Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Bayou Chico Waltz" - Wilson Granger

Wilson Granger was a fiddling figure who experienced all the many twists and turn in Cajun music.  Basically, he was a sideman who kept the music going and played on some of the most influential recordings in post-war Cajun music.   Nathan rarely sang many of his own tunes, leaving it to other such as Ernest Thibodeaux and Wilson.   Eventually, Nathan let these fine musicians take the lead on a few recordings, including this one called "Bayou Chico Waltz".1

In the late 1920s, Wilson and Sidney Credeur began playing house dances around Black Bayou and Goosport.  By the 1940s, Sidney quit and gave Wilson his fiddle, so Granger struck out on his own to play music in the Lake Charles area.  Good friends with Earl Demary, Wilson teamed up with his group led by Nathan Abshire for the famous "Pine Grove Blues" recording for Virgil Bozman's OT label.1   During this time frame, around 1949, Bozman had a recording of Wilson leading the "Bayou Chico Waltz" with Nathan's same band members.  But, it seems Virgil shoved it away for the time being.  Most likely, he brought it with him to Bob Tanner's facility in San Antonio and had it pressed on his short lived Hot Rod records in 1953. 

Hé 'tite fille, z'aujourd'hui, 

T'aprés me quitter pour t'en aller dans la Louisiane,

Tous les passe de temps, comme ca laisser les enfants,

Pour courtiser, mais malheureuse, t'quitter, tit monde. 

Hé, 'tite fille, moi, j'm'en vas, 

Mais (z)aujourd'hui, mais, mon tout seul à Bayou Chicot,

Quand même tu veux mais t'en revenir rejoindre ton nègre, 
Mais malheureuse, mais, pour longtemps, c'est trop (tard) 'joindre.
Wilson Granger

Bayou Chicot is a piney wooded community in north Evangeline parish named after a small stream.  The land was settled by a Coushatta Indian family.   The name "Chicot", a 16th century French word meaning "stump", can be found in a variety of places in old colonial documents, including Chicot de Cipre ("cypress stumps") and "Prairie des Chicots" ("prairie of tree stumps").2   According to author Jacqueline Peterson, "chicot" was already used for the French coureurs de bois as early as the seventeenth century, when the settlers would strip land of its timber and then abandon the land, leaving "chicots".3,4 

Hey little girl, today,

You left me to go away to Louisiana,

After all this time, just like that, (you) left the children,

To worry, well oh my, you left us, my little everything.

Hey, little girl, I, myself, am going,

Well, today, well, I'm all alone at Bayou Chicot,

Even if you want to go back to your old man,
Well, oh my, well, such a long time, it's too late to come back. 

Wilson would go onto record with Iry for a short while; teaching him the melody of this song.  Iry made some minor changes and with Wilson backing him up, they converted it into the well-known "Duraldo Waltz".  But Wilson didn't stay and left the band shortly afterwards.   Granger kept his television repair business going and continued to play music for years afterwards.1

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
  2. Louisiana Place Names: Popular, Unusual, and Forgotten Stories of Towns ... By Clare D'Artois Leeper
  3. A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language ... By Peter Bakker
  4. Prelude to Red River: A Social Portrait of the Great Lakes Metis by Jacqueline Peterson
  5. Lyrics by Stephane F
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Cankton Two Step" - Lee Sonnier

During the 1940s, musician Lee Sonnier was a respected Cajun accordion player from Rayne, Louisiana.   He and his band were invited by his son-in-law J.D. Miller to record several songs in 1950 in Miller's makeshift recording studio. Sonnier's group consisted of Bruce Broussard on vocals, possibly Freeman Hanks on guitar, possibly Louis Miller on fiddle  and possibly Rita Broussard on guitar. J.D. explains:

At the time I had numerous people who wanted French records. An French records, apart from 'Jole Blon' and a couple of other Harry Choates recores, just were not available.  You had the older records that had been made by Joe Falcon, they may have been discontinued.  So I just said 'Well, I'm gonna see maybe if we can make some records'.  I didn't know what would be the first step to do it.1

Les paroles toi t'as écouté ta vieille maman et ton papa, 
Je vas t’emmener ayou jamais, catin, mais, moi je vas t’avoir.

Tu m'as quitté depuis la terre (?) mais moi j'connais j'mérite pas ça, 
Pas tout ça toi t'après me faire avec ton nègre, ici, jolie fille. 

