Saturday, July 11, 2020

"Le Soldat Fatigue" - John Bertrand & Roy Gonzales

John Bertrand may have been one of the more obscure artists during the early Cajun recording era, but his music seems to have had earlier origins than many of the Cajun folk songs of the time.  His mother, Nora Boone, recalled and recited many French folk songs her family had passed down from Europe.  Each one possessed a different theme and melody in which Bertrand translated into an accordion-led melody.

Bonsoir, mes bons vieux gens,
Plaidoirie tu pour d'aide,
Ma mère loger chez toi,
Pour, moi soigner son, j'ai étais,
Pour, moi soigner son, j'ai étais.

Mon coeur, mais, pour (elle) bon pas,
J'etait de satisfaire,
Voyez notre maison,
Mais, coeur, elle est si petite, (elle) etait,
Mais, coeur, elle est si petite, (elle) etait.

Allez dans ce village,
Vous trouver-z-un logis,
Allez dans ce village,
Vous trouver-z-un logis.

Comment vous refusez,
Un soldat fatigué?
Te dur viens-moi t'as meme,
Te dur viens-moi t'as meme.


19th century French soldier
Image by Alexandr Sidorov

Having teamed up with Acadia Parish guitarist and yodeler Roy Gonzales, John brought along his son Anthony and the trio headed to Chicago in the winter of 1929 where they recorded "Le Soldat Fatigue" (#12763).  Songs like this may have come from French nursery rhymes similar to "Pauvre Soldat" commonly sung in France.  In this piece, the song describes an old soldier looking for a place to sleep.  He is refused a the first place and told to go to another town. Many of these Old World songs have their origins during the Napoleon Era.  

Good evening, good gentlemen,
Pleading for your help,
My mother (needs) lodging with you,
For I'm looking after her, I am,
For I'm looking after her, I am.

My sweetie, well, she's not good,
I catered to her,
While watching over our house,
Well, sweetie, she's so small, she is,
Well, sweetie, she's so small, she is,

Go to this village,
You will find lodging,
Go to this village,
You will find lodging.

How can you refuse,
A tired soldier?
So hard even for me to come to you,
So hard even for me to come to you.


  2. Lyrics by Jordy A, Smith S, and Stephane F

Release Info:
21248-2 La Fille Du Jolier (The Jailor's Daughter) | Paramount 12763-A
21251-2 Le Soldat Fatigue (The Tired Soldier) | Paramount 12763-B

John Bertrand / Blind Uncle Gaspard / Delma Lachney Early American Cajun Music (Yazoo, 1999)

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

"Ma Chere Tite Fille" - Moise Robin & Leo Soileau

Moise Robin learned to play Cajun accordion at a very young age.  His father, Joseph, picked up the accordion in the late 1800s and learned many of the melodies that other musicians played around Leonville. In fact, it's his dad that got him interested in accordion:

He had an accordion and I would go to school and when I would come back from school instead of make my lesson.  I was more interested in accordion.1 

He would play dances and he would make me play a few dances for the people.  My head would show up on top of the accordion, I was about nine-years old.1 

Chère petite fille, rappelle-toi qu'en j'm'en allé, 

J't'ai dis, "T'es canaille!", quand t'avait rencontré,
C'est plus tard, j'ai tombé en amour avec toi et z'aujourd'hui, 
C'est la seule que moi, j'aime.

Aujourd'hui, j'abandonne père et mère, 
Frères et sœurs pour te suivre à ta maison,
Mais, j'comprends tu vas me quitter pour t'en aller avec autre, 
Malheureuse, pourquoi-donc, t'es après faire ça?

Soignez jamais un petite fille de quatorze ans qui te quitter,
Pour s'en aller avec un homme de cinquante ans,
Moi, j'connais aujourd'hui de l'après me faire, z'avec moi, 
Malheureuse, tu vas pleurer z'avant longtemps.

Aujourd'hui, j'abandonne père et mère, 
Frères et sœurs pour te suivre à ta maison,
Mais, 'contré dedans la terre, mais, des miseres, 
Malheureuse, tu connais c'est pas mon temps.

Clarion News
July 18, 1929

Moise's father played as far as Ville Platte and learned of the fiddle-accordion duo, Leo Soileau and Mayuse Lafleur.  By the summer of 1929, Leo partnered with Moise and together they formed a musical pair and were discovered by the Paramount record company.  Paramount records had the duo arrive in Richmond, Indiana for a recording session where they recorded "Ma Chere Tite Fille" (#12808). Leonville-native and Opelousas merchant Winter Lemoine, a distributor for Paramount, helped the duo make the trip.  Lemoine operated a sewing machine business which sold records on the side.   Moise recalls:

When we was playing, a company from the Richmond, Indiana called us to go make a record. So we met in Richmond, Indiana and made two records there. 

