Monday, October 27, 2014

"Chere Tu Tu" - Miller's Merrymakers


Better known as "Chere Tout Tout", it has become one of the most covered tunes in all of Cajun music. J. B. Fuselier would be the first to record the song, which he wrote for his daughter, Myrtle.  The melody however seems to be much older and appears in a few songs.  It's extremely close to a melody recorded in 1929 by Angelas Lejeune with Dennis McGee and Ernest Fruge for Brunswick called "La Valse de Church Point" in New Orleans.  A few days later, McGee and Fruge used it again during his Vocalion recording session called "Valse de Puit d'Huile".  In addition, it has a loose similarity to Columbus Fruge's "Pleure Plus" recorded in Memphis, TN in 1929.   It is spelled in a variety of ways such as "Chere Toutou", "Chere Te Te" and "Chere Tout Toute".   In 1937, Beethoven Miller, along with Fuselier, would travel to New Orleans and record the song for Bluebird (#2012).

J.B. joined Beethoven Miller's band as the fiddle player and vocalist, along with Preston Manuel on guitar.  Later, one of the best-known lineups of the Merrymakers consisted of J.B. on fiddle, Desbra Fontenot on steel, Norris Courville on drums, and Preston Manuel on guitar.  Crawford Vincent, who sometimes sat in on the drums after J.B. moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, noted that J.B. was a smooth fiddler, especially on "Chere Tout Tout".  



Ma tout-toute, viens me chercher, tu es si loin,

Je connais pas ayou toi t'es, chères joues roses

Que moi j'aime un tas, chère, mais de tout mon coeur.



Ma Tout-toute, viens me rejoindre, chère,

Je connais pas ayou toi t'es, malheureuse.
Myrtle "Tout Tout" Berglund

Preston Manuel remembers the song:
We made "Chere Tout Tout".  We were the ones who made that for the first time; that was for his little daughter who had been given the nickname "tout-tout". 
The title has the same endearment as other Cajun french phrases such as "tit monde" or "mon coeur" which loosely translates to "you're my all-in all".  "Chère" is shortened form of the French word "cherie". The common Cajun phrase "ayou" is a corrupted form of the phrase "où est" which loosely translates to "where are" or "where at". Raymond Francois notes that this is often the opening song played by a Cajun band because it is so familiar as to be effortless and therefore confidence-building, and that it helps to make sure the instruments are tuned properly.  



My all-in all, come get me, you're so far 

I do not know where you are, dear rosy cheeks 

I like you a lot, dear, with all my heart. 



My all-in all, come back to me, dear, 

I don't know where you are, I'm heartbroken.



By 1939, the Alley Boys of Abbeville re-recorded the tune and called it "Apres Jengler a Toi".  Over the years, J.B. played with many other musicians including Nathan Abshire, Will Kegley, Shelton Manuel, Ellias Soileau and Jimmy Baker.   It wouldn't be until the 1960s when Joe Bonsall would record the tune, this time with the accordion, making it one of the most popular tunes in the genre. According to musician Chris Miller, Wayne Toups did a version of the song with Pat Savant with two accordions playing at the same time for Kajun records.






  1. Interview Preston Manuel by Raymond Francois
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  3. http://library.mcneese.edu/depts/archive/SWLAMusicians/encycloaj.htm
  4. http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/americanvarieties/cajun/
Find:
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Two Step De Eunice" - Amede Ardoin

It is not surprising that white Cajuns and black Creoles have often found themselves with much in common. This close contact resulted in an intense period of cultural exchange.  African-Caribbean poly-rhythms and call-and-response forms blended with European-derived dances such as the waltz and the two-step.  With songs like "Two Step de Eunice" and "Blues De Basille," Amede Ardoin, helped by his fiddle player and traveling companion Denis McGee, became one of the first—if not the first—musicians to record Louisiana's Cajun music. 

