Saturday, June 11, 2016

"Les Blues Du Texas" - Dennis McGee & Ernest Fruge

Dennis McGee (spelled 'Denus') and Ernest Fruge represent some of the earliest forms of Cajun music before the presence of the accordion.  The duo had previously recorded together the year before and by 1930, they teamed up for the song "Les Blues Du Texas" (#557) for Brunswick.  In the song, the protagonist describes himself as an orphan who wanders to greener pastures in Texas, pointedly drawing a parallel to the plight of many Cajun struggling economically during the Great Depression.  Fruge's provided a second fiddle accompaniment, as McGee sang the tune as a talking blues, a prevalent song style throughout the African-American South. 

J'ai parti pour aller dans le Texas,

J'ai passé-z-a Eunice, m'acheter un pain de 5 sous,

J'ai mange la moitie pour mon dejeuner,

J'ai gardé l'aut' moitie pour mon diner. 

J'ai marche moi tout seul, cherie,

J'ai marche touts les jours et tous les nuits,

Comme un pauv' malheureux.

Depuis a l'age de 15 ans,

J'ai plus rein de pere et de mere,

J'ai traine les chemins,

Jusques a l'age de 38 ans.

J'ai passé de porte a porte, j'ai demandé la charite,
Quand meme un 'tit morceau de pain,
Comment tu veux mais moi, je fais moi tout seul dans les chemins,
Tous les jours et touts les nuits.

J'avais quitte pour quelqu'un me ramasser, 
Ca me donne d l'assistance et de l'aide,
Pour un pauv' orphein comme moi.

Dennis McGee
Like many Cajun songs about Texas, the subject matter was about leaving and heading west in search of better opportunities, rather it be in the oil fields or just to start a new life.   McGee's compositions "Les Blues De Texas" and "Valse de Puit D'Huile" stem directly from the cross-cultural interaction that took place across ethnic and geographic boundaries between Cajuns and Anglo-Texas. 

The melody is clearly an older one; one that influenced Leo Soileau's earlier recording of "Easy Rider Blues" the previous year. An intricate tapestry effect is produced by Dennis McGee and Ernest Fruge, whose seconding reproduces more closely the highly ornamented melodic line played by the lead fiddle, complete with cascading trill after trill. No dead space: every square inch filled.2

I left to go to Texas,

I passed by Eunice, to buy 5 cents worth of bread,

I had half of it for breakfast,

I kept the rest for my dinner.

I walked all alone, dear,

I walked all day and all night, every day,

like a poor, wretched soul.

From the time I was 15,

I've had no mother or father,

I've walked the roads,

Until I was 38.

I went from door to door, begging,
hoping for just a little piece of bread,
how am I supposed to get along, all alone on the streets?
All day and all night long.

I left hoping somebody would take me in,
To give me just a little bit of help,
A little help for a poor orphan like me.

Today, you can hear the influences of the melody in "Blues De Cajun", recorded by the Balfas and other modern Cajun musicians.  The resemblance in fact of this archaic Cajun twin fiddle tradition to the older style of fiddle-playing in central Europe is striking, especially with respect to those cascading rolling trills one on top of another, like overlapping folds of surf, neither ending or beginning.2  Songs with this lyrical theme inspired others such as Leo Soileau's "Quand Je Suis Bleu (When I Am Blue)".

  1. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux. p85.

The Early Recordings Of Dennis McGee: Featuring Sady Courville & Ernest Fruge (Morning Star, 1977)
Complete Early Recordings 1929-1930 (Yazoo, 1994)

1 comment:

  1. I listen to it every two weeks as I drive the 9 hour drive to West Texas..


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