Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Sugar Cane Festival" - Happy Fats

Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc recorded early in the Cajun music genre.  His band, the Raynebo Ramblers, had several releases in 1935 with RCA Victor.  Later, his music focused on hillbilly and country styles.  Occasionally, he'd have different people on vocals for different songs, including Bob Terry and Al Terry.  Leblanc recorded and played with many Cajun musicians and while he was influenced by Cajun culture, his music would more align with country hillbilly music which had gained popularity among southerners in Louisiana.

Happy Fats
The Bella label was created by John Pusateri out of San Jose, California.  John, a native of Franklin, Louisiana, had moved to San Jose in the 1920s but kept close contact with musicians in south Louisiana.  He produced and created a wealth of great music, mostly doo-wop in the 1950s. He was also a prolific writer and composer for other labels as well.  According to his John's grandson:
Sugar Cane Festival was one of John Pusateri's songs.  I have records of my mother singing that song when she was a teenager in the 1940s.
Hank Williams and John Pusateri
By 1952, he had met Pusateri and recorded 4 songs, one of them which was "Sugar Cane Festival" (#BPT-2).  Sugar cane is one of many strong, vibrant agricultural crops in the low lying marsh areas of south Louisiana.  The song refers to the annual Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival held in New Iberia, Louisiana located along the Bayou Teche near the town in which Pusateri grew up. Happy and John were good friends for many years.  John also wrote others for Happy's recordings, including "Bayou Man" and was currently working on Hank Williams' biography when he suddenly passed away. 

Although the recordings were slated to be recorded in California, they were done in Houston at the ACA studio to have them in time for the New Iberia sugar cane festival.  

Rayne Tribune
Sep 12, 1952

Down where the beautiful Bayou Teche flows,
There's a place I know I'm longing to go,
From far away, they all come down to see,
The fun and the frolic in the bayou country.

Oh, Sugar Cane Festival, Sugar Cane Festival,
Yonder way down the bayou,
Sugar Cane Festival, Sugar Cane Festival,
Yonder way down the bayou.

Sound of the cane ring clear on the air,
The folks are in laughter and heard everywhere,
Troubles are over and praises are high,
And even the sun seems to shine in the sky.

Queen as she reigns on her thrown for a day,
The boys in their vests are all dancing and gay,
Sugar is fine, molassis is flowing,
The whole bayou country's like a bird in the wind.

Father he blesses the fruits of land,
for friends, for all, there's a welcoming hand,
the fun and the frolic, for the cane that is grown,
as sweet as the beautiful queen on her thrown.

Oh, Sugar Cane Festival, Sugar Cane Festival,
Yonder way down the bayou,
Sugar Cane Festival, Sugar Cane Festival,
Yonder way down the bayou.

His musical groups contained many members, which came in and out, including names such as Happy Fats and the Southerners and Happy Fats and his Bayou Buckaroos. Happy Fats made personal appearances with Tex Ritter, Alan Lane and Hank Williams, and was featured several times on the world famous Louisiana Hayride.  This spontaneous Houston session had Happy Fats, Al Terry, Bobby Terry, Curley Doucet, Doc Guidry, and Jack Leblanc. 

In 1956, since recording companies were recording music elsewhere, Leblanc had to seek employment outside music, mostly due to the influence of rock n roll.  

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Billboard Magazine, May 23, 1953
  4. Discussions with Billy D.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an excellent event. Such musical events are really good and attending these kind of events is really memorable experience if you have passion and love for music. I am also going to attend few musical NY events next month when I am free after my work.


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