Monday, June 19, 2017

"B.O. Sparkle Waltz" - Leroy Broussard

Leroy Broussard started playing at eight, professionally at fifteen and worked with Chester Issac "Pee Wee" Broussard and the Melody Boys, and Cleveland Crochet.  The son of Ulysses and Clotilde Broussard, both musicians (accordion), he would steal his father's accordion to practice and learned to play without his father knowing. 
Oh, comment j'vas faire, bébé,
Oh, je suis moi tout seul, 'tite fille,
Oh, t'es aprés me quitter pour t'en aller,
Oh, comment j'vas faire, bébé.

Oh, mais, moi j'voudrais, 'tite fille. 
Oh, mais, tu t'en viens, bébé.
Oh, oui, me rejoindre Chez B.O.,
Oh, pour un bon temps, bébé.

Leroy Broussard
When he was ten, the family moved to Winnie, Texas and a few years later, at about fifteen, he started to play professionally with local Cajun bands. In the early 1940s he moved back to Louisiana and joins "Pee Wee" Broussard's band, The Melody Boys. It was just a few years later that he formed his own group, The Happy-Go-Lucky Band. By the mid 1940s he is back in Texas playing music and managing B.O.'s Sparkle Club in Bridge City, Texas.  It just across the Rainbow Bridge over the Neches River from Port Arthur. It was an old dance hall with wooden floors and an oyster-shell parking lot.4

The club was named after it's original owners, Alfred Elie "A.E." Billeaud (pronounced "BEE OHH") and his wife Lula Ola Armstrong Billeaud of Port Arthur, TX.  Their family had it's origins from Broussard, Louisiana but left with many Cajuns to the Golden Triangle area of Texas for better job opportunities in the oilfields.  By the 1940s, the Billeaud's settled in the small town of Bridge City and opened up B.O's Sparkle Club with a relative Walter Billeaud managing the nearby movie theater.  By the 1950s, Leroy and his relative, Bill Broussard, were running the place. 
Oh, how am I going to handle this, baby?
Oh, I'm by myself, little girl,
Oh, you're leaving me to go away,
Oh, how am I going to handle this, baby?

Oh, well, I'd like to, baby,
Oh, well, come to you, baby,
Oh, yes, join me at B.O.'s place,
Oh, for a good time, baby.

By 1957, Leroy and his group recorded the "B. O. Sparkle Waltz" on Eddie Shuler's Goldband label. It was a song that had some influences from Cleoma Breaux's "Pin Solitaire".   His group featured himself on accordion, Freeman Hanks on fiddle, Robert Thibodeaux on drums and Charlie Babineaux on guitar. Just listening to Leroy belt out the vocals, one can understand why this is one of the most difficult songs for Cajun singers. 

Sadly, around that same year, the original building burnt down and by 1958, C.G. "Tiny" Richardson rebuilt it and renamed it the Sparkle Paradise club.  He gave it a dash of honky-tonk glamour. He booked Cajun, country, zydeco, and R&B acts, including legends like Lesa Cormier, Clifton Chenier, Fats Domino, and Freddy Fender, until the Paradise closed in the late eighties.6  He reopened it again in 1999 but in 2005, Hurricane Rita damaged the place beyond repair.   In 2006, although he kept trying to raise the money, the city refused to allow Richardson re-open the famous place, threatening to demolish it themselves.  In a desperate attempt, Tiny used trailers and a truck to keep a wrecking crew from razing the building but to no avail.7  Bassist "Jumpin' Joe" Morris remembered the place:
Oh man, it was a huge club. It was really huge. And everybody would turn out. People were like, you know, on the bandstand, we were standing high over and it would look like, you know, ants, there were so many people that was there.5

As for Leroy, by the late 1950s, he was in Louisiana again working for the city of Lafayette where he retired after fifteen years due to disability. He would later record for Lee Lavergne's Lanor Records.  August Broussard would later re-record the tune for Swallow Records.