Avant longtemps, tu vas revenir, pis demander je te fais pardon, 
pour ça t'as fait z'avec moi, mais ouais, je voudrais plus te voir.
Crowley Daily Signal
Jun 21, 1950

Having learned electrical work from his father-in-law Lee Sonnier, he was fascinated on how the recording process worked based on a previous session at Cosimo Matassa's studio in New Orleans that year.   The increasing availability of portable tape machines was a boon in encouraging young men such as Miller to take the plunge into the record business.  Lee's band worked with Miller to record "Cankton Two Step" (#1018), one of the first Cajun accordion recordings after WWII.   The group gathered around three microphones and a tape recorder in the back of Miller's M&S electrical shop.  Miller recalls:
At that time there wasn't much equipment available.  In fact, I had the first tape recorder in Louisiana.  When we recorded at Cosimo's we were recorded with an overhead disc cutter. I went to Houston, Gates Radio Supplies, inquiring about getting me a recorder, and I had in mind an overhead because that was the only one I'd ever seen.  They had just got in three Magnecord recorders; it seems to me it was a model PT-6.  You could carry it around. So I bought that, I bought three microphones, I bought a high-level mixer, which in reality is just three volume controls, and I came back. I had an amplifier that I used for monitoring and setup what I had as a monitor speaker, just one speaker.2
J.D. Miller

The words you had heard from your old mom and dad,
I'm going to take you there forever, little doll, well, I'm going to get you.

You left me from this land, well, I know I didn't deserve this,
Not all that which you've done with your old man, here, pretty girl.

Before long, you'll come back, and ask that I forgive you,
For what you've done with me, well yeh, I would like to see you more.

Lee's group played alongside other Cajun bands of the time such as Iry Lejeune, Lawrence Walker, Nathan Abshire and Aldus Roger at dancehalls such as the Welcome Club.  Later recordings by musicians such as Wade Fruge and Paul Daigle would rework the tune into the song "Tit Mamou".

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A
Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's (Flyright, 1986)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"The Waltz That Carried Me To My Grave" - Pee Wee Broussard

Chester Issac "Pee Wee" Broussard was one of many accordion players in the 1950s who recorded songs in south Louisiana.  Here, he covers Cleoma Breaux classic known as "The Waltz That Carried Me To The Grave" (#1045) during his very first recording session for J.D. Miller's Feature Records in Crowley, Louisiana in 1952.   The song was a tribute to his wife who had recently died.
Hey, mais toi 'tite fille, chère,
Toi t'as quitté de la maison pour t'en aller,
Je peux pas te voir, je vas pas te voir,
Comment tu crois moi je peux faire, mais, moi tout seul?

Hey, moi j'ai pleuré chère,
De te voir t'en aller, mais pour toujours,
Comment tu crois, mais, moi j'vas faire?
J'ai p'us personne à la maison mais pour m'aimer.

Jessie Credeur, Do Doon Benoit,
Pee Wee Broussard, Tony Thibodeaux,
Johnny Credeur

During this recording session, his Melody Boys consisted of Kaiser Perez on fiddle, Walter Guidry on steel guitar, one Johnson on rhythm guitar, and Nathan Latiolais on drums.

Hey, you see, little girl, dear,

For you left the house, you went away.

I didn't see you, I'm not going to see you anymore,

How do you think I'll do this, well, all by myself?

Hey, I cried, dear,
I've seen you leave, well, everyday,
How do you think, well, I will do this?
I have no one left at home, well, to love me.

He influenced and worked with many musicians later including Leroy Broussard and Marc Savoy.  You can hear a lot of his style in Marc's early recordings.  Pee Wee not only played accordion, but also the fiddle.  During his early life, he cut the tendon on his left middle finger by a knife wielded by his brother, so every time he played fiddle, it seemed he was always flipping people the bird. 

  1. Acadian Two Step.  Flyright.  Liner Notes.
Acadian Two Step (Flyright, 1987)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"Orphan Waltz" - Floyd Leblanc

Floyd Leblanc was a western swing Cajun fiddle player that played during the 1940s with bands across southeast Texas and Louisiana.   His biggest break came from teaming up with Bennie Hess and his Oklahoma Tornados.   The group traveled around the area playing their mixture of country music and by 1948, Hess created a recording label called Opera records.   Watching closely was their fill in guitarist named Virgel Bozmen.  Virgel eventually left the group and took upon the idea of creating his own recording label called O.T. records named after the band.   By 1949, after the band's fiddler Floyd Leblanc had recorded a slew of songs on Bennie's label, Virgel convinced Leblanc to bring his talents to the local radio station in Lake Charles where he recorded "Orphan Waltz" (#104).  

