Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Don't Get Married" - Iry Lejeune

Iry Lejeune came from an area near Church Point and paved the way for accordionists to find work again after the war.  Lejeune, who drew heavily from the recorded repertoire of Creole musician Amede Ardoin, is one of the most storied figures in Louisiana French music.  Although venerated for his accordion skills, it is Lejeune's singing that draws the strongest superlatives from writers--that it can "bite and burn and blister the heart" and "encompassed all the pain, loneliness, and hardship of the isolated prairie farmers".

One of Iry's first groups he jumped into was with Earl DeMary's Musical Aces.  It was here that fiddler Wilson Granger first met Iry and noticed his talent.   Before long, they included guitarist Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier.  Wilson recalled:
Earl DeMary got him to play with us. We had many accordion players. Rufus Thibodeaux, his daddy played the accordion. He played with us for awhile. Earl's the one who started us with Iry.  Then, I don't know what happened to Earl. He quit playing with us.  We got this Alfred Cormier, "Duckhead" Cormier, they called him.  They called him "Duckhead" because he could call ducks with his mouth. He didn't need no [whistle].3   

Bridge City, TX, 1948, poss. B.O. Sparkle Club
R.C. Vanicor, Ernest Fruge, Iry Lejeune,
Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier, Earl Demary, Ernest's son

Jeunes filles de la campagne,
Mariez-vous autres jamais,
'Gardez quoi, moi, j'ai fait,
Mis une femme dans l'embarras,
Gardez-donc c'est pas la peine,
T'essayes à les aimer,
Je connais, donc, être musicien,
Ça paiera pas comme ça.

Jeunes filles de la campagne,
Mariez-vous autres jamais,
'Gardez quoi, moi, j'ai fait,
Je m'ai mis dans les misères.
La femme est malheureuse,
Mais, loes enfants est plus.
'Gardez-donc comme c'est misérable,
Les voir à la traîne comme ça.

Jeune filles de la campagne,
Mariez-vous autres jamais,
Jeune fille, c'est une amusette,
'Gardez-donc comment je vas faire,
C'est pas la peine dire non.
Ils vont toujours te condamner,
Ils vont te faire les aimer, chère,
Ils vont toujours te condamner.
Iry Lejeune

"Don't Get Married" (#1195) is Iry's take on the old traditional tune "Jeunes Gens De La Campagne"; a well-known lyrical off-shoot of Joe Falcon's "Allons A Lafayette".  It's a traditional song about the dangers of young men getting married too early, except Iry gave it a unique twist... warning the ladies about marrying a musician!   His phrasing of "les voir à la traîne" directly translates to "seeing them on the trail", but in Cajun French, it's another way of saying "seeing them dragging along the road" or "seeing them wonder around", usually in despair.  Duckhead played the guitar and Wilson filled on fiddle. Granger recalled playing at clubs with Iry:
I played in Bridge City, at B.O.'s Sparkle Club.  I played a lot there, with Iry.  And Bailey's Fish Camp between Orange and Port Arthur. We played there a lot on Saturday nights, with Iry. Jones' Bar and Shamrock Club.  We played the Triangle once or twice, Jones' Bar every Saturday night for awhile.... and also the Shamrock.3  
Wilson Granger

Young girls of the country,

Don't ever get married,

See what I have done,
Made trouble for a woman,
So look, it is no use,
To try to love them, 
I know, though, that being a musician,
It doesn't pay to be like that.

Young girls of the country,
Don't ever get married,
See what I have done,
I am full of misery,
The wife is unhappy,
Well, the children are more,
See how it is miserable,
To see them wondering around, like that.

Young girls of the country,
Don't ever get married,
A young girl is for amusement,
So look, how will I handle this?
It is no use saying no,
They will always condemn you,
They will make you love them, dear,
They will always condemn you.

