Tuesday, December 7, 2021

"Prison Two Step" - Austin Pitre

Born in Ville Platte, Louisiana, Austin Pitre, he was surrounded by house parties and the emerging dance-hall scene.  All of the area's musicians had a profound influence on Austin's sound, just as his life of hard work added a unique rough edge to his style.  Austin's fiddle-playing father gave him an accordion in hopes that his six-year-old son would learn to accompany him at the local house dances.1  

"Prison Two Step" (#500) was Pitre's version of Amede Ardoin's "Les Blues De La Prison", originally recorded in 1934.   Austin was known to have several of Ardoin's original 78 RPM records and there's little doubt he learned the song from endless days of listening to them.  His group between 1954 and 1956 is possibly Cliff Fontenot on fiddle, Floyd Fontenot and Pee Wee McCoullough on guitar.  The session, recorded in Crowley, would be his last one with J.D. Miller.   From that point on, he would work almost exclusively with a new up-and-coming local record giant, Floyd Soileau. 

In 1956, Dr. Harry Oster recorded Austin again during a field session, this time calling the tune "Prison Song".  Later in life, Austin was invited to travel and play for the Library of Congress in 1973.   Guitarist Preston Manuel recalled,
A group I played with a long time ago was Austin Pitre.  Yes, we played many dances--me, and Austin, his son, Jimmy, [James Williams] "J.W." Pelsia, the steel player, and Roy Tate. We went to Washington, D.C. for nine days. We played in Arlington, Virginia, for that big fair.2  

  1. Austin Pitre "Opelousas Waltz".  Liner notes.
  2. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois

Release Info:
Prison Two Step | French Hits F-500
La Valse De Chagrin | French Hits F-500

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 4: From The 30s To The 50s (Old Timey, 1972)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Confession D'Amour (Confessions Of Love)" - Sydney Landry

Sydney Landry was one of the last Cajun recording artists of the pre-Depression era.    Better known as "Syd", the Landry's grew up in the small community of Henry, Louisiana outside of Erath.  He started in music when he was nine years old as a drummer, like his dad Louis Landry, who played for local dances. Sydney often entertained friends singing with his guitar.

Mais, il est temps pour moi j'avance, moi faire sans toi,

Tout ça que š'apprendre pour* moi et toi,

Tous les langueurs, j'ai passé pour essayer de faire m'aimer,

Faudra s'assoir, tous les jours, oublier, t'as jamais voulu m'aimer. 


J'ai pris mon pistolet, un jour, et j'ai parti pour me tirer,

Quand j'ai pensé à ma promesse, je m'ai donc dû bouger.


J'ai tout mon linge dedans ma malle, avec mon cœur qui me fait bien mal, 

Avec l'idée juste à partir, mais, m'en aller bien loin dedans le noir.


Sydney Joseph Landry

Sydney's family moved westward to Ged, Louisiana in Calcaseiu parish. There, he worked alongside Lawrence Walker's band.  By 1929, Columbia records offered him a chance to record two songs in New Orleans, one which was a Jimmie Rodgers-style recording entitled "Confession D'Amour" (#40516), later co-pressed by Okeh. He arrived in early December along with Amede Ardoin, the Segura Brothers, and Didier Hebert. 

Well, it is time for me to move on, without you,

All of that I learned about* me and you,

All the languor I have spent trying to make you love me,

Have to sit, every day, forgetting (that) you never wanted to love me.


I took my pistol, one day, and I left to go shoot myself,

But, when I though about my promise, I had to move on,


I have all of my clothes in my trunk, with my heart that aches,

With the idea of just leaving, well, to go far into the darkness.


Sydney moved to Texas, living in different areas of southeast part of the state, until finally retiring in Columbus, Texas.   Sydney's recordings remained obscure and his music career never materialized.  According to his son Grady,

"He had a very bad automobile accident in the 30's. He lost his voice and ended up breaking all his records."1  

  1. Discussions with Grady L
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
111382-2 Confession D'Amour (Confessions Of Love) | Columbia 40516-F |  Okeh 90016
111383-2 La Blouse Francaise (French Blues) | Columbia 40516-F |  Okeh 90016

CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Monday, October 18, 2021

"Chere Catan" - Lee Sonnier

Accordionist Lee Sonnier and his contemporaries were attuned to, and profoundly affected by, the ever-changing musical landscape that sustained their art.  They were not only products of their environment, but also cultural actors who intervened by adapting the diatonic accordion into a Cajun swing framework, a context they knew intimately well.1 But it would take his son-in-law JD Miller to bring him into the studio to shine.

Before Miller married into the Sonnier family, he had been a musician himself.  When Miller was 11 years of age, he played in the grade school band and his interest in music was born.  At the age of 15 Miller joined the Crowley High School band as a drummer. He recalled,
That band was the only formal music training I ever got, and I didn't pay any attention to the instructor even then.  I just played!3  

J.D. Miller, 1954

Oh, bébé, malheuruse, catin,
'Tite monde, quoi moi j'va faire, chère,
Ouais, quand mon j'vu là, 'tite fille,
(Pour toi m'écoute), malheuruse.

