
Row, row, r-o-w, row,
Just going along.

Going to the swamps
Setting traps today,
'Cause the possum trail is moving far away,
And the coons are coming up from the across the bay,
Tra-la-la, tra-la-la,
Just rowing along.

Bayou man, bayou man, 
Bold and gay, a loving bayou man,
Row, row, r-o-w, row,
Just singing along.

When the season's over,
This racoon trapping man,
Will serenade his gal,
And ask her for her hand,
In the church he'll wed, 
The fairest dame in the land.
Tra-la-la, tra-la-la,
Just rowing along.

Church Point News
Aug 17, 1948

The Bella session was one of Happy's last Cajun recording attempts.   He recorded a session with Alex Broussard and Doc Guidry in 1964 for Swallow Records but two years later, focused his efforts in a different direction.

By 1966, with race relations making the news, Happy, along with local record producer J.D. Miller, used his musical abilities to bring controversial attention to the changes he saw happening.  Miller created the label Red Rebel Records specifically for segregationist music which Happy used to record roughly 20 songs between 1966 and 1972, including one called "Dear Mr. President". 

"Dear Mr. President" was a spoken word condemnation of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights policies that sold over 200,000 copies despite its appalling racism. 

According to Happy in an interview:
"We didn't have any problems with that, not at all," Fats maintained. "There wasn't anything violent about it -- it was just a joke. I had a car of black people run me down on the highway one time coming in Lafayette, and they said, 'Are you the fellow that made " Dear Mr. President"?' I said I was, and they said, 'We'd like to buy some records.' They bought about 15 records. There was a big van full of black people and they loved it . . . Either side at that time, they didn't want integration very much. They wanted to go each their own way."3

In his songs, he made clear his confusion on the civil rights legislation that was being passed as well as his discontent for race integration.  Some songs vehemently and overtly express hatred such as "Looking For A Handout" and "Kajun Ku Klux Klan".  Others weren't so direct.  Similar to his promotion of Dudley Leblanc years earlier, he used his recording outlet to promote politics in songs such as "Dear Daddybird (From A Plow Mule To A Politican)" and "Vote Wallace in 72".   Other songs dealt with the growing discontent with the war overseas such as "Birthday Thank You Tommy , From Viet Nam" and "Veteran’s Plea".  

By 1976, Happy's output was on the decline.  He helped record a few singles that year on some obscure labels with only a handful of songs in the years to come.  Although his later years tarnished his name, he was a colorful character that helped promote Cajun music and musicians themselves in his earlier years.

  1. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Discussions with Billy D
Al Terry featuring Bob Terry & "Happy Fats": Better Late Than Never (BACM, )

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Sunset" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

Accordion player Amede Ardoin recorded 22 songs in New Orleans and San Antonio with Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee, some of which would become Cajun standards.  Author Darrell Bourque described Amédé as bringing the white Cajun and black Creole traditions together in a society that policed racial boundaries so rigidly that it ultimately brought about his death. 

"His music", Mr. Bourque said, represented “a little pocket of possibility that didn’t get replicated in the larger culture.”2

His music streamed into the open air fields of the prairies and the closed rooms of house dances in rural areas.  McGee recalls:
Every once in a while, we would play for a dance in the neighborhood. Then, Oscar [the sharecropping boss] went broke and quite farming.  Amede left to come live in Eunice, and I came to live here, too.  That's when we really started playing seriously. We started playing all over the area. We would go as far as old Mr. Leleux's dance hall in Bayou Queue de Tortue. And for Dumas Herpin.  We brought so many people to Dumas' place that they climbed up on the little fence that they had put to protect the musicians from the crowd and they broke it. They came rolling in like balls. It was really funny to see.1 

Oh mon nèg', moi j'men vas aller, ce soir,
Moi j'connais pas ayou j'vas aller,
Moi j'crois pas arriver ayou t'es, eh.

Oh, je relate pas à mes parents, 
Pleure pas fille, où j'peux aller,
On dirait y a toujours quelqu'un qui m'fait de la misère pour rien.

Oh, mon nègre, donne-moi ton adresse,
Donne-moi j'suis capable d'écrite à toi, parce (que),
Parce (que) j'ai pas capable aller à ta maison,
Et ta mom et ton papa, veux pas de moi, j'vas ce soir.

Oh, j'ai arrivé à la maison,
Maman est assis dans son lit,
Qui est après pleurer rapport à moi,
Oh, maman, des mots mal faut pas dire ça, priez pour moi,
Moi j'ai été voir ma catin hier soir,
Elle m'a dit c'est plus la peine de me retour,
J'vas jamais retourner chez elle,
Parce sa maman m'a mis dehors.

