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)

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