  5. Way Down In Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop Music
  8. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  9. Lyrics by Stephane F

Cajun Dance Tunes Vol.2 (Goldband, 1989)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Une Pias Ici Une Pias La Bas" - Hackberry Ramblers

"A Dollar Here And A Dollar There".  The Hackberry Ramblers were formed just as the Great Depression was taking a toll on the music industry and south Louisiana people's lives. Fiddle player Luderin Darbone and accordionist Edwin Duhon created the two-man core of The Hackberry Ramblers, formed in the Louisiana town of the same name in 1932.  Darbone and Duhon's musical progress has reflected both the ebb and flow of Cajun music, and its melding with all kinds of musical forms: country, the jazz-tinged form known as western swing, and a palpable black influence.2   

Though such eloquence suggests a masterful command of English, both men came to it as a second language, having spent their early childhood speaking French. 

When I started school, I couldn't speak English. There were two of us like that; we sat at a little red table. They had an outhouse in those days, they didn't have a toilet inside - and when the kids' hands went up 'cos they wanted to go, we didn't know what they were saying. So by 11 o'clock, I was peeing on the floor. The first English word I learned was when the teacher grabbed us: "Gotcha." She beat us black and blue. Knocked the hell out of us.2

Quand j'ai eu vingt et un ans,

Mon pere m'a dit que j'etais dedans.

C'est l'heure que t'arretes de depenser,

Une piastre ici, une piastre la-bas.

Ca s'fait, moi, j'ai marie une chere petite fille,
Une des filles que moi j'aimais,
Asteur, je connais ca vas etre,
Une piastre ici, une piastre la-bas.

Ma petite femme ellese peut faire du linge,
Du linge pour un bebe,
Et la, je connais ca va etre,
Une piastre ici, une piastre la-bas.

Floyd Shreve, Luderin Darbone,
Danny Shreve, Claude "Pete" Duhon

The Hackberry Ramblers were known to cover some traditional French tunes such as "Jolie Blonde" but also perform new compositions such as "Une Pias Ici Une Pias La Bas", a song which sows what it means to live in a money-based economy caught in the throes of the Great Depression.  It was one of the many songs Luderin wrote himself.3 The "une piastre" is the most common Cajun term for a dollar, though "un dollar" is sometimes used.  "Ça s'fait" is a very common term which might be translated literally "thus", but is used as "and so".1

Recorded at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans in 1938, the group assembled band members Danny Shreve on guitar, Floyd Shreve on guitar, Claude "Pete" Duhon on bass,  and Luderin Darbone on fiddle and vocals.  The group not only recorded for Bluebird throughout the 1930s, they found other ways to keep the money flowing in by playing routinely on KVOL radio station based in Lafayette, Louisiana.  Throughout the song, at the end of each verse, the band jumped in together to repeat "une piastre ici, une piastre la-bas", highlighting their mutual feelings about where their money really goes.
Rayne Tribune
Feb 19, 1937

When I turned twenty-one,

My father told me what I had to do,

It's time to stop spending,

A dollar here, a dollar there.

So I married a dear little girl,
One of the girls I loved,
Now, I know it's going to be,
A dollar here, a dollar there.

My little woman, she can make clothes,
Clothes for a baby,
And now, I know it's going to be,
A dollar here, a dollar there.
"Une Pias" was later sold to someone in Finland and they used it in an advertisement.  Luderin notes:
I never did hear the song they made, but they paid us over $4,000.3

  1. Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 3.  Liner notes.
  3. Cajun Dancehall Heyday.  Louisiana Folklife Journal Vol 37. (2013).  Ron Yule
Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 3: The String Bands Of The 1930s (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1971)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Aimer Et Perdre (To Love And Lose)" - Joe Falcon

