Monday, February 22, 2016

"Evangeline Special" - Iry Lejeune

Born near Church Point, Louisiana to a farming family, Iry LeJeune, near blind from birth, turned to music as a young child.  It was his cousin, Angeles LeJeune, who first introduced him to the accordion.  But it was the records of Amedee Ardoin that most inspired him, influencing both his Cajun-French style and his recording future.   After a watching Bennie Hess and the Oklahoma Tornadoes one night, he convinced their fiddle player, Floyd Leblanc, to join them on their way to Houston.  There, Iry would get a chance to record for the very first time. 

O' toi ti monde, moi j'connais hier au soir,

Tout partout y'où moi j'étais, pour te 'joindre ma jolie cœur,

Hé-y-yaille, la promesse tu m'avais fait,

Elle a mieux aimé m'tourner l'dos, s'en aller en rejoindre un autre.

O' 'tite fille, rappelle toi tout partout,
Ton papa y'après s'en venir, viens me 'joindre à la maison,
Hé-y-yaille, Lui l'à venu, m'voulu cher,
pour m'demander d'me dire pardons, il connais il avait mal.

Hey 'tite fille, rappelle toi moi j'connais,
Moi j'après te dire asteure, la parole j'voulais pas t'dire,
Hé-y-yaille, si tu m'aime mais blâme moi pas,
Si les autres t'après donner, les conseils écoute les pas!

LeJeune eventually relocated to the Lake Charles region, where he found a thriving music scene among the many dance halls.  He met fiddler Floyd Leblanc, who convinced the young accordionist to accompany him to Houston Texas.4  In 1948, riding on a current stirred by songs like Harry Choates' "Jole Blon," string music flooded the dancehalls and airwaves of South Louisiana. Then, with one song, Iry Lejeune threw a life preserver to the accordion. After his "Love Bridge Waltz," the fiddle fell out of Cajun music favor and the accordion crested.  According to an article penned for Britain's Old Time Music by Mike Leadbitter, the song broke a 10-year dry spell for accordion music on South Louisiana jukeboxes.2  On the flip side, he recorded the "Evangeline Special" (#105) on Bennie Hess' Opera label along with Hess' band called the Oklahoma Tornadoes.  They consisted of Floyd Leblanc on fiddle, Virgil Bozman on guitar, Orville "Bennie" Hess on guitar, and Ben Oldeg on bass.
Iry Lejeune
By George Rodrigue

Based loosely on Joe Falcon's "Au Revoir Cherie", the tune helped propel the accordion forever into Cajun music after the war.  He titled the song after a small dancehall in Ville Platte, Louisiana known as the Evangeline Club.5  

A gifted singer and a master of the accordion, and able to craft deeply personal songs, Lejeune had it all and potential for even more. Lejeune developed a crying singing voice, both melodic and pleasant yet shrill enough to cut through the clangor of a noisy dancehall, an asset before amplification. Plus, his band could play complicated songs. 2
Oh, you little one, I know that last night,
Everywhere that I went, to meet you, pretty heart.
Eh, ye yaille, the promise you made me,
Turned your back on me, to go meet another.

Oh, little girl, remember that everywhere,
Your papa, I saw him coming,
Yes, to meet me at my house.
Eh, ye yaille, he had wanted, dear,
To ask for forgiveness, he knew he'd done wrong.

Oh, little girl, remember that I know,
I'm telling you now, the words I couldn't say,
Eh, ye yaille, if it's hard, don't blame me,
If the others had given you advice,
Don't listen to them.

According to the Library of Congress:
The post-World War II revival of traditional Cajun music began with accordionist Iry LeJeune’s first single, his influential recordings of “Evangeline Special” and “Love Bridge Waltz.” Le Jeune’s emotional and deeply personal style was immensely popular with Louisiana Cajuns returning home from the war, eager to hear their own music again. His recordings marked a distinct move away from the style influenced by Western Swing that had dominated commercial Cajun recordings for over a decade and a return to the older sound of Cajun music. This sound featured the accordion, prominently and unrestrained, and a blues-influenced singing in French. LeJeune is regarded as one of the best Cajun accordionists and singers of all time.3
Afterwards, Iry teamed up with Eddie Shuler of Lake Charles.  According to Eddie:
Iry went to Houston, Texas and he came up on this outfit called, I think it was Opera Records.  Anyway, he cut a record over there and they put it out but nobody could buy the record. They couldn't find the record and the people were going crazy. That's the time that he approached me as he came back from Houston. What he wanted was records so that he could go out and play his dances.7 

In 2009, the both songs, "Evangeline Special" and "Love Bridge Waltz, were inducted into the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, honoring the work to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".6

  5. Francois (Yé Yaille Chère!), 1990; pp. 373
The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2004)

1 comment:

  1. One of our favorites to perform, oh and yes we sing it word for word, as he recorded it.


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