Thursday, August 3, 2017

"Bayou Pom Pom One Step" - Angelas Lejeune

A mostly obscure artist, many of modern Cajun tunes can be traced back to some of the earliest recordings of musician named Angelas Lejeune.  Angelas Lejeune was a fantastic, skilled accordion player that played for friends and family.   Here, he sings about a mythical place called Bayou Pom Pom, made popular by the comedian Walter Coquille in the 1920s and 30s.   Also spelled Pon Pon, he named the tune after this location "Bayou Pom Pom One Step" (#370).   The song has become one of the most popular recorded Cajun songs since the 1950s. 
Oh, c’est malheureux, chère,
C’est malheureux de t'voir,

Oh, rappelle-toi bien la fois,
J’étais avec toi su l'pont,
Du Bayou Pon Pon, chere.

Oh, c'est malheureux de m'voir,
Comment j'suis là, aujourd'hui,
Tout l'temps dans la misère.

Oh, tout partout ou je peux aller,
Mais, où ça s'rassemble il faudrait,
Que je t'voye avec ton neg.

Oh, moi j'connais ca tout a l'heure,
Tu vas regretter tes accroires,
T’es après faire avec moi.

In 1929, Angelas recorded during a Brunswick/Vocolian session that lasted from Septempber 30th to October 2nd in New Orleans.  It was sponsored by an Opelousas newspaper that chose the trio to wax a few records.  Angelas Lejeune, Dennis Mcgee and Ernest Fruge borrowed an old fiddle folk tune called "Rubber Dolly" and converted it to "Bayou Pom Pom".    The phrase "pon pon" is most likely a play on the French word for "bridge", or "pont".   Therefore, the waterway is more or less named "Bridge Bayou". Attending the session on that day was commedian Walter Coquille, where he was slated to record part 3 of his "Mayor of Bayou Pom Pom" monologues.  It's most likely here where Angelas met Walter and decided to name the song after his fictional character.  The session also featured Cajun musicians Douglas Bellard and Leo Soileau with Moise Robin.  Moise recalls seeing Angelas and Douglas during his recordings:

 When I went over there, the last time I made a record in New Orleans with Leo Soileau, Angelas Lejeune, he made Bayou Pon Pon and I was there when he made Bayou Pon Pon. And there was a black [man], he made a record, Les Flammes D'enfer.
Oh, it's sad, dear,
It's unfortunate to see you,
After you went away.

Oh, remember the good times,
I was with you by the bridge,
Of Bayou Pon Pon, dear.

Oh, it's sad to see me,
How am I even here today?
I'm miserable all the time.

Oh, wherever I go, 
Wherever I run into you, 
I must see you with your man.

Oh, I know at this moment,
You're going to regret your lies,
Now that you're done with me.
Bayou PomPom Grocery
New Orleans, 1937

While the location of Bayou Pom Pom is not known, some have speculated it's located somewhere in Lafourche parish.  Legend has it that it lies north of Thibodaux, Louisiana near a community called Choupique.  

Modified iterations of "Pon Pon" can be found in Joe Falcon's "Osson One Step" and Adam Trahan's "Waltz Of Our Little Town".  Amede Ardoin also used it for his "Tortope d'Osrun" in 1934.   Angelas had become a mentor for Iry Lejeune.  Because Iry's parents had no money to buy an accordion, he used to visit Angelas' house almost every day to practice on his uncle's accordion while Angelas worked in the fields.   And so in 1953, with his recording career in full swing, Iry re-recorded the tune as "Bayou Ponpon Special".  

In 1951, Jimmie Davis along with Hank Williams recorded an English version of the tune.  Later, Austin Pitre would use some of the melody for his "High Point Two Step" and his "Janot Special". 

  2. Lyrics by Raymond Francois
Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 5: The Early Years 1928-1938 (Old Timey, 1973)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins, 2013)

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