Moise Robin
by Chris Strachwitz

Dear little girl, remember that I went away,

I told you, "You're mischievous!", when I met you,
It's too late, I fell in love with you and today,
It's the only one I love.

Today, I abandoned my father and mother,
Brothers and sisters to follow you to your house,
Well, I understand you're leaving me to go away with another,
Poor woman, why is it, you've done that?

Never chase a 14 year old who will leave you,
To go away with a man of 50 years,
I know today what you've done with me,
Poor woman, you will cry before too long.

Today, I abandoned my father and mother,
Brothers and sisters to follow you to your house,
Well, getting into a world of misery,
Poor woman, you know it's not my time.

  2. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
G15343 Ma Chere Tite Fille | Paramount 12808-A
G15344 Easy Rider Blues | Paramount 12808-B


Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 5: The Early Years 1928-1938 (Old Timey, 1973)
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)

Thursday, July 2, 2020

"Belle Of Point Clare" - Arteleus Mistric

One of the more unique recordings during the pinnacle year of early traditional Cajun music is the harmonica-led recordings by Artelus Mistric.  A native of Leonville, he sings about a beautiful lover living in the small community that straddles Leonville and Arnaudville, known as Pointe Claire.  It was a low lying area named after the bayou of the same name. 

T'es petite et t'es mignonne,
C'est pour moi, malheureuse,
Ça t’fais tout, moi j’ai,
Pas fait ça.

Ton vieux negre, 'garde-donc, chère,
Mais, roulait, mais, les chemins,
C'est pour toi malheureuse,
Mais, donc, pour aller.*

Moi j’croyais pas, toi, 
T’avais le cœur, malheureuse,
Si criminelle que ça,
Chère 'tite fille.

Artelus Mistric

Similar to neighboring musician Moise Robin who was inspired by Mayuse Lafleur, Artelus seems to be take the popular melody of Lafleur's The Criminal Waltz (La Valse Criminale) and turn it into what he called "Belle Of Point Clare" (#22108).  Most likely sponsored by Frank Dietlein or some other local store owner, several St. Landry Parish and St. Martin Parish musicians were on hand for this 1929 recording session in New Orleans including Oscar Doucet, Berthmost Montet, Joswell Dupuis, Adolph "Bixy" Guidry, Percy Babineaux, and the Soileau Couzens, Leo and Alius Soileau.

You are small and you're sweet,
It's because of me, you poor woman,
All that you've done,
I didn't do that.

Your old man, look, dear,
Well, roaming, well, the roads,
It's because of you, you poor woman,
Well, so, (he's) going.

I can't believe, you,
(That) you'd have a heart, you poor woman,
So mean like that,
Dear little girl. 

The lover in the story is clearly blaming himself first, then begins to blame his love interest because he left.  The Victor recordings list his instrument as the "French harp" and included Opelousas-native Eldon Gill. It's quite possible that Eldon, an "expressman" and auto mechanic, helped Artelus craft the song lyrics. 

  1. Lyrics by Smith S
Release Info:
BVE-56507 Tu Ma Partient (You Belong To Me) | Victor 22208-A
BVE-56506 Belle of Point Clare | Victor 22208-B

Le Gran Mamou: A Cajun Music Anthology (CMF, 1990)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

"Ponce A Moi" - J.B. Fuselier

"Think Of Me!"  In the 1930s, Cajun fiddler Jean Baptiste "J.B." Fuselier was generally overshadowed by the less traditional players such as Leo Soileau and Luderin Darbone – both of whom had their brands of Cajun string band music.2  Having moved near the Lake Arthur area, he worked with people such as banjoist Bethoven miller and fiddler Varise Conner.  Varise, who played with J.B. for years, recalled why he left and how tough it was after the Depression:
For three musicians you'd get fifteen, maybe twenty dollars per night.  Then when the Depression of the 30's came, you were only guarantee half or maybe sixty percent of what was collected at the door.  The people would come but they didn't even have enough money to pay to enter the dance hall.  Things were serious.1  

Quand même tu m'as oublie,
Oui, pense à moi,
Quand même une fois par jour,
Et moi je t'ai pas oublie.

Quand même tu m'as quitte,
Pourquoi tu voulais,
Oui, j'aime voir ma chere,
Comment tu crois je vas faire?

