Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Madame Atchen" - Amede Ardoin

Another iconic duo of Cajun music was Amede Ardoin and Dennis McGee.  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.  All of these sides, credited on the record labels only to Ardoin, were released in both Columbia's and Okeh's small special series of Acadian French, or Cajun, records.3  

It’s hard to say what stands out more in his music, his singing or playing. The former is his real audio signature, a pleading tone, almost the edge of a cry that emerges from the accordion-fiddle flurry and grips the ears right from the the waltz "Madame Atchen" (#40515).  Torn between anguish, threat, plea and regret he queries his “chere ‘tite femme” in Creole French: “I’m going away, oh little woman / But what did you do with your little heart?” Confused, desperate, ultimately defeated—it’s heartbreaking whether you understand the words or not.2  Recorded at the end of 1929 for Columbia records in New Orleans, the origins of Mrs. Atchen are lost to time.   The song would later become "Ta Robe Barre" by Bois Sec Ardoin and the Carriere Brothers

Malheureuse, quoi t'a fait. Ouis, avec moi?

Ca me fais du mal chaque fois je tu regarde, ouais malheureuse.

Quoi t'as fait? Chere Jouline, ca me fait du mal,
Quoi faire t'as fait mais tout ca, t'as fait si long (temps) avec moi?
Je vas m'en aller, je vas m'en aller, a la maison,
Je vas me'en aller, ouais, a la maison, sans tu Jouline.

Malheureuse, quoi t'as fait a ton petite coeur,
Moi j'ai pas pu juger ton histore rapport a tu,
Ta bonne histoire est aussi bonne que tesparoles,
Ca tu m'as dit, ma belle Jouline, ca m'a fait du mal,
Je suis pas sur d'etre capable de m'en aller,
Mon coeur fait mat juste assez, chere pour moi pleurer.
Amede Ardoin

"Madame Atchen" was covered by Leo Soileau as "Embrace Moi Encore" Milton Vanicor recalled playing with Amede Ardoin in his earlier years.  On certain occasions, they would host a dance.  In fact, Milton points out they had built a big living room in the house, in part, so they could host dances.  Probably the first consideration would be to get the right musicians for the dance.  Only the best accordion player would be right for the job.  In the Vanicor's case, that musicians was Amede Ardoin.  According to Milton's interview with Ron Yule, Amede always brought a big crowd.  Amede's presence would mean a successful dance.  Other accordionists played at the Vanicors off and on, but Amede was the favorite.1

Oh my, why did you do this, yes, with me?

It makes me feel bad every time I look at you, yeah, oh my,

What did you do, dear Jouline? It makes me sad,
What you've done, well, all of that, you've done for a longtime with me,
I am going to go, I'm going to go, to my house,
I am going to go, yeah, to my home, without you Joline.

Oh my, what you did to your little sweetheart,
I have not been able to judge based on your information,
Your good story is as good as your words,
That you told me, my beautiful Jouline, it hurt me,
I'm not sure I'll be able to go,
My heart hearts just enough, dear, to make me cry.

  1. When The Fiddle Was King by Ron Yule
  2. https://www.offbeat.com/music/amede-ardoin-mama-i%E2%80%99ll-be-long-gone-the-complete-recordings-of-amede-ardoin-tompkins-square-records/
  3. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold

Release Info:
W111386 -2 Madam Atchen | Columbia 40515-F | Okeh 40515
W111387 -1 Two Step De La Prairie Soileau | Columbia 40515-F | Okeh 40515


Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
J'ai Ete Au Bal - Vol. 1 (I Went To The Dance) (Arhoolie, 2011)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"Mes Yeux Bleu" - Cleoma Breaux Falcon

By 1934, the Great Depression forced major recording companies, such as Paramount and Columbia, to rethink their efforts in "French Arcadian" music.  No longer were scouts from these companies looking for regional music in the south.  It would be left to only three major companies, one of them known as Decca Records. That year, they would invite the Falcons, Joe and Cleoma, to record "Mes Yeux Bleus" (#17000) on their fledgling American label.  

J'ai jonglé, ouais, à toi, à mon yeux bleus,
J'va après, ouais, au dessus de la mer,
Moi j'suis après, ouais, jonglé a lui tout seul,
Et moi je jongle si jamais i(l) pense à moi. 
C'aurait été beaucoup mieux quand j'aurais jamais rejoint,
Dans ce pays, oui, si triste que aujourd’hui,
Pour le plaisir on à tant passé z-ensemble, 
Moi je suis sûr l'amitié (va) jamais oublié.