Oh moi nèg, j'ai cru qu'elle-même m'aimait,
J'm'a aperçu que c'est pas vrai,
C'est ses parents qu'on fait tout ça.
Amede Ardoin

Recorded at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio, with Eli Oberstein directing, the 1934 Bluebird recording of "Sunset" (#2192) wasn't particularly influential however, it was a lively tune.  Most likely, the title was an ode to the small community of Sunset in south Louisiana.  The town is not far from many of the homes which Dennis and Amede played at.  
McGee recalls:
The people wanted to come to us.  We were making good music in those days. I sang well and played the fiddle well and Amede played and sang well too.  Joe Falcon came to dance to our music. And we'd play just us two, fiddle and accordion.1 
Ardoin's lyrics can be very difficult to understand.  In certain lines, he may be stating different things.   Instead of "le relate pas à mes parents, Pleure pas fille, où j'peux aller", it could be "ça m'fait d'la peine, mes parents, J'sais pas c'eyou j'peux aller", meaning "it hurts me and my parents, I don't know where I can go".

Oh, my friend, I'm leaving to go, tonight,

I don't know where you're going,

I don't think I can get to where you are, ehhh.

Oh, I'm not telling my parents,

Do not cry girl, everywhere I go,
It seems like there's always someone who's making life miserable for nothing.

Oh, my friend, give me your address,
Give it to me, I am able to write to you, because,
Because I'm not able to go back to your house,
Because of your mom and your dad do not want me, I'm leaving tonight.

Oh, I got home,
Mom is sitting the bed, who's crying about me,
Oh, mom, don't say these bad things, pray for me,
I went to see my sweet doll last night,
She told me it would be painful if I returned,
I'm never going back to her home,
Because her mom kicked me out.

Oh, I thought she, herself, loved me,
I'm realizing that it's not true,
It is those parents who've done all of this.

According to music producer, Christopher King, who produced the CD compilation "Mama, I'll Be Long Gone", he states:
That one recording "Sunset" is one of the most sublime pieces of music I've ever heard and it bring me out of any great depression.  It's pure pleasure.3

  1. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  3.   Chris travels at 78 RPM: “Eargasims”– Episode 7.   Radio show.
  4. Lyrics by Stephanie D and Stephane F
CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Mama I'll Be Long Gone: The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Grande Nuit Especial (Big Night Special)" - Iry Lejeune

Iry Lejeune, one of the greatest that ever lived in the Cajun French music field, was acclaimed by all for the way he could deliver the songs, singing and playing the accordion.  He never made a record that was not a big hit, and these many years after his untimely death, his records continue to sell like new releases.  One of the recordings was the "Grande Nuit Especial", also known as Saturday Night Special, for Ed Shuler's Goldband label in in Lake Charles around November of 1952.  Like many of Iry's tunes, he used a melody similar to an Amede Ardoin song.  In this case, it was "Si Dur D'etre Seul" originally recorded in 1934. Eddie Shuler, producer of Goldband records recalled trying to get Iry's music out in stores.   Not everyone was interested in doing so:
At one time I thought I would get me a distributor.  So I talked to the guy in New Orleans that was distributing for Mercury Records.  He said "Send me some samples; I'll let my salesman take them out on the road".  I waited about a month and a half and I never got any orders.5
Eddie managed to track down the salesman for the New Orleans distributors, William B. Allen Supply Co. at a record shop in Opelousas.
So I met him at the car and I said, "Do you have any Cajun records?"  He said "I got one of them lousy things in my car.  I can't stand that stuff. Man, that's the most horriblest thing I ever heard in my life.  I'm not gonna play that thing; I can't stand it."  So I called his boss. I said "Hey, just forget about this distributing thing, we got somebody else".  So I went back to work.5
From that point on, Eddie controlled his own distribution.
Oh ye yaille, chère ‘tit bébé,
Moi je connais, moi je m’ennuie de toi quand même.
Hey ‘tit coeur tu devrais pas oublier,
Tout ça toi tu m’avais parlé avant de t’en v’nir.

Oh tit coeur ça c'est dur à croire,
Ton pap et ta mam t’avaient dit j’étais pas bon.
Oh catin asteur toi t’as du regret,
C’est trop tard c'est pas la peine que tu t’lamentes à moi.

Hey ye yaille, aujourd'hui tu t’lamentes,
Oh bébé, j’peux pas comprendre le bien qu’ça t’fait.
Oh ma chère, tu fais des misères, ça ressemble mais qu’tu mérites,
J’ai du regret, tu mérites pas ça.
High Mount Club, 1954
Robert Bertrand, Wilson Granger
Iry Lejeune, Alfred Cormier

The word "asteur" is the corrupted form of a very old 16th-17th French phrase still used in Quebec, spelled "à cette heure", which translates to "now".  According to Milton Vanicor, he and Eddie Shuler are playing in the background at Iry's home.  According to Ron Yule's interviews with Milton, Eddie had used a session director in order to tell Iry when to start and stop, probably because he sat on the floor due to having a bad habit of tapping his feet. 

Oh ye yaille, dear little baby,
I know, I'll miss you anyway,
Hey little heart, you should not forget,
All that you told me before you came.

Oh little heart, that's hard to believe,
Your dad and your mom told you I was no good,
Oh you little doll, now you regret this,
It's too late, it's not worth you lamenting over me.