Crowley Daily Signal
Jan 29, 1952

During a 1938 recording session in New Orleans, Fuselier recorded "Ponce A Moi" (#2055) with Preston Manuel and Mathius Joseph "M.J." Achten on guitars and possibly Bethoven Miller on banjo. By 1962, J.B. had dusted off his accordion, one which he had played in the earliest years, and recorded at least four more songs for Eddie Shuler's Goldband Records. One of the songs, pressed on 45 RPM, was "Think Of Me". 

Even though you forget me,
Yeah, think of me,
Even if it's once a day,
And I won't forget you.

Even though you have left, 
Why did you want to?
Yeah, I'd like to see my dear woman,
How do you think I'll handle this?

  1. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Smith S

Release Info:

BS-027847-1 Valse De Rebot | Bluebird B-2055-A
BS-027848-1 Ponce A Moi (Think Of Me) | Bluebird B-2055-B

Louisiana Cajun Music, Vol. 3: The String Bands of the 1930's (Old Timey, 1971)
Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown (Arhoolie, 1997)

Monday, June 22, 2020

"Belle Isle Waltz" - Jimmy Choates

Fiddler Jimmie (Jimmy) Choate was born in Bancker, Louisiana, not far from Abbeville.  He grew up playing music at an early age, similar to many of his siblings.  Quick to latch on to the success of famed Texas fiddler Harry Choates, Jimmie and his brother Pete decided to make a music career.  Jimmy's Melody Boys accommodated Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons on steel guitar, possibly Blackie Dartez on guitar, and Charles ‘Pete’ Choate on bass guitar.

Hé, petite, mais, moi j'm'en vas à Belle Isle,
Oh, chérie, mais, moi j'connais j'mérite pas ça.

Hé, petite, mais, moi j'connais, jolie fille,
Hé, chérie, mais, moi j'connais tu vas brailler.

Hé, petite, mais, moi j'connais, mais, moi j'm'en vas,
Au Belle Isle pour t'en aller, t'en aller, mais, loin d'ici.

Daily Advertiser
May 20, 1949

In 1950, Jimmy and his Melody boys recorded the "Belle Isle Waltz" (#608) in Lake Charles; a story of a lover going to Belle Isle.   It's a region of open fields located in the marsh lands, along the Gulf Coast, far away from most of the Cajun prairies.  On the highland areas, cattle ranching was the way of life in the 1930s for most residents, including families such as the Sagreras and Broussards.  Ernest Broussard recalled there were no roads at all in Belle Isle.  "It was open prairie, just a trail to go to [Abbeville]."1  

Hey, little one, well, i'm going to Belle Isle,
Oh, dearie, well, I'm know I don't deserve that.

Hey, little one, well, I know, pretty girl,
Oh, dearie, well, I know you're going to wail.

Hey, little one, well, I know, well, I'm going,
At Belle Isle you left, you left to go, well, far from here.

  2. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
Lonesome For You | Khoury's KH 608-A
Belle Isle Waltz | Khoury's KH 608-B


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

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"One Step De Chupic" - Dennis McGee

There are nonsense songs in Cajun music and some happy drinking songs in Cajun music though most of the songs are about tragedy and love lost. Dennis McGee along with Ernest Fruge performed a few numbers with happy lyrics like "Allons a Tassone" and "Adieu Rosa" but most of his tunes are sad and lonely.  The melodies sound happy and lilting but the words are quite depressing, like the "One Step de Chupic" (#15851).2  



'Gardez-donc, la belle, 
Elle est après s'en aller.

La-la-la-la, t'ai pas ave(c)'moi,
Va pas changer avec un autre qu'est loin,
Malheureuse, j'ai dit, mais, 'gardez-donc la belle.


Doh-de-la-doh 'gardez-donc la belle,                    
Elle est après s'en aller avec un autre que moi,
Mais, malheureuse chérie, mais, fais pas donc, la belle,
'Garde-donc, chérie.

Aye yé yaille, comment j'vas faire,
Toujours mon t'seul comme une pauvre malheureuse,
Mais, chère que tout, mais, fais pas ça avec moi,
Malheureuse, la belle.

Recorded in New Orleans in the fall of 1929, Dennis put together a sorrowful story against a cheerful melody, interjected with lyric less chorus lines singing "la-la-la-la".   This style of singing could be used to evoke emotions or even memories in listeners that couldn't be put into words or ones that weren't terribly specific. It allows the listener's mind to wander where it will, guided by the singer, but not forced into a specific narrative.  In the lyrical portions, the lover tells his love interest to "Watch it!" because of the mistakes she's making.