Il m'a dit, ouais, cher, que tu m'aimais, 
Et asteur, après t'en aller là bas,
Il y a une maille dans la chaine qu'as été cassée,
En me laissant avec une peine dans mon cœur.
Quelle espoir croire à toi, mais, toujours à moi, 
Est ce que tu viendrais pas, mais, avec une larme,
Et dire à les étrangers, ouais, tout autour de toi,
Que mon cœur z'avait cassé l'année passée.

Cleoma Breaux Falcon
Courtesy of Kelly Schafer

Former stockbroker Edward Lewis formed The Decca Record Company Limited in the United Kingdom in 1929. The company started releasing records under the Decca trademark.   A US branch, Decca Records, Inc., was launched in 1934. By persuading RCA and Columbia artists to jump ship onto their label, it was Decca's first attempt at releasing Cajun music.2  

"Mes Yeux Bleus" is a Cajun rendition of the Carter family's "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes".  Cleoma was known to be a huge fan of the their music, later covering their single "Bonnie Blue Eyes" and primping her hair in similar fashion as Sara Carter had done.  Unlike Columbia, who payed for train travel to New York, Decca provided round trip bus fare. 

I am reminiscing, yeah, about you, about my blue eyes,
I am going, yeah, out to sea,
I'm, yeah, reminiscing all alone,
And I'm thinking if you ever think of me,
It would have been alot better if I'd never joined you,
In the country, yeah, so sad today,
For the pleasure, we spent so much time together,
I am sure the frienship will never be forgotten.

You told me, yeah, dear, that you loved me,
And now, you're going over there,
There is a stitch in the chain that has broken,
Leaving me with pain in my heart.
What hope to have believed you, well, would always be with me,
Did you not come back, well, with a tear?
And tell the strangers, yeah, all around you,
That my heart had broken last year.

"Mes Yeux Bleus" was one of Cleoma's first attempts at covering American hillbilly music in the early 30s.  The Falcons would have a long career with Decca, fulfilling recording contracts until 1937.  This Decca branch was sold off during World War II, but the UK & US companies continued to release each other’s recordings in their respective territories.

  1. http://www.knowla.org/audio-file/90/&view=summary
  2. http://www.bigboppa.co.uk/45-sleeves/DE/decca/decc-de.htm
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
  4. Illustration by Kelly Schafer

Release Info:

39185-A La Valse De Madam Sosten | Decca 17000 A
39186-A Mes Yeux Blues | Decca 17000 B

Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

"Diggy Liggy Lo" - Terry Clement

From the deep heart of Louisiana, The "Clement Brothers," Terry on accordion, Purvis on violin and vocals, and Grant on guitar, started playing music at a very early age. They organized their first band in 1949. The brothers' interest in Cajun French music came from their father, mother, and uncles who were all musicians. In the early 1900s their father, Laurent, played the fiddle at many house dances. The band members fell in love with the music of the late Cajun French musician, Nathan Abshire, and patterned their music after his. They found his music exciting, smooth and very different from any others.1 

C´est ma soeur, Diggy Liggy La,
T'en marié avec Diggy Liggy Lo,
Pour ça reste dans la village,
Diggy Liggy La et Diggy Liggy Lo.

Diggy Liggy Lo, attrappe Popo,
Diggy Liggy La, monte 'sus le plombeau,
Pour s'en va, tout partout,
Diggy Liggy La et Diggy Liggy Lo.

Purvis Clement, Terry Clement, Grant Clement

In 1952, on their way to play for a dance in Holly Beach, the brothers began playing around with a few Cajun French words with a catchy little sound, which became "Diggy Liggy Lo." (#1090)  It was very similar to the melody Amar Devillier used for his "Durald Two Step" that year. The song is about two lovers, the sister named Diggy Liggy La and her husband, Diggy Liggy Lo.  They get married in the town, one grabs the horse named "Popo" and the other grabs the "plombeau" (saddle horn).   