In 1929, Columbia returned to New Orleans primarily to record the gospel singer Blind Willie Johnson.  It was a joint field session between Columbia and Okeh under the direction of Okeh's A&R man and talent scout Polk Brockman.  Ardoin and fiddler Dennis McGee drove to the city, probably in McGee's car, perhaps staying in the hotel where the session was held.  They recorded six tunes that day which were released on a small special series of Acadian French records.  Amede (spelled "Armadie") sang and the accordion and the fiddle shared the lead.  Many of the songs have become traditional standards including "Two Step de Eunice" (#40511). 
Amede Ardoin

Ardoin was an accordian virtuoso who, by all accounts, had an uncanny knack for improvising French lyrics with his strange high voice.  The song's melody and influence can be found in other Cajun tunes such as the Jolly Boys of Lafayette's "Tant Que Tu Est Avec Moi ", Iry Lejeune's "Jolie Catin" (Pretty Doll), J.B. Fuselier's "Vien Don Ma Reguin (Come And Meet Me)", Lee Sonnier's "Chere Ici Et Chere La-Ba", and "Jolie Fille".   



Hey quo faire jolie, 

Comment j’vas faire, tu m’abandonnes ?

Comment j’vas faire ‘tite fille jolie ?

Toi t’as fais du mal.



Tous les samedi soir, catin,

Oh, je serais curieux d’être là

Pour voir ayou t’es, jolie mignonne,

Ouais mon cœur fait mal.



Rappelle-toi, quand t’as partie

Pour t’en aller, tu m’as quitté,

Tu me quittes derrière, jolie,
Comment tu veux que moi je peux faire.

Oh, mais toi catin,
Si tu resterais si loin, ‘tit monde,
Toi jolie, ça m’as fait du mal
Quand j’ai connu tout ça.

Si t’es gone(?), toi mignonne,
Partie te marier toi, catin,
Tu connais ça, mais toi, jolie,
Ça m’a fait du mal.

Tout ce qui m’a reconsolé, jolie,
Tu vas trouver ton erreur,
Oui t’à l’heure, jolie,
Pour ça , toi tu m’as fait.

Toi jolie, moi je connais,
Pourquoi, catin, mon cœur me fait mal.
Quand je te vois, toi jolie,
Je voudrais jamais te rejoindre.

Ouais catin, tu vas revenir
A me refaire tout ça tu m’as fait
Toi jolie, quand t’es partie,
Tu m’as fait un tas du mal.

Si tu connaitrais comment gros, jolie,
Tu m’as fait du mal, toi catin,
Tous les soirs, mignonne,
Tu pourrais pas dormir.
Dennis McGee

The word "catin" in Cajun french loosely translates to "little doll" with no sexual connotation while "tit monde" is an endearment, refering to someone as "my everything". While McGee's fiddling can be heard in the background, for some reason Columbia engineers failed to credit him on the record.  The two play off of one another; McGee’s fiddle chases down Ardoin’s sprinting accordion in “Two Step de Eunice,” and elsewhere lays down a solid rhythm accompaniment to Ardoin’s riffing. The pair attracted so many people to their dances that a fence had to be erected between the performers and the dancers, to protect the musicians from the crowd.



Hey pretty one

How am I going to make it, you've abandoned me?

How am I going to make it, pretty girl? 

You've done a bad thing.



Every Saturday evening, little doll, 

I desire to be there,

To see you pretty girl,

Yeah, i'm heartbroken.



Remember, when you leave

For you went away, you left me,

You left me behind, pretty girl, 
How can I do this?

Oh, little doll, 
You stay so far away, my everything
You're beautiful and it makes my heart ache, 
I know all about this.

Where you're gone, you're cute,
Let's get married, little doll,
You know this, pretty girl,
That I'm heartbroken.

What consoles me, pretty girl,
You'll realize your mistake,
Yes, you still have plenty of time,
For what you have done to me.

You're beautiful, I know this,
Why little doll, my heart hurts. 
When I see you, you're beautiful, 
I would never try to meet you.

