Saturday, May 25, 2019

"Hudson Breakdown" - Cleveland Mire

The Jolly Boys was a group created by Cleveland Alphonse Mire from Bosco. A contemporary of Aldus Roger, together, they both headlined some of the same dance halls, festivals, and even had radio shows on KLFY.  With Mire on accordion, his accompanying musicians varied throughout the years with Theo Dugas on fiddle, Johnny Credeur on guitar, Willie Porterand on drums, and Louis "Blackcat" Domingue on steel guitar.  Sideman guitarist and vocalist, Roy Morgan, spent many years with the band as well as guitarist L.J. Daigle. 

Hé, tite fille, tu connais, mais, hier au soir, 

Tout partout où mo(i) j'ai été pour, t’étais pas là,
Hé, 'tit cœur, tu connais j'ai pris ça dur, 
Pris ça, mais, assez dur que moi j'alle à la maison.

Hé, petite, quand même tu veux, mais, t'en revenir,
'Garde à toi, mais, j'veux plus te voir à la maison mais-avec moi,
Oh, 'tit cœur, tu connais c'est toi la cause,
Si moi et toi on est si loin de toi, mais, malheureuse.
KLFY Lafayette, LA
Theo Dugas, Cleveland Mire, Bill Corcoran
Roy Morgan, David Roger, Willie Porter

The song is based loosely on Joe Falcon's "Au Revoir Cherie".   However, it would be Iry Lejeune's "Evangeline Special" which really made the melody shine.   According to family, Cleveland loved his Hudson automobile, however, he always complained about how it broke down.   When the vehicle died upon arriving at the studio, out of frustration, Cleveland cleverly renamed the tune "Hudson Breakdown" (#1033).

Hey, little girl, you know, well, last night,

Wherever I was, you weren't there,
Hey, little sweetheart, you know I took it hard,
Took that, well, hard enough that I'm sitting at home.

Hey, little one, anyway you want, well, you can come back,
Look at you, well, I don't want to see you at home anymore, but with me,
Oh, little sweetheart,  you know that you're the cause,
Such that me and you are so far, (so far away) from you, well, it's terrible.
Daily Advertiser
Mar 11, 1955

Recently, in 2014, an archive tape of the band playing at the Reno Club in Kaplan during the 1950s surfaced.   It is the earliest known video footage a Cajun band.  You can see all the band members of the Jolly Boys early on.  The tape is part of the Louisiana Dancehalls research project at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

  1. "Acadian All Star Special" by Bear Records
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
Prison Waltz | Feature F-1033-A
Hudson Breakdown | Feature F-1033-B

Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Vieux Airs (Old Tunes)" - Joe Falcon

"Your Kiss Is Sweet".   This vieux air, or "old tune", was one of many Cajun instrumentals passed down to the later generations of Cajun musicians.   Like the recording's flip-side, the song had it's origins in 19th century Cajun folk life. Musicians like Joe Falcon practiced their instruments using these songs during their early years. In fact, Joe recalls his very first paid opportunity:
I had just took my accordion when I left with my sister with the horse and buggy to go to the dance.  And when I got there, [Oneziphore Guidy’s] band didn’t show up. So he asked me, ‘How about you coming in and playing my dance? I’ll pay you. I said, ‘Oh, no. I just play like that, for fun.’  He said, ‘Come on. I ain’t go no music’. So I got up on the band stand and I started playing, and I played until twelve o’clock, and at twelve o’clock he come there and he paid me four dollars. Boy, I mean, I was glad with them four dollars.1  

Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon

By the summer of 1928, his recording "Lafayette" was on area record store shelves when he and Cleoma Breaux were requested to hop on a train to New York City where they recorded "Vieux Airs (Old Tunes)" for Columbia Records  (#15325).  Like many of the recordings Joe made, the titles were lost to time.  Columbia recording engineers insisted the songs have names.  Many times, Joe had to create a name on the spot, hence, "Vieux Airs".  In some cases, he was encouraged to name the song after a location he was familiar with back home.  During a later recording session, he explains he had to create his own lyrics to these melodies,

The number was there but I had to make up the words.  Like "Osson", it was the name of a little town, but you just have to find a name to put on the record.  It's an old two-step.2  

By the time they got back, the buzz about his recordings had reached fever pitch and he no longer needed to work in the fields.  The dance halls were now prime places to make a living and their music career had officially kicked off. The song didn't gain much traction between the 30s and 50s, until Joe Bonsall recorded it as "Ton Bec est Doux" in the 1960s.   Later recording artists have resurrected the song, but the added lyrics are more recent. 

