Thursday, July 28, 2016

"Chere Meon" - Harry Choates

By the mid 1940s, Bill Quinn was interested in recording local Texas musicians such as Harry Choates.  Bill Quinn's recording techniques were odd for the time, but were born out of necessity.  Bill started in the record business during the war and his first record was an item on the Gulf label by Woody Vernon.  He had a hard time getting someone to press the discs, the big companies tried to keep the up-shoots out of the picture by refusing to press for them, but Bill found an old press in New York which he bought and brought to Houston.  

The war was still on and he couldn't get any 'biscuit', the stuff records are made of.  So he bought up old stocks of records which he would grind up and melt down in what he now refers to jokingly as "biscuit days."  He often paid as high as 10 cents per record for the old ones, but at least he could put out some of his and soon the war ended and things began to look up for Gold Star Records. According to Arhoolie music producer Chris Strachwitz:
Most collectors will still curl up when they think how many records were ground up to make the Gold Star label.1  

Hé ma chere mignonne, 

Tu m'a quitté pour ton aller avec un autre,

Tu vas du regret à sa tas fait à ton vieux neg 

Tu vas venir un avenir mais chere mignonne.

Chere mignonne, ça fait peché, 
Mon je connait pas comment je vas faire resté mon seul,
Mon je connait tu aurais du regret avon long temps, 
Pour ton venir, mais chere mignonne, mais, c'est trop tard.

Bill Quinn
One of his artists was Harry Choates, which made his business soar after the sales of "Jole Blon" in 1946.  He got Harry and his band with Ernest Benoit on vocals in the fall of 1949 to record "Chere Meon" (#1385).  In this similar rendition of the Leo Soileau's song "Grand Mamou", "meon" is the corrupted spelling of the French word "mignonne", meaning "Dear Cutie".   It was a phrase Harry would repeatedly use over again in many of his songs.  
Gold Star studio

Bill didn't want to bother with publishing songs and all the red tape that goes with it, so he told his artists that they would have to use original material if they wanted to record for him.1  Chere Meon, itself, was just a cover of an old 1928 Leo Soileau tune called "Basile", also known as "Grand Mamou".  He must not have been aware that half of everything Harry recorded for him were old Cajun covers.  

Hey, my dear cutie,

You left me, went away with another,

You're going to regret the stuff done to your old man,

You'll come back eventually, my dear cutie.

Dear cutie, it's sinful,
I don't know how I will handle this alone,
I know you would be regretting before too long,
Well, you will eventually, my dear cutie, but it'll be too late. 

The following year, Harry would later re-record the tune and entitle it "Gra Mamou" on the Macy's label. 

  2. Lyrics by Jerry M

Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)


  1. Great info again wade.
    Just a query here , something i was told many years ago , and me not being fully aware of the Cajun dialect.
    reference Harry's surname , was this pronounced like...Shoates , more with an S inflection at the start , like as in 'shoes '..
    Hope you can help.
    Keep up the good work..

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Pronounced "shote" as in shoes


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