Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Cajun Jitter Bug" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc

It's an early rockabilly influenced tune that seems very little to do with Cajun music, but more with the fact that rock n roll was beginning to have it's influence on the culture.  It was recorded as "Cajun Jitter Bug" (#20-2321) on RCA Victor in 1946 by a group called Happy Fats and his Rayne-Bo Ramblers, named after the town near his home.   

Early uses of the word "jitterbug" may have been associated with social drinking in the mid 1930s. However, by the mid 1940s, the "jitterbug" is a kind of dance associated with various types of swing dances such as the Lindy Hop, jive, and East Coast Swing. Time magazine reported that American troops stationed in France in 1945 jitterbugged, and by 1946, jitterbug had become a craze in England. It was already a competition dance in Australia.  

Jitterbug Dancing, 1939
The instrumental features a boogie woogie guitar piece by Francis “Red” Fabacher on lead guitar and a rhythmic strum by Jimmy Gardiner. Red, along with his brother Joseph, were well known from their days with the Jolly Boys of Lafayette, would occasionally sit in Harry Choates group as well. In the background you can hear Giles "Candy Man" Castillo on steel guitar and Andrus (Ambros) Thibodeaux on fiddle.   

Cajun Jitterbug Dancing
Today, Cajun Jitterbug is a relatively new style of Cajun dancing with two variations. The main style is a classic two-step form of a six-count East Coast Swing, which is differentiated from the one-step Cajun Jig. The other is considered a cowboy-style of Jitterbug or swing dance, also referred to as the Lake Charles Slide, the Cowboy Jitterbug and the Whiskey River Jitterbug.

The sound of this tune foreshadowed what was to come of a lot of music in the south. As rock n roll took over, many of the venues Cajun musicians had to play began a transition away from accordion led bands.  By 1958, many groups either converted over as well, such as the musicians in Lawrence Walker's band, or simply quit playing all together.


HAPPY FATS & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (BACM, 2009)
Leroy Happy Fats LeBlanc: & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (Master Classics, 2013)


  1. I'm assuming that thé recording is thé pièce you wrote about. Thé first guitar solo is thé steel. Thé second is a six-string. The overall feel is Western Swing: "Yes, yes, yes," has Bob Wills written all over it.


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