Saturday, February 24, 2018

"Shamrock Waltz" - Nathan Abshire

Nathan Abshire was a musician that helped ressurect the Cajun accordion after WWII.  He recorded for George Khoury in Lake Charles for years between 1949 and 1957.  Eventually, Khoury—who was also now recording rhythm and blues and country music—shifted Abshire to the Lyric and then the Khoury imprint. Abshire recorded for Khoury until 1956, cutting several classics including “La Valse de Holly Beach,” “Musical Five Special” “Lu Lu Boogie” and “Shamrock Waltz.” Abshire didn’t record in the late 1950s, but he and Pine Grove Boys stayed busy, working for several years at the infamous Shamrock Club in Lake Charles. His melody, previously recorded by Lionel Cormier as the Welcome Club Waltz, was an ode to this popular dancehall.

Tu m'a quitté, pour t'en aller,

T'en aller au Shamrock,
Tu connais ça t'as fais,
Avec moi il y a pas longtemps.

Ils rappelle, tout ça t'as fais,
Ça fais moi (z)avant d'partir,
Tu connais j'ai pris ça dur,
Pas connais, tu vas te voir.

Milton Vanicor recalls that, while he was playing with Iry Lejeune, many times Nathan Abshire and Dewey, after playing at Jones Bar north of Lake Charles, would come to the Shamrock Club in north Lake Charles and play until 1:00 a.m. The two groups would join in a jam session everyone enjoyed.3 Around 1965, Jo-El Sonnier moved to Lake Charles from his Acadia Parish home and played with Robert Bertrand and the Louisiana Ramblers at the Shamrock.  The place featured other Cajun musicians such as Phil Menard and Bobby Leger.4  They played the Shamrock Club, the hot-spot at the time, as well as other local clubs.”2  Bands that were featured at the Shamrock advertised via radio many times from the dancehall's stage with a live performance.4  One local remembered it most out of all the other clubs:
I believe the Shamrock was the very largest. The walls breathed in and out on Friday and Saturday nights at that place.
Shamrock Club
Larry Miller, Cleveland "Cat" Deshotel,
Nathan Abshire, Thomas Langley,
Jr. Benoit

Photo from the Johnnie Allan Collection
Center for Louisiana Studies
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Celebrating his success at the club, Nathan recorded one of his last songs for Khoury in Lake Charles in 1956 known as the "Shamrock Waltz" (#652).  It's possible the vocalist is drummer Thomas Langley, but it's unclear.  He had Junior Benoit on guitar, possibly Cleveland Deshotel on either fiddle or bass, and either Darius LeBlanc or Jake Miere on steel guitar.
You have left, you went away,
You went away to the Shamrock,
You know what you've done,
With me, over there, not long ago.

They remember, all that you've done,
That was done to me, before leaving,
You know I took it hard,
Don't you know, you're going to see.

By the mid-1950s, many Cajuns had relocated from Southwestern Louisiana to points as remote as New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Morgan City, Houston, Beaumont and even California in search of employment. They enjoyed their newly found wealth, but they still loved their food, culture and music. As a result Abshire and the Pine Grove Boys started traveling to dances far from home.  Eventually Khoury began recording rhythm and blues and country music, however, kept his music store open for business.  As far as the building, patrons had fond memories of the place:
Parking was tight. The club was a long narrow building parallel to the highway. On the other side was a chain link fence about 3 or 4 feet from the building. On the other side of the fence was a grave yard. People would say "When I die I won't have far to go".5
In 1968, Nathan used the title "Shamrock" for a fast accordion-driven instrumental, similar in feel to the better known "Zydeco Sont Pas Sale". 

  3. Louisiana Fiddlers by Ron Yule
  4. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  5. Discussions with Jerry M
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

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