Friday, August 13, 2021

"Blues Negres" - Cleoma Falcon

This article may contain potentially offensive language, including obscenities and ethnic or racial slurs. In the interest of making this material fully available to scholars, we have chosen not to censor this material.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Cajun musicians could not avoid the influence of the blues sound heard throughout the south.   So much so, many of them recorded at least one tune with some blues influence.   A great example is the tune by Cleoma Breaux Falcon entitled "Blues Negres (Niggar Blues)" on Decca (#17004).   According to Dr. Barry Ancelet, it would be the influence of Afro-Creole and Native American sounds that makes Cajun music sound so different than the Acadian music of Nova Scotia.  

Oh, pour tu m'aimer,
Tu connais j'mérite pas donc tout ça, toi t'après faire,
C’est pitié a la maison, moi tout seul, j'ai p'us personne, mais, p'us m'aimer,
Moi j'm'en va, moi tout seul, comme un pauvre malheureuse.

Écoute-moi tout les conseils de les autres,
Tu connais moi j't'aime, bon Dieu sait, chère 'tite fille,
Tu connais j'mérite pas tout ça toi t'après faire.
Moi j'm'en va, moi tout seul, à la maison, j'ai p'us personne, mais, p'us m'aimer,
Pourquoi moi j'ai des regrets quoi toi t'après faire?

Recorded in 1934 in New York City, "Blues Negres", i
t shares similarities with a song called "Bull Doze Blues" by Henry Thomas in 1928 for Vocalion.  It's loosely related to the old minstrel song, composed in 1912 by Leroy “Lasses” White entitled "Nigger Blues", which was one of the first blues songs published.  In addition to the importance of the "Nigger Blues" for being one of the first published blues songs and written by one of the first composers of twelve-bar blues, it was the first whose lyrics were in what would become the standard blues form used by the 1920s vaudeville performers and found in the folk blues songs collected and recorded in the 1930s.3  

Whoa, how you loved me,
You know, so I don't deserve all that you've done,
It's pitiful at home, I'm all alone, I have no one, well, no one to love me,
I'm going, all alone, like a poor miserable woman.

Listening to all the advice of others,
You know I love you, the good Lord knows, dear little girl,
You know I don't deserve all that you've done,
I am going, all alone, to the house, I have no one, well, no one to love me,
Why do i have such regret for what you are doing?

Blues arrangements and one-steps acted as a cultural weather vane indicating the direction of commercial Cajun music.  Cleoma would go on to record other bluesy tunes such as "Ouvrez Grand Ma Fenetre" and "En Route Chez Moi". 

  1. Against the Tide, the story of the Cajun people of Louisiana by Zachary Richard
  2. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. Lyrics by Herman M
Release Info:
39208-A Soucis Quand J'Etais Gamin (Troubles When I Was A Boy) | Decca 17004 A
39207-A Blues Negres (Nigger Blues) | Decca 17004 B

Presents Hot Women Singers (Kein & Aber, 2003)

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

"Madame Donnez Moi Les" - Angelas Lejeune & Ernest Fruge

Petite Ou Gros!   The famous Creole melody that inspired so many covers, most notably "Les Flammes D'Enfer" in the later years of Cajun repertoire.   The original tune, "Adieu Rosa", would be covered in it's raw form by Dennis McGee.  Other musicians such as Joe Falcon, Leo Soileau, Moise Robin and Douglas Bellard all created their own renditions of this bye-gone song. It's about a love-interest begging a mother for either of her daughters' hands in marriage.  Either the skinny one or the large one—it doesn't matter. 

Ah, ye yaille, la malheureuse.

Aye, ye yaille. 

Madame donnez-moi les, ouais, 
La petite ou bien la grosse, 
La petite elle est mignonne, 
La grosse, elle est si belle.

Aye ye yaille, petite.

Madame donnez-moi les, ouais, 
La petite ou bien la grosse à cause, 
Si j'en ai une, 
C'est tout que moi je voudrais.