  1. Lauren Chester Post Papers, Mss. 2854, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi. Valley Collections

Release Info:
W146906-1 Vieux Airs (Old Tunes) | Columbia 15325-D
W146909-2 La Marche De La Noce (Wedding Marche) | Columbia 15325-D

CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"Fais Do Do Two Step" - Jimmy Durbin

Some of the earliest Cajun string band music were still being recorded in the early 1950s.   Bands like Chuck Guillory and Jimmy Newman were latching onto the style, sometimes landing large recording contracts with MGM, Decca, and Columbia.   Around this same time, one would gather that a certain Jimmy Durbin lead a group of Cajun musicians backed by Chuck Guillory's band members and recorded "Fais Do Do Two Step" (#1008) for J.D. Miller's Fais Do Do label.  It was a version of Amede Ardoin's "One Step de Chameaux".   

Misspelled "fias", it was an ode to the common Cajun house dance event known as a "fais do-do".   Literally meaning "make sleep", the word "do" became a shorted form of the French word "domir" (to sleep).   In the same manner a mother was tell a child "beddie-bye" in English, legend has it that mothers who attended these dances with their children, tried to quickly get their babies to sleep in the back room, less their husbands be caught dancing with someone else!

Oh, ma jolie fille, 'tit fille, m'fais pas ça,
Cherie, ma jolie cœur, 'tit fille m'fais pitié,
Oh, ma malheureuse, tit fille, m'fais du mal, 
Eh, ma ça ta fais ton nègre, il y a pas longtemps.

Chérie, mais, j'vas mourir, 'tite fille, mais, ça me va pas,
Tite fille, auprès de toi, chérie, mais, que j'vas voir,
Eh, mais, malheureuse, m'j'connais te m'fais pitié,
Chérie, t'es, joli cœur, tite fille, tu me fais du mal.

Jimmy Newman, Curzy Porkchop Roy,
unknown, Papa Cairo, unknown,
Herman Durbin

Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan Collection, 
Center for Louisiana Studies, 
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

It would seem that Chuck's band had this recording led by a man named Jimmy Durbin.  Except, there's one problem: there was no such person as Jimmy Durbin!  In a strange identity crisis, no one has been able to determine who this person was, leading to several theories. The name is most likely Miller's attempt at listing Jimmy Newman and his regular piano-playing sidekick, Herman Durbin, together.  Instead of Benny Fruge on piano, it could very well be Herman with Miller attempting to list them as "Jimmy & Durbin". 

Author and producer of the Acadian All-Star box set, Lyle Ferbache explains:

For some reason when JD released the record, he put the name "Jimmy Durbin" on the record.  Shelton Manuel had no idea why.  As far as I can tell there us no Jimmy Durbin.  J.D. did things that sometimes made no sense.1

Oh, my pretty girl, little girl, don't do that to me,
Dearie, my pretty sweetheart, little girl, make me pitiful,
Oh, my unfortunate little girl, that hurts me,
Hey, that was done to your man, over there not long ago.

Dearie, well, I'll die, little girl, well, I'm not going,
Little girl, with you, dearie, that I can see,
Hey, well, oh my, I know you made me pitiful,
Dearie, you are a pretty sweetheart, little girl, you've hurt me.
Regardless, the band was most of Chuck Guillory's backup group with Jimmy Newman on guitar, Shelton Manuel on vocals and fiddle, Francis "Red" Fabacher on steel guitar, Howard Thibodeaux on bass, Curzey "Pork Chop" Roy on drums, and either Herman Durbin or Benny Fruge on piano.   The record was recorded on a tape machine that J.D. had just started using and wanted to see if he could make a remote recording.  So, Miller and the band recorded the session at Benny's Fruge Piano House in Eunice about 1949.  It was recorded around the same time Nathan Abshire used the melody for his "Lake Charles Two Step".   Later, Chuck Guillory would record it as "One Step De Chameaux".   Generally, both songs are known as the same tune.  

