Sunday, May 17, 2015

"Te Ma Lessa Jolie Blonde" - Miller's Merrymakers

In 1936, with record sales holding up after the end of the Depression slump, the Victor mobile recording unit under the direction of Eli Oberstein visited New Orleans to record local hillbilly, blues and Cajun artists.  In what was one of the last major field trips, mammoth sessions were held at the St. Charles Hotel, with more than twenty five titles recorded each day.  The ensuing 78s were eventually released on Bluebird, Victor's subsidiary budget label, at a cost of thirty-five cents per copy.   The early 2000 series had been set aside for it's Cajun artists.

Te m’a quitte chere jolie blonde,

T’on aller avis d’un autre,

Comment tu crois mon j’peu faire,

Mon tout seule à m’a maison?
Tu m’a promise ta vieux neg,
Avis tourner un jour avenir.
Eli Oberstein
In 1936, both the Hackberry Ramblers and the Merrymakers would enter the Bluebird makeshift studio in New Orleans on the same day.  Both would be the first use the title "Jolie Blonde" however, the Hackberry Ramblers used the melody of "Ma Blonde Est Partie".  The song would forever be known as by this name.   J.B. Fuselier and Miller's Merrymakers used a different melody for their version called "Te Ma Lessa Jolie Blonde" (#2006) however, the theme of a "pretty blonde leaving" ties the songs together.  The rest of the session would be filled up with Cajun songs from both groups, adding to the dozens recorded between 1936 and 1938.  This is an older song, a heavy waltz with a beat that is slow and almost majestic.  The vocal phrasing closely follows the fiddle in its extended tones, and the two alternate regularly through-out the song.

You left me, dear pretty blonde,

You've gone away, I've noticed, with another,

How do think I'll manage,

All alone in my house?
You promised me, your old man,
You'll come around in the future.
Miller used the phrase "te ma lessa jolie blond" (loosely translated to "you're my little pretty blonde") while the Ramblers chose to shorten the name to simply "jolie blonde".  Beethoven Miller would eventually relieve himself from the group with J.B. Fuselier taking over command.   Once in control, the group would go one to become one of the 1930s most successful string-band recording groups, laying down songs such as "Chere Tout Tout" and "Ma Chere Bassett".

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Liner notes.  The Cajuns: Songs, Waltzes, and Two-Steps.
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M
The Cajuns: Songs, Waltzes, and Two-Steps (Smithsonian Folkways, 2004)


  1. Thanks for posting! Really interesting to hear these old 78's.
    There seems to be innacuracies in the French transcription, however (not just orthographic, but meaning changing) if you would like I could provide you with a more accurate transcription

    1. Tu m'as quitté, chère 'tite blonde
      T'en aller-z-avec un autre
      Comment tu crois, moi j'peux faire
      Moi tout seul à ma maison
      Tu m'as promis
      D't' en r'venir
      Avec ton nèg
      Un jour à venir.

      The second verse is harder to understand with certainty.
      I only have part of it that I hear well, the rest is guessing. I am sure of the first verse however. I can see how somebody who know how to write in French can hear "avis", but I am sure he sings "avec".
      Sorry for the time it took!

  2. Absolutely beautiful, both the singing and the melody (despite the scratches on the record). Thanks


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