Monday, July 13, 2015

"Big Texas" - Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez

The story of "Big Texas" and "Jambalaya" has been covered before, however, it's history makes a good story.  The first recording of this melody as a Cajun tune was by the Guidry Brothers called "Le Garcon Negligent" in 1929.  Between 1934 and 1940, the melody influenced songs such as the Breaux Brother's "La Valse De Bayou Plaquemine", Cleoma Breaux's "Pin Solitaire", J.B. Fusilier's "Lake Arthur Waltz" and "Pine Island", Happy Fats' "Gran Prairie" with Harry Choates on fiddle, Jolly Boys' song "Abbeville", and a song called "Allons Kooche Kooche" by the Louisiana Rounders.  As Jules Angelle "Papa Cairo" Lamperez re-entered the music scene after the war, he couldn't forget the melody he used on the Louisiana Rounders song. Cairo was determined to remake it into a popular tune outside of Louisiana and Texas.

Since Cairo's instrument was less in demand in Cajun music than the fiddle or accordion, he also branched into steel-happy institutions such as Western swing and country, appearing for a time as a sideman to Texas honky tonker Ernest Tubb. Cairo practically lived on the stages of dancehalls and saloons in the '40s and '50s, when artists such as Guillory and Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc were riding high.  He also fronted his own units such as a Port Arthur-based Western swing unit that, for a time anyway, featured a vocalist named George Jones, who would go on to become one of country music's biggest stars.  Not long before 1947, Murphy "Chuck" Guillory had decided to add Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez to his lineup of musicians.  By 1948, he had Chuck's band perform the melody and gave it the title "Big Texas" (#612), (sometimes listed to as "Gran' Texas".)

Herman Durbin, Jimmy Newman,
Chuck Guillory, Kersey "Pork Chop" Roy,
R.R. Sagg (emcee), Papa Cairo
Modern records had spotted Chuck's band playing Eunice and had them record it locally, probably in New Orleans.  The producer had it pressed in California on the Bihari brother's label: Modern Records Hollywood.  The group consisted of Jimmy Newman on some vocals, Papa Cairo on other vocals and steel guitar, Claude "Pete" Duhon or Howard Thibodeaux on bass guitar, Curzey Roy on drums, Chuck Guillory on fiddle and Herman Durbin on piano. Since Lamperez was the vocalist, Chuck and the Biharis had him listed in the credits as the song's author.



Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller (z)à Grand Texas,

Pour t'en aller toi tout seul (z)à Grand Texas,

Criminelle comment je va faire mais moi tout seul ?

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller, pour t'en aller.

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller,

Pour t'en aller, toi tout seul, (z)à Grand Texas.

Criminelle comment je va faire mais moi tout seul ?

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller, pour t'en aller.



Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller,

Pour t'en aller, toi tout seul, (z)à Grand Texas.

Criminelle comment je va faire mais moi tout seul ?

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller (z)à Grand Texas.

Noone knows for sure which pre-war recording influenced Papa's melody for the song, but he did write his own version of the lyrics. He took the melody of the Breaux's slow waltz and picked up the pace into a swingy two-step shuffle.  "Big Texas" was a catchy song about a rejected lover starting a new life in the distant land of adventure and the great unknown...big Texas. Given the song was sung in French, he knew the song's success would be limited.  


In 1949, he decided to record the song in English with his own group and entitled it "Big Texas #2" (#104), following it up with his original, pre-war French version simply called "Kooche Kooche" (#105).  By this time, both were released on Modern's subsidiary label called Colonial.  Papa Cairo and his Boys consisted of Don Lane on xylophone, Murphy Smith on fiddle, Herman Durbin on piano, Albert Roy on guitar, possibly Pete Duhon on bass and Curly Mertz on percussion.  Later, he would add fiddle player, Rufus Thibodeaux, who would later go on to perform in Nashville.  
Opelousas Daily World
May 20, 1949


You left and went away to Grand Texas,

You went all by yourself to Grand Texas,

It's sad, how will handle being by myself?

You left me and went away, went away.

You left me and went away,

You went all by yourself to Grand Texas,

It's sad, how will handle being by myself?

You left me and went away, went away.



You left me and went away,

You left and went away to Grand Texas,

It's sad, how will handle being by myself?

You left and went away to Grand Texas.

By 1950, Modern had sold it's Hollywood pressery to Mercury Records, ending their Cajun music pressings. After a couple of years, and still unsure of the song's success, he went back; this time into J.D. Miller's studio in Crowley in 1951 and re-recorded the song twice, once in English and once in French (#1049) for Feature Records.   