  1. Discussions with Lyle F
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
-A Drunkard Waltz | Fais-Do-Do F1008-A
-B Fais Do Do Two Step | Fais-Do-Do F1008-B

Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

"The Fifty Cent Song" - Louis Spell

Feature Records was created by Jay Denton "J.D." Miller in the late 1940s to market the music of south Louisiana.  Local groups around Acadia Parish approached Miller to record songs in his new studio in Crowley.  Native of Indian Bayou, the Spell family eventually moved to Crowley where Louis formed the French Serenaders.  According to his daughter Margie,
He picked up the accordion from my father-in-law, Ray Claby "R.C." Terro. My father-in-law could play a little bit.1   

How Louis teamed up with Feature record producer J.D. Miller is unknown however, Louis had a popular radio show at the time.  Margie stated,
He used to play on KSIG radio on Saturday mornings.1  

Crowley Post Signal
Jun 30, 1949

Moi et ma belle on a été au bal,

C'était-z un samedi soir,

Moi et ma belle on a été au bal,

C'était un samedi soir,

(O)n a revenu le lendemain,

Le lendemain matin z-au jour,

(O)n a revenu le lendemain,
Le lendemain matin z-au jour.

J'ai demandé si elle avait pas faim pour manger quelqu'chose,
J'ai demandé si elle avait pas faim pour manger quelqu'chose,
Répondu l'avait pas beaucoup faim, mais elle,
Aurait mangé quand même,
Répondu l'avait pas beaucoup faim, mais elle,
Aurait mangé quand même.

Quand j'ai mis mon cinquante sous (des)sus le comptoir,
Quand j'ai mis mon cinquante sous (des)sus le comptoir,
Massacré un coup d'poing, (il) m'a tiré dans la fenêtre,
Massacré un coup de pied, (il) m'a tiré dessus la rue,
Écoutez-donc, les bons conseils, prenez-un bon principe,
(A)llez jamais dedans un restaurant avec cinquante sous dans la poche.

French Serenaders
Elton Harrington, Tan Benoit
Louis Spell, Mabel Spell, poss. Phillip Abshire

Louis and his French Serenaders recorded "The Fifty Cent Song" (#1040) along with Clifton "Tan" Benoit, Elton Harrington, and quite possibly Phillip Abshire or E.J. "Nom" Abshire in 1950.  Louis' son Paul recalled the family mentioning how someone has tried to record the same song at that time.1  Frankie Mailhes, who had recorded the version back in 1938 as "Moi Et Ma Belle" with the Alley Boys, re-recorded the tune around the same time as "Mes Cinquante Sous" with Eddie Shuler's band.  

Me and my girl, we went to the ball,

It was a Saturday night,

Me and my girl, we went to the ball,

It was a Saturday night,

We came back the next day,

The next morning of the day,

We came back the next day,
The next morning of the day.

I asked if she wasn't hunger to eat something,
I asked if she wasn't hunger to eat something,
Said she wasn't very hungry, but she'd eat anyways,
Said she wasn't very hungry, but she'd eat anyways.

When I put my fifty cents on the counter,
When I put my fifty cents on the counter,
He massacred me, punched me, he threw me through the window,
He massacred me, kicked me, he threw me into the street,
So, listen to good advice, take this good principle,
Never go inside a restaurant with (only) fifty cents in your pocket.

  1. Discussions with Margie T and Paul T
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
The Fifty Cent Song | Feature F1040-A
Lover's Waltz | Feature F1040-B

Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Friday, April 26, 2019

"Homme Abondonne" - Guidry Brothers

In 1929, the sound of south Louisiana was taking shape. Cajun music was getting a foothold in the recording industry; getting discovered outside of south Louisiana for the very first time. By October, three brothers arrived in New Orleans for a recording session alongside some of the more well-known Cajun musicians of the time. Composed of an accordion player, fiddler and guitarist, the family trio waxed six songs for the major recording label Vocalion Records. Some of their melodies, the first to be found on commercial recordings, can be recognized as familiar tunes we hear today. But as quickly as they were discovered, they faded away.1

They were known as the Guidry Brothers of St. Martin Parish and for most people, their music and identities were almost lost to time.  The three musicians – Arthur, Isidore and Jean Dosete Guidry – were natives of Breaux Bridge. Sons of Alcide Guidry and Marie Louise Hebert, they lived a simple life as tenant farmers.1   

Tous les tracas moi j'ai eu dans ma vie,
C’était te faire venir, toi malheureuse,
Et aujourd'hui, mais, tu veux me pousser,
Un jour à venir, tu vas voir ton erreur.

