Monday, September 22, 2014

"Bayou Pon Pon" - Harry Choates

In 1929, commedian Walter Coquille created a 2-part series of recordings for Brunswick (#319) about an imaginary village, probably in Lafourche Parish, called Bayou Pom Pom (also spelled Pon Pon). In the diaglogue, he refers to himself as "Mayor of Bayou Pom Pom" and his stories made gentle but penetrating fun of Cajuns who found themselves confronted for the first time with the complexities of the modern world. 

By 1930, he even ran an article in the Houma Times with the headline proclaiming "Mayor of Bayou Pom Pom Will Speak In Houma". It detailed how an unknown man named Telesfore Boudreaux had accepted the invitation of the local chamber of commerce. Coquille would later record sequels entitled "Surprise Party of the Mayor of Bayou Pom Pom" and "Re-election Of The Mayor of Bayou Pom Pom".

The mythical town would find its way into the local music. Later in 1929, Angelus Lejeune would travel with Walter to New Orleans and record "Bayou Pon Pon One Step" for Brunswick (#370). This melody would be re-recorded many years later by groups such as Joe Bonsall. Coquille even recorded a 3rd part for Brunswick that day (#359) and several more later on. 

Yet, the title would be given to other melodies as well. In 1947, Harry Choates would record an old instrumental song called "Bear Creek Hop" in a western swing style he entitled "Bayou Pon Pon" for Goldstar (#1335). Yet again, the same title would be given to a melody written by Jimmie Davis for Hank Williams Sr. in 1951 on Decca (#46381) making it Decca's 3rd highest selling Country record in 1952. According to a collector of Cajun music, Marc Chauveau, there are least 46 different versions of the lyrics! Iry Lejeune recorded it for Ed Shuler and released it on Bob Tanner's obscure label called T.N.T. out of San Antonio, making it one of the hardest to find.

By 1937, the influence of this "town" found it's way into the pop culture of the time. Even a grocery store in New Orleans called itself "Bayou Pom Pom Grocery". 

  1. Cajun and Creole Folktales: The French Oral Tradition of South Louisiana  edited by Barry Jean Ancelet
  2. Cajun and Creole Music Makers
  3. The History of Texas Music By Gary Hartman
  4. Handbook of Texas Music edited by Laurie E. Jasinski
  5. The Crawfish Book By Glen Pitre
  6. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
Harry Choates ‎– The Fiddle King Of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982, 1993)

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