Tu m’as quitté, chérie, pour t’en aller,
T’en aller, jolie, jolie fille.

Aujourd’hui, chérie, tu vas r’venir,
Pour me voir, jolie malheureuse.

Moi j’connais, chère, tu vas pleurer.
Quo t’as fait, malheureuse, y a pas longtemps

Aujourd’hui, chère, tu vas r’venir,
Pour connaître, jolie fille, qu’il sera trop tard.

possibly Ernest Benoit, Floyd Leblanc,
Lee Drew LeBlanc

The song carried the typical theme popularized by contemporary fiddle player Harry Choates.  It spoke of a love interest that left a poor lover.  In this case, the love interest returns but it's too late.

By the early 1950s, drinking took a toll on Floyd and the nightlife wasn't the type of thing he wanted his family to be involved in.   He could see what drinking and music was doing to him and made sure his children had no part in this.  He quit playing for awhile and focused on his family. It wouldn't be until the mid 1960s when he'd start occasionally picking up music events locally and play periodically around the house.1

You left me, dear, to go away,

You went away, pretty, pretty girl,

Today, dear, you have returned,
To see me, pretty, oh my.

I know, dear, you have cried,
What you've done, oh my, it hasn't been long.

Today, dear, you have returned,
Know this, pretty girl, it's too late.

  1. Discussions with Jeanne
  2. Lyrics by Marc 
Cajun Honky Tonk: Khoury Recordings (Arhoolie, 1995)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

"Durald Two Step" - Amar Devillier

Amar "Ti-Frère" DeVillier.   Devillier recorded some of the earliest known Cajun music with harmonica, similar to the recordings of Joe Werner. The Louisiana Jambileers gathered at the KEUN Radio studios in Eunice and laid down two songs, one which was the Duralde Two Step (#1).  It  featured the vocalist Wallace Lafleur and was named after the rural community known as Duralde in South Louisiana.  Recorded in 1952 on George Khoury's Lyric label, it would be the only record in his catalog identified with a single digit.  

Moi aller, chere tite fille, 

Oh, là-bas à Duralde,

Eh, ye yaille, moi je connait,

Chere tit fille, t'es mien, je t'aime.
Chere tit monde, mon aller,
Oui, là-bas au si loin, 
Mon aller, chere tit fille, 
Mon aller là-bas à Duralde.

Chere tit fille, moi'je connait,
Moi'je connait, c'est pas la peine, 
Moi te faire tout de ça,
Tout ça m'a fait mal.
Ah, chere tit monde, 
Moi aller là-bas à Duralde,
Moi aller mon tout seul,
Moi aller là-bas à Duralde.

Wallace was supposed to be the key musician at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, but his wife wouldn't have it.  At the last minute, before the band left, he dropped out.  Instead, the mostly unknown Dewey Balfa took his place, creating one of the most important events in Cajun music history: the Cajun music "renaissance".   After Balfa's return, he helped create what is known as Festival Acadiens. 

I'm going, dear little girl,

Oh, over there to Duralde,

Hey, ye yaille, I know,

Dear little girl, you're mine, I love you.
Dear little everything, I'm going,
Yes, over there as of now,
I'm going, dear little girl,
I'm going over there to Duralde. 

Dear little girl, I know,
I know, it's not worth it,
You've done to me, all of that,
All that, I'm miserable.
I'm going over there to Duralde,
I'm going all alone,
I'm going over there to Duralde.

By 1960, Wallace would end up playing with Shirley Bergeron and his group while Terry Clement would take the melody and use it in his song "Diggy Liggy Lo". 

  1. Lyrics by Jerry M
Cajun Music - The Early 50s (Arhoolie, 1969)
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"Valse De Estherwood (Estherwood Waltz)" - Leo Soileau

Leo Soileau was a Cajun musician from Ville Platte that recorded the second Cajun group after Joe Falcon.  He recorded late 1928 with a bluesy accordion player named Mayuse Lafleur.   Leo kept recording traditional Cajun music with an accordion led duo until the end of 1929.  After string bands took over the airwaves in 1936, Louisiana saw bands like Leo Soileau's Aces changed from purely Cajun French songs to a mixed group of English and French tunes.   Leo used this session in New Orleans to record both styles.  In the wake of Ace' initial and influential recordings, Soileau continued to revamp extensively the sounds of commercial Cajun music. 