Joe Falcon and Cleoma Breaux were the first authentic Cajun musicians from South-West Louisiana to record commercially. Guitarist and singer Cléoma is a major historic and pioneering figure in the evolution of South Louisiana music. The popularity of their recordings opened the door for further commercial recording of Cajun and Creole music. Columbia and its competitors were solely focused on making money in the vernacular/ethnic music market. Cultural preservation, obviously, was never a consideration for them. Nevertheless these corporations did function as defacto documentarians. They captured a snapshot in musical time – the transitional period when an isolated, self-contained community began interacting with mass communication, as recently created by the ascendance of two synergistic new industries: records, and radio broadcasting.5

In 1929, they recorded a love song called "Aimer Et Perdre (To Love And Lose)" for Columbia records (#40513).  Their Columbia years lasted until the Great Depression.   Afterwards, riding on their local fame, they performed and recorded, rather prolifically, until Cleoma's untimely death in 1941. Joe and many other Cajuns mourned her passing.The melody would influence Leo's "Ma Chere Tite Fille" and "La Valse de la Rosa".  Later, it shows up in Nathan Abshire's "Cher Tit Monde".

Oh, cher 'tit monde, moi j't'aimais,
J't'ai perdu par roulailler les grands chemins,
Regarde donc voir quoi j'ai fait avec moi-même, cher,
Moi j'te regrette, jolie fille,
T'es mignonne oui pour moi,
Oui pour moi, mais t'oublier mais comme j'ai fait,
Regarde donc voir, cher, t'es mignonne
Oui, pour moi, joli coeur malheureux,
Et Bon Dieu ta belle figure que moi j'aime tant, cher,
Plutôt c'est moi, mais s'en aller,
J'vais parler avec ta maman.

Oh, cher 'tit monde, ah yé yaille,
Jongle à moi, malheureux,
Tu vas attraper ça t'as fait y' a pas longtemps, cher,
Oui, t'auras des regrets, tu vas voir toi t'en as.

Oh, tous les belles filles d'la Ville Platte, mais sont mignonnes,
Mais j'sais pas quoi y a avec eux,
Oh j'les sent' si vaillantes et si adorables,
Y en n'a pas un' qui veut de moi,
Moi j'sais pas si c'est moi,

Si c'est moi qu'est malchanceux dans la Ville Platte.

Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon
By Robert Crumb
According to record producer Chris King, the recording made him reconsider other Americana music at an early age:
It wasn't until high school that I had this discovery of a stack of 78s at my grandparents farm which contained almost a reflection of what I have in my own collection which is Washington Phillips, Blind Willie Johnson, but it also had "Aimer Et Perdre", this Cajun lost love song by Joe and Cleoma Falcon in there and it got me very interested in what music was outside of the American vernacular.4
There are loose similarities to Leo Soileau's Grand Mamou.   It creates a simultaneous feeling of joy and despair from the singular human emotion of love, and all the consequences that follow.2

Oh dear little world, I loved you,

I lost you by rambling along the highways,

Look what I have done with myself, dear,

I miss you, pretty girl,

You're cute for me, 

You're cute for me, but to forget you as I did,

Look, dear, you're cute,

Yes for me, unhappy sweetheart,

And Good Lord, your pretty face I love so much, dear,

Instead it's me who's going,

I'm going to talk to your mama.

Oh dear little world, ah yé yaille,
Think about me, unhappy one,
Before long, you're going to pay for what you did, dear,
Yes you will have regrets, you'll see, you will have some.

Oh all the pretty girls in Ville Platte are cute,
But I don't know what's the matter with them,
I feel they 're so nice and lovable
There's not one who wants me
I don't know if it's me,

If it's me who's unlucky in Ville Platte.

It's because of these early years of work done by Columbia and other labels we are given the chance to hear the Cajun music of the era.  Over the following years, other labels and projects remastered the music giving these songs new life.  In 2012, Chris King released a CD on Tompkins Square entitled "Aimer Et Perdre: To Love & To Lose Songs, 1917-1934".   In 2017, the duo was featured in the television film "American Epic".