According to their niece Beverly Mire, they were going to play somewhere and in the car, they decided to write it; nothing serious.  They were just out of high school when they wrote it.  They took the song to Jay Miller's Crowley studio in 1954 and in less than a month, "Diggy Liggy Lo" was being played on jukeboxes from Houston to Florida.1  The band featured Terry on accordion; Purvis Clément on fiddle, Marshall Arceneaux on vocals and guitar, Ronnie Goudreaux on drums and Jerry Dugas on steel guitar.  Producer J.D. Miller of Feature records locked in the recording under his name with BMI, but all evidence points to the Clement Brothers as the actual creators. According to Terry Clement:
Purvis couldn't speak French all that well so during some passages, he would sing 'diggy, diggy, diggy, do, do' or something to that effect.  The crowd loved it.  We were coming home from a show one night with my mother and father.  My father had a pickup and the band would ride in the back with the equipment.  I told my brother that I was going to write a song around his 'diggy, diggy, diggy' words.  I told JD Miller that I had written this song.  He asked me to play it, which I did, on the accordion.  He soon had us recording it.  Here I was in high school with a hit record on the radio!"2

It's my sister, Diggy Liggy La,

You married Diggy Liggy Lo,

So they stay in the village,

Diggy Diggy La and Diggy Liggy Lo.

Diggy Liggy Lo, grab "Popo",

Diggy Liggy La, mount the saddle horn,

In order to leave, anywhere,

Diggy Liggy La and Diggy Liggy Lo.
The Clement Brothers played Cajun French music all over Southwest Louisiana, Southeast Texas, and Mississippi.  During the late 1950s and early 1960s when Cajun French music lost its popularity, the Clement brothers and a brother-in-law, Ronald Goodreau, were joined by pianist, Everett Daigle. During that time they played country and rhythm and blues music until Cajun French music regained popularity.1 Terry claims that Miller wouldn't let anyone else sell the record. You had to go to Crowley and buy it at Miller's store. Although the song did give the band the boost it needed to get better bookings and better wages, they never received credit on subsequent recordings nor did they receive any royalties.2 It wouldn't be until Jimmy Newman and Rufus Thibodeaux popularized the tune during a Nashville session in 1954 which made it a national hit.  It would be covered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Buck Owens' Buckaroos, and Doug Kershaw.

  1. louisianafolklife.nsula.edu
  2. Cajun Dancehall Heyday.  Louisiana Folklife Journal Vol 37. (2013).  Ron Yule.
  3. "Acadian All Star Special" by Bear Records
Release Info:
-A La Valse de Te Maurice | Feature 1090-A
-B Diggy Liggy Lo | Feature 1090-B

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Jole Brun" - Clopha "Shuk" Richard & Marie Falcon

"Jole Blon" made it's national debut in 1946 with the honky-tonk recording by Harry Choates for Gold Star records.   He used the slow Amedie Breaux recording but sped it up with a full band sound and changed the key.   For the next several years, musicians began covering the tune, even re-titling the tune and changing the lyrics to appeal to an ever increasing Cajun music audience.  George Khoury's attempt at recording the tune in 1952 as "Jole Brun" (#621) with Marie Solange Falcon and Shuk Richard's band didn't make a lasting impression.

Mais, Jolie brun, 'gardez-donc, quoi t'as fait,

T’as abandonné ton pauvre vieux nègre, pour t'en aller, 
Pour t'en aller, chérie, aussi loin de moi,
Comment tu crois, moi, je vas faire, moi, tout seul?

Mais, jolie brune, tu croyais qu’il y avait juste toi,
Il y avait juste toi dedans le pays pour moi à aimer,
Il y a pas juste toi dans le pays pour aimer,
Mais, il y a juste toi mon cœur peut désirer.
Louisiana Aces, KLOU, 1947
Eddie Duhon, Jay Dartez,

Clopha "Shugg" Richard on accordion,
Marie Solange Falcon on guitar,
Jack Brock (MC)

Marie Solange Falcon, a vocalist and guitarist, was living with her husband and two children near the Richards in Lake Charles in the early 1940s. It was at this time they met, and it is believed he formed the Louisiana Aces with various local musicians. In 1947 the group included Shuk, Marie, Louis Arceneaux on fiddle, and Earl Demary on guitar, and by 1948, Eddie Duhon was added on fiddle and Jay Dartez on steel guitar. They were known to play on Lake Charles radio station KLOU.  After Crawford Vincent and Will Kegley joined the group, they recorded  "Jole Brun" (pretty brunette) in 1952.  The Jolly Boys of Lafayette featuring the Fabacher brothers were the first to use this alternate title in 1937 with their version called "Jolie (Brunette)".  Even Harry Choates himself  tried to capitalize on the popular melody by also releasing his own song entitled "Jole Brun" that same year.  

