Friday, February 9, 2018

"Marie Buller" - Cleoma Breaux

Recorded in the summer of 1928 in New York, Cleoma Breaux's singing and guitar work took center stage once again during her performance of the driving valse à deux temps "Marie Buller" (#40502).  Her nasal vocal delivery, though at an uncomfortably low key for the singer, represented the first session to feature prominently a female Cajun vocalist.2 The melody has a slight similarity to her brother's recording of "Ma Blonde Est Partie" a year later.

The song is named after what was once a notoriously violent oil-field community, north of what now is called Mire/Bristol area, called Marais Bouleur.1,5   It lays about a mile from Lafayette Parish and across the road from the Acadia Parish line.  It was already a tough area when the discovery of oil compounded the problem by attracting Anglo-American drillers and roughnecks from Texas and Oklahoma.3  Breaux and Falcon frequented dancehalls in the area which were rough places to play. 

Tu m’as pris dans les bras d’ mon papa, 

D’ ma maman, tu m’as promis,

Je te soignais comme l’enfant de la maison,

Et c’est toi t’as pris, m’quitter moi toute seule.

Mon dieu sait y a pas eu qu’toi dans l’pays,

Mais y a eu qu’toi qu’mon petit cœur désirait d’avoir,

Pourquoi-donc j’ai écouté les conseils, tous les conseils de les autres,

Bon dieu sait j’lui dis toi,

Mais tout ça, ça t'après faire.

Tu voudrais t’en venir avec moi,
J’t’attendrai pour qu’tu sois qui m’appelle,
Bon dieu sait y a pas eu qu’toi dans le pays,
Mais y a eu qu’toi qu’mon petit cœur désirait d’avoir,
Ecoute pas tous les conseils,
C’est juste toi qu’moi je voudrais avec moi.

According to Rev. Donald Hebert, the name Marais Bouleur stems from a story about a horse name "Bouleur" who liked to roll in the mud of the swampy wetlands.  The swampy area, or "marais", remains wet most of the year.4  However, according to author Mary Alice Fontenot:
Some years ago, George Buller, at that time president of the St. Landry Police Jury, told me that his family name was once spelled "Buhler".  One of his ancestors, he said, owned a large tract of marshy land near Rayne, hence the name Marais Buhler, or Buller.  This sounds like a logical explanation, since the name Buller (or Buhler) would be pronounced "Bou-leur" by the Acadians.
Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon

An abundance of ruffians in the nearby Marais Bouleur made it virtually impossible to keep a dance hall open for any length of time (despite the best efforts of club owner Sully Babineaux and others), so folks from that area frequently came to Esta Hebert's hall in nearby Ossun and to Gérald Forrestier's hall in Vatican.  Referred to as "no-man's land", lawmen such as Martin Weber and Joe Hanks became famous for their unwavering maintenance of order in the dance halls around Marais Bouleur.3  

According to author Chere Dastugue Coen:
Weber had a habit of announcing his rules once at the beginning of the dance: No fighting, drinking, smoking, spitting, cussin, or wearing of hats in the hall.  If anyone had to fight, drink, smoke, spit, cuss, or wear a hat, he should go outside.  Mr. Weber did not repeat his rules.  He had a hardwood stick and used it liberally to break up fights and take off hats.3

Even some of the bad local men would make their presence known:
Supposedly some of these Marais Bouleur guys would do was wear a red handkerchief... the bandanna, such that when they would walk in a place, you'd say "Uh oh!".6  

You took me from the arms of my dad,

From my mom, you promised me,

I was treating you (well), like a child of the house,

And you took me, then left me all alone.

Good God knows there's no one other than you in the countryside,

Well, you were the only thing my little heart desired to have,

So why did I listen to the advice, all the advice of others,

Good God knows I told you,

Well, all that, that you've done.

You want to come with me,
I will wait for you, for you are calling me,
Good God knows there's no one other than you in the countryside,
Well, you were the only thing my little heart desired to have,
Don't listen to the advice of others,
It's just (that) I'd like you to be with me.
It wouldn't be until the 1940s before the first dance hall, Chez Petit Maurice, was able to remain open in the area.3  As far as the song is concerned, the reasoning behind Cleoma's title is unknown, however, it seems it has very little to do with the reputation of the area.  She sings about a common Cajun theme of being left alone, begging for the lover's return.  Over time, the Cajun term to refer to people that caused problems, kidnapping, and stealing, were called  "Marais Bouleurs".

  1. "Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times" By by Janet Allured and Judith F. Gentry
  2. "Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music" by Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. "Cajun Country (Folklife in the South Series)" By Barry Jean Ancelet
  4. Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana By Chere Dastugue Coen
  5. Discussions with Jerry M
  6. "Looking For Trouble". David Brasseaux.  (
  7. Lyrics by Stéphanie D

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 1: First Recordings - The 1920's (Old Timey, 1970)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)

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