Thursday, September 12, 2019

"La Valse A Moreau" - Moise Robin & Leo Soileau

The late twenties was a pivotal time for Cajun music recordings. In 1928, Joe Falcon and Cleoma Breaux waxed the first Cajun record with 'Allons a Lafayette.' Shortly thereafter, Amédé Ardoin, the Breaux Brothers, Douglas Bellard, Angelas LeJeune, Dennis McGee and others joined the ranks as 'recording stars.' In 1928, so did fiddler Leo Soileau, who is considered one of Cajun music's great innovators.1

Allons, donc, chez Moreau, malheureuse, chère,

S’en aller chez Moreau, nous-autres tout seul, mom.

Ça me revient comme un rêve, malheureuse, chère,

Moi, je t’avais dans mes bras hier au soir, chère.

Ton cœur était barré dedans l’armoire, chère,

Et la clé a été perdue dans ma cour, mom.

Allons, donc, s’en aller, nous-autres tout seul, mom,
C’est pour rejoindre grand Moreau, malheureuse, chère.

Oh, malheureuse, gardez-donc tous les jours,
Tous les soirs, je suis moi tout seul dans mon lit, mom.

Pourquoi-donc, tu viens pas me rejoindre, chère, yaille,
Gardez-donc comment c’est mal, malheureuse, chère.
Clarion News
Oct 10, 1929
Moise Robin

Leo lost his first accordion player, Mayuse Lafleur, in a baroom fight.  After Lefleur's death, Soileau hooked up with Moise Robin, a younger accordionist but stylistically very similar. After a recording sessions with Paramount and RCA Victor, the two men moved to Opelousas and with the aid of their new manager, Sheriff "Cat" Doucet's brother Elton, they continued to play dances. According to Robin,
W'ed play every night. On Monday was a special dance for colored people. Light colored people, mulattoes. Whitney Cropper had a store in Mallet where we'd play. We played dances every night.2 

Most of Soileau's early recorded output was done with Robin, who was known for his passionate, yet complicated, unpredictable playing. As vocalists, the two are similar, with Lafleur having an edgier tension about his singing compared to Robin.1  While in New Orleans for a Vocalion recording session, the duo covered a familar Cajun melody that inspired other tunes such as the Segura Brother's "My Sweetheart Run Away".  Robin's rendition was entitled "La Valse A Moreau" (#15845), although exactly who "Moreau" is has been lost to time.

Leo Soileau

Come on, to Moreau's house, oh my, dear,

Let's go to Moreau's, we're all alone, mom.

It came back to me like a dream, oh my, dear,

I had you in my arms last night, dear.

Your heart was locked in the cupboard, dear,

And the key was thrown in the yard, mom.

Come on, let's go, we're all alone, mom,
To meet at Big Moreau, oh my, dear.

Oh, oh my, looking at that every day,
Every night, I'm all alone in my bed, mom.

Why, then, don't you come to join me, dear, ye yaille,
Look at that how it hurts, oh my, dear.

In the 30s, as the accordion dropped out of favor, Soileau became an innovator of the string band craze. It's an intriguing examination of Soileau's early career that reveals his ingenuity and ability to record in a spectrum of styles.1  It wouldn't be until the 1960s in which Joe Bonsall would give the title new life as "Hack A Moreau".

  1.  Dan Willging
  2. The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau.  Yazoo 2006.  Liner notes.
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A

Release Info:
NO261 La Valse A Moreau | Vocalion 15845
NO262 Demain C'est Pas Dimanche | Vocalion 15845

The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)

Sunday, September 8, 2019

"La Valse De St. Marie" - Vin Bruce

Cajun music titan Ervin "Vin" Bruce was born in Cut Off, Louisiana. His father, Levy played fiddle at local dances; usually in someone's front room. Vin learned to play guitar at an early age, at 14 he began playing and singing in a local band, performing once a week on the radio in New Orleans. At the age of seventeen Vin was brought to the attention of Don Law, legendary producer/A&R man for Colombia Records. Vin signed a contract with Colombia and became the first Cajun artist on a major label since the 1930's. He was also the first to record Cajun music with such Nashville professionals as Chet Atkins, Grady Martin, Tommy Jackson, Jack Shook, and Harold and Owen Bradley.1  

C'est pas la peine tu dis que "non",

Faudra bien qu'tu t'maries,

Faudra bien qu'tu t'maries,
À l'eglise Sainte-Marie.