  1. Aimer Et Perdre: To Love & To Lose Songs, 1917-1934.  Liner notes.
  4. Vinyl Asides Episode 8 - Christopher King

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 1: First Recordings - The 1920's (Old Timey, 1970)
Cajun Vol. 1 Abbeville Breakdown 1929-1939 (Columbia, 1990)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Aimer Et Perdre: To Love & To Lose Songs, 1917-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2012)

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Austin Special" - Harry Choates

Considered his last recording session ever, in the spring of 1951, Harry Choates had put together a string of musicians containing Lucky Ford, Lloyd Baker and Junior Keelan.  By this point, he had gotten kicked out of the union and his old band members had enough of his alcoholism affecting their performances. His habit of missing concerts led him to be blacklisted by the musicians union in San Antonio and resulted in his band breaking up. He recorded four more tunes and Bob Tanner used his San Antonio pressing plant to distribute them on his Allied label.

Allons, aller dans ce grand Texas, oh mais, chère chérie,
On va avoir un bon temps, moi et toi,
Eh, petite, oh mais, quoi ta fais,
Te ma laisse, pour t'en aller, en grosse, grand Texas.

Moi, j't'aime toi te meme moi, oh mais, chère chérie,
Eh, petite, moi, j'connais ça pas longtemps,

Quoi ta fais, z-avec moi, mais, moi, j'connais, petite,
Te ma laisse, mais, moi tout seul, les autre on s'entend(?) que ça,
Eh, chere, chere cherie, quoi ta fais, comme ça,

Moi, j'connais ca fais pitie, mais, chère chérie, petite.
The Town Talk
Jul 18, 1951

What happened next is shrouded in mystery.  From various press accounts around Austin, TX, according to Bob Pinson of the Country Music Foundation Library, the following is probably what took place.  In July of 1951, Harry was performing at several dance halls in the Austin area.  On Saturday, July 14, he was scheduled to play at Dessau Hall near Austin. It was an old hall, built in 1876 by German immigrants in the area whom originated from Dessau, Germany.  It featured many music artists such as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline.2 However, he was arrested that day and held without bail on a warrant from Jefferson County, where he was charged with contempt of court in a wife and child desertion case.  
Harry Choates at Dessau Hall
Austin, TX

Let's go, going to big Texas, oh well, dear darling,
We're going to have a good time, me and you,
Eh, little one, oh well, what you've done,
You left me, to go away, into big, big, Texas.

I love you, same with me, oh well, dear darling,
Eh, little girl, I know that it won't be long.

What you've done, with me, well, I know, little girl,
You left me, well, all alone, the others agree with that,
Eh, dear, dear darling, what you've done, like that,
I know that it's pitiful, well, dear darling, little girl.
The Shreveport Times
Aug 1, 1951

He died on July 17th in a Travis County jail cell, only 30 minutes before the arrival of Chief Deputy Sherriff T.O. Grant of Jefferson County, who was to return Choates to Beaumont.  The Travis County Sheriff's office reported that Choates had been extremely nervous since his arrest and fellow prisoners reported that he got very ill.  By the time an ambulance arrived, however, he was dead.3 

Austin Special - 1951 - Allied

  2. Image by Museum of the Gulf Coast
  3. Harry Choates: Fiddle King of Cajun Swing. Liner notes.
  4. NOTE: Krazy Kat #KK-CD 22 lists "Saturday Night Waltz" and "Austin Special" in reverse.
  5. Lyrics by Jordy D and Stephane F
Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Two Step De Te Momou" - J.B. Fuselier

It's one of Jean Baptiste Fuselier's more obscure tunes.   Not to be confused with Lawrence Walker's "Mamou Two Step", this tune was recorded among a slew of string band songs during the later part of the Cajun string-band era.   Misspelled version of "Tit Mamou", "Two Step De Te Momou" (#2079)  was an ode to the town of Mamou, Louisiana, not far from where J.B. was living.  The small group consisted of  Fuselier on fiddle and vocals, Preston Manuel on guitar, and probably M.J. Achten on guitar.