Yeah little doll, you're leaving again,
Repeating everything you've done to me,
You're beautiful even though you're gone, 
You've made me heartbroken.

If you knew how big, pretty girl, 
You've made my heartache, you little doll, 
Every night, cutie, 
You wouldn't be able to sleep.

Musician Boozoo Chavis recalls those songs on 78s:


My uncle had that record, the Eunice Two Step. Everyone had Amede's records.  Boy, that man had a fine voice.  That's pure Frenchman from the heart.

Clifton Chenier would later use the melody as the basis for the song "Sweet Little Girl".  Ardoin’s songs have entered what we might call the social domain; songs like “Two-Step de Eunice” and “Les Blues de Prison” have been passed around and reinterpreted for generations, and are genre standards.  Iry LeJeune began perfoming Amédé Ardoin’s songs on accordion to the delight of Cajuns just returning home from World War II, alienated and anxious to be reunited to their home culture. It’s no stretch to say that LeJeune’s popularity—and Ardoin’s songs—pulled Cajun culture from the brink of extinction.






  1. The Kingdom of Zydeco By Michael Tisserand
  2. http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2011/03/amede-ardoin-cajun-zydeco-mardi-gras
  3. http://www.aquariumdrunkard.com/2011/05/17/amede-ardoin-mama-i%E2%80%99ll-be-long-gone-the-complete-recordings-1929-1934/
  4. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold
  5. Lyrics by Marc Chaveau
Find:
Amadé Ardoin – Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 6 : Amadé Ardoin – The First Black Zydeco Recording Artist (1928–1938) (Old Timey)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)
The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection (Sony, 2015)

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
  6. http://www.rootsandrhythm.com/roots/NEWSLETTER%20130/newsletter130_blues_6.htm
  7. http://home.earthlink.net/~jaymar41/labels_five.html
  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
Find:
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)

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
  6. http://therecordlive.com/2010/05/20/la-music-mag-has-orange-edge/
  7. Lyrics by Marc Chauveau
Find:
French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Homesick Waltz" - Cleby Richard with Adam Hebert

In the 1950s, fiddle player, Adam Hebert,  and accordionist, Cleby Richard (misspelled "Calby" or "Claby"), formed the Welcome Playboys.   Adam used Cleby as his accordion player on almost all of his recordings.  Most of Adam's material would be recorded by the Swallow label in the 1960s.  However, at some point earlier, Hebert's band would record for an unknown, obscure label called "Cajun Records", including the song "Homesick Waltz" (#500).   It's undetermined if this release was a re-issue of a previous recording or an early attempt by Swallow to market 78 records.
Adam Hebert

Adam was involved in music early.  At the age of four he was dancing for tips and by the fourth grade was singing Jimmie Rodgers songs for his fellow classmates. After realizing he had a talent to share, Adam built his first fiddle out of an old chocolate box and screen wire. His bow was strung with horsehair from the tail of the family mare. His hit title "La Valse de Ma Cherie" was used in the soundtrack of the 1975 Charles Bronson movie, "Hard Times."   However, his most well known song would be "La Pointe Aux Pins". 



Hey jolie, moi y après m'en aller,

Jolie, malheureuse, pour la balance de mes jours.

Hey chère, là ça ma va te tracasser,

Toi tu vas aller faire, comme je va m'ennuyer de toi.


Hey yaille, ça sa ra dur te quitter toi,
Toi connais faire, (toi tu feras comme tu voudras. ??)
Hey Madame, moi je connais tu ……
Ouais comme d'aujourd'hui, moi je connais c'est toi la cause

Hey mignonne, oublie tu jongles à moi,
Ma vie est gaspillée, ça fait toi chère aussi content.
Hey Madame, y a des choses j'veux tu te rappelles,
Le jour que t'as parti, je t'ai quittée par obligeance.

The word "jolie" is inferred in this transcription, however, the singer sounds as if he's referring to someone named "Joline", a common name at the time. Cleby was a popular player around the local area and performed at the old Saturday night fais-dodos with his band. It seems Adam frequently used his band as backup for his vocals and fiddle playing.  The recording features Richard "Dick" Richard on steel guitar. Cleby Richard would eventually show his son, Belton, how to play. 

