Thursday, August 18, 2016

"La Valse De Cajin" - Iry Lejeune

Known for his soulful music, many consider Iry LeJeune to be the greatest Cajun accordion player and recording artist of all time.  Produced by Eddie Shuler and Folk-Star, a subsidiary of Goldband Records out of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Iry’s recordings of "Calcasieu Waltz," "Jolie Catin," "Evangeline Special," and many more were big hits.  Believed to be recorded in 1950 at the KLPC radio station, "La Valse De Cajin" (#GF102) included Milton Vanicor on fiddle, Ellis Vanicor on fiddle, and Ivy Vanicor on rhythm guitar.  It was a slight take on his uncle Angelas' recording of "La Valse De La Louisianne".   Orsy Vanicor did not appear because he had left the Lacassine Playboys. It was a rendition of Bixy Guidry and Percy Babineaux's "Qu'est Que J'ai Fait Pour Etre Peuni Si Longtemps".

Around 1954, the Vanicors were playing with other bands or had quit.  Iry regrouped with a new set of band members around the Calcasieu area including Duckhead Cormier and Wilson Granger.  By mid 1955, fiddler J.B. Fusilier moved to Lake Charles around the same time Iry's fiddler Wilson Granger quit the group.  After playing with Iry at the Blue Moon, guitar player Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier told Iry:
I think we're gonna keep that man on the violin.  He's as good as you ever did have.2

Eh, yé yaille, chere tit monde,

Quo'faire t'es comme ça,

Autant dans les misères?

Eh, yé yaille, je te fais pas arien,

Je veux que toi tu sois,

Comme toi, chère, t'es après faire. 

Eh, yé yaille, tout cette peine,

Tu devrais écouter,
Ton vieux nègre une fois,
Quand, moi, je te dis quelque chose,
Tite fille, rappelle-toi,
Jongle voir quand ton papa,
T'as déjà aussi maltraitée.

Eh, moi, je voudrais que tu reviens,
Me rejoindre, cher tit monde,
Coucher ta chère tite tête,
Dessus mon épaule,
Quitter tes chères tites larmes,
Couler pour te pardonner tout ça t'as fait.

Church Point News
Oct 11, 1955

Sadly, Iry LeJeune died at age 26 when he and J.B. stopped to change a flat tire on his car late one night on their way home from a performance at the Green Wing club (believed to be located between Mamou and Eunice, Louisiana) along Hwy 90. Unfortunately, widening the highway for extra lanes meant the pair had no shoulder on which to pull the car. Both men were on the side of the road when Luther Holt of Houston, TX slammed into both men.  Fuselier, who was driving, survived the accident with numerous broken bones and a head injury, but LeJeune, unable to see well, had no warning and died instantly.  

Eh, ye yaille, dear little everything,
Why are you like that,
In so much misery,
Eh, ye yaille, I didn't do anything to you,
I want you to return to,
Your old self, dear, after all of this.

Eh, ye yaille, all of this pain,
You should listen,
To your old man one more time,
When I tel you something,
Little girl, you'll remember,
Think of how your papa,
Has already mistreated you so much.

Eh, I'd want your to come back,
To meet me, dear little everything,
To rest your dear little head,
Upon my shoulder.
Let your dear little tears,
Fall to pardon you for all you've done.

Church Point News
Oct 11, 1955

He left behind a young family of five children, dozens of recordings, and a Cajun music legacy.  Luther was jailed and charged with "negligent homicide".   

According to author Ron Yule:
I think Iry's impact was enhanced by his early death, but his unique accordion style and bluesy, earthy voice as presented in his recordings would have continued to be recognized. This great talent would have lived on, and he would have impacted other musicians just as it continues to do today.1

B.O. Sparkle, Bridge City, TX, 1954
Robert Bertrand, Wilson Granger,
Iry Lejeune, Alfred Cormier

  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2004)

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