Oh, Mamou!

Oh chère, moi, je m’en vas dans ‘tit Mamou,
C’est pour voir, oh yaille, les jolies p‘tites filles.

Ohh, comment je vas faire là béb?

Oh chère, comment tu crois je peux faire?
Tu m’as quitté, moi tout seul, à ma maison, jolie.

Ohh ye yaille comment tu veux que je faire, jolie,
Ohh dans ma maison, jolie?
Crowley Daily Signal
Nov 18, 1949

One of the best-known lineups of the Merrymakers consisted of J.B. on fiddle, Desbra Fontenot on steel, Norris Courville on drums, and Preston Manuel on guitar.  Fiddler Varise Connor knew J.B. fairly well and played with him often, but after the Depression, money became an issue.  He recalled:
Back then, the Great Depression was so bad that they couldn't pay us enough to play dances.  You weren't guaranteed a fixed price, you had to play for a certain percentage of the money paid at the door.  I worked hard all the time, all the time.  When I stopped playing dances, that's when I started my saw mill.  I told J.B. "If you want to play your life for nothing, go ahead.  I quit."2   
Crawford Vincent sometimes sat in on the drums after J.B. moved to Lake Charles.1

Oh, Mamou!

Oh dear, I'm going to little Mamou,
It's to see, oh yaille, the little pretty girls,

Oh, how am I going to handle this, baby?

Oh dear, how do you think I can handle this?
You left me all alone at my house, pretty one.

Oh ye yaille, how will I do this, pretty one,
Oh, at my house, pretty one?

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
  2. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"One Step des Chameaux" - Dennis McGee and Amede Ardoin

One of the earliest Cajun recording artists covering one of the most well recognized melodies in the area.  The tune was recorded by white fiddler Dennis McGee and black accordionist Amédé Ardoin in New Orleans in November of 1930. The pair would play for dances in both white and black communities.  Originally recorded for Brunswick (#559) in 1930, it was re-issued in 1943 as part of their "Collectors Series" (#80083).   Also listed as "One Step a Chaumont", Ardoin's voice is sturdy and direct, yet permeated by sadness. According to author Nate Knaebel, when at its most forlorn, it creates a stirring juxtaposition with the peppy instrumentation beneath it, while never encumbering the forward drive of the song.5 

O, maman, catin,toi, comment je vas faire ? 

Na porte o je vas, mon coeur me fait du mal, jolie. 

O, dis, ouais,tite fille,toi comment je vas faire 

O,ouais, a me fait de la peine, j'oubliais, a toi t’après me faire. 

O, moi, j'aurais le courage, ouais, de pas me promener, jamais, 

Dabord tes misres tu me fais, je crois pas je merite, catin.

O, mais, toi, catin, toi, ouais, quand je vas chez toi, toi. 

Ta mom est jamais, jamais, donc, sa tis fait, tite fille.

Rappelle, donc, toi, catin, tite fille, quand j'etais chez toi, 

Le dimanche, aprs midi, a pas eu la peine, a me dire bonsoir et s'en aller.

The song refers to a girl in which the lover realizes "it's over".  He infers that her mom is "never satisfied".  Although the song's name directly translates to the English word "camel", author Raymond Francois notes that Chameaux is a family name around Basile, Louisiana.1  Ardoin occasionally used people names in his song titles, which could be the basis for the girl in this song.  McGee recalls:
Amede and I worked together. We worked for the same people. We were both sharecroppers. He played the accordion and I played the fiddle.  And the boss like music, so at night he would have us get together to play some.  I would play the fiddle and Amede woiuld play the accordion and we would both sing. Oscar Comeaux was the boss's name. He lived in Choupique. He really like our music. That's when Amede and I started playing together. We kept on playing together after that.3
Amede Ardoin

Eventually the song would become "Lake Charles Two Step", done by Nathan Abshire, Sidney Brown, Bois Sec Ardoin, Lawrence Ardoin, and many others.  Jimmy Newman renamed it as the "Fais Do Do Two Step" however musicians like Chuck Guillory and the Balfas kept the original name. 

