Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Grande Nuit Especial (Big Night Special)" - Iry Lejeune

Iry Lejeune, one of the greatest that ever lived in the Cajun French music field, was acclaimed by all for the way he could deliver the songs, singing and playing the accordion.  He never made a record that was not a big hit, and these many years after his untimely death, his records continue to sell like new releases.  One of the recordings was the "Grande Nuit Especial", also known as Saturday Night Special, for Ed Shuler's Goldband label in in Lake Charles around November of 1952.  Like many of Iry's tunes, he used a melody similar to an Amede Ardoin song.  In this case, it was "Si Dur D'etre Seul" originally recorded in 1934. Eddie Shuler, producer of Goldband records recalled trying to get Iry's music out in stores.   Not everyone was interested in doing so:
At one time I thought I would get me a distributor.  So I talked to the guy in New Orleans that was distributing for Mercury Records.  He said "Send me some samples; I'll let my salesman take them out on the road".  I waited about a month and a half and I never got any orders.5
Eddie managed to track down the salesman for the New Orleans distributors, William B. Allen Supply Co. at a record shop in Opelousas.
So I met him at the car and I said, "Do you have any Cajun records?"  He said "I got one of them lousy things in my car.  I can't stand that stuff. Man, that's the most horriblest thing I ever heard in my life.  I'm not gonna play that thing; I can't stand it."  So I called his boss. I said "Hey, just forget about this distributing thing, we got somebody else".  So I went back to work.5
From that point on, Eddie controlled his own distribution.
Oh ye yaille, chère ‘tit bébé,
Moi je connais, moi je m’ennuie de toi quand même.
Hey ‘tit coeur tu devrais pas oublier,
Tout ça toi tu m’avais parlé avant de t’en v’nir.

Oh tit coeur ça c'est dur à croire,
Ton pap et ta mam t’avaient dit j’étais pas bon.
Oh catin asteur toi t’as du regret,
C’est trop tard c'est pas la peine que tu t’lamentes à moi.

Hey ye yaille, aujourd'hui tu t’lamentes,
Oh bébé, j’peux pas comprendre le bien qu’ça t’fait.
Oh ma chère, tu fais des misères, ça ressemble mais qu’tu mérites,
J’ai du regret, tu mérites pas ça.
High Mount Club, 1954
Robert Bertrand, Wilson Granger
Iry Lejeune, Alfred Cormier

The word "asteur" is the corrupted form of a very old 16th-17th French phrase still used in Quebec, spelled "à cette heure", which translates to "now".  According to Milton Vanicor, he and Eddie Shuler are playing in the background at Iry's home.  According to Ron Yule's interviews with Milton, Eddie had used a session director in order to tell Iry when to start and stop, probably because he sat on the floor due to having a bad habit of tapping his feet. 

Oh ye yaille, dear little baby,
I know, I'll miss you anyway,
Hey little heart, you should not forget,
All that you told me before you came.

Oh little heart, that's hard to believe,
Your dad and your mom told you I was no good,
Oh you little doll, now you regret this,
It's too late, it's not worth you lamenting over me.

Hey ye yaille, today you lament,
Oh baby, I can not understand how you do it,
Oh dear, you're miserable, but it looks like you deserve it,
I regret that, you do not deserve this.

In an interview Eddie recalled the clash he had with the station manager of KPLC when he in 1948 invited a precocious twenty-year-old accordionist from Lacassine, LA, Iry LeJune, to play during his time slot. 

"When he first came to town he was like a hobo, real raggedy, and wearing this big floppy hat. He had his squeeze box in a flour sack under his arm," he said. But after the station was swamped with requests for an encore performance, the program director finally relented. "Iry was a persistent feller all right. But I always believed in giving a man a chance; otherwise, how would you discover what he could do?"6
Shuler re-issued the tune on 45RPM twice, once listed as G-1024 and then much later as G-1024-2 in which he labeled the pressing a "Collector's Item".  In 1958, Lawrence Walker would take the fast paced two-step and create a waltz from it, calling it "Midnight's Waltz". 

  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Biography.  The Greatest.  Iry Le June.  GBLP7741.
  4. SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 15.  2015 Regular Session.  Notes to commend Milton Vanicor for his passion, devotion, and his nearly eighty-year commitment to Cajun music.
  5. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Goldband, 1992)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2004)

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