Friday, July 13, 2018

"Osson Two Step" - Lawrence Walker

In 1956, Cajun music was headed into a slump.   The most exciting accordion player of the time, Iry Lejeune, was gone and so was the the most influential Cajun swing player, Harry Choates.  Other Cajun artists like Nathan Abshire and Lawrence Walker kept the Cajun dancehall fire going but records sales weren't keeping up.   Record man Floyd Soileau saw an opportunity.   So in 1956, Soileau borrowed $500 from his parents to open Floyd’s Record Shop, a one-room, second-story office on the same floor as KVPI. 

After spending $50 for a phonograph and $300 for records, Soileau went to work selling the hits he played on the air as a deejay. Locals were soon standing in line after they heard the deejay in Ville Platte was selling records during his breaks. But when Soileau slapped a Christmas tape on the air during one of his breaks in July, the station manager told Soileau to make a decision–spin records or sell them. Soileau picked the recording and sales route, a decision that opened the doors of fate. Word spread that there was a record company in the most unlikely of places: Ville Platte.1 He stated:
And then word got out that somebody in Ville Platte was releasing French records again.   I say again because most--in fact, I think everybody, had stopped, they weren't selling enough French records.  Country music had come through and sorta swept around here and there was nobody interested in doing Cajun records anymore.  So we put that first record out. It sent the message that there was somebody releasing that kind of music again.2  
Jennings Daily News
Jul 2, 1959

Several local artists began to ask Soileau to release their work. His first label, Big Mamou, was quickly followed up by his next label, VEE PEE.   Lawrence Walker had just left Khoury's in Lake Charles, mainly since Khoury was then moving into the R&B and rock market.   Among these were Lawrence Walker and Aldus Roger.  The two musicians had some of the biggest crowds and often competed for opportunities, even recording many of the same tunes.  In 1957, Walker offered to sell Soileau four taped songs.   Soileau bought two for 60 dollars and optioned the others for 40.2  

One of those songs become what he referred to as the "Osson Two Step" (#102), not to be confused with Joe Falcon's "Osson One Step".   His recording was a change on what Aldus called the "Crowley Two Step", a variation of the Breaux Brother's "Le One Step a Martin". Lawrence had Ulysse Joseph "U.J" Meaux on fiddle, Al Foreman on guitar, Bheul Hoffpauir on drums, and an upcoming young steel guitarist that would lead his own band for years to come, Johnnie Allen.    Osson was a community between Carencro and Lafayette that people like Lawrence and Aldus played in.  Aldus remembers playing in the town:
There were only two dance halls between Lafayette and Carencro, located between Vatican and Osson.  The entrance fee was ten cents to dance, but for a wedding dance, it was fifteen cents.  There were more people and the owner had to pay the wedding couple to celebrate at his place. Yes, he paid the wedding couple ten or fifteen dollars. It was in the country and, if it was too far for them to go on foot, there was a school bus or a truck that'd pass and pick up the people for five or ten cents a head.3  

Lawrence Walker, Aldus Roger and Adam Hebert, all soon-to-be Cajun music legends, beat a path to Soileau’s door to put their creations on vinyl. After releasing his earlier recordings on the Big Mamou and VEE PEE labels, Soileau decided on “Swallow” for his French records, a spin-off on the pronunciation on his last name. It's on this label he re-issued Walker's tune, changing the title to "Opelousas Two Step".  In order to score points with his soon-to-be wife Jinver Ortego, Soileau named a new label for her–Jin.1

  3. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois

Release Info:
VP-102-A Osson Two Step | VEE PEE VP-102-A
VP-102-B Bon Ton Rouley | VEE PEE VP-102-B

Floyd's Early Cajun Singles (Ace, 1999)
Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow, 2010)

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