Oh, mom, little doll, how will I handle this?

No matter where I go, I'm heartbroken, little doll.

Oh, say, yeah, little girl, how will I handle this?

Oh, yeah, it made me sad, forgotten, after you did this.

Oh, I have the courage, yeah, not to walk away, ever,

The first time you made me miserable, I don't think I deserved this, little doll.

Oh, however, you little doll, yeah, when I go to you, 

Your mom never, never satisfied, so it's over, little girl. 

Remember, little doll, little girl, when I was home,

On Sunday afternoon, there was no trouble, I had to say good night and leave.
Musician, Joe Hall, explains to author Sara Le Menestrel that musical differences between Cajun and Creole styles are impossible to characterize, arguing that the songs are the same, while qualifying one specific tune, "One Step du Chameau" as "pure Creole".4

  1. Ye Yaille Chere, Traditional Cajun Dance Music by Raymond E. François
  2. Images by Frank D
  3. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  4. Negotiating Difference in French Louisiana Music: Categories, Stereotypes ... By Sara Le Menestrel
Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 1: First Recordings - The 1920's (Old Timey, 1970)
I'm Never Comin' Back: The Roots of Zydeco (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Avalon Waltz" - Nathan Abshire

Nathan Abshire lived most of his early life in a small town north of Gueydan called Riceville.   After the war, he was approached by members of the Pine Grove dancehall house band, known as the Pine Grove Boys.   The accordion was back in the limelight and the owner, Quincy Davis, thought the addition would be good for business in his clubs.  By 1949, he was recording in the radio stations in Lake Charles under the direction of Virgel Bozman and George Khoury.  In 1950, Abshire moved to Basile, located on the Louisiana prairie on Highway 190: 
“What brought me here to Basile was music. You see, I came to play seven nights a week at the Avalon Club here in Basile. So my wife and I took this little house, and we’ve lived here ever since. We know lots of people here, and lots of people come from all over to visit.”
Nathan would play most of his nights at this club and adopted the name, the Musical Five.  According to author Lyle Ferbache, there were other clubs that had a long history in southwest Louisiana, and a few were older, but arguably none of them quite had the Avalon's pedigree. Leo Soileau, Happy Fats, Harry Choates and many others had all be featured at the Avalon during the peak of the string band years.  It was a place owned and managed by a rough and tumble "colorful and bombastic owner", John Quincy Davis.2  

Quincy Davis (right)

Davis served in the navy during WWI but got into trouble, serving a prison term. Legend has it that he escaped from Angola the first time, only to be recaptured after a statewide manhunt.  By 1937, he had converted a large, narrow barn in Basile into the Avalon Club.  Davis was a big man and if a fight broke out, it didn't take long for both parties to be outside.2   According to fiddler Will Kegley's daughter:
If Quincy got real mad, he would grab the troublemakers, knock their heads together, and run or drag them out the door.2

Hé, tite fille, rappelle-toi ça t'as fait,

Ouais z'avec moi, 'tit monde, il y a pas longtemps,
Et tant qu'à toi, 'tit fille, je veux pas de toi.

Hé, 'tite fille, moi j'ai été chez ton papa,
C'est pour demander, catin, ton mariage,
Mais, c'est trop dur, catin, pour toi, te marier.

