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.
  3. Cajun Dancehall Heyday.  Louisiana Folklife Journal Vol 37. (2013).  Ron Yule
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)

1 comment:

  1. Wade, is there anything online as to what they used it in a advertisement for?


Got info? Pics? Feel free to submit.