Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Don't Get Married" - Iry Lejeune

Iry Lejeune came from an area near Church Point and paved the way for accordionists to find work again after the war.  Lejeune, who drew heavily from the recorded repertoire of Creole musician Amede Ardoin, is one of the most storied figures in Louisiana French music.  Although venerated for his accordion skills, it is Lejeune's singing that draws the strongest superlatives from writers--that it can "bite and burn and blister the heart" and "encompassed all the pain, loneliness, and hardship of the isolated prairie farmers".

One of Iry's first groups he jumped into was with Earl DeMary's Musical Aces.  It was here that fiddler Wilson Granger first met Iry and noticed his talent.   Before long, they included guitarist Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier.  Wilson recalled:
Earl DeMary got him to play with us. We had many accordion players. Rufus Thibodeaux, his daddy played the accordion. He played with us for awhile. Earl's the one who started us with Iry.  Then, I don't know what happened to Earl. He quit playing with us.  We got this Alfred Cormier, "Duckhead" Cormier, they called him.  They called him "Duckhead" because he could call ducks with his mouth. He didn't need no [whistle].3   

Bridge City, TX, 1948, poss. B.O. Sparkle Club
R.C. Vanicor, Ernest Fruge, Iry Lejeune,
Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier, Earl Demary, Ernest's son

Jeunes filles de la campagne,
Mariez-vous autres jamais,
'Gardez quoi, moi, j'ai fait,
Mis une femme dans l'embarras,
Gardez-donc c'est pas la peine,
T'essayes à les aimer,
Je connais, donc, être musicien,
Ça paiera pas comme ça.

Jeunes filles de la campagne,
Mariez-vous autres jamais,
'Gardez quoi, moi, j'ai fait,
Je m'ai mis dans les misères.
La femme est malheureuse,
Mais, loes enfants est plus.
'Gardez-donc comme c'est misérable,
Les voir à la traîne comme ça.

Jeune filles de la campagne,
Mariez-vous autres jamais,
Jeune fille, c'est une amusette,
'Gardez-donc comment je vas faire,
C'est pas la peine dire non.
Ils vont toujours te condamner,
Ils vont te faire les aimer, chère,
Ils vont toujours te condamner.
Iry Lejeune

"Don't Get Married" (#1195) is Iry's take on the old traditional tune "Jeunes Gens De La Campagne"; a well-known lyrical off-shoot of Joe Falcon's "Allons A Lafayette".  It's a traditional song about the dangers of young men getting married too early, except Iry gave it a unique twist... warning the ladies about marrying a musician!   His phrasing of "les voir à la traîne" directly translates to "seeing them on the trail", but in Cajun French, it's another way of saying "seeing them dragging along the road" or "seeing them wonder around", usually in despair.  Duckhead played the guitar and Wilson filled on fiddle. Granger recalled playing at clubs with Iry:
I played in Bridge City, at B.O.'s Sparkle Club.  I played a lot there, with Iry.  And Bailey's Fish Camp between Orange and Port Arthur. We played there a lot on Saturday nights, with Iry. Jones' Bar and Shamrock Club.  We played the Triangle once or twice, Jones' Bar every Saturday night for awhile.... and also the Shamrock.3  
Wilson Granger

Young girls of the country,

Don't ever get married,

See what I have done,
Made trouble for a woman,
So look, it is no use,
To try to love them, 
I know, though, that being a musician,
It doesn't pay to be like that.

Young girls of the country,
Don't ever get married,
See what I have done,
I am full of misery,
The wife is unhappy,
Well, the children are more,
See how it is miserable,
To see them wondering around, like that.

Young girls of the country,
Don't ever get married,
A young girl is for amusement,
So look, how will I handle this?
It is no use saying no,
They will always condemn you,
They will make you love them, dear,
They will always condemn you.

Iry's recordings became wildly popular in French-speaking Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Lejune's capacity to get the right syncopated rhythm or beat from the accordion and to coax from that instrument a big, multi-faceted, almost big band sound, are hallmarks of his accordion playing.  When author Andrew Brown asked Wilson to compare Iry against Nathan Abshire's style, he said:
I won't say [Nathan] was a better accordion player because, to me, Iry was number one.  That's all he ever done. He started when he was a kid.  He could do anything he wanted with that accordion.3  

  1. Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California Modern Pleasures in a Postmodern World By Mark F. DeWitt,
  3. Wilson Granger interview. Andrew Brown. 2005.

Release Info:
-A (2587) Don't Get Married | Folk-Star GF-1195-A
-B (2588) (1219-2) Convict Waltz | Folk-Star GF-1195-B

The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2003)

Friday, January 11, 2019

"Dans Les Grand Meche" - Lee Sonnier

In 1948, Livaudais "Lee" Sonnier's connection with Fais Do Do records was a chance circumstance when producer J.D. Miller married into the family.  Miller was a musician himself.  He had played with several hillbilly groups, even playing alongside Amedie Breaux on one occasion during the 1930s.  But it wouldn't be long before Miller entered the military.  Once he was out, he created his own contracting business and rented a large building.   