Well, pretty brunette, so look at what you've done,

You have abandoned your poor old man, you went away,
You went away, dearie, so far from me,
How do you think I will do this all by myself?

Well, pretty brunette, you thought there was just you,
That there was just you in the country for me to love,
There isn't just you in the country to love,
Well, there is just you that my heart desires.

  1. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
A Le Cote Farouche De La Vic | Khoury's KH-621-A
B Jole Brun | Khoury's KH-621-B

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)

Friday, July 27, 2018

"Merrymaker's Hop" - Miller's Merrymakers

During the 1930s, a tenor banjo player named Beethoven Miller created the band called Miller's Merrymakers and they recorded in New Orleans. After Beethoven left the group, a Cajun fiddle player named Jean Baptiste Fuselier took over as bandleader and changed it's name to J.B. and the Merrymakers. He included guitarist Preston Manuel.

Fuselier began playing the fiddle when he was five. He claimed that when he started violin, he was too small to pick it up to play. He had to lie on the bed.  His cousin suggested that they sit him in a chair so he could hold the fiddle.  His fingers were so short at the time, he learned to play with only three finders and never learned to use his fourth finger during his career.  He recalls:
All that money I made, I made it with three fingers. I played my first dance for fifty cents.  The violin by myself.  A country dance in a house.  I was so hot.  The sweat was pouring in my shoes.  I was not quite ten years old.  That's the first time I got money to play.1   
J.B. Fuselier (fiddle)

Eh, chère, tu m'as quitté, bébé,

Oh, s'en aller avec un autre,
Comment j'vas faire, moi tout seul, à ma maison, jolie monde.

Eh, cher joli 'tit monde, catin,
Moi, je m'en vas chez moi, tout seul, jolie.
His first recording at this very first session in 1936 was ""Merrymaker's Hop" for Bluebird (#B-2004).  It's a slower version of Leo Soileau's "Le Blues De Port Arthur" with a different twist during the song's bridge.  His most covered tune is one about his daughter Myrtle named "Chere Tout Tout", recorded in 1937. However, their signature tune would be recorded in 1938 entitled "Ma Cher Bassett" in New Orleans for Bluebird.

Hey, dear, you have left me, baby,

Oh, going away with another,
How will I handle this, I'm all alone, at my house, my pretty everything.

Hey, dear pretty little everything, pretty doll,
I'm going home, all alone, pretty girl.

  1. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A
Release Info:
BS-02674-1 Merrymakers' Hop | Bluebird B-2004-A
BS-02677-1 Lake Arthur Waltz | Bluebird B-2004-B

CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Monday, July 23, 2018

"Fais-Do-Do Breakdown" - Happy, Doc and the Boys

The earliest independent recording producer of Cajun music was Joseph Denton "J.D." Miller.  Miller had acquired a large building for his electrical repair business he started alongside his father-in-law, Lee Sonnier.   In the back, he used the extra space to sell records and music gear.   After traveling to Houston to purchase a tape recorder, he felt confident enough to use it record local Cajun musicians, although mostly unsure of his technique:
I think I was helped by my electrical background. It wasn't technical as far as audio, but I had a sense of something. I didn't go by the book because I went by these two things: my ears.  I've had so many compliments about the sound I got. People asked me how I did it and I said "I really don't know".3

J.D. Miller

However, Miller felt confident enough to record Happy Fats and his group and have the recordings sent to California for pressing.  "Fais Do Do Breakdown" (#1004) was allegedly recorded at their second Miller session in Miller's own studio, sometime around October of 1946.  As J.D. pointed out:
"Fais Do Do Breakdown" was a name we gave it after it was recorded.  Many Cajuns don't really have a name or, should I say, they have different names.  They were generally known as French waltzes or French two steps.  Of course there were some exceptions.  However, most of the names of songs recorded by me were named by me after being given the lyric story of the song.1
Happy Fats, Al Terry, Dudley Leblanc
Doc Guidry

Miller must not have realized much of Doc's melody was borrowed from the Breaux Brother's 1929 recording of "Vas Y Carrement".  Regardless, it's an impressive display of Oran "Doc" Guidry's swing fiddle style he brought into Cajun music. As the fifties drew near, the Happy Fats and Doc Guidry radio shows were required listening throughout Acadiana.2 Both Happy Fats and Doc Guidry would push Cajun music into the local and rural areas using all the means necessary.  According to J.D. Miller:
Happy Fats, through his radio and television programs and his personal appearances, has done more for Cajun and South Louisiana music and musicians than anyone I've ever known and cannot praise him too highly for what he has done.1