Tous les deux pour la même,
Ni une ni l'autre tu l'auras,
Tout le soleil pour la brune,
Et pis y'as rien pour la blonde.

Les habits son achetes,
Mais, ton idée est changer,
Les consentements 'mendait,
Les alliances sont achetés.

C'est pas la peine tu dis que "non",
Faudra bien qu'tu t'maries,
Faudra bien qu'tu t'maries,
À l'eglise Sainte-Marie.

Que c'est la cause de tout ça,
C'est ces grands conseilleurs,
Mais, ces grands conseilleurs,
Et pas le grand un payeur.

C'est pas la peine tu dis que "non",
Faudra bien qu'tu t'maries,
Faudra bien qu'tu t'maries,
À l'eglise Sainte-Marie.

Tous les deux pour la même,
Ni une ni l'autre tu l'auras,
Tout le soleil pour la brune,
Pis y'as rien pour la blonde.

C'est pas la peine tu dis que "non",
Faudra bien qu'tu t'maries,
Faudra bien qu'tu t'maries,
À l'eglise Sainte-Marie.

Vin Bruce

A direct interpretation of the old traditional tune "Tous Les Deux Pour La Même", a song made famous by Lawrence Walker years earlier, Vin sung of a darling named Marie and re-titled the tune as "La Valse De St. Marie" (#21189) for Columbia Records in 1953.   Working alongside Nashville producer Don Law, at the Tulane Hotel he was backed by Grady Martin and Jack Shook on guitars, Bob Foster on steel guitar, Ernie Newton on bass, Tommy Jackson on fiddle, and Papa John Gordy on piano.

It's not worth you saying no,

You have to get married,

You have to get married,

At St. Mary's Church.

Either of them, it's all the same,
Neither me nor you will have them,
All the sunshine for the brunette,
And then there's nothing for the blonde.

The clothes are purchased,
But, your mind is changing,
The consents (papers) are requested,
The wedding rings are bought.

It's not worth you saying no,
You have to get married,
You have to get married,
At St. Mary's Church.

What's the cause of all of this?
It's these folks giving advice
Well, it's these folks giving advice,
And not the ones paying (for everything). 

It's not worth you saying no,
You have to get married,
You have to get married,
At St. Mary's Church.

Either of them, it's all the same,
Neither me nor you will have them,
All the sunshine for the brunette,
And then there's nothing for the blonde.

It's not worth you saying no,
You have to get married,
You have to get married,
At St. Mary's Church.

In 1973, he was honored with "Vin Bruce Day" by his hometown and in 1978 he was Lafourche Parish's "Citizen of the Year" and has been inducted into several Country and Cajun Music Halls of Fame.1  

  2. Lyrics by Martn Cortez, Smith S, Stephane F and Jerry M

Release Info:

CO 49042/NASH 1630 La Valse De St. Marie | Columbia 4-21189
CO 49043/NASH 1631 Oh Ma Belle | Columbia 4-21189


Vin Bruce: King of Cajun Music: Dans la Louisianne (Bear Family, 2011)
Vin Bruce: Vintage Cajun Classics of the 1950's (Vintage Masters, 2012)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

"One Step De Morse" - Nathan Abshire & Rayne-Bo Ramblers

Happy Fats kicked off his first recording session with 12 songs for Bluebird records, including six lead with an accordion.  Afterwards, he maintained a busy schedule of produce sales and late-night music performances.  Following his marriage, Happy Fats was employed by a local produce company buying frogs, chickens and eggs from farmers in the area. On the weekends, he and his band traveled about Southern Louisiana playing for dances.

During the first session in 1935, he took his group along with Cajun accordion player Nathan Abshire to record an instrumental about a small town in south Louisiana called "One Step De Morse" (#2174).   Morse is a railroad town in Acadia Parish not far from Nathan's childhood home.  Happy recalled:
We were contacted by [RCA] Victor through a fellow here in Rayne by the name of Hillman Bailey.  This fellow, Hillman Bailey, he had a radio shop here and a music store, and he had contact with the Werleins of New Orleans.  And we were brought to New Orleans for the first time, and we recorded there in the old St. Charles Hotel.3
Nathan Abshire

Happy had Nathan backed up with himself and Warnes Schexnyder on guitars, and Norris Savoy on fiddle. However, during the mid-1930s, the interest in Cajun accordion-led bands was waning.  Happy dropped the accordion from his lineup and watched his Cajun string band sound take off.