I had fiddle, piano, sometimes I had two guitars, a steel, electric mandolin, and saxophone and bass.   I have as much as eight piece bands.

Ohh, mais toi m'avais*, chère

Ohh, mais pourquoi, donc, bébé

Hé, mais toi p’tite fille, chère

Ohh, mais aussi loin bébé

Oh, mais toi m'avais*, chère,
Oh, mais pourquoi donc, mais, tu fais ça?

Hé, mais moi, je m’en vas à la maison
Oh, mais pour te rejoindre, malheureuse

Hé, tu m’as quitté moi tout seul
Ohh, pourquoi donc mais tu fais ça?
Leo Soileau (second, bottom row)
Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan & the 
Center for Louisiana Studies, 
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

His line containing "toi m'avais" is confusing.  The love interest either had his love or would have had his love.   It could very well be saying something else, sounding similar such as "t'as m'avoué" in which the love interest confesses to the person.  

His Four Aces consisted of  Bill ‘Dewey’ Landry on guitar, Floyd Shreve on guitar and a slew of other musicians.  Leo named his song "Valse de Estherwood" (#17016) after a town not far from his residence of Crowley, Louisiana.   Estherwood is a small community originally named "Tortue" after the Indian Chief Celestine La Tortue of the Attakapas nation.  It sits alongside the Trief bayou, which was named for Jean-Baptiste Trief, a mysterious person believed to have been one of Jean Lafitte's pirates.  In 1816, he was described as a "tall, dark, sinister-looking" man who wore large earrings like pirates once did.   The entire Mermentau River basin area was notoriously known for pirate activity.

There are several stories about how Estherwood got its name. A likely one is that it is the combination of two names: Wood, for a Dr. Wood who was once prominent in the area, and Esther, for the wife of a railroad executive. Another is the wood part may come from the fact that the trains stopped for fuel wood here.

Oh, well, you could've had me, dear,

Oh, well, why so, baby?

Hey, well, you little girl, dear,

Oh, well, so far away, baby.

Oh, well, you could've had me, dear,
Oh, well, why did you do that?

Hey, well, I'm going home,
Oh, well, to you you, oh my.

Hey, you left me all alone,
Oh, so why, well, did you do that?

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. Label scan by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Cajun and Creole Music Collection - Special Collections
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A

Friday, March 31, 2017

"Texas Waltz" - Nathan Abshire

In 1954, with new vigor, Nathan Abshire refreshed his band's lineup and waxed several more tunes for George Khoury in Lake Charles.  "Texas Waltz" (#645) on Khoury's label was a later recording, re-working the melody of his earlier "Kaplan Waltz".   However, it never really took off.  The melody comes from the Angelus Lejeune's 1929 recording of "La Valse de Pointe Noire",  Dudley and James Fawvor as "La Valse De Creole" in 1928 and Amede Ardoin's "Valse De Ballard".   

Hé tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller dans grand Texas,
Chère 'tit monde, ne fais pas ça,
Moi je connais te vas voir ton erreur.

Hé, chère 'tite fille tu vas r'venir dans la Louisiane,
Ça sera trop tard, mais, peut me te voir,
D’écouter les conseils de tous les autres.

Ambrose Thibodeaux, Merlon Fontenot,
Nathan Abshire
First Festival Acadians, 1974
by Turner Browne
American Folklife Center Collection

Inspired by Harry Choates' "Jole Blon", Nathan used the same lyrical theme, even later covering the tune as "The New Jole Blon".  His new members are difficult to determine, but from what has been listed, it seems to be possibly Jake Mire on steel guitar, possibly Ernest Thibodeaux on rhythm guitar, possibly Jim Baker on bass guitar, possibly Shelton Manuel on drums, and either Dewey Balfa or Cleveland "Cat" Deshotel on fiddle.

Hey, you left me, went away to big Texas,
Dear little everything, do not do that,
I know you'll see your mistake. 

Hey, dear little girl, you'll return to Louisiana,
It will be too late, well, to see you,
Listen to the advice of all of us.

A similar attempt using the Kaplan melody would be done by Abe Manuel and Jelly Elliot known as "Ville Platte Waltz". 

