Saturday, August 4, 2018

"Diggy Liggy Lo" - Terry Clement

From the deep heart of Louisiana, The "Clement Brothers," Terry on accordion, Purvis on violin and vocals, and Grant on guitar, started playing music at a very early age. They organized their first band in 1949. The brothers' interest in Cajun French music came from their father, mother, and uncles who were all musicians. In the early 1900s their father, Laurent, played the fiddle at many house dances. The band members fell in love with the music of the late Cajun French musician, Nathan Abshire, and patterned their music after his. They found his music exciting, smooth and very different from any others.1 

C´est ma soeur, Diggy Liggy La,
T'en marié avec Diggy Liggy Lo,
Pour ça reste dans la village,
Diggy Liggy La et Diggy Liggy Lo.

Diggy Liggy Lo, attrappe Popo,
Diggy Liggy La, monte 'sus le plombeau,
Pour s'en va, tout partout,
Diggy Liggy La et Diggy Liggy Lo.

Purvis Clement, Terry Clement, Grant Clement

In 1952, on their way to play for a dance in Holly Beach, the brothers began playing around with a few Cajun French words with a catchy little sound, which became "Diggy Liggy Lo." (#1090)  It was very similar to the melody Amar Devillier used for his "Durald Two Step" that year. The song is about two lovers, the sister named Diggy Liggy La and her husband, Diggy Liggy Lo.  They get married in the town, one grabs the horse named "Popo" and the other grabs the "plombeau" (saddle horn).   

According to their niece Beverly Mire, they were going to play somewhere and in the car, they decided to write it; nothing serious.  They were just out of high school when they wrote it.  They took the song to Jay Miller's Crowley studio in 1954 and in less than a month, "Diggy Liggy Lo" was being played on jukeboxes from Houston to Florida.1  The band featured Terry on accordion; Purvis Clément on fiddle, Marshall Arceneaux on vocals and guitar, Ronnie Goudreaux on drums and Jerry Dugas on steel guitar.  Producer J.D. Miller of Feature records locked in the recording under his name with BMI, but all evidence points to the Clement Brothers as the actual creators. According to Terry Clement:
Purvis couldn't speak French all that well so during some passages, he would sing 'diggy, diggy, diggy, do, do' or something to that effect.  The crowd loved it.  We were coming home from a show one night with my mother and father.  My father had a pickup and the band would ride in the back with the equipment.  I told my brother that I was going to write a song around his 'diggy, diggy, diggy' words.  I told JD Miller that I had written this song.  He asked me to play it, which I did, on the accordion.  He soon had us recording it.  Here I was in high school with a hit record on the radio!"2

It's my sister, Diggy Liggy La,

You married Diggy Liggy Lo,

So they stay in the village,

Diggy Diggy La and Diggy Liggy Lo.

Diggy Liggy Lo, grab "Popo",

Diggy Liggy La, mount the saddle horn,

In order to leave, anywhere,

Diggy Liggy La and Diggy Liggy Lo.
The Clement Brothers played Cajun French music all over Southwest Louisiana, Southeast Texas, and Mississippi.  During the late 1950s and early 1960s when Cajun French music lost its popularity, the Clement brothers and a brother-in-law, Ronald Goodreau, were joined by pianist, Everett Daigle. During that time they played country and rhythm and blues music until Cajun French music regained popularity.1 Terry claims that Miller wouldn't let anyone else sell the record. You had to go to Crowley and buy it at Miller's store. Although the song did give the band the boost it needed to get better bookings and better wages, they never received credit on subsequent recordings nor did they receive any royalties.2 It wouldn't be until Jimmy Newman and Rufus Thibodeaux popularized the tune during a Nashville session in 1954 which made it a national hit.  It would be covered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Buck Owens' Buckaroos, and Doug Kershaw.

  2. Cajun Dancehall Heyday.  Louisiana Folklife Journal Vol 37. (2013).  Ron Yule.
  3. "Acadian All Star Special" by Bear Records
Release Info:
-A La Valse de Te Maurice | Feature 1090-A
-B Diggy Liggy Lo | Feature 1090-B

Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

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