We finally booked enough dances to permit me to quit working, so I enlarged the band and we did seven or eight engagements a week.2 
Nathan himself felt the affect of losing out during the string band craze.  Dance-halls and recording companies were no longer interested in the old accordion sound.
There was one time the accordion went away.  There was no more accordion here in Louisiana. I started to play the fiddle. I'd walk about 20 miles to go play a dance for $3.  No electricity, nothing.   A guitar, a fiddle and some triangles. Home brewed beer.  Home brewed whiskey in them days.4 

Overtime, the name of Happy and Nathan's melody would be forgotten. Lawrence Walker would re-work the tune, into the well known "Mamou Two Step", adding it's signature bridge section.  Nathan also reworked his song into what he called the "Musical Five Special". 

  1. Negotiating Difference in French Louisiana Music: Categories, Stereotypes ... By Sara Le Menestrel
  2. Interview by John Uhler. 1954.  CDS
  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. "The Good Times Are Killing Me".  PBS, 1975.
Release Info:
BS-94409-1 La Valse De Riceville | Bluebird B-2174-A
BS-94410-1 One Step De Morse | Bluebird B-2174-B

Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"La Valse A Tidom Hanks" - Angelas Lejeune & Ernest Fruge

One the most impassioned stories in Cajun folklore that has been mostly lost to time is that of Adam "Tit 'Dom" Hanks and Alice Royer: The Cajun Romeo and Juliet.3  Angelas Lejeune and Ernest Fruge teamed up together to tell the legend of Hanks and Royer.  It involved a horse named Henri.2 According to columnist William Thibodeaux of Lafayette:
It's an Amercian love story, not unlike a lot of others. Adam "Tee Dom" Hanks and Alice Royer were sweethearts, but Alice's papa didn't approve of Tee Dom. Figured he wouldn't make a good son-in-law and so they disapproved of their engagement. They obeyed Alice's papa. Alice soon married someone else and left Tee Dom with a broken heart.1  

Oh, chère, malheureuse, chère, petite.

Oh, chère, criminelle, oh, quoi t'as fait z'ave(c) moi aujourd'hui.

Oh, Alice 'garde Adam, il est après venir,
Oui prépare toi moi j'veux voir il est apres venir, aujourd'hui.

Ça qui fait j'te dis ça, moi j'le vois il est après venir, (sur) le grand wrack* sur Henri,
Moi, j'le connais pas tu vu ton vieux nég'.

Oh chère, 'garde ton neg' qu'est après arriver, pour toi aujourd'hui.,
Quoi faire que tu m'fais tout ça, toi tu m'fais.

'Garde, tu m'fais plus d'mal à moi,
Dis (à) 'ton nég' que t’écoutes les conseils que les autres t'en mal.

Chère, tu connais si tu voudrais observer pour toi-même, 
Tu peux te sauver des misères à pas écouter les conseils.

Adam "Tee Dom" Hanks
Courtesy of Pierre Daigle

Researcher Pierre Daigle uncovered the true story in the early 1970s.  In the original tune, Tee Dom sang "Il a la jogg au plombeau, et le chapeau sur une coté". The reason for their disapproval was that Tee Dom loved to ride his horse Grand Henri while drinking from a whiskey jug.  He would ride with his chapeau (hat) cocked to one side, meaning, he didn't give a hoot about a thing.  The heartbreaking story of Tee Dom and Alice spread throughout the land, and a beautiful waltz was created.   Finally, Tee Dom relented an married Armena Thibodeaux, and together they raised seven children.  Years went by, but time didn't mend Tee Don's broken heart. He was still in love with Alice.  According to Pierre,  
Despite being married, whenever Tee Dom went to house dances he would sing and play his accordion to the melody of "La Valse a Tee Dom" as tears flowed down his cheeks.1,2  

Alice eventually married Edmond Miller and the family moved around the Scott/Judice area of Lafayette.  In 1930, Angelas was given permission by Tee Dom to use the lyrics of his song when he recorded "La Valse a Tidom Hanks" (#511) in New Orleans.  Pierre searched for Angelas Lejeune and he explained,
It's true.  The night before I went to cut the record, I talked to Tee Dom and asked him if I could use his words.  He said I could.2   
Angelas Lejeune

Oh, dear, oh my, dear little one.