  1. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephane F
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Gran Prairie" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc

The lively character and musician, Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc. It's one of the Happy's more well known tunes, converting a popular melody into a country string band song.  Happy and fiddler Harry Choates had a short and tumultuous stint in 1940 when their group recorded a slew of songs for Bluebird records.  However, like many bands that worked with Harry, it didn't last.  His drinking and loose lifestyle was too erratic for Happy's style.  While together briefly, they headed to the Jefferson Hotel in Dallas, Texas to record "Gran Prairie" (#2081).  Grand Prairie is a rural region of St. Landry Parish between Opelousas and Ville Platte.  Here, the song which would eventually become Hank William's "Jambalaya" became an ode to this region.

Moi j'm'en va chère p'tite fille pour toujours,

Ouais là-bas z'à Grand Prairie malheureux,

Rappelle-toi malheureuse ma p'tite fille,

Tous les misères qu'tu m'as fait, jolie coeur.

Moi j'm'en va chère p'tite fille pour toujours,

Ouais là-bas z' à Grand Prairie malheureux,

Ouais là-bas malheureuse au bout du monde,

Moi j'm'en va z'à Grand Prairie,

C'est mon pays.

Eric Arceneaux, Louis Arceneaux, Happy Fats
1936 Blue Goose Dancehall2

The first recording of this melody as a Cajun tune was by the Guidry Brothers called "Le Garcon Negligent" in 1929.   As a direct influence from the Jolly Boy's "Abbeville", the tune foreshadows Papa Cairo's use of the tune in his recording of "Grand Texas", or "Big Texas", in years to come.   It would be no surprise that Happy heard the melody since he had previously worked with Red Fabaucher of the Jolly Boys and Papa Cairo of the Louisiana Rounders.  Both had used the melody in their tunes, including Papa Cairo's "Alons Kooche Kooche" several years earlier.  The song contains a quick fiddle ride by a relatively unknown fiddle player at the time known as Harry Choates.  The rest of the band contained Sandy Lormand on guitar, Joseph M. "Pee Wee" Broussard on banjo, Ray Clark on steel guitar and Harold Broussard on piano.  

I, myself, will go, dear little girl, forever,

Yes, over there to Grand Prairie, oh my,

Remember how unhappy you were, my little girl,

All the misery which you made for me, pretty heart.

I, myself, will go, dear little girl, forever,
Yes, over there to Grand Praire, oh my,
Yes, over there, oh my, to the end of the world,
I, myself, will go to Grand Prairie,
It's my countryside.
Sandy would go on to play with Happy for several years including Doc Guidry's Sons of the South band.  Pee Wee Broussard would tour with Harry Choates and in an interview with Kevin Coffey, stated:
[Harry] never looked for what could happen tomorrow.  He lived for today.1

  1. Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost By Tony Russell
  2. Rayne's People and Places By Tony Olinger


Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Gran Prairie: Cajun Music Anthology, Vol. 3: The Historic Victor Bluebird Sessions (Country Music, 1994)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Beginner's Guide to Cajun Music (Proper/Primo, 2008)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Convict Waltz" - Iry Lejeune

Amede Ardoin influenced Cajun musicians for years after he death.  Like many of Iry Lejeune's tunes, the Convict Waltz is based on an Amede Ardoin tune, this time entitled "Valse a Abe" recorded in December 1929 for Columbia (#40511).  However, the first instance of this melody would be released one month prior to Ardoin by the duo Bartmon Montet & Joswell Dupuis in New Orleans entitled "L'Abandonner (The Forsaken)" for Victor records (#22211).  Also known as either "99 Year Waltz" or "La Valse De Quatre-Vingt-Dix-Neuf Ans", Iry recorded his version of the song for the Folk Star label (#1195) and it was released in 1954.

Iry would be partnered with Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier on guitar and Cajun fiddler Wilson Granger.  Granger's first stint with Iry was around 1948 when Earl Demary occasionally would hire Iry to join the Musical Aces for dances around Lake Charles and southeast Texas.  He recalls recording several songs with Lejeune, recording with Ed Shuler far from the Goldband Studios:
We made those records at Iry's house.  He had the recorder on the kitchen table.2  
Iry Lejeune
Iry sang as if two centuries of Acadian hardship were gushing out of him and him alone. The phrase "condemned for 99 years", signifying being condemned forever, sometimes meant a physical sentence, but usually, it was a metaphor for an emotional imprisonment.  His wonderfully full and melodic accordion was usually backed by a simple guitar and fiddle.  He expressed that he wanted to record the tune before he died.