Iry's recordings became wildly popular in French-speaking Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Lejune's capacity to get the right syncopated rhythm or beat from the accordion and to coax from that instrument a big, multi-faceted, almost big band sound, are hallmarks of his accordion playing.  When author Andrew Brown asked Wilson to compare Iry against Nathan Abshire's style, he said:
I won't say [Nathan] was a better accordion player because, to me, Iry was number one.  That's all he ever done. He started when he was a kid.  He could do anything he wanted with that accordion.3  

  1. Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California Modern Pleasures in a Postmodern World By Mark F. DeWitt,
  3. Wilson Granger interview. Andrew Brown. 2005.

Release Info:
-A (2587) Don't Get Married | Folk-Star GF-1195-A
-B (2588) (1219-2) Convict Waltz | Folk-Star GF-1195-B

The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2003)

Friday, January 11, 2019

"Dans Les Grand Meche" - Lee Sonnier

In 1948, Livaudais "Lee" Sonnier's connection with Fais Do Do records was a chance circumstance when producer J.D. Miller married into the family.  Miller was a musician himself.  He had played with several hillbilly groups, even playing alongside Amedie Breaux on one occasion during the 1930s.  But it wouldn't be long before Miller entered the military.  Once he was out, he created his own contracting business and rented a large building.   

In the meantime he had married an accordion player's daughter.  His wife was the daughter of Lee Sonnier of Rayne, a local musician. However, with all the building space, he chose to use some of the building to sell musical instruments.  This led to making records. Having already recorded string band leader, Happy Fats, Miller decided Lee's accordion talent was a reasonable addition. He recalls:

The jukebox operators around town came to me wanting Cajun French records.  There weren't many available, only Harry Choates' "Jole Blon".  The records of Joe Falcon had been discontinued. I figured heck, we'd try to make some of our own.1

Moi, j'connais, moi, j'm'en va, chère 'tit fille, malheureuse,
Dans la platin(?) avec un autre, mais, pour toujour,
Moi j'connais, tu va venir, chère 'tit fille, malheureuse,
Avec ton negre pas longtemps, mais, chère mignonne.

Tout les jours, tu m'aimie, moi j'connais, (...........?) 
Qui m'aime, chère 'tit fille, malheureuse,
Moi, j'm'en va, pour toujour, j'connais (les) promets, malheureuse,
Moi, j'connais tu va venir (à grand mèche).
Lee Sonnier

In 1948, Miller gathered the group at his new recording studio at the M&S Electrical shop.  After purchasing a tape recorder, Miller recorded the group performing the traditional "Dans Le Grand Meche" on Miller's new Fais Do Do label featuring Happy Fats on vocals and bass.   It was a slightly different take on the traditional melody of "Grand Texas".  Backing him up was Lawrence "Blackie" Fruge on fiddle and Eula Mae Fruge on guitar.  Miller had recorded the group with his own equipment in his shop.  Taking the time and effort to get a good recorded sound, he said:
I went to Houston to the Gates Radio Supplies. They had just received three Magnecord tape recorder, it seems like it was the PT-6 model. You could carry it around, so I bought that, three microphones and a three volume mixer.  I think I was helped by my electrical background.  I had a sense of something. I didn't go by the book because I went by these two things.... my ears.2  
J.D. Miller

I know, I'm going to leave, dear little girl, oh my,
In the lowlands with another, well, forever,
I know, you are going to come, dear little girl, oh my,
With your man not long ago, well, dear cutie.

Everyday, you loved me, I know, (........?)
Who loved me, dear little girl, oh my,
I'm leaving, forever, I know the promises, oh my,
I know you are going to come (to the marsh).

  1. Interview with J.D. Miller. Stacey Courville. CPS. 1983.
  2. Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge By Martin Hawkins
Release Info:
-A Dans Les Grand Meche | Fais Do Do F-1002-A
-B Chere Catan | | Fais Do Do F-1002-B

Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Monday, January 7, 2019

"Chere Petite Blun" - Vincent & Cagley

Fiddle player and Cajun drummer, Crawford Vincent, came from a musical family.  His grandfather, Theozime Vincent, who had come from France, was known to play dances in the Gueydan area as early as the 1870s.   Crawford not only learned from his grandfather, but also from a local fiddler named J.B. Fuselier.  However, Crawford's biggest influence came from listening to and playing with the Hackberry Ramblers.1