During his high school days, he began writing songs.  Though this period, he wrote 95 songs, but being convinced that they were not good, he destroyed them all and temporarily put the thought of a musical career behind him.2  However, by the 1930s, Miller was invited by steel guitarist Papa Cairo, and fiddler Irby Thibodeaux to form the band called Daylight Creepers.  J.D. Miller states:

You think the names of bands are strange now.  We used to play at night and it seemed that almost every time the old car we used broke down.  We'd have to push that car back home during the day and that's how we came up with the name.1

Lee Sonnier

Oh, baby, oh my, pretty doll,
Little everything, what you've done, dearie,
Yeah, when I saw you there, little girl,
You were listening (to me), naughty woman. 

By 1946, he was no longer in a band.  Instead, Miller gathered Sonnier's group into his new recording studio at M&S Electrical shop around 1948 and using a tape recorder, listened to Lee's band record a traditional tune called "Chere Catan" (#1002) with Calvin Holloway as vocalist, Lawrence "Blackie" Fruge on fiddle, Eula Mae Fruge on guitar, and Happy Fats on bass.  Sadly, Miller struggled with balancing the instruments and Calvin's vocals are hardly heard over the volume of Lee's accordion.

  1. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music by Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. JD Interview.  RT.  1953
  3. JD Interview  DA.  1954
Release Info:
Dans Les Grand Meche | Fais Do Do F-1002-A
Chere Catan | Fais Do Do F-1002-B

Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's (Flyright, 1986)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"Cajun Hop" - Harry Choates

Harry Choates, the earliest of post-war Cajun groups to record, had joined Leo Soileau's group around the late 1930s or early 1940s.   He had gained a reputation of an excellent fiddle player around southwest Louisiana.  While filling in, he would remember several of their signature tunes and later borrow them while recording with his Melody Boys by the mid 40s. 

Having played in Leo Soileau's band during the war years, "Cajun Hop" (#1326) was merely an updated version of Soileau's "Les Blues de Port Arthur".   It was recorded in 1947 at Bill Quinn's Gold Star studios and the "hop" is a generic name Bill Quinn usually gave to any fast Cajun tune.

Eh, 'tite fille, tu m'as lesse pour t'en aller,
Malheureuse, moi j'connais, mérite pas ça.
Eh, chere, jolie fille, jolie cœur,
Quoi t'as fais, mais, avec moi, (que misérable).

Eh, eh, eh, ha, ha.
Eh, 'tite fille, t'apres la peine.

Eh, chere, jolie fille, jolie cœur,
Eh, mais, moi j'connais m'aimer (...)
Eh, 'tite fille, eh villian moyens,
Moi j'connais, quoi t'as fais, t'as fais pas bien.

Hollywood Club
B.D. Williams, Curzey "Porkchop" Roy, Harry Choates
Johnnie Manuel, Joe Manuel, Eddie Pursley,
Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons

The "Cajun Hop" session is unique because Bill Quinn actually typed up a session sheet which the entire band signed, and, miraculously, this sheet actually survived and is now in the University of Texas archives. This is one of only two session sheets to survive for any Gold Star session, by anyone. It listed the band members: Joe Manuel on banjo, Eddie Pursley on guitar, Johnnie Manuel on piano, Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons on steel, and B.D. Williams on bass.

Gold Star session, 1947
Quinn's motivation was apparently to prove that he had paid the band for their services in case one of them tried to sue him later (as Jimmie Foster would do later that year for his non-credit on "Jole Blon"), though since he's only paying them $1.00 each, the contract is purely a formality. Either that, or the Melody Boys worked very cheap.  The song was the flip side of "Harry Choates Special" for Goldstar but the Bihari's released it on the other side of "Rubber Dolly".

Typically, though, his records show him as a Cajun Bob Wills, interspersing his singing and fiddling with cries of "eh,ha ha!".  It was a common phrase he used, especially when playing live, due to having a limited Cajun french vocabulary and constantly forgetting the lyrics mid-song.

Hey, little girl, you have left me to go away,
Naughty woman, I know, I don't deserve that,
Hey, dearie, pretty girl, pretty sweetheart,
What you've done, well, with me, (that's miserable).

Hey, hey, hey, hah, hah.
Hey, little girl, you're painful. 

Hey, dearie, pretty girl, pretty sweetheart,
Hey, well, I know I love (...),
Hey, little girl, hey, naughty ways,
I know, what you've done, you've not been good.

  1. Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost By Tony Russell
  2. http://wired-for-sound.blogspot.com/2010/08/harry-choates-on-gold-star-13261330.html
Release Info:
1326-A Cajun Hop | Gold Star 1326-A
1326-B Fa-De-Do Stomp | Gold Star 1326-B

1331 Rubber Dolly | Modern 20-528A
1326-A Cajun Hop | Modern 20-528B

Harry Choates ‎– The Fiddle King Of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982, 1993)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)

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
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigger_Blues
  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