Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"Le Valse Ah Abe" - Amede Ardoin

Taking to the roads is often a response to a broken heart. References to turning to the roads out of desperation or unhappiness are frequent.  This song, in which Amede Ardoin calls himself an "orphan," makes a connection between the road and homelessness. In 1929, Ardoin would travel with Dennis McGee to New Orleans and record the song "Le Valse Ah Abe" for Columbia/Okeh records (#40511). The figure of the hobo or "orphan," cut off from the family and community ties so important in Cajun society, is a recurrent one which adds another dimension of meaning to the symbol of the road.  Taking to the roads is often a response to a broken heart.1

Moi j'm'en vas à la maison, 

Moi tout seul, quo' faire un orphelin, 

Il y a personne pour me faire mon besoin,

Comment je v'as faire? Prend tout la, oui, du chemin. 

Ton papa et mes parents,

Je pense, je vas faire jamais vous autres vas me voir encore,
Mes souffrances sont après m'en aller,
Tous ces tracas m'en aller, moi tout seul.

Moi, je connais pas si jamais je va revenir encore, 
Sera pour voir mes parents, ouais, et me femme,
Je suis condamné pour quatre vingt dix neuf ans,
Je connais pas si je vas r'venir donc jamais. 

Oh toi, tit fille,
Quand tu m'abaisses je m'en aller, moi tout seul,
Quand quelqu'un quitte leurs chagrins pour amuser,
Je comptais pas si tu peux remercier ton papa et ta maman.

Abe's Palace, second floor
Abe is actually Abe Boudreau, the owner of the first Cajun dance hall in Eunice, Abe's Palace.  It was located on the second floor of the Ardoin Building.   It was there that Amede and Sady Courville played together every Saturday night during the 1930s.2  Abe had a furniture store on the first floor but kept the dancehall upstairs known for it's "strict moral code", where "nothing offensive will be permitted".3 Most likely Ardoin had heard the melody from a older song, one that also influenced Bartmon Montet & Joswell Dupuis in New Orleans entitled "L'Abandonner (The Forsaken)" for Victor records (#22211).  

I'm going back to my house,

Myself, a life of a poor orphan,

No one to take care of my needs,

What am I going to do? Yeh, I'll take to the road.

Your daddy, and my parents,
I think, I'll never make you have to see me again,
My sufferings are almost gone,
All these worries, I'm leaving, all alone.

I don't know if I'll ever come back again,
To see my parents, yes, and my woman,
I'm condemned to 99 years,
I do not know if I'll come back ever.

Oh, you little girl,
When you put me down, I'll leave, all alone,
When someone leaves sorrows for fun,
I can't count on you, for that, thank your pop and mom.

It's one of the more lyrically challenging songs in Ardoin's repertoire. A very similar theme to Douglas Bellard's "Mon Camon La Case Que Je Suis Cordane", Ardoin sings of leaving, going away for 99 years, never to see his lover, her dad, or his parents again. The song would later be recorded by Aldus Roger as "Lifetime Waltz" in 1953 and Iry Lejeune as "Convict Waltz" around 1954.   It's commonly referred to as the "99 Year Waltz" or "La Valse De Quatre-Vingt-Dix-Neuf Ans".  According to Allmusic's Thom Jurek:
There is no grain in Ardoin's voice, it is the grain, and the green and the mud and the water all rolled up into a hot sticky mass of emotion. 

  2. The New Grove Gospel, Blues, and Jazz: With Spirituals and Ragtime By Paul Oliver
  3. The Eunice News: March 1924
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephane F and Phoebe T
  5. Yann Dour et Eric Martin "l'accordéon cajun"
  6. Label photo source.  University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  Cajun and Creole. Special Collections.

Amadé Ardoin – Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 6 : Amadé Ardoin – The First Black Zydeco Recording Artist (1928–1938) (Old Timey)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone: The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin 1929-1934 (Tompkins, 2011)

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