Oh, moi je m'en vas, condamne pour quatre vignt dix-neuf ans,
C'est juste rapport aux paroles toi, t'as dit qui m'a fait soufert aussi longtemps pour ca.

Oh, tout les soirs,
Moi, je me couche avec des larmes dans mes yeux,
C'est pas de toi, bebem je m'ennuuie autant,
C'est des chers enfants j'connais qui miserent.

Oh, tite fille c'est pas la peine,
Tes menteries vont rester sur ta conscience,
La verite va peut-etre te fair du mal,
Mais quelqu'un va toujours te recompenser.
Wilson Granger

Previously, Alphee Bergeron had used the melody for his tune he called "Eunice Waltz" in 1948.  The title would be re-used later as a different song.  Aldus Roger had worked the melody into his "Lifetime Waltz" around the previous year for Eddie Shuler and Bob Tanner's TNT label.  In 1959, Huey Meaux and Andrew Cormier recorded the song for the Jin label.  In the 1960s, Milton Molitor, along with Austin Pitre, would use the melody of "Valse de Bambocheur" and give it the name "99 Year Waltz" for Dr. Harry Oster's field recordings. Later, many others would record the tune such as the Balfas and Vin Bruce.
I'm going, condemned for 99 years,
It's just because of the words you told me,
That make me suffer so long for that.

Every night I go to bed with tears in my eyes,
It's not you I miss so much,
It's my dear children, who are miserable.

Oh, my dear, it's no use,
Your lies will stay on your conscience,
The truth may hurt you,
But someone will always pay you back.
The lyric "te recompenser" translates to "pay you back" but in this context, it seems to be a cynical response, more along the lines of "you always think you're right". The wronged lover in "The Convict Waltz" implies that the words spoken by this woman have caused his imprisonment.  Everything he did had a poignant beauty; joyful in tune but sad in lyric.  Shuler recalls:
He could squeeze in more notes and still sound smooth and easy.  He could take a verse and stick in triplets and finger executions that no other Cajun artist ever managed.  Even his songs were different, his songs told a story with reasonable situations.3
Eddie would later release the song on 45 RPM, first on the flipside of "Don't Get Married" (#1219) using the maroon Folk-Star label and later on the flipside of "La Fille La Vove" (#1195) using his yellow Goldband label.


  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Cajun and Creole Music Makers
  5. Musiciens Cadiens et Créoles - Rigide / the Makers of Cajun Music By Barry Jean Ancelet


As Good As It Gets: Cajun (Disky, 2000)
American French Music (Goldband, 2000)
Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2003)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Dans Le Grand Bois (In The Forest)" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers were an influential Cajun group based in Hackberry, Louisiana, a small town in the southwestern portion of the state. The group was founded by fiddler Luderin Darbone and accordionist Edwin Duhon in 1933. While the group is famous for their interpretations of traditional Cajun music, they also perform western swing, blues, and rockabilly.
Moi, j'connais,
Ma 'tite fille.
T'es la bas dans l'grand bois tout seule.
Moi, j'm'en vas dans l'grand bois.
Moi, j'm'en vas dans l'grand bois.
Avec ma fille.
Floyd Shreve, Luderin Darbone,
Danny Shreve, Claude "Pete" Duhon

"Dans Le Grand Bois" is a Cajun song that borrows the melody of "Jolie Blonde," a song first recorded by Les Breaux Freres as "Ma Blonde Est Partie." The personnel of the Hackberry Ramblers on this recording is Luderin Darbone on fiddle, Floyd and Danny Shreve on guitars, and Claude "Pete" Duhon Sr. on string bass and vocal. Whether Pete Duhon was a relative of Edwin Duhon is not clear. 

I know,

My little girl,

You're over there in the forest, all alone,

I'm going into the big forest,

I'm going into the big forest,

With my girl.