  1. Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's.  Liner notes.
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  3. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
Release Info:
-A Fais Do Do Breakdown | FDD F1004-A

-B Chere Cherie | FDD F1004-B


Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's (Flyright, 1986)

Friday, July 13, 2018

"Osson Two Step" - Lawrence Walker

In 1956, Cajun music was headed into a slump.   The most exciting accordion player of the time, Iry Lejeune, was gone and so was the the most influential Cajun swing player, Harry Choates.  Other Cajun artists like Nathan Abshire and Lawrence Walker kept the Cajun dancehall fire going but records sales weren't keeping up.   Record man Floyd Soileau saw an opportunity.   So in 1956, Soileau borrowed $500 from his parents to open Floyd’s Record Shop, a one-room, second-story office on the same floor as KVPI. 

After spending $50 for a phonograph and $300 for records, Soileau went to work selling the hits he played on the air as a deejay. Locals were soon standing in line after they heard the deejay in Ville Platte was selling records during his breaks. But when Soileau slapped a Christmas tape on the air during one of his breaks in July, the station manager told Soileau to make a decision–spin records or sell them. Soileau picked the recording and sales route, a decision that opened the doors of fate. Word spread that there was a record company in the most unlikely of places: Ville Platte.1 He stated:
And then word got out that somebody in Ville Platte was releasing French records again.   I say again because most--in fact, I think everybody, had stopped, they weren't selling enough French records.  Country music had come through and sorta swept around here and there was nobody interested in doing Cajun records anymore.  So we put that first record out. It sent the message that there was somebody releasing that kind of music again.2  
Jennings Daily News
Jul 2, 1959

Several local artists began to ask Soileau to release their work. His first label, Big Mamou, was quickly followed up by his next label, VEE PEE.   Lawrence Walker had just left Khoury's in Lake Charles, mainly since Khoury was then moving into the R&B and rock market.   Among these were Lawrence Walker and Aldus Roger.  The two musicians had some of the biggest crowds and often competed for opportunities, even recording many of the same tunes.  In 1957, Walker offered to sell Soileau four taped songs.   Soileau bought two for 60 dollars and optioned the others for 40.2  

One of those songs become what he referred to as the "Osson Two Step" (#102), not to be confused with Joe Falcon's "Osson One Step".   His recording was a change on what Aldus called the "Crowley Two Step", a variation of the Breaux Brother's "Le One Step a Martin". Lawrence had Ulysse Joseph "U.J" Meaux on fiddle, Al Foreman on guitar, Bheul Hoffpauir on drums, and an upcoming young steel guitarist that would lead his own band for years to come, Johnnie Allen.    Osson was a community between Carencro and Lafayette that people like Lawrence and Aldus played in.  Aldus remembers playing in the town:
There were only two dance halls between Lafayette and Carencro, located between Vatican and Osson.  The entrance fee was ten cents to dance, but for a wedding dance, it was fifteen cents.  There were more people and the owner had to pay the wedding couple to celebrate at his place. Yes, he paid the wedding couple ten or fifteen dollars. It was in the country and, if it was too far for them to go on foot, there was a school bus or a truck that'd pass and pick up the people for five or ten cents a head.3  

Lawrence Walker, Aldus Roger and Adam Hebert, all soon-to-be Cajun music legends, beat a path to Soileau’s door to put their creations on vinyl. After releasing his earlier recordings on the Big Mamou and VEE PEE labels, Soileau decided on “Swallow” for his French records, a spin-off on the pronunciation on his last name. It's on this label he re-issued Walker's tune, changing the title to "Opelousas Two Step".  In order to score points with his soon-to-be wife Jinver Ortego, Soileau named a new label for her–Jin.1

  1. http://www.offbeat.com/articles/lifetime-achievement-award-floyd-soileau/
  2. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/miller_and_soileau.html#N_3_
  3. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois

Release Info:
VP-102-A Osson Two Step | VEE PEE VP-102-A
VP-102-B Bon Ton Rouley | VEE PEE VP-102-B

Floyd's Early Cajun Singles (Ace, 1999)
Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow, 2010)