Monday, October 20, 2014

"La Waltz a Belezere" - Nathan Abshire

Following Iry Lejeune's lead, previously popular Cajun musicians, such as Nathan Abshire, dusted off their accordions and began providing music for a generation interested in preserving and reviving its fading heritage.    Nathan had recorded for Virgil Bozeman's O.T. records and record producer George Khoury had financed the label.  Khoury owned a record shop and while servicing jukeboxes, he realized customers were asking for more Cajun music.   Noticing Nathan's popularity with "Pine Grove Blues", he convinced Nathan to leave O.T. and record for his two new labels, "Khoury's" and "Lyric", which he created in 1950.  The reason for creating two different labels is unknown. Between 1950 and 1953, Nathan recorded for Khoury several songs including this tune called "La Waltz a Belezere" (#610) in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  His Musical Five included Will Kegley on fiddle, Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, Jim Baker on bass, and Ozide Kegley on drums. Also known as Belisaire Waltz, it is based on the tune "A Precious Jewel" by Roy Acuff recorded about 1941. 
Nathan Abshire

Ouais, s'en aller, là bas chez Belisaire
Ouais, c'est pour voir les belle 'tite filles que moi j'aime tant
Ouais, c'est nous autres, ouais, qu'est si joyeux
Ouais, pour rencont(r)er notre bons amis qui viennent nous voir

Ouais, pour un dimanche, mais, ouais, après-midi
Ouais, se rassembler pour aller chez Belisaire
Ouais, rencontrer, oh, ouais, notre bons "friends"
Ouais, c'est danser ses belle vielle valse chez Belisaire
Will Kegley

"Belezere" was a small dance-hall right outside of Kaplan owned by Belizaire Herpin, a native of nearby Gueydan.  Belizaire's Dancehall was located on the highway north of Kaplan headed to Crowley.  Mixing English into otherwise French tunes would not be uncommon among Cajun recordings, however, one has to wonder about his use of "friends" in such a manner. The song seems to be influenced by an old-timey tune called "Farther Along". Abshire released at least 10 records for Khoury over the next 8 years.  The Clement Brothers would also record a song called "Belisaire" around the same time.  According to Neal Pomea, the brothers were writing alot of songs at this point and were good friends with Nathan who used to play down the road from their house.  

Two of the band members, however, would be known for an infamous event. According to Ernest Thibodeaux, Will and Atlas had never gotten along, One night, Kegley attacked Atlas after the two had words over whether Kegley had been inappropriate with Atlas’ wife, Bernella Fruge.  Several versions exist  Bernella Fruge said Kegley was going around the bandstand at the Town and Country Club in Riceville, La., trying to play a different instrument on each number. When he got to her and the drum set, he touched her leg. She slapped him across the hand with a drumstick and Atlas noticed.  Bernella claimed the stabbing was premeditated. In that version, Kegley went to the bar to buy Atlas a soft drink to smooth things over. When he returned, he took out a pocket knife and attacked Atlas in the back. Kegley was eventually sentenced to 18 months, but served a shorter term since he had spent three months in jail awaiting trial.  
Atlas Fruge

Yeah, go over there to Belisaire's

Yeah, it's nice to see the lil girls that I love so much

Yeah, that's us, yeah, it's so fun

Yeah, to meet our good friends who've come with us 

Yeah, on Sunday, but yeah, after lunch

Yeah, we'll get together to go to Belisaire's

Yeah, we'll meet, oh yeah, our good "friends"

Yeah, it's a beautiful old waltz at Belisaire's

Nathan would go on to record this song for Swallow in 1966, referred to as "Phil's Waltz" with a different set of lyrics.  There's no record of who "Phil" is, however, it's possible he was Phil Ancelet, an owner of a club called "Shamrock Club" in Lake Charles that Nathan played at.  In 1979, the Mamou Cajun Band with Roy Fuselier and Aubrey Deville would record a live version of the tune for KEUN on a LP entitled "This is Mamou Cajun Radio" for Sonet Records.

  1. Cajun Country By Barry Jean Ancelet
  2. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Discussions with Neal Pomea
  5. Interview with Beverly Spell of Orange, daughter of the late fiddle player Will Kegley
  7. Lyrics by Marc Chauveau
French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

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