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 American Statesman
Jul 30, 1951

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
Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 4: From The 30s To The 50s (Old Timey, 1972)
Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)

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