By 1952, country star Hank Williams was already able to boast six top hits in the country charts and seven million seller, before it came to the recording of "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)". Hank Williams, however, did not use the more mundane text of the original, but he is said to have written the interspersed with dishes of Cajun French words and text together with the non-copyrighted version (#1106) registered with Aubrey Wilson “Moon” Mullican

Hank Williams
Moon Mullican had already been familiar with the tune, travelling with his band, The Showboys, around east Texas and Louisiana.  He had already recorded "New Jole Blon" however, as the story goes, he fought with his record label, King Records.   That's when King chose to give Hank the song to record as his own, possibly paying Mullican on the side.  Although Moon's not listed on the credits, he claims he got 50% of the royalties.  However, according to author Colin Escott, in the book "Snapshots from the Lost Highway", Big Bill Lister said Moon Mullican and Hank Williams composed "Jambalaya" together while traveling in Hank's limo on the way to a show in Louisiana and that Don Helms (Hank's steel player) wrote the words down.  Lister said:

"We stopped and Don Helms got a sheet of cardboard and Hank and Moon banged that thing back and forth, and Don wrote it down."3

Moon Mullican
Other rumors abound.  One particular rumor states Moon wrote it for Hank and gave it to him.  Another claims Moon had nothing to do with the song, in which members of Dudley Leblanc's Hadacol Caravan claimed to be the genuine architects of the anthem.  According to author Ryan Brasseaux, Williams supposedly devised lyrics to his Cajun anthem while en route between Caravan shows in a train dining car with Dudley's son Roland, George Dupuis, and Lafayette entrepreneur George Berry. Roland provided the Cajun lyrics and Cajun surnames as the men drank whiskey.2  Finally, it has been written Happy Fats, who had recorded "Gran Prairie" and played on the same billing as Hank at the Hayride, helped Hank compose the song.11  They were both known to have worked together, even getting Happy's good friend, Joe Pusateri, to help write Hank's biography.12

As the single "Jambalaya / Window Shopping" (#11283 ) was published by MGM on July 19, 1952, they had already reached first place on September 6, 1952 on the Billboard Country Songs, on which it remained for 14 weeks. 
Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez
Courtesy of
Center for Louisiana Studies,
Archives of Cajun Creole Folklore,
Margie Lamperez Breaux Collection

Papa Cairo immediately claimed that Williams had stolen the song, because the label identifies him as the sole composer.  Afterwards, feeling jaded, he vowed to never record again.  Marty Robbins, who played in Papa Cairo's group, knew all their material.  By 1954, realizing Papa walked away from recording all together, Cairo alleged that Robbins pilfered a number he had written for the Rhythm Boys. Cairo claims that Robbins made up his own version of "You Just Wait and See" into his hit song "Pretty Words".  

As far as Chuck Guillory is concerned, he would record the tune a variety of times.  Between 1956 and 1959, he recorded it for Dr. Harry Oster in either Mamou or Eunice.  He did it again, in 1982, with his old drummer Curzy "Pork Chop" Roy, David Doucet on guitar, Preston Manuel on guitar, and Mike Doucet on mandolin.  Again, in 1987 with Tina Pilione on bass, Curzy "Pork Chop" Roy on drums, Dave Baudoin on guitar, Marc Savoy on fiddle, Preston Manuel on guitar, and Papa Cairo on steel.   Once more, around 1989, he got a group together, with Preston Manuel on guitar, and performed the song for the Les Blank film "J'ai Été au Bal (I Went to the Dance)".


Breaux Brothers - La Valse de Bayou Plaquemine - 1934


Cleoma Breaux Falcon - Pin Solitaire - 1936

Jolly Boys of Lafayette - Abbeville - 1937

Louisiana Rounder - Alons Kooche Kooche - 1937

Chuck Guillory - Big Texas - Modern - 1948


Papa Cairo - Big Texas #2 - Colonial - 1949


Papa Cairo - Kooche Kooche - Colonial - 1949


Papa Cairo - Big Texas (English) - Feature - 1951


Papa Cairo - Big Texas (French) - Feature - 1951


  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. Hank Williams: Snapshots From The Lost Highway by Colin Escott, Kira Florita, Rick Bragg
  4. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  5. http://memim.com/jambalaya-on-the-bayou.html
  6. http://www.wendyrodrigue.com/2011/05/hank-williams-or-moon-mullican-blogging.html
  7. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/papa-cairo-mn0000009575/biography
  8. Billboard Magazine, May 20, 1950
  9. Chuck Guillory ‎– Grand Texas.  Liner notes.
  10. Swingbillies - Hillbilly & Western Swing On Modern/Colonial/Flair 1947-52. Liner notes.
  11. Rayne's People and Places by Tony Olinger
  12. Discussions with Joe P's son

Find:
Chuck Guillory: Grand Texas (Arhoolie, 1998)
Swingbillies - Hillbilly & Western Swing On Modern/Colonial/Flair 1947-52 (2003)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

1 comment:

  1. as usual, very informative et detailed article. Thanks Wade

    ReplyDelete

Got info? Pics? Feel free to submit.