Recorded for Bluebird in New Orleans in 1938, "Dans Le Grand Bois" (#2059) reflects the influence of non-Cajun music, particularly country and western swing. Pete/Edwin Duhon's lead vocal includes the distinctive vocal yelp towards the end of each line, so often associated with Cajun music.1  By 1947, Luderin would be contacted by DeLuxe records to re-record the tune.  This time, the band added Grover Heard on lead guitar, original member Edwin Duhon on bass,  Lefty Boggs on drums, Gary Major on sax, and Neil Roberts on trumpet. According to Henry Wright, a fellow old time music enthusiast:
The...lyrics seem to evoke a visit or a date in the woods.  To me this suggest the singer is telling us about a date or rendez-vous with a woman in a secluded spot, perhaps in or near the bayou, taking into account that it is a Cajun song.1

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 8: The Hackberry Ramblers - Early Recordings 1935-1948 (Old Timey, 1988)
Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 4 (Revenant, 2000)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
American Folk Music, Vol. 1 (Classic, 2009)
American Folk Stories (Shami Media, 2014)
The Pioneers of Country, Vol. 3 (Shami Media, 2014)
Folk in America, Vol. 2 (Shami Media, 2015)

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Rayne Special" - Joe Falcon

Joe Falcon grew up in the prairies north of Rayne, Louisiana.  Rayne is a town seated between Crowley and Lafayette in south Louisiana.  It was known for it's large frog exporting industry in the first half of the 20th century.  Growing up there, he learns to play the accordion as a child:

When I was seven years old, we begged our daddy to go to Lafayette. First we begged him to get us an accordion.  We couldn't play it in the house so we went to the barn and started playing it in the barn.4  

Most of his childhood involved helping his father and his uncles farm sugarcane.   Sugar syrup mills in the area were big business.

John Falcon, Abel and also my daddy, Pierre Falcon.  They all had syrup mills.  They all raised sugar cane.4  

Dis, mon neg, dis donc quand même, 

Mais, cher tit nèg mais, malheureux. 

Dis jamais, mais toi mon neg, 
Tu connais mais, moi je m’en vas. 

Comment j'vas faire, mais, toi mon neg, 
Comment j'vas faire, mais oui, mon neg, 
Tu connais, cher tit nèg, 
Dis pas ça à ton cher vieux nég.

Moi j’espère, oui mon nèg, 
Tu connais bien mais malheureuse, 
Si jamais, oui mon nèg, 
Si jamais, z-as toi de faire. 

Faudra que j’men vas, mais oui mon nèg, 
Faudra que j’men vas, mais tu connais, 
Oui mon nèg, mais, ça c’est dur,
Pour moi partir mais tout seul.
Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon

In Joe's song, clearly the love interest is no longer interested; declining his offer for either a hand in marriage or just plane uninterested. Rayne was a rural farm community, originally called Pouppeville.  Shortly after the Civil War, French immigrant Monsieur Jules Pouppe established a small mercantile store adjacent to the stagecoach line “exchange station” on the long-established Old Spanish Trail (OST) which trekked westward from New Orleans across the great prairie of SW Louisiana into Texas.1  However, since he realized the town was too far south, he used oxen to move the houses and buildings near present-day Rayne.   The Louisiana Western Railroad built the Rayne station in 1880 and three years later, named it after the railroad engineer who laid the track, B.W.L. Rayne.2  

By 1934, Joe and his wife Cleoma had left Rayne, settled in Crowley and were playing music across south Louisiana.   They left that winter to record in New York City where they waxed the "Rayne Special" (#17006) for Decca records.  The duo remained living in Crowley, mainly because Cleoma preferred the city life rather than Joe's meager rural homestead area of north Rayne.   However, it didn't stop him from trying to raise a small farm in the backyard of their Crowley home.   For Joe, Rayne would always be considered his home. 

Said it, my friend, said it nonetheless,

Well, my dear little friend, well, oh my,

You shouldn't have said that, well, my friend,
You know, well, I'm going.

How will I do this, well, you, my friend,
How will I do this, well, yeh, my friend,
You know, my dear little friend,
Don't say that to your dear old man.

I'm waiting, yes, my friend,
You understand well, well oh my,
If you ever, yeh my friend,
If you ever have to go through this.

I'll have to go, well yeh, my friend,
I'll have to go, well, you know,
Yes, my friend, well, it's hard,
For me to leave all alone. 

By the start of WWII, Decca changed their label from the "sunburst" blue to what's referred to as the "cursive" black based on the logo and color change.  Records produced during the war (from either shellac sources bought openly on the market or from shellac reserve) had a scripted logo colored in black and gold lettering.3

  4. Lauren Chester Post Papers, Mss. 2854, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi
  5. Lyrics by Stephane F


Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Cajun Music, The Pretty Girls Don't Want Me (Firefly, 2012)
Cajun Swamp Stomp, Vol 1 (Lumi, 2012)
The Very Best of Cajun: La Stomp Creole, Vol. 1 (Viper, 2016)