Oh, dear, it's criminal, oh, what you've done with me today.

Oh, Alice, look at Adam, he's coming back,
Yeah, prepare yourself, I want to see, he's coming back, today.

That, which I've done told you that, I see he's coming back, on the big horse* Henri,
I don't know if you see your old man.

Oh, dear, look at your man who is arriving, for you, today,
What you've done to me, all of that, you've done to me.

Look, you've hurt me the most,
Tell your man that you listening to the advice of others has hurt you.

Dear, you know if you'd like to see for yourself,
You can save yourself from misery by not listening to advice.  

Alice Royer Miller
Courtesy of Pierre Daigle

When he arrived home, while playing a dance in Duson, a woman approached Angelas. Angelas explained,
A woman came to the bandstand.  "Are you Angelas Lejeune?" she asked. "Yes," I answered. "Are you the one that recorded 'La Valse a Tidom Hanks'?"  "Yes, I am".  "Would you play it and sing it as you did on the record?" she asked. So I played it.  And all that time that I played she stood behind me on the band stand.  When the song ended, she walked away.  She looked... well, moved.2  

Pierre eventually found Alice living in Judice.  She claims that one night at a dance near Bosco, Tee Dom told the late Lawrence Walker the words to the song.  The legend would carry on into Walker's "Chere Alice", referring to the sweet Alice Royer, a melody borrowed from his earlier "Country Waltz".  The melody can also be found earlier in Leo Soileau's "Valse de Josephine" and later in Austin Pitre's "Rainbow Waltz".  Alice eventually confessed to Pierre,
[Tee Dom] is the man I would have married had it not been for Papa.2  

  1. "The Legend of Tee Dom and Alice".  Discussions with William J. Thibodeaux.  The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) 13 Nov 2011
  2. Tears, Love and Laughter by Pierre Daigle
  3. "Du Chicot": A Collection of Essays by Randy Whatley
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
NO-6708 One Step Du Maraist Bouler | Brunswick 511
NO-6709 La Valse A Tidom Hanks | Brunswick 511

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

"La Prison" - Virgil Bozman

John Hardin “Virgel” Bozman. He was a rustic singer/guitarist (born in Oklahoma) and part-time comedian who sometimes billed himself, with tongue-in-cheek, as “The Arkansas Sinatra“. He seemingly was also a house painter. He  had apparently been a staple on the San Antonio country and western music scene for some time.  Virgel Bozman was an eccentric Texas bandleader who became fascinated by Cajun music.1  

He had already recorded a Hillbilly record for Bill Quinn, "Griding For My Darling", which was virtually impossible to locate even when it was new. A 1945 contract for Bozman exists, so he may have had an unknown release on Quinn’s earlier Gulf label, or the sides could have become the later Gold Star release.1  However, once Quinn scored a huge success with Choates' "Jole Blon", Bozman couldn't help but take notice. 

Oklahoma Tornadoes, 1947
Floyd Leblanc, Iry Lejeune, Ben Oldeg,
Bennie Hess, Virgel Bozman

Bozman revamped up Bennie Hess' band as the Oklahoma Tornadoes in 1947 with new musicians of the caliber of Cajun fiddler Floyd LeBlanc. Together they came up with a viable French-English novelty "La Prison"(#1332). Somehow Quinn failed to see the potential of the song and buried it on the flip-side of "The Hokey Pokey" – a piece of pure corn by the Gold Star Trio. But the song still caught on as it was flipped over on the jukeboxes in several regions, and copies show up today with mint "A" sides and plowed "B" sides. With the right promotion, the record had the ingredients to become at least a regional hit in the hillbilly market. Bozman was not deterred and began to feature Cajun music more prominently, although he himself could not speak French outside the words that were scribbled on paper for "La Prison".1  Fiddler Wilson Granger stated:
He sang that "La Prison". He sung that in French, but what they did, it's just a few words, you see.  That's easy to say. But outside of that, he didn't speak French, no.2  

Well, I left for Louisiana about a year ago,
Started out through Texas while traveling with a show,
I landed in old Houston feeling mighty fine,
Until I met that woman and now I'm doing time.

