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)

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