Will Kegley grew up in a sharecropper family where he and the Clement family grew up together. Accordion player Terry Clement believes this is where Will learned how to play the fiddle.   By the late 1930s, Will and a guitar player from Jennnings named Ernest Thibodeaux.    Will Kegley's biggest connection to the music was when he helped find Nathan Abshire to lead the Pine Grove Boys.   
Crawford Vincent

Oh 'tit monde, tout ça, mais, t'es après faire, 
Si loin, 'tite fille, de moi de toi,
Oh, tout le temps, après 'garder, ouais, pour toi, 
Ça on appelle ma chère,  jolie petite brune.

Oh tout le temps, de t'voir, mais, aussi loin, 
Avec un autre, 'tite fille qui m'aimait pas. 
Oh, de t'voir, avec un autre, avec un monde,
(Je te) promets, 'tit monde, ça fait de la peine.

Crawford and Will were popular musicians that played often together in other groups such as in Shuk Richard's Louisiana Aces.1  They duo came together in 1952 to recording for George Khoury's new record lable Lyric where they waxed "Chere Petite Blun" (#605), adding Cecil Farrell "Benny" Fruge on piano.  Sadly, the rest of the musicians during the session is unknown. Khoury's lack of attention to detail produced a title with the word "brun" misspelled along side Kegley's name written as "Cagley".
Will Kegley

Oh, my everything, all that, well, you've done,
So far away, little girl, I am from you,
Oh, all the time, looking, yeah, for you, 
We call my dear, pretty little brunette.

Oh, all the time, seeing you, well, so far away,
With another, little girl, who doesn't like me,
Oh, seeing you with another, everywhere,
(I) promise you, little everything, it hurts.

However, in tragic turn of events, Will's reputation would be cemented as a rough musician. In June of 1954, while playing with the Pine Grove Boys, he stabbed steel guitar player Atlas Fruge in a fit of rage over the jealously surrounding his wife Oziet.   He was sentenced to Angola for 18 months but only served a year.   Afterwards, he filled in with other bands such as Andrew Cormier's Rambling Aces.1  

  1. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
A Chere Petite Blun | Khoury's/Lyric 605-A
B Lawtell Two Step | Khoury's/Lyric 605-B

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

Friday, December 28, 2018

"Mes Cinquantes Sous (My Fifty Cents)" - Eddie Shuler

UPDATED! The Reveliers were a backup band for former Hackberry Ramblers guitarist and record producer, Eddie Shuler.  In the late 1940s, he had several fiddle players such as Johnny Porter, Norris Savoie, and Charlie Broussard.  Two other musicians that rounded out his group were steel guitarist Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons and bassist Johnny Babb.  For this session, Shuler's vocalist was Frankie "Tee Tee" Mailhes, a local musician in the Lake Charles area who had formerly recorded with his friends, the Alley Boys of Abbeville.  By the late 1940s, Shuler's first French music release was an attempt to capture the local Cajun music market.

Moi et ma belle on a été au bal,
C'était un samedi soir,
On en a revenu c’était lendemain,
Lendemain matin z- au jour,
J'ai demandé si elle avait pas faim pour quelqu'chose,
Elle m'a répondu (qu') elle avait pas faim,
Mais elle aurait mangé quand même.
Moi je pensais aller ordonner un lunch de quinze sous,
Moi je pensais aller ordonner un lunch de quinze sous,
Elle a ordonné un poulet rôti, une demie douzaine de z"huitres,
Elle a ordonné un poulet rôti, une demie douzaine de z"huitres.

Moi, j"avais faim, mais j'avais pas le cœur de manger,
Moi, j"avais faim, mais j'avais pas le cœur de manger,
Et quand je pensais que j'avais juste cinquante sous dans ma poche,
Et quand je pensais que j'avais juste cinquante sous dans ma poche.
Et quand j'ai mis mon cinquante sous dessus le comptoir,
Et quand j'ai mis mon cinquante sous dessus le comptoir,
Il m'a foutu un coup de poing, il m'a tiré dans la fenêtre,
Il m'a foutu un coup de pied, il m'a tiré dans le chemin,
Écoutez ici, mes amis, ne vas jamais au restaurant,
Il faut jamais que tu vas dans le restaurant de cinquante sous dans ta poche.

