Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Ma Chere Basett" - J.B. Fuselier

My Dear Little Woman! From the mid-1930's, J.B. Fuselier was a leading fiddle pioneer of Cajun music.  The height of his success was in the Cajun stringband era, from 1935 to 1942.  During that time period, he and Preston Manuel recorded "Ma Cher Bassett" for Bluebird records.  Initially, Fuselier was the fiddler in Miller's Merrymakers, let by Beethoven Miller. But Fuselier's talent quickly had him leading the band, and when Miller left the group, the act's name changed to J.B. Fuselier and His Merrymakers.

Yeah man.

Chere catin, tu m'as dit tu m'aimais,

Aujourd'hui, moi, je peux voir c'est pas crai,

C'etat tous des accroires tu me faisais.

Yeah man.

Et, c'est la maniere, j'ai jamais pu te t'arreter.

Moi, je croyais dans mon coeur,
Que je t'avais avec moi,
Aujourd'houi moi je vois c'est une erreur.
Et, chere, j'ai jamais pu t'empecher.

Tu voudrais t'en revenir,
A ma maison, chere bassette,
Moi, je fais tout qu'est a faire pour toi-meme.
Desbra Fontenot, J.B. Fuselier, 
Norris Courville, Preston Manuel
Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan & the 
Center for Louisiana Studies, 
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

"My Dear Short Girl" is probably the most well known songs by Jean Baptiste Fuselier.   It was written for one of his wives, Regina Fontenot, and by far his greatest Cajun hit.1,2  Fellow musician Tonice Lafleur played with J.B. and recalled the song:
He named it after her.  I drove the car to Cottonport and he practiced it in the back seat of the car.3
Many numbers by Fuselier contained the words "Ma Chére" in the title such as "Ma Chére Catain", "Ma Chére Jolite", "Ma Chére Vieux Maison Suet", and "Ma Chére Bouclett" and "Ma Chér Joui Rouge".  "Chére" and "chér" itself is a corrupted form of the French word "chérie" which means "dear", commonly used as a term of endearment.   The vocalist is not quite identified however, J.B played the fiddle and Preston Manuel played guitar. Preston recalled the song:
We made "Chere Bassette, Ou Toi T'es" for his wife who was given this nickname because she was very short.3  
Dear doll, you told me you loved me,
Today, I can see it's not true,
It is all believed you did this to me.

And, it's always been this way, I never could stop you.

I thought in my heart,
That I had you with me,
Today, I see it's a mistake,
And, dear, I could never make you stop.

You wanted to come back,
To my house, dear short girl,
I'd do all that's necessary for you.

  1. The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Ann Savoy.
  2. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux  
  3. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
Louisiana Cajun Music, Vol. 3: The String Bands of the 1930's (Old Timey, 1971)
Cajun String Bands: The 1930s: "Cajun Breakdown" (Arhoolie, 1997)

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