Quitte-moi, vous dire, 
Comment j'veux t'croire,
J'en aurais pas une,
Ni la petite ni bien la grosse,

Falloir dire, ouais madame, 
Moi j'vas voler la grosse, 
Vas pas la garde la belle,
Ça m'lesse tout seul.

Ah, ye yaille, la malheureuse.


Richard Voynow

Angelas' first session was produced by Brunswick's A&R representative Richard Voynow.   A jazz pianist and composer for The Wolverine Orchestra, Voynow dabbled in finding artists for the record label.  During a lengthy expedition into the south, he supervised Lejeune, Fruge and McGee's 1929 session with several area musicians from the Opelousas area.  By November of 1930, the label held their final session in New Orleans in which Angelas and Ernest were waxing another set of songs to disc.  For this recording, "Madame Donnez Moi Les" (#527), Angelas put down his accordion and let his vocals ride along Ernest's fiddle melody.  It's one of the few recordings that allow listeners to hear Fruge's fiddling talent dominate and it would be the duo's very last recording ever. 

Oh, ye yaille, miserable woman.

Oh, ye yaille.

Madam, give them to me, yeah, 
The little one or the big one,
The little one, she is cute,
The big one, she is so beautiful.

Oh, ye yaille, little one.

Madam, give them to me, yeah,
The little one or the big one because,
I have to have one, 
That's all I want.

Leave me, you said, 
How I wanted to believe you,
(Now), I won't get one,
Neither the small one nor the big one.

Have to say, yeah madam,
I'm going to steal the big one,
Don't protect the beauty,
It hurts me to be alone.

Oh, ye yaille, miserable woman.

The melody influenced many other pre-war Cajun tunes such as Joe Falcon's "Acadian One Step", Leo Soileau's "Demain C'Est Pas Dimanche" and Bixy Guidry's "Ella A Plurer Pour Revenir". Leo would rework the song in the 1930s as "Petit Ou Gros", made famous by Joe Bonsall in the 1960s.  

  1. Lyrics by Stephane F and Herman M
Release Info:
NO-6727 Valse A Aristil Creduer | Brunswick 577
NO-6728 Madame Donnez Moi Les | Brunswick 577

Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins, 2013)

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"La Valse De L'Amour" - Happy Fats

Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc turned into a musician as a young boy trying copy Jimmie Rodgers tunes.  His mother would feed and house traveling musicians with a deal to help her young son become a better player. One of those players was a black blues guitarist that he found playing music on the streets of Rayne. Happy remembered,
Sometimes when I'd bring those fellows home with me, momma would fuss a little, but she always took care of things for me.2  

With better instruction, now, Happy Fats took a job as night waiter in the old Farmer's Cafe in Rayne, and between customers, he'd spend the long night hours practicing his guitar.2  He recalled,
I worked 12 hours a night, but I had plenty of time to practice.  And once, while I was there, I met Gene Autry, who was passing through Rayne on his way to New Orleans.2  

Oh, chère, j’ai prié, ouais, pour t'avoir,
J'ai pas pu, oui, comment, moi j’vas faire.

Oh, chère, quelle espoir, moi j’peux t'nir, 
Pour t’avoir, jolie ‘tite fille, malheureuse.

Oh, chère, viens donc ‘oir la grosse erreur,
T’vas ‘oir, jolie ‘tit cœur, ça t’as fait.

Farmer's Cafe
Rayne, LA

In 1935, he scored his very first recording contract with RCA.  He rounded up band members Norris Savoy on fiddle and Warnes "Tee Neg" Schexnayder on guitar and recorded a familiar melody as "La Valse De L'Amour" (#2172).  It had similarities with Joe Falcon's 1929 "Poche Town", and almost identical in melody to Lawrence Walker's 1929 "La Vie Malheureuse", the Hackberry Ramblers' 1935 "Crowley Waltz", and Cleoma Falcon's 1936 "Ma Favori"   RCA's Bluebird A&R executive, Eli Oberstein was in charge of the session.  He had previously worked alongside Amede Ardoin and Joe and Cleoma Falcon in San Antonio the previous year.  Happy recalled the first recording session:

Eli Oberstein was in charge, he was a very jolly man, I'd call him a jolly giant.  I'd say he was a man about six feet, five inches tall, a Jewish man.  He could be a stormy type of fellow, though, if you didn't get things done right he'd get awful mad for a few seconds.  Then he'd come back and say, "let's cut a good one!"1  
The following year, Cleoma Falcon would record the song as "Ma Valse Favori", slowed down and shifted in key. 

