Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Ville Platte Waltz" - Jelly Elliot

Much of the north Louisiana string bands had little connection to Cajun music.  Yet, nothing stopped them from being influenced by the sounds they heard coming from the bayou country.   As each band began making a name for themselves, some ventured out and incorporated Cajun music in different ways.

During the early 1940s, a man named Rex "Jelly" Elliott created the Singing Cowboys, performing string band music north of the Cajun country region.  They performed regularly at the KALB studio in Alexandria, Louisiana and his group made a series of broadcasts on the radio station; eventually traveling to New Orleans to record "Ville Platte Waltz" (#100-1) around 1947 for the Magnolia label.  It was based on the same theme as "Jole Blon" with the setting of a small town south of Alexandria that straddled the northern border of Cajun country, called Ville Platte. 

Cajun prairies in yellow, bottom left
Alexandria and lands north of the city are culturally different than the areas settled by Cajuns...a lot of it having to do with geology.   Much of the south-western land in which the Cajuns migrated to, bringing their culture, language and music, is part of the larger "Coastal Prairie" which spans across south-west Louisiana and south-east Texas.  Cajuns, tired of making a living in the bayou, moved west, farming much of the prairie lands between Lafayette, Ville Platte and Lake Charles.  Therefore, much of the Cajun music stayed south of the more hilly and piney-forested areas north of the prairies; prairies which fed farmland lying in the Mermentau river and Calcaseiu river watersheds.   As one travels north, the culture, language and music begins to change; music similar to Appalacia and southern Arkansas regions.  Many hillbilly string bands found their influence in this northern region.  

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

Pour t'en aller, au se loin,

Avec un autre, avec que moi(?),

Mais, comment dans, mais, moi je peut faire (mon tout) seul?

Oh, mais, jolie fille, 

M’a tit fille à ça j’voir pas, 

Te m'as quitté, pour t'en aller, 

Quelle espoir, mais, quelle avenir, mais, mon j’peu voir.

Eh, mais, jolie fille, 
Chere tit fille ta jongle pas ça(?),
Te m'as quitté, pour t'en aller, 
Pour t'en aller aussi loin a grand Ville Platte.

Mais, moi j'connais, oui, j'merite pas ça, 
A ça t’a fait y’a pas longtemps, 
T'as ecouté tout les conseils, 
D'un et l'autre, tu va a'oir du regrets, y a pas long temps.

Eh, mais moi m’vont vas, mais mon aller, oui mon tout seule, 
A Grand Ville Platte, mais, quoi mon dons, 
Mais, moi j’oui mon tout seul mais jolie fille.

Y a pas longtemps, tu m'as quitté, 
Pour t'en aller, avec un autre, 
Mais, quelle espoir et quelle avenir, 
Moi vas voir, mon tout seule, le jolie fille.

Slim Watts, Al Hopson, unknown,
Jelly Elliot, Charlie Riesinger, 

Milton Cloverdale "Pee Wee" Calhoun
Elliot's group toured throughout Arkansas and northern Louisiana. "Manuel" listed here is Abraham "Abe" Manuel, vocalist and occasional fiddle player for Harry Choates.   He and Pee Wee Calhoun had recorded with Harry between 1948 and 1949.  Even his reuse of Harry's lyrics is quite evident.   The melody seems to have some influence from either Dudley and James Fawvor's 1928 recording of "La Valse De Creole" or Angelus Lejeune's 1929 recording of "La Valse de Pointe Noire".  However, the lyrics are clearly verses cut from tunes like "Jole Blon".  Abe was well known for playing in the Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry with Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell.   In fact, Lefty had worked with Elliot as well around 1945.  By 1949, Nathan Abshire would record the tune, naming it "Kaplan Waltz" and in 1963 the Hackberry Ramblers re-worked the tune during their post-war recording career.
Daily World
Oct 19, 1947

You left me, cherie, to go away,
To go away, far away,
With another one, without me(?),
Oh my, how am I to do this all alone?

Oh, my, pretty girl,
Little girl I never see,
You left me to go away,
What hope for the future is there? I can't tell.

Hey, but, pretty girl,
Dear little girl, don't you remember?
You left me to go away,
You went far away to big Ville Platte.

However, I know, yeh, I don't deserve this,
That you did this, it wasn't long ago,
You listened to all the advice given,
One after another, you will regret this, it won't be long.

Oh my, I'll leave, oh, i'll go, yeh, all alone,
To big Ville Platte, oh, what i'd give,
Oh my, I'm so alone, oh my, pretty girl.

Not long ago, you left me,
To go away with another,
Oh my, what hope, what future,
Do I have? I'm all alone, pretty girl.

Godchaux Building, New Orleans
Located at the National Radio Recording Studio in the Godchaux Building on Canal Street, the label seemed to be short lived.  Between July and September of 1947, Magnolia produced jazz records by artists such as "Pinky Vidacovich" and advertised for independent artists to come and "have your song recorded on unbreakable record", backed up by a studio vocalist and piano accompaniment.

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  2. Classic Country: Legends of Country Music By Charles K. Wolfe
  4. Billboard Magazine, Aug 2, 1947
  5. Popular Mechanics, Sep 1947
  6. Popular Mechanics, Jul 1947
  7. Image by Pine Grove Press and Malcolm V
  8. Lyrics by Jerry M and Bryan L

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