Cleby Richard and Belton Richard
Belton Richard would go on to record alot throughout the 1970s and 1980s, however, it would be his smooth, vibrant vocal sound that would change Cajun music singing.  His baritone voice and singing style would be one of the most copied among Cajun musicians to this day.



Hey pretty lady, afterwards, I will leave

Unfortunately, for my own sake,

Dear, it bothers me

That you're going away, I will miss you.


Hey yaille, it's hard for you to leave,
You know this how you'd like it to be,
Hey lady, I know you,
Today, I realize you're the reason for this.

Hey cutie, forget reminiscing about me,
My life is wasted, if that makes you feel better,
Hey lady, this is what I want you to remember,
The day you left, I was kind to you.


According to Happy Fats Leblanc, he was walking out of a doctor's office in Lafayette and ran into Cleby.  Cleby had just been told that he had a terminal heart condition.  Leblanc, distraught and emotional from the information, went home and wrote the song "Vieux Cajun".  That song would be later recorded by Jim Olivier.





  1. Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.)
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  3. Discussions with Tee-Mick, Radio Louisiane
  4. http://www.flattownmusic.com/Adam-Hebert.aspx
  5. Lyrics by Marc Chaveau
  6. Photo by David Simpson

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Mon Camon La Case Que Je Suis Cordane" - Douglas Bellard

Ask anyone who the first African Creole musician to record creole french music in Louisiana and you'll most likely get the answer of Amede Ardoin.   However, it would be his friend Douglas Bellard who actually recorded before him.   One of Bellard's tunes, "Mon Camon La Case Que Je Suis Cordane", would become one of the most widely covered songs in the Cajun music repertoire: "Les Flammes d'Enfer".

Cajun and zydeco music developed from two distinct musical traditions drawn respectively from France and West Africa, but as neighboring Cajun and black Creole sharecroppers began to play music together in the early part of the 20th century, each began to borrow tunes and musical styles from the other. 

Oh Mama,

Qui c'est la cause,

J'suis condamné,

Pour les flammes d'enfer 



Oh Maman,

Comment j'va faire?

Qui c'est la cause

J'suis condamné 

Pour ci, pour ça,

C'est mon canon la cause.



J'ai fait le chemin,

T'étais là-bas,

Quo c'est 'tite tante,

Cogner à la porte.

Qui c'est qu'est là ?

C'est ton neveu.



Mais mon neveu, 

Qui c'est tu veux ?

Mon chère 'tite tante,

J'suis v'nu pour t'dire,

J'suis condamné,

Mais pour ma vie.



Oh………
Priez pour moi,
Mais moi partir,
Pour les flammes d'enfer.

Ma chère 'tite tante,
Priez pour moi.

Author and historian Dr. Barry Ancelet explains:

European song tradition tended to be textually oriented.  Ballads and folksongs were traditionally unaccompanied and sung for their content.  In African tradition, music, singing and dancing were all inextricably related and this may have influenced the combination of singing and instrumental traditions.  The result of this process was the development of new songs which combined the two traditions.  
Douglas Bellard and his wife

Douglas Bellard, a black fiddler from Bellaire Cove, was the playing partner of the great Amédé Ardoin before Ardoin decided to go with fiddler Dennis McGee, a white man who could offer him more protection when playing before crowds in those racially segregated days. In this song, Douglas is accompanied by Kirby Riley on accordion.  On October 2, 1929, the duo became the first rural Afro-Creoles from southwest Louisiana to record and Vocalion released 4 of their songs including "Mon Camon La Case Que Je Suis Cordane" (#15847).  Two months later, Amede Ardoin got his opportunity.   