Ouais, toi, mignonne, observe bien ça t'as fait,
Et tu vas voir, moi, je méritais pas ça,
Si loin de moi comme toi tu peux dire,
Toi, toujours content pour aller te joindre.

Moi connais bien t'as eu de conseiller,
C'est bien tu n'fais, moi je peux pas t'oublier.
T'aurais pas du écouter les conseils.

Si tu m'abandonnes, toi, malheureuse,
J'vas m'en aller où jamais tu vas me voir,
Tu dis toi même la mort c’est bien triste,
Mais, j'aime mieux de mourir, que autre qu'être m'abandonnes.
Arthur Guidry (accordion),
Dosete Guidry (fiddle), Isidore Guidry (guitar)

Arriving in New Orleans, and sponsored by Boudreaux's Music Shop, the trio recorded "Homme Abondonne" (#15849).   According to Dosete's grandson, Patrick Thibodeaux, 
Papa Dosete started putting this song together while working in the field. Got home and grabbed his fiddle, put the words to music... Jolie Blonde!1  

Although Amede Breaux holds the title to the original 1929 Jolie Blonde recording, the Guidrys’ take on the instrumentation was unique. Instead of singling out a “pretty blond,” Arthur attached his own lyrics to the popular melody, talking about a man abandoned by his lover.1  

Daily Advertiser
Oct 3, 1929

All the trouble I've had in my life,
It was to make you return, you bad woman,
And today, well, you want to drive me (crazy),
One day you'll return, you will see your mistake.

Yeah, you cutie, look at what you've done,
And you'll see, I did not deserve all of that,
So far from me as you are, you could say,
You, I'm always ready to go join you.

I know well, you've had advice,
It's good (that) you didn't, I cannot forget you,
You should not have listened to the advice.

If you abandon me, you bad woman,
I'm going to go where you're never going to see me,
You said yourself (that) death is very sad,
But, I'd rather die, other than to be abandoned.

  1. "Breaux Bridge At Center of 90-Year-Old Cajun Music Mystery". Wade Falcon. Teche News.  St. Martinville, La. - Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
NO-244 Le Garcon Negligent | Vocalion 15849
NO-245 Homme Abondonne | Vocalion 15849

CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Monday, April 22, 2019

"Valse A Pap" - Dennis McGee & Ernest Fruge

Born in 1893, Dennis McGee absorbed the repertoire of a man who was almost one hundred years old at that time.  This music, which pre-dated the accordion by at least one hundred and fifty years, was destined to undergo many changes until it finally resulted, through the hands of countless musicians, in the synthesized form we know today.2 By the time he reached his 30s, he was offered three different recording opportunities in New Orleans.  On his third and last trip, he traveled with his accompanist fiddler Ernest Fruge and togther they recorded "Valse A Pap" (#532)  Dennis remembered the song being a very early tune that his father loved to play, who learned it from his father.  According to McGee:
His father played it too, Eraste Courville and John McGee. They liked this waltz very much.1  
Dennis McGee

Dis "Bye bye," malheureuse, malheureuse, tous les jour,
Malheureuse, 'gardez-donc ça t'as fait,
Malheureuse, Dieu connaît tu vas pleurer.

Malheureuse, si t'aurais, mais, jamais écoute,
Ton papa et maman, ça c'aurait jamais arrive,
Malheureuse, le le rai!

Gardez-donc, malheureuse, gardez-donc, tu connais,
J'f'rais pas ça avec toi ça t'as fait avec moi,
Par rapport a toi, malheureuse.