Oh, dear, I prayed, yeah, to have you,
I couldn't, yes, how will I handle this?

Oh, dear, what hope can I hold onto?
To have you, pretty little girl, oh terrible woman.

Oh, dear, so come see your big mistake,
You'll see, pretty little sweetheart, what you've done. 

Happy Fats and
Clarence Locksey

For years, Happy kept the identity secret of this early guitar "teacher" that had kick-started his love for the instrument until 1979.  Author John Broven asked Happy how he got started,
I taught myself and if I'd see a hobo or something with a guitar, I'd go pick him up and bring him home, give him dinner, maybe learn a few chords with him.  Then there was a colored boy here in town that I learned a lot from, a fellow by the name of Clarence Locksey, he's still living. He knew some chords, he'd play this black blues stuff.1   

In 1979, during a celebration of his life and career, Happy introduced Rayne native Clarence Locksey to join him in the celebration and have him play some of the "mean blues" which he does so well.3  Born in 1910, Locksey lived his life as a sharecropper and his wife Adeline worked as a housekeeper in the landlord's house.  Many people recalled seeing Clarence walk up and down the streets of Rayne with a guitar, playing the blues.  In the 1950s, record producer J.D. Miller spotted the musician and invited him to record four songs for his label with Lazy Lester on percussion and lead guitar.  The tracks remained unreleased until Flyright Records issued them on LP in 1989.  Locksey lived to be over 100 years old. 

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Interview with John Uhler.  1954.  CDS
  3. The Rayne Acadian-Tribune (Rayne, Louisiana) 08 Nov 1979
  4. Lyrics by Smith S and Stephane F
Release Info:
BS-94402-1 La Fille De St Martin | Bluebird B-2172-A
BS-94403-1 La Valse De L'Amour | Bluebird B-2172-B

Thursday, July 22, 2021

"Chere Petite" - Jimmy Newman

Jimmy Yves "C" Newman was born in High Point, Louisiana, near Big Mamou, and raised in a bilingual family with parents who delighted in the cowboy sounds of Gene Autry and the country music of Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. Mr. Newman's father died when he was a teenager, and he left school after six years of education, to work on a farm. During World War II, Mr. Newman worked in a defense plant as a welder's helper, and there he met an electrician and music aficionado named J.D. Miller.1,2  

Eh, chère petite, 
Moi j'm'en vas, moi tout seul,
Et pour ça, quoi t'as fait, 
Avec moi, il y a, pas longtemps,
Eh, mon cœur fait mal,
De te voir t'en aller,
Aussi loin avec un autre, 
Si j'connais je donne pas mieux.

Après ma mort, tu vas veiller,
Tu vas mendier pour tes mêmes choses,
Quoi t'as fait avec moi,
Il y a, pas longtemps, chère petite.

Jimmy "C" Newman

Jimmy first stint was with Murphy "Chuck" Guillory's billing in 1948.   The Bihari brothers of Modern records had previously helped release Harry Choates' Jole Blon two years earlier and they were scouting other Cajun music in Louisiana.  They had spotted Chuck's band playing Eunice and had them record the song, possibly in New Orleans.  Chuck and J.D. Miller kicked off Jimmy's musical career with his first vocal recording entitled "Chere Petite" (#20-612). The flip-side was "Gran Texas", sung by Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez, made famous later by Hank Williams.  However, Miller had struggled to gain commercial awareness.   Even Iry Lejeune in 1954 covered one of his tunes "I Made A Big Mistake", after Newman failed to garner success with it in 1953. His stint didn't last long with Chuck, leaving Chuck's group in 1950 to carry his on his own.