Moise Robin, who was there recording with Leo Soileau on the same day, recalls:



When I weet over there, the last time I made a record in New Orleans with Leo Soileau, Angelas Lejeune, he made Bayou Pon Pon and I was there when he made Bayou Pon Pon. And there was a black [man], he made a record, Les Flammes D'enfer. I remember all these players.11



Oh Mama, 

This is the reason why, 

I'm doomed, 

To be in the flames of hell



Oh Mom, 

How am I going to do this? 

This is the reason why, 

I'm condemmed 

For this, for that, 

It's because of my gun.



I took this path

You were out there, 

It's my little aunt

I'll knock on the door. 

Who's here?

It's your nephew.



My nephew, 

What do you want? 

My dear little aunt, 

I'm going to tell you the honest truth, 

I'm condemmed, 

For the rest of my life. 



Oh ......... 
Pray for me 
I'm leaving, 
For the flames of hell. 

My dear lil aunt 
Pray for me.

Author Ryan Brasseaux states:
These Afro-Creole recording artists extensive use of blue notes, highly syncopated melodic phrasing, crying vocal, and repertoire diversified the Cajun portfolio by generating a sort of race record subgenre under the auspices of the commercial Cajun umbrella. 

Also known as "The Flames of Hell", the tune has plenty of different spellings. The title is a corrupted form of the phrase "mon canon la cause que je suis condamné" (or "my gun is the reason i am convicted").   In their recordings, you can easily discern the dark, rolling rumble of Riley’s accordion behind Bellard’s lively fiddling.  The accordion seems to be dissonant, almost off key, between the treble and bass sections.  Vocalion did not issue Bellard and Riley's discs in its 5000 hillbilly series but rather assigned them to its 15000 popular series.  Allegedly, only a few copies of this 78 have survived and the two remaining songs from the 1929 session have never been found on any compilation.  Author Tony Russell has determined these recordings, however, do exist.  That same year, Bixy Guidry and Percy Babineaux would rewrite the tune for their recording of "Ella A Plurer Pour Revenir" and Joe Falcon would use it for his "Acadian One Step".   Musician Wade Fruge, influenced by Bellard, discusses the song's origin and a story:


I learned what they call "Les Flammes d'Enfer" from a black fiddle player [Douglas Bellard].  It's a copy of another song called "Adieu, Rosa".  He'd play it in a one step, not a two step like people play it today. Today, it's played faster. He played with Bijoux [Arteman Fruge] a lot and Enos Fontenot and Lloyd Thibodeaux.  We played for Enos once.  He had a store.  Well, Douglas had had too much to drink too early because they had an old sugar mill over there and they'd make whiskey from it.  So he came in the store and he said "Ya'll have some hot ketchup?"  The bottle was real big and it had a cap on it in a a glass and he drank it all!  Talk about sober up.

During this same session, Leo Soileau and Moise Robin walked into the New Orleans makeshift studio and recorded a similarly inspired tune called "Demain C'Est Pas Dimanche", also based on "Adieu Rosa".  Angelas Lejeune and Ernest Fruge would do the same, recording the tune as "Madame Donnez Moi Les".  Leo would rework the song in the 1930s as "Petit Ou Gros", made famous by Joe Bonsall in the 1960s.   By the mid 50s, Marie Solange Falcon and Shuk Richard converted the song into their "Madame Entelle Two Step".  In 1959, Austin Pitre would take the song and add a "turn" which he conjured up while at mass one Sunday, officially giving it the title "Flum De Faire (Les Flammes d'Enfer)" for Swallow Records.  




  1. Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Volume 2 By Steve Sullivan
  2. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues edited by Vladimir Bogdanov
  4. Creoles of Color in the Bayou Country By Carl A. Brasseaux
  5. The Accordion in the Americas: Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More! edited by Helena Simonett
  6. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold
  7. Louisiana Cajun and Creole Music: The Newport Field Recordings Recorded 1964-1967.  Interview with Fay Stanford.  Posted by Neal Pomea.
  8. Photo by RS
  9. Lyrics by Marc C
  10. Tony Russell, "The First Recording of Black French Music?", Old Time Music 29 (Summer 1978), p. 20.
  11. http://arhoolie.org/moise-robin/

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Mama Where You At?" - Leo Soileau & Mayuse LaFleur

This story is about one of the saddest moments in Cajun music history.   Leo Soileau was a proficient musician which i discussed previously.  He would play with many musicians throughout the 1930s and 1940s, however, his first stint at music was with his close friend Meus (also spelled "Mayeuse" or "Mayuse").

