Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Arcadian One Step" - Joseph Falcon

Joe Falcon recorded the earliest Cajun music during the 1920s.  Joe was one of the greatest accordion players and a pioneer artist of Cajun records. The first recording of authentic Cajun music was made in 1928 by  Falcon and his future wife Cleoma Breaux playing rhythm guitar. One of the song recorded that day  was “Allons à Lafayette” , who became a real Cajun classic. The record sold well and soon the big recording companies were on the hunt for other Cajun artists. One year later, they were in Atlanta, laying down some of the most traditional melodies floating around the countryside. In fact, contrary to popular belief, Joe and Cleoma were the first to ever record this old Creole melody.

Madame Entelle, rappelez-vous bien,

Quoi c'est m'as dit, mais, hiere au soir,

J'ai quitté là-bas, chez vous,

Ayou elle m'as dit,

Quitter là, chère, la dernière fois*.

Petite ou grosse*, c'est tout le même prix, 

Madame Eduard, donnez-moi les,
Votre fille, moi aller t'en dire,
Elle est mignonne, et 'tite, 
C'est moi, chère, 
Après t'en aller, ouais, 
En t'éloignant, si loin de moi.

Moi j'connais chère, 
mais, j'suis parti, belle, 
mais, m'en aller, 
mais, pour te voir. 
Eh oui, mon negre, chère, 
Mais, prends courage, chère, 
J'suis après finir, mais, tout mes mon tracas.

It's quite possible on the first verse, his last line is "Quitter là guerre, là guerre hier au soir" talking about leaving the argument that occurred the previous night.  In the second version, "Si tes voudras c'est tout le même prix" asks if you'd like, they're the same price, however, given this song became the well known "Petite ou Grosse" song, it's more likely he's talking about the small one or the big one.  

This 1929 Columbia recording is a great example of how many melodies would develop into different song titles.   The melody of "Adieu Rosa" would not only influence Douglas Bellard's Creole song "Mon Camon La Case Que Je Suis Cordane" but would also influence hard driving Cajun songs such as Joe Falcon's "Acadian One Step" (#40513).  It's major influence would extend to Angelas Lejeune's 1930 recording of "Madame Donnez Moi Les", keeping some of the lyrics and the melody. However, it reached other musicians and their recordings that year, such as Leo Soileau's "Demain C'Est Pas Dimanche" and Bixy Guidry's "Ella A Plurer Pour Revenir".  Leo would rework the song in the 1930s as "Petit Ou Gros", made famous by Joe Bonsall in the 1960s.  

Lake Charles American Press
Oct 2, 1928

"Acadian One Step" is an extremely energetic performance with classic Cajun instrumentation (accordion, guitar, fiddle). The accordion plays the melody line on the instrumental breaks, while the guitar plays the rhythm and the triangle keeps time. The fiddle is inaudible on the instrumental breaks (likely overpowered by the accordion), but it can be heard in the background during the vocal parts, when the accordion drops out. Although the fiddle can be heard on the recording, it was not listed among the instruments listed on the record label.1  Given they were recording alongside Cleoma's brothers in Atlanta, it's most likely Ophy Breaux on fiddle.  Unlike the old traditional tune "Adieu Rosa" where the love interest is thankful Rosa is leaving, Joe's version talks about a sad lover due to a particular "madame" leaving him. 

Mrs. Entelle, remember well,

What was said to me, well, last night,

I left that place, your house,

Where she told it was,

I left there, dear, for the last time.

The small or big one, it's all the same to me,

Mrs. Eduard, give her to me,
Your daughter, I'm going to tell you,
She's cute and small, 
It's me dear, 
You've gone away, yeah,
As far as you can, so far from me.

I know, dear,
Well, I have left, beautiful,
Well, I've gone,
Well, to see you,
Eh yeh, my friend, dear,
Well, take care, my dear,
I'm finished, well, with all my troubles.

After the war, his niece Marie Falcon teamed up with Shuk Richard and recorded "Madame Entelle Two Step" in 1952, based heavily on this version.  By 1959 Austin Pitre would take the Bellard song and convert it to his famous "Les Flammes D'Enfer".

Falcon continued to record into the late '30s, but his music was eclipsed in popularity by the emerging Country and Western genre and was soon considered old fashioned. He stopped recording after his final session in 1937.1

  2. Lyrics by Bryan L, Stephane F and Stephanie D
  3. Edits by Herman M

Anthology Of American Folk Music Volume Two: Social Music (Folkways, 1967)
Les Cajuns Best Of 2002 Les Triomphes De La Country Volume 12 (Habana, 2002)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

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