Thursday, October 23, 2014

"She's Sweet Sweet" - Harry Choates

After 1946, Harry Choates ended up recording his music with a variety of labels in Texas. After WWII, shellac material was commercially available, cheaper than before, and small independent record companies began appearing.   A Houston-based department store owner named Macy Henry who was selling records in their store decided to create her own label along with her husband Charles and general manager Steve Poncio.  Originally, Macy ran a department store based in Houston, Texas (unrelated to the famous New York department store) and in 1948, they began distributing records for other labels, such as Modern Music, including their back catalog material; even having an office in Dallas.  

In 1949, they created "Macy's Recordings: Queen of Hits". They used Bill Holford's "Audiophile Custom Associates" (ACA) Studios in Houston to record the music because the place was known for its high quality sound.  Bill only had a Raytheon 4 channel mixer and an Ampex mono recorder but became one of the most sought out engineers.  Macy's released country sides with a noticeable undertow of Western swing, and even the most straightforward hillbilly material from the label featured solid songs, expert picking, and sympathetic A&R work. 

Launching his professional music career in Cajun bands led by Leo Soileau and Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc, Choates formed his own group, the Melody Boys, in 1946. The same year, he rewrote the classic Cajun tune, "Jolie Blonde," for his daughter, Linda, and recorded it for the Gold Star label. Choates became known as "the fiddle king of Cajun swing." 

Oh, chère toutoute, moi je connais t'as pas fais bien,

Ton pauvre vieux nèg' ça fait pitié.

Moi je connais, je mérite pas ça.

Hey, chère toutoute, mais moi je connais,

Moi je connais t'as pas fait rien
Mais avec ça, ça fait longtemps, malheureuse.
Oh, chère toutoute,
Oh mais malheureuse, mais quoi t'as fais ton pauvre nèg'
Mais quoi t'a fais, ça fait de la peine.

Oh, chère toutoute, t'as pas fais rien,
T'as pas fais….(??)
Oh, moi je connais mais ça t'as fais ça fais pas rien.
Oh, malheureuse, oh joli cœur,
Oh, mais moi je connais,
Mais moi je connais sera pas longtemps.

Moi je connais sera pas longtemps, vilaine manière.

Red Fabacher, Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons,
Johnnie Mae Smirle, Harry Choates,
Amos Comeaux, Curly Maples
The label only lasted two-and-a-half years however, they would host a variety of music from R&B to country to Cajun. The label launched the careers of several important Texas blues and country and hillbilly artists including country superstar Jim Reeves, Lester Williams, Clarence Garlow, Smokey Hogg.  Their biggest hit would be Lester Williams' song "Winter Time Blues". In 1950, They recorded the Cajun fiddler Harry Choates several times including the hot western swing number "She's Sweet Sweet" (#158).  With possibly Earl Rebert on steel guitar, possibly Louis "Pee Wee Hall" Oltremari on piano and possibly Sue Romero on bass, the tune is typical of the Cajun swing music of the era.  In it, Harry describes a lover feeling sorrow for the way a relationship has turned, knowing he has to leave, possibly blaming her for having "bad manners". 

Oh, my precious one, I know you're not doing well,

Your poor ole little one, it's pitiful,

I know, I do not deserve this. 

Hey, my precious one, I know,  

I know you did not do anything 
But, it's been unpleasant for a long time,
Oh, my precious one, 
It's unfortunate for you, poor little one,
But, what you're going to do, that will hurt. 

Oh, my precious one, you do not have to do anything
You did not do anything (?)
Oh, I know but you do not have to do anything 
Oh, miserable, oh pretty heart, 
Oh, I know, 
But, I know I will not be long. 

I know I will not be long, you having bad manners.

Although he performed with Jesse James & His Gang on radio station KTBC after the disbanding of the Melody Boys in 1951, Choates suffering ended a few months later.

Macy herself was a strong, steadfast lady who used the subtitle, "Queen of Hits", showing off her female proprietress which was rare for the time.  When Joe Bihari (of Modern Music's Bihari brothers) decided to check on his inventory at Macy's distribution shop, she exploded, telling him:

I paid for those records.  They're mine. Get your ass out of here!

By June 1951, many of Macy's signature artists moved to Modern Records and Aladdin Records ending the Macy's label production.

  1. Blues Encyclopedia edited by Edward Komara
  2. Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin' Hopkins By Timothy J. O'Brien
  3. Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues By Roger Wood
  4. Billboard Magazine, Aug 13, 1949
  5. Billboard Magazine, Jul 2, 1949
  8. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
  9. Jim Reeves: His Untold Story By Larry Jordan
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)

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