Eddie Shuler's Reveliers
KPLC in Lake Charles
Eddie Shuler, unknown, possibly Eldrige "Coon" Guidry,
Amos Comeaux, Johnny Babb, Jimmy Webster, unknown

Recorded in mid 1946, "Mes Cinquantes Sous" (#1012) is a unique country-Cajun cover of the song "I Had But Fifty Cents", originally written as a poem in 1881 by Sam Devere and published in 1885.  It was later recorded by Riley Puckett in 1925 and the Binkley Brothers Dixie Clodhoppers in 1928.   Frankie had originally recorded the tune in 1939 as "Moi Et Ma Belle" with the Alley Boys and by 1946, brought the song to Shuler's group. It has been a well known song for years, even recorded by Ricky Skaggs, Jo-El Sonnier, and Beausoleil.

Me and my wife, we went to the ball,
It was a Saturday night,
We came back the next day,
Next morning, during the day,
I asked if she wasn't hungry for something,
She told me that she was not hungry,
But, she'd eat anyways.
I thought I was going to order a fifteen cent lunch,
I thought I was going to order a fifteen cent lunch,
She ordered a roast chicken, half a dozen oysters,
She ordered a roast chicken, half a dozen oysters.

I was hungry, but I did not have the heart to eat,
I was hungry, but I did not have the heart to eat,
And when I realized I had just fifty cents in my pocket,
And when I realized I had just fifty cents in my pocket,
And when I put my fifty cents on top of the counter,
And when I put my fifty cents on top of the counter,
He punched me, he threw me into the window,
He kicked me, he pulled me into the road,
Listen here, my friends, never go to the restaurant,
You must never go to the restaurant (with only) fifty cents in your pocket.

During the early 1950s, Louis Spell and his French Serenaders would copy Shuler's recording and record "The Fifty Cent Song" for J.D. Miller in Crowley.  
By 1957, the Ethnic Folkways Library recorded the tune with Madame Marion Dugadet from Avery Island entitled "La Chanson De Cinquante Sous".

  1. Lyrics by Stephane F 
Release Info:
A Mes Cinquantes Sous (My Fifty Cents) | Goldband 1012
B Jolie Blonde (Pretty Blonde) | Goldband 1012

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"Jus Pasque" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc

Cajun swing was perhaps the most dynamic musical expression in the history of Cajun music.  Fiddlers, guitarists, steel guitarists, drummers, piano accordionists, and banjo and mandolin pickers all drew inspiration from the eclectic array of commercial musical styles available at local record stores, emitting from household battery-operated radios, and via the rouging groups and jazz orchestras that provided entertainment at local clubs and honky-tonks.1 Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc seems to have embraced it all throughout his recording years. 

C'est juste que tu crois que t'étais jolie,
C'est juste que tu crois t'es si douce,
C'est juste que tu crois que tu as quelque chose,
Moi j'ne sais pas.

J'ai donné tout mon argent,
(Je) croyais t'avez tout sur le col,
Oui, mais, sapristir, j'ai fini-z avec toi,
C'est juste parce que.

C'est juste que tu crois que t'es jolie,
C'est juste que tu crois t'es si douce,
C'est juste que tu crois que t'as quelque chose,
Mais, moi je ne sais pas.

J'ai dépensé tout mon argent,
Tu croyais j'étais vieux Santa Claus,
Bébé, sapristir, mais, j'ai fini avec toi,
C'est juste parce que.

Alex Broussard, , Happy Fats
"Just Because" was a prolific tune, earlier recorded by Nelston's Hawaiians, covered by many groups of the day including Cleoma Falcon as "Jeusté Parcqué".  The French word "sapristi", meaning "Oh heavens!", is still used in France but in a comical way because it's colorful and old-fashioned, so people have tenderness for this word. "Sapristi" is not vulgar, however, its a way to swear without being dirty or offending God. It's an expression of surprise, impatience, or hopelessness and may come across as sarcastic out of frustration. 

