Sunday, October 5, 2014

"I Went To The Dance" - Iry Lejeune

J'Ai Ete au Bal!  First recorded by Iry in 1954 and released in 1957 for Ed Shuler's label Goldband and Folk Star, this song is one of the most covered and recorded Cajun tunes today.  The title would be used in several Cajun music compilations and a documentary film on Louisiana French and Zydeco music produced in 1989 by Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz and Maureen Gosling.

Iry Lejeune played in an ornate driving style that was loved by dancers, listeners and musicians alike. Lejeune came from a farming family that loved music. He was born with poor eyesight and became interested in music at an early age.
J’ai été-z-au bal hier au soir

Je va’s retourner encore à soir

Si l’occasion se présente

Je va’s retourner demain au soir.

Iry Lejeune


’Gardez donc les jolies filles,

Celles-là que j'aime autant,

Moi, je connais tout l'amour

Que j'ai eu pour toi.



J’ai été.z au bal hier au soir

Elle était tous habillée.z.en noir,

J’ai fait serment jamais de boire

Pour courtiser ma fille



J’ai été.z.au bal à soir

Elle est tous habillée.z.en bleu,

C’est ça l’habit que moi j’aime

Pour courtiser ma belle.



J’ai été-z-au bal hier au soir

Je va’s retourner encore à soir

Si l’occasion se présente

Je va’s retourner demain au soir.



’Gardez donc les jolies filles,
Personne qui veut m’aimer
Gardons voir si ça c’est pas
Mais misérable pour moi
Ed Shuler, owner of Goldband records, claims to have first met LeJeune as he walked down a dusty road, carrying his accordion in a flour sack.  It was the first accordion the music producer had ever seen.
“He walked up to me and asked me about making records,” recalls Shuler, who agreed to take a chance.  “In those days the Cajuns didn’t write no letters and things; they shook hands, and that was their contract.”
Ed Shuler
The title can be found spelled in a variety of ways:  J’Etais Au Bal, J’ai etais au bal, J’ai été-z-au bal and J’ai été au bal.  It's origins can be found in a variety of places.  According to Raymond Francois says he believe it is related to the songs "Oh Susannah" and "Get Along Cindy".2 The melody has eerie similarity to two songs recorded in 1929: a Paramount recording by John Bertrand and Milton Pitre in Chicago called "The Rabbit Stole The Pumpkin" and a Victor recording by Percy Babineaux & Bixy Guidry called "J'vai Jouer Celea Pour Toi".  In 1934, Joe Falcon and Cleoma Breaux use the melody for their Decca recording of "Ne Buvez Plus Jamais".  This original melody may have also influenced Lawrence Walker's "Jolie (Johnny) Can't Dance".  

The song is a fast paced, two-step that discusses a man's love interest at a dancehall "last night" and how he plans to go see her again, in a different color, if he gets the chance. 

Recorded at Iry's house, the group consisted of Iry on accordion, Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier on guitar, and Wilson Granger on fiddle.  Eddie wanted something with a more upbeat tempo.  Shuler, for reasons unknown, would issue this record with the same #1041 as another release.  The other #1041 release contains "Grande Bosco" and an alternate take of "Duraldo Waltz".  The song would be later recorded by many local musicians such as Eddie Lejeune, Walter Mouton, Lionel Leleux, Michael Doucet, Steve Riley, and Wayne Toups.  The Balfas would be documented performing a version using a unique percussion technique called "fiddlesticks".
I was at the dance last night

I'll be back again tonight

And if I get a chance

I'll be there tomorrow night.



Keep the pretty girls for me,

The ones I love so well,

I know all about love

From being in love with you.



I was at the dance last night

She was all dressed in black,

I swore I'd never drink

When I'm courting my girl



I was at the dance last night

She was all dressed in blue

That's the colour I like best

When I'm courting my girl



I was at the dance last night

I'll be back again tonight

And if I get a chance

I'll be there tomorrow night.



Keep the pretty girls for me,
No one wants to love me
Let's see if that's the case
But it's miserable for me
Author Ron Yule states: 
The mention of his presence at a dance would fill the hall. He played dance halls from China, [Louisiana] and Port Arthur, Texas to New Orleans ... even traveling with the Oklahoma Tornados to Nashville for a few weeks. Many who attended dances have stated, ‘If Iry was going to be there, I went.'  He was a great singer and his wailin' bluesy vocal style is still recognizable today.




  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Ye Yaille Chere, Traditional Cajun Dance Music by Raymond E. François
  3. Ron Yule interview with KPLC on Oct 24, 2013.  http://www.kplctv.com/story/23783301/musical-tribute-to-cajun-music-legend-iry-lejeune-set-saturday
  4. http://www.wendyrodrigue.com/2011/04/iry-lejeune-cajun-accordion-player.html
  5. Cajun Dancing By Speyrer, Rand
  6. http://cajunandzydeco.wordpress.com/tag/jetais-au-bal/
  7. Discussions with accordion builder Bryan Lafleur
Find:
The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)

Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2003)
Les Cajuns Best Of 2002 Les Triomphes De La Country Volume 12 (Habana, 2002)

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