Meus Lafleur was born August 14, 1906 and six months later in February 1907, his mother abandoned her husband and infant son.  According to historian Par Pascal, Meus’ father brought his infant son to live with Meus’ grandmother, who was a widow and living near Ville Platte.

Leo Soileau was a childhood friend of Meus and a distant relative, who also played the violin. Meus played the accordion and sang. While growing up, together they played in a number of house dances and dance halls.  After he got married, Meus’ in-laws didn’t approve of his long absences playing music in dance halls and fais-do-dos and being away from their daughter and grandson. They finally told Meus to leave, causing hardship and his wife's separation. 

In 1928, Lafleur and Soileau traveled to Atlanta Georgia and recorded four songs for Victor Records. According to author Tony Russell, Leo was introduced to a Victor agent (most likely Ralph Peer), by Frank Dietlein, an jewelry store owner from Opelousas, Louisiana who also sold records on the side.  They were not the first Cajun musicians to record their music; they were second. The honor of being first went to Joe Falcon from Rayne, who earlier in the same year recorded “Allons A Lafayette” (Let’s Go to Lafayette) for Columbia Records.
Leo Soileau

On October 17th, they arrived in Atlanta and the following morning, Soileau and LaFleur were escorted to an improvised studio that doubled as a Ku Klux Klan meeting room.   Peer had Jimmie Rodgers recording in the same building that day.  The four sides waxed during this historic session represented Leo Soileau and Meus LaFleur's first recordings.   Seated underneath Victor's dangling microphone, LaFleur performed for the first time publicly "Mama, Where You At?" (#21769).   Also known as "Chere Mam" or "Hey Mom", the tune expresses LaFleur's wish to see his mother one more time before he dies, inasmuch as LaFleur's mother had abandoned him when he was an infant.  On the first take Meus started singing, then broke down sobbing. A few minutes later, on the second take Meus was able to control his emotions and that was the version used.2 



Oh Mam, et où toi t'es,

Chère Mam, comment ça se fait

Que jamais je te voir encore,

Chère Mam, et où toi t'es ?



Hey Mam, comment ç'fait

J'ai jamais eu des nouvelles,

De toi, chère maman,

J'voudrais t'voir, ye ya yaille.



Hey yaille, Maman,

J'voudrais t'voir quand même,

Une fois avant d'mourir,

Chère Mam, Oh ye yaille.



Hey Mam, moi j'prend ça dur,

D'pas t'avoir jamais vue
Ye yaille, chère Maman,
Laisse-moi te r'voir une fois.

Hey, ye yaille,
Ya yaille , chère Maman,
Comment ç'fait, 
Que moi j'su comme ça ?

Hey yaille, chéri,
Viens vite mon……..,
Me voir ma chère Maman,
La première fois moi j'va la voir.

Oh Mam, prépare-toi,
Ton nèg' est passé t'voir,
Oh m'mam, 'gardez donc,
Viens voir quoi c'est y a eu.

Meus LaFleur and Leo Soileau also recorded “Grand Basile,” “La Valse Criminelle,” (The Criminal Waltz) which was composed by Meus. “Ton Papa Ma Jeter Dehors,” (Your Father threw me out) obviously singing about how his ex-father-in-law threw Meus off the property, which he had given to him and his wife. And “Mom, Et ou Toi T’est?” (“Mom, where are you?”).  Meus and Leo were each paid $25 for every song recorded. Meus told Leo he would use the $100 to find his mother.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Meus dealt with a broken heart and wondered why his mother gives him up? When he sang “Chere Mam”, was it a premonition? Meus was shot and killed on October 28, 1928, just nine days after recording “Chere Mam.” Meus was only twenty-two years old.  

