Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Unis Two Step" - Floyd Leblanc

Right before Bill Quinn started Gold Star records, he tried out his luck by recording artists locally in Houston and then sending out the masters for production in other places.  Quinn paired up with Bennie Hess of Opera Record Company in Los Angeles, CA producing his first records of the Cajun fiddle player Floyd Leblanc including the "Eunice Two Step" (misspelled "Unis") in 1948.  The song originates with Amede Ardoin's 1929 recording "Two Step de Eunice" for Columbia.

Bennie, originally from Chriesman, Texas, would travel back and forth between Houston and LA and knew Quinn through the business.  In 1948, he formed the Opera label and later signed with Mercury.  

Floyd Leblanc, Iry Lejeune, Ben Oldeg,
Bennie Hess and Virgil Bozman

Ma jolie, mais joli cœur,

Quoi ta fait il y a pas longtemps,

Moi je l'aime, mais jolie fille,

Mais ça, ça m'fait du mal.

Jolie fille, joli cœur,

Tu vas voir, mais, ton vieux neg,

Moi je connais tu vas pleurer,

Mais aussi loin de moi.

Moi je connais, mais jolie fille,

Tu vas voir ton vieux neg,

Joli cœur, mais moi je connais

Mais ça tu fais pitié.
Daily World
Aug 12, 1948

Floyd was from Mermentau, Louisiana and born into a musical family, influenced by his father's fiddle playing and the Hackberry Ramblers.  After WWII, while stationed in San Antonio, he would eventually meet up with Virgil Bozeman and join his group called the "Oklahoma Tornados".  Composed of Ben Oldag on bass, Dudley Champagne on drums, Bennie Hess on guitar, Virgel Bozman on guitar and Floyd on fiddle, Virgil's group became the backup band for any artist that Quinn had in the studio and Floyd took the opportunity to record his own songs.  Virgil had heard Iry play music in Evangeline and Iry convinced Virgil to travel to Houston and record with the Oklahoma Tornados.  There, they produced Iry's first record containing "Love Bridge Waltz" and "Evangeline Special".  Floyd's and Iry's records would be pressed in California on Hess' label.
Bennie Hess

My pretty, but, a pretty heart,

What you did, not long ago

I love you, but, pretty girl, 

It's making me ache.

Pretty girl, pretty heart, 

You'll see, my old friend,

I know you're gonna cry, 

But, you're away from me. 

I know, however, pretty girl, 

You'll see, my old friend,

Beautiful soul, but I know 

Well, that makes you pitiful.
Virgil Bozeman

Eventually, Floyd, Virgel and Iry would make a trek to Nashville in 1947 to seek fortune.  Iry returned home after a couple of weeks, but Floyd played with several bands while there including Enest Tubb's Texas Troubadours and numerous jam sessions with many of the stars on a nightly basis. Hess' label didn't last after Mercury terminated his contract when the company discovered that Hess was bootlegging his own recordings on his Opera label. 

With characteristic exaggeration, Hess later recalled that he was on “the brink of stardom” when this setback occurred. He followed this with seven more of his own releases on Opera through to 1951. For the last Opera release he offered the dealers, in a March 1951 advertisement, a sure-fire hit or 100% returns on records purchased. However, the dealers were unmoved. His Opera label artist Floyd LeBlanc left by signing with Virgil Bozman's new O.T. label whilst Iry LeJeune pacted with Eddie Shuler. 

  1. House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios By Andy Bradley
  2. Laurie E. Jasinsk, "HESS, ORVILLE [BENNIE]," Handbook of Texas Online
  3. Handbook of Texas Music edited by Laurie E. Jasinski
  4. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  5. Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Volume 2 By Steve Sullivan
  8. Lyrics by Jerry M

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