Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Les Blues De Crowley (Crowley Blues)" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

The "blues" of Cajun music wouldn't be recognized in the same manner as the typical blues music being recorded in New Orleans.   It was more of a wailing sorrow and less of a call-and-response style commonly heard.  It truly was an early synthesis of traditional Cajun material with African American forms. They are reminiscent of the crudely emotive style common in early country blues recorded during the same era in the Mississippi Delta.2  Here is Amede Ardoin's take on the blues, "Les Blues De Crowley" (#2190) on Bluebird records.

Travelling with Dennis McGee, a white fiddler, provided Ardoin, a black accordionist, more protection in places where he played and stayed.3 In 1934, the duo headed to San Antonio, TX for a session with Bluebird records.  This one session at the Texas Hotel accounts for half of his total output of such overtly blues-inspired numbers. 

Oh, je m'en vas, je m'en vas z à la maison

Tout seul, j'ai pas conné ayou c'est,

Demander pour moi te voir.

Oh, je m'en vas, m'en vas à la maison,

M'en vas, ô moi tout seul,

Quoi faire, c'est moi je vas à toi,

T'es après partir toi tout seaul.

Oh, moi je m'en vastous les Samedis au soir,

Oh, je m'en vas à la maison,
Ta mom est après me quereller!

Tes parents ça ceut pas de moi,
Ça veut pas me voir tout seul.

Oh, pourquot, ils sont après me quereller pour ça?

Dennis McGee
Because Ardoin's take on the blues featured French lyrics sung by an accordionist, they seem simultaneously exotic and familiar, foreshadowing the subsequent synthesis at the core of early zydeco.2 According to writer Jared Snyder:
When a musician such as Amede Ardoin wished to play a song like "Les Blues De Crowley", he solved the problem by shifting his hands down the buttons, playin his D accordion in the key of A, a move that allowed him to play the flattened seventh-- a "blue note."  The rest of the effect he accomplished with his powerful voice. 
The following year, slight accordion turns in the song would go onto inspire the main melody in Nathan Abshire's "French Blues".
Oh, I'm leaving, I'm going home,
All alone, I didn't know where to go,
I demand to see you.

Oh, I'm leaving, I'm going home,
I'm leaving all alone,
Why should I go to your place?
You're leaving all alone.

Oh, I'm leaving, every Saturday night,
Oh, I'm going home,
Your mom is quarreling.

Your parents don't want me,
They don't want to see me all alone.

Oh, why are they quarrelling with me?

The song influenced many tunes such as "Rosalia" by Eddie Segura, "Le Crepe A Nasta" in 1937 by Happy Fats, "Hula Hoop Two Step" by Nathan Abshire",  "Le Crepe A Nazaire" by Shirley Bergeron, "Coulee Rodair" by Canray Fontenot and  "Le 'Tit Negre a Tante Dolie" by Ambrose Thibodeaux.  According to collector Jared Mariconi:
Nobody could do it like Amedie and Dennis. They must have been amazing at three in the morning at some fais do do. Sometimes when I think about the cajun blues, it seems like vocally it has similarities to the free form rural blues styles in Texas (such as Texas Alexander) and the east (Barefoot Bill), but with the intensity of Charley Patton or Blind Willie Johnson from the delta. Instead of a stark back and forth interplay between the singer and a guitar, the singer is almost detached from the music and can go wherever they want, even back to declamatory 17th century a capella styles or shouts and yells, because the structure of the musical interplay between the fiddle and accordion is there to return to. What a magical combination of style and structure and McGee and Ardoin did it better than anyone.
Among the thirty-four titles that compose his entire recorded repertoire, Ardoin made specific reference to “blues” only four times, and one half of those references occurred during this single session in San Antonio, a fact that symbolically hints at the role Texas would play in the intermingling of la la and blues for decades to come.4

Regarding the spelling of Dennis vs Denus, after speaking to his relatives, his name is listed as "Dennis" on recordings and his grave site, however, his close friends and family spelled it "Denus".

  1. The Kingdom of Zydeco By Michael Tisserand
  2. Texas Zydeco By Roger Wood
  4. Southeast Texas: Hot House of Zydeco by R. Wood.
  5. Photo by John H.
I'm Never Comin' Back: The Roots of Zydeco (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

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