Nathan's group played six out of seven days, alternating between both Quincy Davis’ clubs in Lake Charles, the Crystal Grill and the Broken Mirror in the evening, and on KPLC radio for a daily broadcast in the daytime.  By the time they recorded "Avalon Waltz" (#631) in 1953, his band contained Ernest Thibodeaux on rhythm guitar, Atlas Fruge steel guitar, Jim Baker on bass guiter, possibly Shelton Manuel or Ozide Kegley on drums, and Will Kegley or Cleveland "Cat" Deshotel on fiddle.  
Pervis Clement, Ronnie Goodreaux, Nathan Abshire
Ernest Thibodeaux (guitar on right, out of sight)

The Avalon was successful partially because Davis had crafted it, and the surrounding buildings, into a tourist attraction in which music was only one aspect.2  According to Bernella Fruge:
He had a zoo by the Avalon.  He had buses coming in. A lot of buses from Opelousas, New Iberia, Mamou.  Buses that would bring people from the country to the Avalon club. And his club had a restaurant, a saloon... the zoo had monkeys, snakes, I think one tiger...right on the side of the building.2 

Hey, little girl, remember what you've done,

Yeh, with me, little everything, not long ago,
And as for you, little girl, I don't want you.

Hey, girl, I've been to your dad's place,
It's to ask, little doll, your hand in marriage,
Well, it's too hard, little doll, for you to get married.

The Clement Brothers, who also recorded for Khoury at the same time as Nathan, loved Nathan's playing and went to the Avalon almost every week-end to hear him play and sit in once in awhile.  His Avalon Waltz can be found in the melody of Austin Pitre's "Redell Waltz".

  2. Louisiana Music by Lyle Ferbache and Andrew Brown
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Phoebe T and Matt D

Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Frisco" - Cleoma Breaux

Singer and guitarist Cleoma Breaux is remembered today for two major contributions to Cajun music. First, she and spouse Joe Falcon were responsible for the first recording ever made of Cajun music. In New Orleans in 1928, the couple recorded the song "Allons à Lafayette" for Columbia. Second, she was one of very few women of her day to perform Cajun music on-stage. The setting of a dancehall was considered improper, and a strong chance existed that a woman who sang there would be seen as immoral. Breaux overcame the stigma, possibly due to the fact that she mounted the stage with a man -- her husband -- at her side.1   By 1936, the group consisted of her husband Joe Falcon playing the accordion and family friend Moise Morgan playing the fiddle. 

Oh jeune fille, vient mettre ta meilleure robe,

On va aller prendre après de toi pour s’en aller loin,

On va s’en aller si loin, si loin comme mon cœur,
Rappelle-toi ça je t’ai dit, on va s’en aller si loin.

C’est pas la peine que toi tu t’ennuies,
On va s’en aller, ouais, à la maison, ouais béb,
On va s’en aller à la maison pour longtemps, petite fille,
C’est pas la peine que toi tu t’ennuies, mais ouais, chère petite fille.

Hé petite fille, oublie-donc pas, ouais chère,
Ça t’as fait ouais, il y a pas longtemps, oui béb,
Tu connais je méritais, oh, pas tout ça tu m’as fait,
Oublie-donc pas ton pauvre vieux nègre, oh ye yaille, ouais, malheureuse.
Gulf Coast Lines (Frisco)

While it's unsure the reason she chose the name Frisco for the song, it's most likely an ode to the rail line that ran from New Orleans to Brownsville, Texas which included passing along present-day HWY 190.  Small branches fed to stations in Eunice, Crowley and Lafayette.  The Gulf Coast Lines were chartered as subsidiaries of the Frisco Railroad.  The system became independent in 1916 and was purchased by the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1925.  

Oh young girl, just put on your best dress,

We're going to get you to get away,

We'll go so far, so far my sweetheart,
Remember that I told you, we'll go so far away.

It's not worth it, since you're bothered,
We're going to leave, yeh, to the house, yeh baby,
We're going to go home for a long time, little girl,
It's not worth it, since you're bothered, well yeh, dear little girl.

