Thursday, March 9, 2017

"Yes I Love You" - Harry Choates

Deviating slightly from traditional Cajun music, it should be noted that jazz influenced many of the Cajun musicians before WWII.   Harry Choates made such a name for himself with his fiddle that many don't realize his side musical abilities were with a guitar.   Having played guitar with Shelly Lee and his Alley Cats several years before the war, it's no surprise he'd eventually pick up his guitar again for a few recordings.    It's a rare glimpse of the jazz guitar stylings which Harry had relied upon before his famous fiddle tune "Jole Blon" took off.   

Joe and Abe Manuel had started the Melody Boys during the 1940s and brought along Joe's wife Johnnie Mae Smyrle as their pianist.  She's one of the few female musicians playing in a Cajun-style band at the time.  Because many women weren't considered very "lady-like" for playing in smoke-filled, drunken honky-tonk bars at the time, very few stepped up to play music into male-dominated groups like Johnny did.

Johnnie Ruth Manuel and
Harry Choates

Sometimes referred to as "I Love You, I Love You", Johnnie stepped away from the piano and sang a swingy version of the song entitled "Yes I Love You" (#1010) for Jimmy Mercer's "Cajun Classics" label in 1947.   Possibly recorded in Mercer's shop with Esmond Pursley on rhythm guitar and B.D. Williams on bass, he pressed the record in the studio building.   Occasionally, you can hear Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons on steel in the background.  Very little is known about her musical creativity and it's quite possible this recording is an original.

You know I tried so hard I can't seem to beget,

I'm so lost without you since you went away,

You say that you don't want me, but still I must sing,

I love you, I love you, yes, I love you.

Everyday together, keep making me blue,

Thought it would be better to find someone new,

With not a day I keep thinking of you,
Cause I love you, I love you, yes, I love you.

Over and over, I tried to forget,
I said I was through with romance,
I tried to tell my heart I won't worry or fret,
Maybe someday there maybe a chance, oh.

I'll keep right on hoping to (?) roll away,
I'll keep right on praying for that lucky day,
Hope will hold me tightly, darling and sing,
I love you, I love you, yes, I love you.

While his fine, Cliff Bruner-inspired fiddling dominated on records, many recalled Choates' fiery, Djangoesque swing guitar.  He once talked his way into sitting in on guitar with renowned (and countryphobic) west coast jazz bandleader Stan Kenton during a Texas show. Kenton and his sophisticated sidemen expected a laugh. Harry's soloing dazzled them instead.1

  2. Label scan by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Cajun and Creole Music Collection - Special Collections
Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Top 45 Classics: The Very Best Of Harry Choates (GRR Music, 2014)

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