(vocal rambling)

Daily Advertiser
May 1, 1931

Dennis McGee's father, John McGee Sr, was an accomplished fiddler in his own right. John had learned from his father, Pierre Hugo McGee of Irish ancestry.    When asked why he named it after his father, Dennis cried:
 When my father was dying, I went over to see him and he asked me to play this waltz. Afterwards, I promised that I would never play this waltz for anybody dying. He started to cry, the old man. It broke my heart. I played the waltz for him and I said, "Pop, I can't play if you cry."   And he said, "It's alright. Play it.  I know that I'm not going to be here for long."1  

Say "Bye-bye", oh my, oh my, always,

Oh my, so look at what you've done,

Oh my, the Lord knows you have cried.

Oh my, if you had, well, ever listened,
To your father and mother, that would have never happened,
Oh my, le le rai!

So look, oh my, so look, you know, 
I will not do that to you, that you've done to me,
Because of you, oh my.

  1. "Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader" by Ron Brown, Ryan A. Brasseaux, and Kevin S. Fontenot
  2. The Eunice News (Eunice, Louisiana) 09 Nov 1989.  Marc Savoy.

Release Info:
NO-6733 Valse A Pap | Brunswick 532
NO-6734 Two Step De Ville Platte | Brunswick 532

The Early Recordings Of Dennis McGee: Featuring Sady Courville & Ernest Fruge (Morning Star, 1977)
The Complete Early Recordings of Dennis McGee (Yazoo, 1994)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"Mabelle Tete Catin" - Happy Fats

During the 1930s and early 1940s, country music and Cajun music, which is also rurally based, engaged in a long-term fascination with each other.  It became popular for Cajun bands to adopt elements of Western swing, emphasizing fiddles and pedal steel guitars in lieu of the Cajun button accordion.   The result was the development of a viable style of Cajun swing, played by bands like the Hackberry Ramblers and Happy Fats' Rayne-Bo Ramblers.  

Allons, mais, priez quand je 'joins,

Chère, je t’auras, ma belle petite catin,

J'vais voir ses chères yeux brillent encore, 

Elle m'a promis de m'aimer toujour.

Mais la door était bien close,
Et avant l'hiver a passé,
Les anges a venu à ma porte,
Si je t’auras, ma belle petite catin.

Oh ma belle petite catin,
Ma fleur qu'a pas déflorer, 
Mon cœur est comme mon guitare, 
J’ai passé ma belle petite catin,
Mon cœur est comme mon guitare, 
J’ai passé ma belle petite catin.
Daily Advertiser
Feb 17, 1939

After learning to play the guitar as a child, Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc picked up several recording opportunities laid down by RCA Victor's chief R&A executive, Eli Oberstien. His group, containing Ray Guidry on banjo, Willie Vincent steel guitar, Nathan Guidry on bass and, Doc Guidry on fiddle, would leave for New Orleans and record "Mabelle Tete Catin" (#2072), a song about losing a lover who's heartbreak is expressed through his guitar.  But the money was not enough. During the 11 years that Happy recorded for RCA, he had many other jobs.
I worked in the rice mills during the day and used to play country dances at night.  And in the tomato season, I'd go over to the Rio Grande Valley and East Texas to work the harvest.1  

Church Point News
May 14, 1943

Going, well, praying (as to) when I can return,

Dear, I'll come get you, my beautiful little doll,

I have to see her dear eyes shine again,

She promised to love me forever.

Well, the door was closed,
And before the winter had passed,
The angles came to my door,
So, I'll come get you, my beautiful little doll.

Oh, my beautiful little doll,
My flower that never wilted,
My heartache is part of my guitar,
(As) I pass by my beautiful little doll,
My heartache is part of my guitar,
(As) I pass by my beautiful little doll.

This particular tune must have had some remarkable sales since Bluebird reissued the tune on #2087 later on.  By 1940, he expanded the group and got horn players and even a piano accordionist.  However, by the time WWII began, the invitations to record ceased and Happy relaxed into a career playing music on the radio. After the war, everything would change again, with his music launching him into his second musical career.  

  1. Interview by John Uhler. 1954.  CDS
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A

Release Info:
BS-028505-1 Mabelle Tete Catin | Bluebird B-2072
BS-028508-1 La Mellaige | Bluebird B-2072

BS-028505-1 Mabelle Tete Catin | Bluebird B-2087-A
BS-027887-1 My Little Cajun Girl | Bluebird B-2087-B