Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Le Blues De Petit Chien" - Breaux Brothers

By 1929, the Breaux Brothers were following in the footsteps of their sister, Cleoma.   They were recording tunes for major labels and playing music alongside many other musicians throughout the countryside prairies.  In June of 1934, John Avery Lomax began touring the Cajun prairies in search of musicians to record for the Library of Congress.  He found the Breaux Brothers in Crowley and setup his portable recording machine, probably at one of their homes.   There, he recorded a tune with the brothers on fiddle, accordion and guitar.  You can make out the bluesy rhythm backed by the first line of English vocals "Let me be your little dog, mama, till your big dog come".   Apparently the recording cuts the song short, but does demonstrate the brother's abilities to sing and play the blues.   Lomax entitled it "Little Dog Blues".1,2 

Oh, laisse moi être ton p'tit chien

Jusqu'à le gros chien vient.

Oh, laisse moi être ton p'tit chien

Jusqu'à le gros chien vient.

Là je voulais t'dire 'tite fille
Tout ça ton gros chien t'a fait.

Oh 'yoù t'as resté hier au soir?
Oh 'yoù t'as resté hier au soir?
T'as des cheveux tous mêlés,
Et ton linge te fait pas bien.

Oh moi j'ai peur, ton père est après filer.
Oh moi j'ai peur, ton père est après filer.
Si t'as pas un père,
Tout à perdre d'un bord.

1934 Lomax Session Notes
The sexual innuendo is obvious, especially in the insinuation that the lover is actually a whore, leaving for the night, coming back with her clothes all tattered.   According to French musician Marc Chaveau, the term is even more scandalous:

Petit Chien, or "little dog", is sometimes used to refer to a [male] prostitute. 
By October that year, the Breaux Brothers (known as Breaux Freres), left for San Antonio and re-recorded the tune "Le Blues De Petit Chien" (#03053), this time in it's complete form for Vocalion Records and in their native Cajun French.   It is this song that most likely became the main inspiration for the Nathan Abshire's melody in "Pine Grove Blues".3 
Oh, let me be your little dog,
Until the big dog comes,
Oh, let me be your little dog,
Until the big dog comes,
I wanted to tell you, little girl,
All that your big dog has done.

Oh, where were you sleeping last night?
Oh, where were you sleeping last night?
You have your hair all messed up,
And your clothes are not good. 

Oh, I'm afraid your father has taken off,
Oh, I'm afraid your father has taken off,
If you have no father,
You'll lose everything over the edge.

The Breaux's last verse is quite confusing and mysterious.   In one version, the returned lover is being told her father has fled and she might lose her mind.  In another interpretation, there's no father at all.  He's interpreted as "Oh, moi j’ai faim, t’as fait ça pour m’quitter, si t’as pas de cœur, tout à perdre d'un bord" meaning he's hungry, wondering why she left him and that he's going to lose his mind. 

According to author Josh Caffery, the fact that the Breaux brothers performed an English version for a folkloric collection and a French one for a commercial recording could be because record companies were marketing to a French speaking region and Lomax saw this sort of music commercialized enough to only want it sung in English; a version of the song he may have considered "more authentic".3



  1. http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.afc.afc9999005.27151/default.html
  2. http://www.lomax1934.com/little-dog-blues.html
  3. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  4. Lyrics by Marc C and Bryan L
Find:
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

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