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.






  1. http://www.discogs.com/artist/2522099-Leroy-Broussard
  2. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=14306583
  3. http://www.texasmonthly.com/travel/music-clubs/
  4. https://30daysout.wordpress.com/2008/10/26/rock-moment-clifton-chenier/
  5. Way Down In Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop Music
  6. http://www.texasmonthly.com/travel/music-clubs/
  7. http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Famed-club-s-owner-blocks-demolition-1477664.php
  8. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  9. Lyrics by Stephane F

Find:
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.
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2004/mar/21/popandrock4
  3. Cajun Dancehall Heyday.  Louisiana Folklife Journal Vol 37. (2013).  Ron Yule
Find:
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.
  2. http://www.uprootedmusicrevue.com/2012/03/record-collector-executive-producer.html
  3. http://www.thewire.co.uk/audio/tracks/stream-tracks-from-the-tompkins-square-aimer-et-perdre-compilation
  4. Vinyl Asides Episode 8 - Christopher King
  5. http://musicrising.tulane.edu/discover/people/452/Breaux-Cleoma

Find:
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



  1. http://www.offbeat.com/articles/harry-choates/
  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
Find:
Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)