Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"The Criminal Waltz (La Valse Criminale)" - Leo Soileau and Mayuse Lafleur

A Cajun fiddle master, Leo Soileau was one of the giant figures in Cajun music history.  His early recordings from the late 20s are both powerful and emotive, and rank among the all-time classics of Cajun music. His greatest contribution to the music could be his earliest recordings with Mayuse Lafleur.  In October 1928, the duo headed to Atlanta and recorded several tunes including "The Criminal Waltz (La Valse Criminale" (#21770) for Victor.
The Shreveport Times
Oct 30, 1928

Toi 'tit monde, yaille, fais pas ça, malheureuse,

Toi 'tite fille, jongle à moi avant d'faire ça.

Toi 'tit monde faut pas te jongles à ton papa et avec ta maman.

Mais écoute pas avec ton papa et avec ta maman.

Malheureuse, si t'écoutes ton papa et après ta maman,

Tu s'ras jamais heureuse.

Ah, ye yaille, qui j'ai fait à ton papa, après ta maman,
Pour m'haïr autant qu'ça .

Moi j'connais j'ai pas fait rien ton papa, chère,
Toi 'tite fille, faut' qu'tu jongles à tout ça.

Toi 'tite fille, moi j'crois pas t'as le cœur
Aussi criminel que ça, malheureuse.

Rappelle-toi, petite fille, chère,
J't'avais dit tu vas jamais faire ça.

'Garde donc qui t'as fait avec mon y a pas si longtemps ?
Malheureuse t'aurais pas dû faire tout ça.

Toi 'tite fille, j'suis parti m'en aller, yaille,
M'en aller à la maison avant longtemps.
Mayuse Lafleur

Lafleur's playing was brighter and more enthusiastic than Falcon's more traditional style.  Nine days later, the two played a house dance in Basile.  On the way home, they stopped at a "blind tiger" (illegal drinking establishment) run by Alexander Bellon.  A violent fight broke out between gamblers shortly after the duo arrived and Lafleur was killed in the melee.  Soileau cradled his dying friend's head on the blood soaked bar floor.  It haunted him the rest of his life.

You, my everything, oh, don't do that, oh my,

You, little girl, remember me before doing this.

You, little girl, should not reminiscence about your papa and your mama,

However, listen! Not with your dad and with your mom.

Oh so sad, if you listen to your dad and also your mom,

You'll never be happy.

Ah, oh, what did I do to your father, also, your mother,
For them to hate me that much. 

I know I have not done anything to your father, dear.
You, little girl, you must remember all of that.

You, little girl, I don't reckon you have the heart,
To be criminal as that, oh my.

The Shreveport Times
Oct 30, 1928
Remember, dear little girl,
I told you to never do that.

Just look at what you did with me, not so long ago?
Oh my, you'd not have done all that.

You, little girl, I'm gone, oh!
I'll be going home before long.

Although LaFleur's style of playing was different from Anglelas and Iry LeJeune's music, there is some of the quality of loneliness in those two men's recordings.   LaFleur cut the only two records he made in 1928, the year he died. In fact according to Leo Soileau who accompanied him on the fiddle, he never heard his records.4  It must have made some sort of impression on other musicians since the following year, Artelus Mistric used the melody for his Victor recording of "Belle Of Point Clare".  By 1951, Amede Breaux covered the tune for J.D. Miller of Crowley as the "Criminal Waltz".  

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  2. Early American Cajun Music: The Early Recordings Of Leo Soileau. Liner notes.
  3. Lyrics by Marc C and Herman M
  4. Discussions with Pete B


Early American Cajun Music: The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 1999)
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)
Cajun: Essential Guide (Union Square, 2007)

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