Hey, dear little one,
I'm going, all alone,
And for that, what you've done,
To me, over there, not long ago,
Hey, my heart is broken,
To see you go,
So far away with another,
I know, I won't get better.

After my death, you will watch over me,
You will cry about all the same things,
What have you done to me,
Over there, not long ago, dear little one.

"Chere Petite" featured fiddler Murphy "Chuck" Guillory, pianist Herman Durbin, drummer Curzy "Porkchop" Roy, steel guitarist Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez, and bassist Claude "Pete" Duhon.  It wouldn't be until Miller convinced Fred Rose to record Jimmy's "Cry, Cry, Darling" at Rose's Nashville home on Woodmont Ave that Newman became a fixture in the country music scene.  He climbed to the heights of country stardom but he never forgot his roots. He was a tremendous ambassador of our Cajun music and became the first performer on the Grand Ole Opry to sing Cajun French music.

  3. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
A Big Texas 20-612A Modern
B Chere Petite 20-612B Modern

Grand Texas (Arhoolie, 1998)
Jimmy C NEWMAN - The Original Cry, Cry, Darling (Jasmine, 2009)

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

"The LeGrange Waltz" - Floyd Leblanc

Influenced first by Luderin Darbone of the Hackberry Ramblers, Cajun fiddler Floyd Leblanc adopted the same western swing style popularized by Texas fiddlers in the late 1940s.   Before long, he was the lead fiddler in Benny Hess' Oklahoma Tornadoes band where they recorded several sides for his Houston-based label Opera.

Aujourd'hui, chère, t'es après m'quitter,
Pour t'en aller dedans les chemins,
Aussi loin, chère, comment tu crois?,
Mais, pourquoi-donc, mais, tu me fais ça?.

Rappelle-toi, ouais, mais, quand tu m'as dit,
Mais, moi je pouvais, mais, plu(s) t'aimer,
Malheureuse, chère, mais, je (ne) veux plus,
Pour ça t'as fait à ton p'tit chien.

Rappelle-toi, ouais, tout ça t'as fait,
Il y a pas longtemps, mais, dis donc "bye-bye",
Moi j'connais, chère, tu vas pleurer,
mais, un jour à venir, mais, malheureuse.

Daily World
Oct 28, 1949

Named after prominent family in the area, Leblanc entitled this 1948 recording "The LaGrange Waltz". His song was a familiar melody that inspired J.B. Fuselier's  Chere Tout Tout and later, Papa Cairo's Chere Poulette.  His group is largely unknown at this time, but it's possible Bennie Hess and Virgil Bozman are on guitars, and B.D. Williams is on bass.  The LaGrange family settled in Calcasieu and notably donated money for a school.  The school was opened in 1929 and remained the primary school in the area until 1954 when the larger high school was built.1    

Today, dear, you've left me,
To go down the country roads,
So far away, dear, how do you think?
Well, so why, well, have you done that to me?

Remember, yeah, well, when you told me,
Well, I cannot, well, love you anymore,
Naughty woman, dear, well, I don't want anymore,
For what you've done to your little man.

Remember, yeah, all you've done,
Over there not long ago, well, so say "bye-bye",
I know, dear, you're going to cry,
Well, to return one day, well, naughty woman. 

  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
111-A (638) You Musn’t Cry | Opera 111
111-B (638) The LeGrange Waltz | Opera 111

Sunday, June 20, 2021

"What's The Matter Now?" - Walker Brothers

The pre-war Cajun recording era had a surprising set of artists that many rarely consider today.  Accordionist Lawrence Walker, more known for his honky-tonk post-war career, had formed a small group in the late 1920s to bring his mixture of American blues and French music to the surrounding parishes.  As a teenager he formed the Walker Brothers group with his brother Elton. Featuring accordion, fiddle and guitar, the band played both Cajun and hillbilly music.  Soon, they were invited to record for both Brunswick and RCA.   In 1935, Walker waxed a pair of bluesy English compositions at RCA Bluebird's mobile recording facility in New Orleans.2  

With guitarists Junior and Aldus "Popeye" Broussard added to the group, their professional sound has been preserved on Bluebird recordings like "What's The Matter Now" (#2199).  The droning guitar strum with simple accordion riffs gave the traditional Cajun sound an added dimension.1   It arrived on the heels of similar recordings of the era, such as the Breaux Brothers' "Le Blues De Petit Chien".