Oran "Doc" Guidry had been jazz fiddler for some time before Happy Fats replaced Louis Arceneaux with Doc in 1938.  According to Guidry, when they first met two years prior in 1936 at one of their first dance-hall shows, Happy asked him if he was interested in finishing school. 
He asked me, "You intend to get through school?"  I said "Yeah."  He asked, "What do you want to pick up?"  I said, "I want to pick up medicine."  He said, "You want to be a doctor?"  I said, "Yeah".  He introduced me that night..."Doc" Guidry!3  
It turns out that Happy had borrowed the nickname from Light Crust Doughboy's fiddle player Clifford "Doc" Gross and from that point on, Oran was known to everyone as "Doc" Guidry.   Many people throughout his life never knew his real name.3  

Doc Guidry

Just because you think you are pretty,
Just because you think you are sweet,
Just because you think you have something,
I don't know.

I gave you all my money,
Beleiving you had everything "on the collar",
Yeh, well, good heavens, I'm finished with you,
Just because.

Just because you think you are pretty,
Just because you think you are sweet,
Just because you think you have something,
Well, I don't know.

I spent all my money, 
You thought I was old Santa Claus,
Baby, good heavens, well, I'm finished with you,
Just because. 

Happy rounded out his group with Ray Guidry on banjo, Roy Romero on steel guitar, Nathan Guidry on bass, and Robert Thibodeaux on piano. The release became popular enough with RCA that they released it on their "staff" label and on their "Dog 2" label.  After the war, Happy and Doc reunited as Happy, Doc And The Boys until 1953.  Happy Fats went on to become a major south Louisiana television personality in the 1950s after the first TV station opened in Lafayette.

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. Interview with Oran "Doc" Guidry.  Shane Bernard.  11-2-1991.
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
BS-022038-1 Jus Pasque | Bluebird B-2037
BS-022041-1 Te Jolie Te Petite | Bluebird B-2037

BS-022038-1 Jus Pasque | Bluebird B-2091
BS-022032-1 Les Escrivis Dan Platin | Bluebird B-2091

Friday, December 14, 2018

"Waxia Special" - Oscar "Slim" Doucet

Oscar "Slim" Doucet was a native of Opelousas who assembled a group of musicians known as the Accordion Playboys.  For years, he ran Slim Doucet's Garage during the day, working as a mechanic and played music for barn dance parties at night.  After meeting local town representative, Dr. Boudreaux, he jumped on an opportunity to bring his accordion to a 1929 Okeh session in Atlanta.  Alongside some contemporary musicians where he and guitarist Chester Hawkins recorded two songs, one which was the "Waxia Special" (#45333).

"Waxia", is the name of a bayou near Opelousas, Louisiana.  Referred to on maps as "Bayou Wauksha", it's most likely the corrupted spelling of the Indian name "Ouachita" (not to be confused with the larger "Ouachita River" in northern Louisiana). Another source explains that a Alabamas tribe had settled there in the early 19th century from the region of Waxahatchee.  The word, meaning "crest of hair", may possibly be a Siouan word from the Catawba tribe, which spoke a Catawban dialect.1

Daily World
Jun 21, 1945

The bayou was home to the Waxia community not far from the historic town of Washington, LA.   The waterway flowed into the more well known Bayou Teche river which inspired many Cajun tunes.  In recent times, Creole people of the Waxia area were studied by Dr. Jay Edwards of LSU for their unique usage of the French language.2  

  1. Native American Placenames of the United States By William Bright
Release Info:
402382 Chere Yeux Noirs | Okeh 45333
402383 Waxia Special | Okeh 45333

Friday, December 7, 2018

"Jole Brun" - Harry Choates

The main catalyst for exposing interest in Cajun music after the war was fiddle player Harry Choates.  Choates had just recorded his hit song "Jole Blon" and was looking for any work he could find.  He and record producer Jimmy Mercer figured they could take his themed title, rename it, and make even more money on a different recording label.   He renamed the tune "Jole Brun (Pretty Brunette)" and changed some of the lyrics for the Cajun Classics label (#1009).

