Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"La Valse de Holly Beach" - Nathan Abshire

After WWII, several Louisiana labels began recording Cajun music locally. One of them was George Khoury, a Turkish-American businessman from Lake Charles and record store owner. 

In 1947, as an owner of a record shop, he noticed a lack of Cajun music being recorded in south Louisiana and decided to open a businees to compete with Ed Shuler's Goldband Records and J. D. "Jay" Miller's Fais-Do-Do and Feature labels. His base of operations was just around the corner from Eds on Railroad Ave in Lake Charles.

After financing O.T. Records in 1949, he started two record labels, Lyric and Khoury's. Khoury never had his own studio however, he would rent out other studios and press the records in other places.  Some of Khoury’s masters were destroyed when fire swept the California factory.  He recorded more Cajun songs however, he ventured into swamp pop and other genres as well. 

He would record Cajun artists such as Lawrence Walker, Harry Choates, Jimmy Newman, and Nathan Abshire. Later, Khoury would backup Phil Phillips on the famous song "Sea Of Love" becoming one his greatest hits. 
George Khoury

Les maringouins a tout mangé ma belle

Ils ont quitté que les gros orteils

Pour me faire des bouchons de liège

Pour boucher mes demi-bouteilles,

Ton papa ressemble à un éléphant,

Et ta maman ressemble à une automobile

Ton petit frère ressemble à un ouaouaron

Ta petite soeur ressemble à un coin de banquette.

The song "Pine Grove Blues" would be Nathan Abshire's biggest Cajun hit. Nathan Abshire would later tour with the Balfa Brothers yet never make living off of his music, retiring as the overseer of the town dump. One of his songs, "La Valse de Holly Beach", is about a small beach town in Louisiana known as the "Cajun Riviera".   It was a rendition of the 1929 Segura Brothers song called "A Mosquito Ate Up My Sweetheart".  The song would feature a then unknown fiddle player: Dewey Balfa.   Nathan and Dewey would record many songs for Khoury throughout the 1950s.
Nathan Abshire

The mosquitoes ate up my old lady

They only left the big toes

So I could use them for small bottle-stoppers.

Your papa looks like an elephant,

And your mama looks like a car

Your little brother looks like a bullfrog and

Your little sister looks like a sidewalk bench!

In south Louisiana, mosquitoes are a huge issue in the humid climate.  They can be found everywhere, especially in the summertime.   Nathan tends to make fun of a family's appearance after being bitten so many times by mosquitoes at the Cajun resort town of Holly Beach.  "Maringouins" and "ouaouaron" are both Native American words that Cajuns adopted from the Huron/Iriqouis and South American natives respectively.6  ("Coin de banquette" in Cajun french can be a simple phrase to say "someone is ugly").  Lawrence Walker would use the same melody to record his "Tu Le Du Po La Mam" for Khoury as well.

  1. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/george-khoury-mn0000651998/biography
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Abshire
  3. Larkin, Colin (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press
  4. Broven, John (1983). South To Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous. Pelican Publishing
  5. Brasseaux, Ryan Andre (2009). Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music. Oxford University Press
  6. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

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