Monday, September 15, 2014

"Jolie Fille (Pretty Girl)" - Gene Rodrigue

After WWII, plenty of musicians began using the Cajun music lyrics they were hearing and mixing them with their country music sounds.   One of these was Gene Rodrigue (also known as Gene King) from Lockport, Louisiana.   His country band would take the lyrics of certain Cajun french phrases and write English lyrics around them. He would eventually record other swamp pop tunes as well, including live shows over radio stations in New Orleans and appearing with Hank Williams, Jim Reeves and Carl Smith. 

Gene had given Vin Bruce his early break. He had started playing jobs in 1946 as a guitarist with his father, and old time fiddler.  Harry Simoneaux, a member of Gene's Hillybilly Swing Kings, remembers Ed Shuler's Folk-Star recording session in 1953:

The song was titled "Dans Le Coeur De La Ville" and recorded by Ed Shuler in Lake Charles.  The solo part of this side was performed by me on alto sax along with a  fiddle player, Leroy LeBleu from Jennings, who harmonized.  In those days, this harmony combination was rather unique.  We had no French accordion in our band, there were no accordions in our part of Southeast Louisiana".
Gene Rodrigue

Shuler remembers recording Gene:

Gene was from South Louisiana, down around Golden Meadow, somewhere down there.  He had a good band.  "La Ville" was one of my favorite songs that I liked.  That was the reason I recorded him. 

He would have greater success with his tune, "Jolie Fille". It would be released for a small label out of New Orleans called Meladee Records in 1954 (#101).  The Meladee label was owned and operated by Mel Mallory in New Orleans, where the famous Cosimo Matassa served as his studio producer. In addition to country music, they also recorded polka.  That same year, Charlie Adams would re-record the tune and release it on Columbia records (#21239). 

Down on the bayou where you meet the jolie fille,

That's where I long to be, down where they say "Oui, oui",

Down on the bayou where you meet the jolie fille.

They love you, caress you, c'est l'amour taton(?),
They please you, they appease you, hold me, C'est si bon!

That's all they live for, that's all they care for,
Down on the bayou where you meet the jolie fille.

Down on the bayou where you meet the jolie fille,
That's where I long to be, down where they say "Oui, oui",
Down on the bayou where you meet the jolie fille.

Some day I'll settle down and raise a family
But I'm not quite ready if you get just what I mean
I've played of this town with all the sweet meon(?)
Down on the bayou where that's the place for me.

The song was a seminal Southeast Louisiana Cajun song, catchy and flowing, with a backing comprised of strong fhythmic guitar, soaring fiddle, and steel guitar, even a barroom piano. He recorded 6 songs along with Dudley Bernard and his Bayou Boys, however he was briefly forced out of music by rock n roll.

Later, he would later come backin in 1960, and record the hit "Little Cajun Girl".  It would be recorded for Richland Records out of Morgan City, Louisiana and Floyd Soileau's Jin label and ROD label (named after swamp pop musician Rod Bernard).   He would also record for Patt's Recording Barn out Raceland, Louisianan and pressed on the label Starbarn Records.  He would form the Mecaton Band and record for Montel Michelle records and Houma Records.  His band would play around the Houma and Thibodeaux areas including the Bellevue Hall. 

  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun BayousBy John Broven
Boppin' Hillbilly 26 (White Label/Collector Records)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)

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