Hey ye yaille, today you lament,
Oh baby, I can not understand how you do it,
Oh dear, you're miserable, but it looks like you deserve it,
I regret that, you do not deserve this.

In an interview Eddie recalled the clash he had with the station manager of KPLC when he in 1948 invited a precocious twenty-year-old accordionist from Lacassine, LA, Iry LeJune, to play during his time slot. 

"When he first came to town he was like a hobo, real raggedy, and wearing this big floppy hat. He had his squeeze box in a flour sack under his arm," he said. But after the station was swamped with requests for an encore performance, the program director finally relented. "Iry was a persistent feller all right. But I always believed in giving a man a chance; otherwise, how would you discover what he could do?"6
In 1958, Lawrence Walker would take the fast paced two-step and create a waltz from it, calling it "Midnight's Waltz". 

  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Biography.  The Greatest.  Iry Le June.  GBLP7741.
  4. SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 15.  2015 Regular Session.  Notes to commend Milton Vanicor for his passion, devotion, and his nearly eighty-year commitment to Cajun music.
  5. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Goldband, 1992)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2004)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Ma Mauvaus Fille" - Moise Robin & Leo Soileau

The Troublesome Girl.  It was one of the many recordings during the traditional Cajun recording era covered by a unique accordion player named Moise Robin.   Robin himself had teamed up with Leo Soileau once Soileau had lost his first accordion player.   Robin had always wanted to record and Soileau gave him that chance.   On 3 of the songs, Leo sang, and the other 3, Robin took the vocal lead.  Robin learned by being in a musical family.  According to Robin:

My father was a great musician.  He played all over, around the territory [of] Ville Platte and everywhere, play dances, for many years.1

Ah, y'en a qui veut la plus vieille, y'en a qui veut la plus jeune,
Moi je suis pas comme ça, j'en veux pas du tout.

Ah, j'ai eu le malheur de me trouver une p'tite belle,
Mais elle était trop mauvaise mais j'ai eu pour la quitter.

Ah, comment tu voulais mais j'me rende à ta maison,
Tu fermais tout(es) les portes, dessus moi.

Oh, moi je connais qui qu’était après faire ça, 
Ta maman est après troubler ton idée.

Ah, j'ai eu le malheur de me trouver une p'tite,
Mais elle était trop mauvaise mais j'ai eu pour la quitter.

Moise Robin
by Chris Strachwitz

Moise's opportunity occurred once Leo began looking for a replacement accordion player.  After Leo's first accordionist was killed in a bar shootout, he found Moise:

When Mayeus Lafleur got killed, in 1928... right after, he heard about me, so he came home with my daddy and that's when he got me to play with him. And the first place we went, we played all around in clubs.1

Ah, there are ones who like the older women, there ones who like the younger girls,

I'm not like that, I'm not like that at all.

Ah, I went through the trouble to find a nice little girl,

But, she was too bad, well, I had to leave.

Ah, how you wanted things, well, I travelled to your house,
You shut all the doors, in front of me.

Oh I know who it was that made you do that,
Your mom was troubling your thoughts.

  2. Picture courtesy UL Lafayette Cajun & Creole collection
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"French Two Step" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers started with a fiddle and guitar, with Luderin Darbonne and Edwin Duhon, although Duhon played an accordion later.  The first job for the Ramblers was a house dance, without a fee but with permission to pass a hat for donations. They enlisted another Hackberry guitar player, Alvin Ellender, and played with two guitars and a fiddle. The dancers applauded, and put money in the hat when it was passed.2

Darbone ordered a $50 electric amplifier from Sears Roebuck & Co. Then he learned that their first nightclub appearance would be in a club that had no electricity.  Darbone parked his Model A Ford near the back door of the club, ran a line through the door to the bandstand, started the automobile and let the idling engine provide power for the sound system.  It worked, especially enhancing the fiddle played by Darbone.2

Floyd Shreve, Luderin Darbone,
Danny Shreve, Claude "Pete" Duhon

By 1938, the group had picked up Floyd and Danny Shreve on guitars and Claude "Pete" Duhon on bass.   Edwin had left the group by this point and they made their way to the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans to record "French Two Step" (#2059) for Bluebird records.  The tune is based on an earlier called "Charlie's Song" by Charlie Loola.  It was made well known by Bob Wills as "Spanish Two Step".   According to Wills' biographer Charles Townsend, Wills composed the tune in New Mexico in 1927 but didn't record it until 1935.1 

  1. The Crooked Stovepipe: Athapaskan Fiddle Music and Square Dancing in ... By Craig Mishler
  2. "Hackberry Ramblers Making music since 1933". DON KINGERY. American Press, Friday, September 24, 2004
Western Swing, Vol. 1 (Old Timey, 1966)
Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown (Arhoolie, 1997)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
The Best of Western Swing (Collector Sound) (Tsk Music, 2012)
Et La Bas (Black & Partners LLC, 2014)