Choupique fish

It's quite possible that this is a story of a lost lover from his home town of Choupique, Louisiana; a community named after local fish variety (the bow fin).     Dennis explains the name growing up in the community:
I was raised in Choupique. I lived there from the age of four until I was fourteen years old. When you go to Chataignier, you cross a little stream called La Coulee Choupique. There were many choupiques in that time. An some big ones! They were three feet long!  I caught many on my line when I was young.1  
Dennis McGee



So look, the beauty,
She's leaving.

La-la-la-la, you ain't with me,
Nothing will change with another that is far away,
Miserable one, I said, well, watch it, beautiful one.


Doh-de-la-doh so look, the beauty,
She's leaving with someone other than me,
Well, miserable dearie, well, don't do it, beautiful one,
Watch it, dearie.

Aye yé yaille, how will I handle this,
I'm always alone, like a poor wretch,
Well, dear, all that, well, don't do that with me,
Miserable beauty.

  1. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  2. Dennis McGee ‎– The Complete Early Recordings.  Liner notes.
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Smith S

Release Info:

NO-236 Valse Du La Penitencier | Vocalion 15851
NO-237 One Step De Chupic | Vocalion 15851


Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Dennis McGee ‎– The Complete Early Recordings (Yazoo, 2006)

Friday, June 12, 2020

"Lawtell Two Step" - Vincent & Cagley

"Vincent & Cagley" was the duo title for guitarist Crawford Vincent and Will Kegley. Together, they recorded two songs for Khoury's subsidiary Lyric label in 1952, one being the old Cajun string band tune "Two Step de Lawtell".  It's record producer George Khoury's only brand label with the red color and gold Lyric logo.   Khoury's Lyric label and later, his self entitled label, was one of the earliest post-war recording labels in south Louisiana and one of the few that gave Cajun musicians their recording "break". Vincent recalls,
Mr. George started out a lot of Cajun bands, I mean like Lawrence Walker, Nathan Abshire, even Jimmy 'C.' Newman.  I recorded for him two songs, I never did do well, they didn't make no hit.  But I was still proud I made 'em, because, you know, it's a souvenir for my grandchildren.  But Mr. Khoury he started a whole bunch of guys.  You see he's had Marie Falcon, Shuk Richard, he's had Will Kegley--that song we made, me and Will Kegley, he put that out.5  

Hé jolie ‘tite fille,

Pourquoi mais j’sus comme ça?
Oh, ‘tit cœur,
N’importe à ton "bon-à-rien". 

Hé jolie ‘tite fille,
Pour toi, comment ça s’fait?*
Tout le temp, ‘tit monde,
Mais oui, dans les misères.

Leo Soileau and Crawford Vincent

Crawford, who had played for years under different groups, mainly with Leo Soileau, teamed up with Nathan Abshire's old fiddle player, Will Kegley for the classic song, "Lawtell Two Step" (#605).  Crawford's earliest memories were learning to play music:
My sister gave me a fiddle when I was nine, and I got an ol' barber down there on the Mermentau River to tune it. I played fiddle the first time when I was nine---well, harmonica when I was eight. You could pack that in the cotton field. You just play 'em, and then when they get kind of dirty you boil 'em in hot water. Anybody can play a harmonica, but they don't master it. I played it pretty well, but I never did play it in a band. I played guitar, fiddle, and drums with the western-swing band.4   

Hey, pretty little girl,

Why, well, am I like that?
Oh, little sweetheart,
Doesn't matter to your "good-for-nothing".

Hey, pretty little girl,
For you, how do you do this?
All the time, my little everything,
Well, yeah, in misery. 

Benny Fruge

By 1951, Crawford employed pianist Cecil Farrell "Benny" Fruge.  Benny learned to play piano from his father Hubert who was known a locally known piano tuner.  Benny picked up the craft at the age of five and began memorizing what he played.  This helped him to develop a keen ear for music.   He began playing with small bands such as Papa Cairo, Jimmy Newman, Chuck Guillory and Happy Fats, while he was still a high school student.  Accommodating teachers arranged his senior high school classes for the afternoon to enable him to continue his musical activities.2,3   

Benny occasionally toured with Lefty Frizzell and played in the Rampart Street Six jazz band until 1954.2  By the late 50s, Fruge had moved to Baton Rouge working at Werleins music store, tuning pianos and teaching piano.  In 1980, he opened his own piano store, Fruge’s Piano Company.1  

  2. Daily World (Opelousas, Louisiana) 16 Nov 1967
  3. Basile Weekly (Basile, Louisiana) 17 May 1990
  4. They Called It the War Effort: Oral Histories from World War II Orange, Texas By Louis Fairchild
  5. Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995).  Liner notes.
  6. Lyrics by Stephane F and Smith S
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, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)