Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Lawtell Two Step" - J.B. Fuselier and his 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. 

Fuselier began playing the fiddle when he was five. In a 1937 interview, 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. 
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. He included guitarist Preston Manuel.
Quand même tu m’as quitté, 
Pourquoi j'suis mauvais,
C'est toi jolie tite fille,
C'est toi qui m’a quitté.

Hey ma chère mignonne,
Tout l’temps avec un autre(??),
Mais toi mais tu croyais,
C’est ça qui fait du mal(??).

Si tu veux chercher(?),
Tu vas voir mais ton erreur,
Pour ça tu fais avec moi,
Mais moi j'mérite pas ça.

Toi mais tu voudrais,
Venir avec ton neg,
Et moi je suis content,
Te voir dans ma maison.

During that same session, they would record "Two Step du La Tell" (known as the Lawtell Two Step) for Bluebird (#B-2050). Lawtell is a small community in south Louisiana located on Hwy 190 which is known for its string of live music dancehalls, such as the Step Inn Club. 

Nevertheless, you left me,

Why? I'm terrible,

It is you, pretty little girl,

It is you, who left me.

Hey my dear darling,
Always with another,
However, thinking of you,
That's what makes it hurt.

If you search within,
Well, you'll see your mistake,
What are you doing with me?
Well, I don't deserve this.

You, well, you want,
To come be with your boy,
And I'm happy,
To see you in my house.

In Sam Tarleton's interview, J.B. states:
When we'd go to New Orleans to make some records, part of the road was gravel, part of the road was dirt.  THe last time I went to make records in New Orleans, I had a Model A.  We went in a a Model A; four of us.
Preston Manual recalls:
We made four recordings per session. Bluebird record's Eli Oberstein from New York would call us.  Then we'd go to the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans.  We'd make records there.
When we'd make a record, the fellow would ask us, "Do you want to hear your voice back and see how it sounds?"  I'd say, "I'd be tickled to death to hear that!"  So he'd replay it and say, "That's perfect, but you'll have to cut another one because that one is ruined!" 
After Fuselier moved to Lake Charles, he joined Iry Lejeune and the Calcasieu Playboys after Wilson Granger had quit.  In 1955, Fuselier and Iry Lejeune were driving from Eunice, Louisiana, when his tire punctured. While changing the tire, a car hit Fuselier's car. Lejeune died instantly and Fuselier suffered injuries.

  1. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M and Marc C
Gran Prairie: Cajun Music Anthology, Vol. 3: The Historic Victor Bluebird Sessions (Country Music, 1994)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

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