Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"La Valse de Bayou Teche" - Nathan Abshire

During Nathan Abshire's early years, song melodies travelling through south Louisiana became Cajun music standards; many of them re-written by Nathan himself.  This particular melody was originally recorded by the Segura Brothers as "My Sweetheart Run Away".   According to the duo, the song was mislabeled.  Nathan's title may have come from a similar tune recorded by Bixy Guidry entitled "La Valse Du Bayou", Leo Soileau's "La Valse A Moreau", Joe Falcon's "Je Suis Se Seul", and the Breaux Brothers "La Valse De Pins".  Columbus Fruge and J. Gauthier would record a waltz with the name "Bayou Teche" in 1929 for Victor Records in Memphis, Tennessee, however with a different melody.  

J’ai roulé, j’ai prié, mais, pour t'avoir chere,

Pour t'voir, mais, dans mes bras, mais, temps à temps,

J’ai chassée jus pour voir ayou te tes, ye’aille,

Aussi loin malheurse de ton famille.

Mon beau frere vien donc ma voir j'aller morir, chere, 
Aller morir à Bayou Teche, mon beau frere,
Ta famille est tout contre moi, j’voir pas, chere, 
Comment j’vas faire mon aussi loin, malheurse.
Bayou Teche
Nathan would take the Segura melody and record it for Khoury with the title "La Valse de Bayou Teche" (#612) in 1951.  According to Lyle Ferb, the vocals would not be Nathan but his fiddle player, Will Kegley.  The band consisted of Nathan on accordion, Will Kegley on fiddle and vocals, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Jim Baker on bass, and Ozide Kegley on drums. In Nathan's version, a lover is longing to see her beloved brother-in-law once more before dying near the Bayou Teche.

The origins of the name teche are uncertain. One hypothesis is that it comes from "tenche", a Chitimacha Indian word meaning "snake", related to the bayou's twists and turns resembling a snake's movement. Alternatively, it may be a French rendering of Deutsch, the name by which the German colonists of the area would have named their stream.  It's importance in Cajun culture cannot be overstated.  During the time of the Acadian migration to what was then known as the Attakapas region, the Teche was the primary means of transportation.  During the American Civil War, fighting occurred on Bayou Teche in 1862.

I ran around, I prayed to see you, dear,

To see you in my arms from time to time.

I searched to see where you've been, oh,

You're too far, oh my, from your family.

Brother-in-law, come see me, I'm dying, dear,
I'm going to die at the Bayou Teche, brother-in-law,
Your family is against me, I can't see you, dear,
How am I going to make it so far away, oh my.

Later, Nathan would leave Khoury's seemingly failing label and bring a resurgence of his music with Floyd Soileau's label Swallow Records.   

Reenactment of the Arrival of the Acadians
on the Bayou Teche
His lyrics for the song had changed over the years, constantly being refined until the Swallow recording; becoming one of the most popular version of the lyrics.  There, he would re-record his Bayou Teche Waltz in 1968 and then again later for La Louisiane Records in 1973. Here are the 1968 lyrics:
J’ai roulé, j’ai prié pour t’avoir chère,
Pour t’avoir (z)avec moi à la maison.
Ta famille est tout contre moi, moi j’vois pas,
Moi j’vois pas ayou j’peux aller pour te r’joindre.

J’ai roulé, j’ai prié pour t’avoir chère,
Pour t’avoir (z)avec moi à la maison.
Mon beau-frère, mon beau-frère viens donc m’voir
Viens donc m’voir, c’est de mourir à Bayou Teche.

  1. Lyrics by Jerry M
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

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