Lawrence Walker

Tell me now, pretty baby, baby,
What's the matter now?
(You) stayed out late last night,
You don't need no papa, no how, Lord, Lord.

Let me tell you something, baby,
I got up on my mind,
Let me tell you something, baby,
That's keeps me worried all the time.

Oh, baby, what's the matter now?
You got me worried now,
But I won't be worried long.

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
BS-87614-1 Alberta | Bluebird B-2199-A
BS-87615-1 What's The Matter Now? | Bluebird B-2199-B

BS-87614-1 Alberta | Montgomery Ward M-4882-A 
BS-87615-1 What's The Matter Now? | Montgomery Ward M-4882-B

Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Friday, June 4, 2021

"Tortope D'Osrun (Tortope of Osrun)" - Amede Ardoin

Cajun and Zydeco music would not be what it is today without Amédé Ardoin and his musical recordings of the late 1920s and early 30s. His fortés include his uniquely eloquent lyrics his resonating voice and his driving accordion virtuosity. The equanimity in which this slight black French-speaker composed performed and recorded his songs attests to the high regard held by those who knew him. Amédé lived the blues and injected his spirit into our music.2 

Oh, oh, quoi faire, je m'en va,
Tu m'abandonnes, yé yaille, tu m'abandonnes,
Ayoù je vas aller, chére, n'importe quel bord qu'il va,
T'es pas là, yé yaille, ça me fait de la peine.

Oh, yé yaille, ça me fait de la peine à mon,
Ayoù je vas aller, pour être capable te voir,
Quand tu me passes, toi, tu reviens jamais,
Avant samedi au soir, après midi.

Oh, yé yaille, comment je vas faire?
Comment je vas faire, yé yaille?
J'suis après partir, tous les samedis au soir,
Ta mom veut pas,
Que mon je t'emmene en nulle part,
Comment je vas faire?

Amede Ardoin

Based on a Joe Falcon recording entitled "Osson", Ardoin's 1934 "Tortope D'Osrun" (#17007) was an ode to the small community of Osson and contained the same lyrical theme he used in much of his other recordings.  Left to his own devices, Ardoin's solo work for Decca Records in New York City that December became the last creative pieces he ever recorded.  Melodies such as the one borrowed from the American standard "Rubber Dolly", which inspired other Cajun songs such as Adam Trahan's "The Waltz Of Our Little Town", Angelas Lejeune's "Bayou Pon Pon" and Austin Pitre's "High Point Two Step".  Musician Moise Robin recalls meeting Amede Ardoin,

When I was young, Amédé Ardoin was playing with Leo Soileau at my brother-in-law dance hall and he would bring crowds that the people couldn't come in.  He was a good singer. And that's what the people were [there] for.1

Oh, oh, what's been done, i'm going,
You abandoned me, ye yaille, you abandoned me,
Where am I going to go, dear, no matter which side that I go,
You aren't there, ye yaille, that hurts me.

Oh, ye yaille, that makes it painful to me,
Where am I going to go, in order to be able to see you,
When you passed by me, you never returned,
Before Saturday evening, that afternoon.

Oh, ye yaille, how will I handle this?
How will I handle this, ye yaille?
I am leaving, every Saturday night,
You mom doesn't want,
That I bring you anywhere,
How will I do this?

Release Info:
39198-A Valse Brunette (Brunette Waltz) | Decca 17007 A
39199-A Tortope D'Osrun (Tortope of Osrun) | Decca 17007 B

Amadé Ardoin – Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 6 : Amadé Ardoin – The First Black Zydeco Recording Artist (1928–1938) (Old Timey)
I'm Never Comin' Back: The Roots of Zydeco (Arhoolie, 1995)
CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)