Still under contract with Bill Quinn's Gold Star label which he scored his hit "Jole Blon", he either recorded in a radio station in Lake Charles, or possibly ventured out to Paris, Texas where Jimmy Mercer had created his own pressing plant and recording studio. His makeshift studio located in the plant allowed the whole process to occur onsite.  Together with Harry, he brought along Esmond Pursley on guitar, Joe Manuel on banjo, Pee Wee Lyons on steel, B.D. Williams on bass, Curzy Roy on drums, and Johnnie Manuel on piano.

Oh, mais, jolie brune, mais, malheureuse, chère 'tite fille,
Oh, pourquoi t'as fais, mais, ça t'as fais à ton pauvre 'tit chien.

Oh, mais malheureuse, mais, jolie brun, t'as chagrin,
Oh, vilaines manières, malheureuse, ça fait pitié.

Oh, jolie brune, ma petite jolie cœur,
Eh, ha ha!  Eh, malheureuse.

Oh, mais, malheureuse, tu connais ça a pas fais bien,
Oh, pourquoi t'as fais, mais, avec moi, si mal, bébé,
Oh, j'connais, chère petite, tu va avoir du regret,
Tu vas venir un jour, jolie brune, oh, ça, (dans) pas longtemps.

The Paris News
Nov 24, 1946

In 1946, Jimmy Mercer had obtained a hydraulic record press from Chicago and had it shipped to Texas.  He started with his first label, Swing, and called his place Swing Record Manufacturing.   He boasted the machine could produce a record in 18 seconds and had the capacity of 2700 records a day.  According to Mercer:

We are engaged in manufacturing records for a number of well known companies and we also intend to put out two records under our own label, "Swing" and "Downbeat".   We hope to be able to give talent in Northeast Texas an opportunity to audition so that they might possibly become recording artists.3  

Oh, well, pretty brunette, well oh my, dear little girl,
Oh, why have you done this, well, that you've done to your old little dog.

Oh, well, oh my, well, pretty brunette, you're sad,
Oh, your terrible ways, oh my, made it pitiful.

Oh, pretty brunette, my little pretty sweetheart,
Eh , ha ha!  Eh, it's terrible.

Oh, well, oh my, you know that it's not been well,
Oh, why have you done that, well, with me, so bad, baby,
Oh, I know, dear little one, you're going to have regrets,
You will come back one day, pretty brunette, oh, it won't be that long.

The Paris News
March 29, 1949

By 1947, Choates was now in considerable demand and he had no qualms about contracts. Surprisingly at one point, Quinn narrowly stopped Choates from recording with Decca in violation of his contract. In February, Choates recorded for Jimmy Mercer’s Swing Records in Paris, Texas (author Andrew Brown states Lake Charles, Louisiana) on his new label, Cajun Classics, created just for Choates, including “Jole Brun.” Cajun Classics was part of a family of labels operated by Jimmy Mercer in Paris from 1946 to 1950. When the records went on sale, Quinn contacted Mercer, only to find Choates had signed a contract with him as well so he and Mercer settled on an arrangement.1

Mercer had many labels over his career including All Spice, Cajun Classics, Hillbilly Hit Parade, Personality, Royalty, Swing, Vox, Western Magic, Zest, and Zip labels.  However, Mercer had run into trouble in 1949 when he was "convicted of shipping obscene (party) records across state lines".  According to the FBI, a complaint was filed alleging that Mercer transported "obscene, lewd, lascivious matter of indecent character" to St. Louis.  He was arrested by a US deputy marshal at his home and was released on bond.  This spelled the end of all of Mercer's recording activities.2  

  2. "Shipping Obscene Records Charged".  Paris News. Mar 29, 1949
  3. The Paris News Nov 24, 1946.
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
1007 Hackberry Hop | Series 1007 Cajun Classics
1009 Jole Brun | Series 1009 Cajun Classics

Harry Choates ‎– The Fiddle King Of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982, 1993)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)