Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Hix Wagon Wheel Special" - Aldus Roger

This tune is one of many dancehall era songs made popular by Aldus Roger.  This would be  J.D. Miller's first recording of Aldus and his band, helping popularize the music being heard throughout the Cajun countryside.   The song is commonly played at the start of the night allowing musicians to warm up and get the patrons on the dance floor.  Sometimes spelled "Hicks", Miller released "Hix Wagon Wheel Special" (#1028) on his Feature label in the early 1950s with Roger on accordion and Roy Morgan on guitar.  The song is named after a popular dancehall near Opelousas, LA, owned by Hillred "Hicks" Sylvester, known as the Hicks' Wagonwheel Dancehall & Racetrack where Roger and other bands played.  The melody derives from a much older tune originally known as "La Queue d'Tortue" which influenced the Segura Brothers in their 1928 recording of "Bury Me In The Corner Of The Yard".
Aldus Roger and Lafayette Playboys
KLFY in Lafayette
Rodney Miller, Fernest "Man" Abshire,
Aldus Roger, Aldus "Popeye" Broussard,
Daemus Comeaux

Aldus Roger's father didn't want him to play accordion, however he would borrow one and play it in the barn.  By the 1950s, national programming dominated the airwaves, but like elsewhere, television stations in south Louisiana provided a few shows aimed solely at local audiences.  Shortly after KLFY began broadcasting in June 1955, it offered viewers a weekly half-hour Cajun music program featuring Roger and his band: the Lafayette Playboys.  Dixie 45 brand beer sponsored the program, and so successfully did Roger market the beverage taht even non-French speakers were known to refer to it offhandeldy as "Dixie quarante-cinq". 

Inside the Hick's Wagon Wheel, ca. 1944
Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan & the
Center for Louisiana Studies,
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Roger led his group for over twenty years and set the standard by which Cajun dance bands are judged even today. He surrounded himself with some of the best backing musicians of his time -- some of whom are still the best today -- and helped bring Cajun music to a wider audience thanks to his weekly television program on Lafayette, Louisiana's KLFY Channel 10.  Roger paid tribute to the show in the mid 1950s with his recordings entitled "KLFY Waltz" and "Channel 10 Two Step".  In 1962, he represented Louisiana at the National Folklore Festival in Washington, D.C. 

Recently, a lost archival footage of the band playing during a KLFY taping of the show in 1968 surfaced from a French film website.

  1. The Cajuns: Americanization of a People By Shane K. Bernard
  2. Historic Lafayette: An Illustrated History of Lafayette & Lafayette Parish By Michael S. Martin
  4. Image by Cary Ginell
  5. Image identification by Michael Dupuy

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