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)

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