Hey little girl, do not forget, yeh dear,
That happened to you, not long ago, yeh baby,
You know I don't deserve all that you've done to me,
Do not forget your poor old man, oh ye yaille, yeh, oh my.
Frisco Depot
New Orleans, 1908

By the 1930s, Eunice, Crowley, and New Orleans all had Frisco rail depots.   It's quite possible Cleoma took this exact rail line to New Orleans that year to record this tune.  It could could easily have been on this railroad trip to the Decca session in which she wrote the lyrics to this song.

However, there's another probable origin to the song.   Frisco was also the name of a rough and tumble area south of a small town in Louisiana called Port Barre.   It was where dancehalls and saloons dotted the street and could easily have been a place where Joe and Cleoma played music.

  2. Lyrics by Jordy A

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Bayou Teche" - Columbus Fruge

Columbus Fruge recorded with his accordion for RCA Victor in 1929.   There, he recorded a song as an ode to the the Bayou Teche.  It's an old river that runs alongside the swamps of the Atchafalaya and drains into the Gulf of Mexico. "Bayou Teche" (#222184) talks about misery of a lover asking his love interest to leave her parents, settle along the bayou and make a home.   Many Acadians eventually found their home along the bayou and made a way of life farming it's fertile banks. 

Si t'aurais volu m'ecouter, chere, 

Toi tu s'rais au Bayou Teche avec ton neg, cherie.

T'as ecoute ton papa et ta maman, chere, 
Les embarase de ton papa et ta maman, chere.
T'es d'acord, ye yaille, si tu vas avec ton neg, 
Aujourd'hui, ye yaille.

Moi j'connais tu vas pleurer, t'lamenter, ye yaille,
Pour les miseres toi t'as après faire avec ton vieux neg, chere.

J'su parti m'en aller pour tu sois toi tout seule 
Dans les chemins a la traine avec ta valise, ye yaille.
Battle of Bayou Teche

The Acadian people first settled along this stream when transported to Louisiana, navigating it in light boats called pirogues.  But the name is still shrouded in mystery.  Bayou Teche is described by Raymond Francois as a "long, sluggish meandering stream" whose name comes from a Choctaw Indian word meaning "big snake." However, Teche river historian Shane Bernard believes this myth is outdated, claiming the local Indian tribes had other words for 'snake'.  Since the early 18th century the word had taken root and changed spellings across maps of both the French and the Spanish.   In his book about the bayou, he states:
Given the evidence provided in colonial documents and given all the rumored definitions of the word, it's most likely a word to describe the boundary for "Tejas", or Texas.2  
In Fruge's song, he uses the phrase "ye yaille".  "Yaille" is a word that doesn't translate well or at all.  It's possible origin is from the Spanish phrase "ah ya yaille" loosely meaning "Oh! Wow!"  Sometimes it comes out as an exuberant yell.  Other times, it conveyed a mixture of surprise, reproach, and resignation.

If you would have listened to me, dear, 

You would go to the Bayou Teche with your old man, dear.

You heard your dad and your mom, dear,
The kisses of your dad and your mom, dear.
You're right, ye yaille, if you go with your old man, 
Today, ye yaille,

I knew you were going to cry, you mourned, ye yaille,
For how miserable you are with your old man, dear.

I'm leaving to go with you all alone,
Along the road in the trails with your suitcase, ye yaille.

In the early part of the 18th century, Spain considered everything west of the Mississippi River to be Texas, including much of present-day southwest Louisiana.  It seems that many of the locals used the word 'Teche' as a marker for where Spanish lands were claimed.  However, the name lost it's meaning and by the 20th century, it had become a historic waterway for many of the Cajuns living along it's banks.   

  1. Ye Yaille Chere, Traditional Cajun Dance Music by Raymond E. François
  2. Teche: A History of Louisiana's Most Famous Bayou
  3. Lyrics by Raymond F
Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 1: First Recordings - The 1920's (Old Timey, 1970)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)