Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Bon Ton Rouley" - Lawrence Walker

During the late 1950s, Cajun music was on a slow decline and rock music was taking over the area.  However, it didn't stop Cajun musicians from recording or starting new record labels.  Lawrence Walker was one of these who would keep the music alive. Walker would record on Floyd Soileau's VEE-PEE record label, named after the initials of Floyd's hometown of Ville Platte. One of these tunes was "Bon Ton Rouley" (#102).Although the song does not allude to it, Lawrence's band did play often at the Bon Ton Rouley dancehall in Lafayette.  



C'est par rapports à ton papa et par rapports à ta maman,  
Si moi j'peux p'us t'aimer, mais laissse le bon ton rouler.
J't'ai trouvè dans les grands mêches. j't'ai amené aux "Holly Beach",
Les maringoins sont aprés m'manger, mais laisse le bon temps rouler.

Ton pa pa il est fàcher et ta maman est pas contente, 
Les marengoins sont aprés m'manger, 
Mais laissse le bon ton rouler.
J't'ai trouvér dans les grande mêches, j't'ai amené aux "Hackberry",
Les maringoins sont aprés m'manger, mais laisse le bon temps rouler.

Ton papa aprés river, moi l'entende su' la galerie,
Ta mamam  aprés quereller, les enfants sont aprés pleurer,
Les vaches sont pas tirés et les "gaimes" sont aprés chanter, 
Les maringoins aprés m'manger, mais laisse le bon temps rouler.
Lawrence Walker

The Cajun word "gaime" refers to a rooster.   The song's also listed as "Les bons temps rouler". The song is about a set of parents not allowing their young girl to be courted by a probably much older man.  Even though he traveled with her to the towns of Holly Beach and Hackberry, completely bitten by mosquitoes in the marshy countryside, he shrugs if off saying "Let the good times roll".   Floyd started his record label, Big Mamou Records, with the help of local bar owner, Ed Manuel. After this early attempt at recording, Lawrence Walker would record on Floyd Soileau's VEE-PEE record label, named after the initials of Floyd's hometown of Ville Platte.  According to Floyd Soileau:


Then the late Lawrence Walker came in one day and says, 'I know you got a record company started, you making records.  I did four sides at the radio station in Eunice and I'd like for you to release them.  One of them, "Bon Ton Rouley," is going to be a real hit, I know--they're all good, but this particular one I've got a lot of hope for'"
Lawrence had just invited Johnny Allan to play with his group, The Wandering Aces.  They had traveled to Eunice in 1958 to record at KEUN radio station. There, they laid down two songs, "Bon Ton Rouley" and "Osson Two Step".  Johnny Allan recalls:


After the radio station would go off the air at night, around seven or eight o’clock, they allowed us to use the microphones and the equipment and we recorded in the radio station. I was playing steel guitar at the time. I think I have a copy of that record, "Bon Ton Rouley" and the other side is the "Ossun Two-Step". On the VP label.
Floyd Soileau

After some bargaining, Floyd purchased the two sides from Lawrence for sixty dollars with a forty dollar option on another two if the first single was a success.  But Floyd's partner, Ed, was no longer interested in the recording business; he had obtained the publicity he needed for his clubs. Soileau recalls:


So I changed the label to VEE PEE records c/o Floyd's Record Shop, and that issue was 'Bon Ton Rouley' and we used a 102 number on that because that was the second record release we had.  It started selling very well. It got me in touch with some more operators and music stores.   In fact, we got a good relationship built up as a result of this. 

Rock music influence would take over and Johnny Allan would leave Walker's group to start recording music for this new musical style; creating some of the first Louisiana rock and pop songs.   Floyd's follow up artist would be Aldus Roger and then later Adam Hebert.  By 1958, Floyd would focus on swamp pop, rock, and blues on his JIN label, named after his soon-to-be wife Jinver.   At the same time, Floyd created his Swallow label for all Cajun music recordings; a play on the pronunciation of his name.  



It's because of your dad and mom,
I'm not allowed to love you, well, let the good times roll.

I found you in the big marshy area. I brought you to Holly Beach,
The mosquitoes are eating me up, well, let the good times roll.

Your father is angry and your mom is not happy,
The mosquitoes are eating me up, well, let the good times roll.

I found you in the big marshy area. I brought you to Hackberry,
The mosquitoes are eating me up, well, let the good times roll.

Your dad is arriving, I hear him on the porch,
Your mom is quarreling, the children are crying, 

The cows are not drawn in and the roosters are crowing,
The mosquitoes are eating me up, well, let the good times roll.
Crowley Daily Signal
July 6, 1961

By 1961, Walker himself would succumb to the rock n roll fever sweeping the area by releasing songs such as "Lena Mae", "Allons Rock And Roll" and "Let's Do The Cajun Twist".   But by then, Johnny's career was taking off and he convinced many of Lawrence's band to change their name to the Rhythm Rockers (soon renamed the Krazy Kats). A change of instruments accompanied the group's reorganization. Allan gave up steel guitar to sing and play rhythm guitar, rhythm guitarist Al Foreman switched to electric lead, fiddler U.J. Meaux switched to the piano and while Bhuel Hoffpauir remained on drums, the group hired Leroy Castille on sax.  Johnny recalls:

The one we got in trouble with was the Big Oaks Club in Vinton. [Walker] found out that we had booked a rock and roll gig for the Friday night and we were playing there on the Saturday.  So going back on Saturday, he was extremely perturbed about all of this.  He said we could not do this.  So U.J. Meaux, who was the fiddle player and who was playing keyboards in the rock and roll band said, "Well, if you don't like that, we all quit". 
 After being kicked out, Walker laments:


"So that's what happens when you put an old horse out to grass."




  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues By Shane K. Bernard
  3. The Cajuns: Americanization of a People By Shane K. Bernard
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M
  5. Interview with Johnny Allan by Jim Bradshaw, 2007.
Find:
Floyd's Early Cajun Singles (Ace, 1999)
Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow, 2010)

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