In the meantime he had married an accordion player's daughter.  His wife was the daughter of Lee Sonnier of Rayne, a local musician. However, with all the building space, he chose to use some of the building to sell musical instruments.  This led to making records. Having already recorded string band leader, Happy Fats, Miller decided Lee's accordion talent was a reasonable addition. He recalls:

The jukebox operators around town came to me wanting Cajun French records.  There weren't many available, only Harry Choates' "Jole Blon".  The records of Joe Falcon had been discontinued. I figured heck, we'd try to make some of our own.1

Moi, j'connais, moi, j'm'en va, chère 'tit fille, malheureuse,
Dans la platin(?) avec un autre, mais, pour toujour,
Moi j'connais, tu va venir, chère 'tit fille, malheureuse,
Avec ton negre pas longtemps, mais, chère mignonne.

Tout les jours, tu m'aimie, moi j'connais, (...........?) 
Qui m'aime, chère 'tit fille, malheureuse,
Moi, j'm'en va, pour toujour, j'connais (les) promets, malheureuse,
Moi, j'connais tu va venir (à grand mèche).
Lee Sonnier

In 1948, Miller gathered the group at his new recording studio at the M&S Electrical shop.  After purchasing a tape recorder, Miller recorded the group performing the traditional "Dans Le Grand Meche" on Miller's new Fais Do Do label featuring Happy Fats on vocals and bass.   It was a slightly different take on the traditional melody of "Grand Texas".  Backing him up was Lawrence "Blackie" Fruge on fiddle and Eula Mae Fruge on guitar.  Miller had recorded the group with his own equipment in his shop.  Taking the time and effort to get a good recorded sound, he said:
I went to Houston to the Gates Radio Supplies. They had just received three Magnecord tape recorder, it seems like it was the PT-6 model. You could carry it around, so I bought that, three microphones and a three volume mixer.  I think I was helped by my electrical background.  I had a sense of something. I didn't go by the book because I went by these two things.... my ears.2  
J.D. Miller

I know, I'm going to leave, dear little girl, oh my,
In the lowlands with another, well, forever,
I know, you are going to come, dear little girl, oh my,
With your man not long ago, well, dear cutie.

Everyday, you loved me, I know, (........?)
Who loved me, dear little girl, oh my,
I'm leaving, forever, I know the promises, oh my,
I know you are going to come (to the marsh).

  1. Interview with J.D. Miller. Stacey Courville. CPS. 1983.
  2. Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge By Martin Hawkins
Release Info:
-A Dans Les Grand Meche | Fais Do Do F-1002-A
-B Chere Catan | | Fais Do Do F-1002-B

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

Monday, January 7, 2019

"Chere Petite Blun" - Vincent & Cagley

Fiddle player and Cajun drummer, Crawford Vincent, came from a musical family.  His grandfather, Theozime Vincent, who had come from France, was known to play dances in the Gueydan area as early as the 1870s.   Crawford not only learned from his grandfather, but also from a local fiddler named J.B. Fuselier.  However, Crawford's biggest influence came from listening to and playing with the Hackberry Ramblers.1

Will Kegley grew up in a sharecropper family where he and the Clement family grew up together. Accordion player Terry Clement believes this is where Will learned how to play the fiddle.   By the late 1930s, Will and a guitar player from Jennnings named Ernest Thibodeaux.    Will Kegley's biggest connection to the music was when he helped find Nathan Abshire to lead the Pine Grove Boys.   
Crawford Vincent

Oh 'tit monde, tout ça, mais, t'es après faire, 
Si loin, 'tite fille, de moi de toi,
Oh, tout le temps, après 'garder, ouais, pour toi, 
Ça on appelle ma chère,  jolie petite brune.

Oh tout le temps, de t'voir, mais, aussi loin, 
Avec un autre, 'tite fille qui m'aimait pas. 
Oh, de t'voir, avec un autre, avec un monde,
(Je te) promets, 'tit monde, ça fait de la peine.

Crawford and Will were popular musicians that played often together in other groups such as in Shuk Richard's Louisiana Aces.1  They duo came together in 1952 to recording for George Khoury's new record lable Lyric where they waxed "Chere Petite Blun" (#605), adding Cecil Farrell "Benny" Fruge on piano.  Sadly, the rest of the musicians during the session is unknown. Khoury's lack of attention to detail produced a title with the word "brun" misspelled along side Kegley's name written as "Cagley".
Will Kegley

Oh, my everything, all that, well, you've done,
So far away, little girl, I am from you,
Oh, all the time, looking, yeah, for you, 
We call my dear, pretty little brunette.

Oh, all the time, seeing you, well, so far away,
With another, little girl, who doesn't like me,
Oh, seeing you with another, everywhere,
(I) promise you, little everything, it hurts.

However, in tragic turn of events, Will's reputation would be cemented as a rough musician. In June of 1954, while playing with the Pine Grove Boys, he stabbed steel guitar player Atlas Fruge in a fit of rage over the jealously surrounding his wife Oziet.   He was sentenced to Angola for 18 months but only served a year.   Afterwards, he filled in with other bands such as Andrew Cormier's Rambling Aces.1  

  1. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
A Chere Petite Blun | Khoury's/Lyric 605-A
B Lawtell Two Step | Khoury's/Lyric 605-B

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)