Monday, August 25, 2014

"La Blues de Port Arthur" - Leo Soileau

In 1928, Leo Soileau formed a duo with Mayeus Lafleur and recorded the popular Cajun tune, "Mama, Where You At? (Chere Mom)" for Victor in Atlanta. It becomes the second Cajun record released after Joe Falcon's "Lafayette" and becomes the first Cajun song recorded with a fiddle. Nine days after the recording, Lafleur was killed in a quarrel over moonshine, gunned down by a stray bullet at a honky-tonk bar. 

Soileau would try to record again but it wouldn't be until 1934, he would have success with his group called the Three Aces playing western swing music. The following year, he recorded the song as "Si Vous Moi Voudrez Ame".  Later, his band would be renamed to the Rhythm Boys and on Feb 1937 in Dallas at the Adolphus Hotel, they would re-record the song "La Blues de Port Arthur" (sometimes entitled "Les Blues de la Port Arthur"). The song is named after a small town on the Texas/Louisiana border. It's about a girl in which he can't dance or meet with anymore and it hurts his heart.  This song was only one of a few truly Cajun tunes during this recording session. 

Hé j’peux voir dans ton visage(?) ton vieux neg, jolie fille,

Oh toi jolie tit monde, cherie

Te voulais plus l’aimer ton veux neg, malheurse,

Oh mais ça sa fait pas rien, chere.

Hé j'peux voir dans que ti l’as dit,

Te voulais plus (la vie?),

Oh, ça c’a fait pitié, chere.

Leo recorded Cajun music, usually under the band name Leo Soileau and the Rhythm Boys, until the start of World War II in which Decca decided to stop recording Cajun artists. He continued to perform with his group The Rhythm Boys at places such as the Silver Star in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Showboat in Orange, Texas and Lighthouse in Port Arthur, Texas, until the end of the decade when in 1953 he retired playing music. Soileau made frequent broadcasts over KVOL in Lafayette, Louisiana, KPLC in Lake Charles, Louisiana and KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana. They consisted of Tony Gonzales or Sam Baker on drums, Bill Landry and Floyd Shreve on guitar, Jerry Baker on guitar, and Leo on fiddle.

Hey I can see in your face your old man, pretty girl,

Oh, you pretty little everything, dear.

You wanted to love your old man more, oh my,

Oh, well, it's nothing dear.

Hey, I can see that you said,

You wanted more from life,

Oh, that is pitiful, dear.
Happy Fats reworked the tune in his "Te Kaplan" in 1941 and Chuck Guillory used it in his "Teiyut Two Step" in 1949.  The melody would be turned into the "Cajun Hop" by Harry Choates in the 1950s and later recorded as "Le Two-Step à Frère Devilliers" by Dennis McGee for Folkways Recordings.  Wallace "Cheese" Reed would re-title the tune "Tu Vas M'Faire Mourir". 

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Russell, Tony (2010). Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost. Oxford University Press
  3. Louisiana Cajun Music, Vol. 3: The String Bands of the 1930's. Liner notes.
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M, Smith S, 
Louisiana Cajun Music, Vol. 3: The String Bands of the 1930's (Old Timey, 1971)
Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown (Arhoolie, 1997)
Raw Fiddle (Rounder, 2004)

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