Meus and Leo were playing at a honky-tonk in Basile, Louisiana, which was owned by Meus’ friend Alex Bellon when Kossuth Manual pulled a gun and shot Bellon several times. Bellon escaped outside and hid under a truck where he later died. Meus immediately ran to his friend’s side. Kossuth shot Meus, instantly killing him. Kossuth also shot at Leo Soileau, but missed because Leo quickly ducked back inside the honky-tonk bar.


Mayuse Lafleur
By Rob Jones
The reason for the fight is found in rumors.  Lawmen tried with varying degrees of effort and success to control the fights at dancehalls, but they usually winked at the Saturday night high-jinx — unless it really got out of hand. The first is that a man backed his truck into the front porch of the place where LaFleur was playing, causing about $10 in damage. The owner demanded the money to fix the porch. The driver said he didn’t have it. Both were pretty drunk. One thing led to another, especially after a friend of the driver got involved to make matters worse.  The other is that it was in a fight over some moonshine.  There may be an element of each of those stories in how the brawl started, but it ended with six shots fired from a .38-caliber pistol.

Two months after the death of Meus, near Christmas 1928 Victor Records shipped several hundred records to local dealers for distributions.  Meus’ nineteen-year-old estranged wife, Hazel, opened all the doors and windows in her house and continuously played Meus’ records at top volume for her parents to hear and fully appreciate the consequences of his actions. 



Oh mom, where are you,

Dear mom, why is it

That I never see you anymore,

Dear mom, where are you?



Hey mom, how come

I never heard from, 

You, dear mother, 

I would like to see you, ya yaille



Ya yaille, mom, 

I'd like to still see you

Once more before I die 

Dear mom, oh, ye yaille. 



Hey mom, I'm taking it hard, 

Not seeing you
Ye yaille, dear mother, 
Let me one more time. 

Hey, ye yaille, 
Ya yaille, dear mother, 
How come 
You knew I'd be this way

Ye yaille, honey, 
Come quickly
I want to see my dear mother, 
For the first time I've seen her

Oh Mom, get ready, 
Your little boy has come to see you
Mom oh, look at this,
Come see how I've gotten.

"Yaille" is a word that doesn't translate well or at all.  It's possible origin is from the Spanish phrase "ah ya yaille" loosely meaning "Oh! Wow!"  Sometimes it comes out as an exuberant yell.  Other times, it conveyed a mixture of surprise, reproach, and resignation.  In this context, it's definitely a cry of sorrow.  Leo continued to play dances and picked up an occasional accordionist for recordings, however, he would eventually take a break until 1934 when he picked up music again.  Amedie Breaux and his band would record for J.D. Miller's Feature label the song called "Hey Mom" in 1953.  

According to the publication "The New Era" in Eunice, Lousiana:
"The voice of a dead man pierced the gloomy atmosphere of Second Street last Saturday morning, when a song recorded by Meus [sic] LaFleur, before his untimely death, thrilled hundreds of those who yet speak and understand the Acadian French. ... Tho those who had learned of his alleged murder, the song seemed to grasp their very heart strings, and some even wiped away tears which forced their way to the eyes of those sympathetic listeners, while others not so well informed were happy again for having heard a folk song of their nationality which had never been written but handed down from generation to generation.”






  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. Louisiana Music: A Journey From R&b To Zydeco, Jazz To Country, Blues To ... By Rick Koster
  4. Discussions with historical columnist William J Thibodeaux
  5. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  6. BRAWL TOOK LIFE OF CAJUN MUSICIAN. By Jim Bradshaw. 04/20/2009
  7. Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music By Barry Mazor
  8. Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America’s Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century by Barry Mazor
  9. http://popdenial.blogspot.com/2011/04/mama-where-you-at-mayeus-lafleur-2011.html
Find:
Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 2: The Early 30s (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1971)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)