Dans la prison, le "hell" avec ça,
Moi je m'en 'viens à la maison,
Dans la prison, le "hell" avec ça,
Moi je m'en 'viens dans vingt-quatre ans.

The significance of "La Prison" lies in understanding how Cajun music's impact on Texas musicians was starting to become apparent. After Texas-resident, Harry Choates, made "Jole Blon" so popular, people like Virgel and Floyd became aware of the music's marketability.   Cajun musicians didn't realize it but the genre was about to take off once more.  Recordings like this one sparked people like Virgel to pursue other Cajun artists to record and kicking off his interest to setup his own label.  So much so, that same year, he and Floyd convinced Bennie Hess to record Iry Lejeune's first session producing the monumental "Love Bridge Waltz" and eventually helped resurrect one man's career in 1949 by having him wax a well-known song on Virgel's fledgling O.T. record label:  Nathan Abshire and his "Pine Grove Blues".1    

In prison, to hell with that,

I'm going to return to my house,

In prison, to hell with that,
I'm going to return in twenty four years.

  2. Wilson Granger interview. Andrew Brown. 2005.
  3. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  4. Lyrics by Smith S


Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 4: From The 30s To The 50s (Old Timey, 1972)
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

Monday, August 19, 2019

"The Swallows" - John Bertrand

John Bertrand was born near Opelousas, more in the mainstream heart of the Cajun landscape, and the same can be said of his music, with its highly rhythmic accordion accompaniment.  In terms of repertoire, though, the common factor is that several of his songs, many of which he appears to have learnt from his mother, would also seem to show Old World origins.1    

Oh, ouais, partout que j’aime, ces lis donc me conviennent pas,
La seule que mon cœur aime, elle est si loin de moi,
Et si j’aurais des ailes, comme tous ces hirondelles, 
Aupres de toi la belle, j’irais me reposer.

En te contant mes peines, et ensuite mes amities.
En te contant mes peines, et ensuite mes amities.

Apportez-moi une verre, que je boive à la sante,
Il n’importait que j’aime, que je boive ça à dormir,
Il y’en à qui aime la blonde, et d’autre qui aime la brune,
Mais moi j’sus pas comme çà, j’aime bien mais tout les deux.

Comment tu veux je fais, pour aller bien tout les deux?
Comment tu veux je fais, pour aller bien tout les deux?

Crowley Daily Signal
Mar 15, 1929

In 1929, Bertrand and his guitarist Milton Pitre traveled to Chicago and recorded "The Swallows" (#12730).  But by the time the recordings had arrived on the shelves, Pitre had been shot and killed in a dispute over a woman.  According to Ray Templton,
The Swallows, for all its English title, is surely an old traditional French song.  Bertrand’s records all featured guitar accompaniment by one Milton Pitre.  His playing is rather odd – he seems to be repetitively plucking single or double strings rather than playing chords.  He doesn’t always hit the right harmony, but that may just have been recording session nerves, and most of the time it’s quite effective.1  
John H. Bertrand

Oh, yeah, everywhere I like (to be), I don't find comfort in the beds,
The only one that I love in my heart, she is so far from me,
And if I had wings like all these swallows,
Beside you, beautiful one, I would go and rest.

Tell you my sorrows, and then my friendships,
Tell you my sorrows, and then my friendships.

Bring me a drink, I drink to health,
It doesn't matter that I'm in love, since I'll drink to sleep.
There are some who love blondes, and others who love brunettes,
Well, me, I'm not like that, I love, well, both of them.

How do you want me to go with both of them?
How do you want me to go with both of them?

  2. Lyrics by Smith S and Stephane F
Release Info:
21077-5 The Swallows | Paramount 12730-A
21074-1 The Rabbit Stole The Pumpkin | Paramount 12730-B

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"Le Vieux Arbe De Pin (They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree)" - Louisiana Rounders

The Louisiana Rounders were formed from several Acadia Parish musicians, one being the popular entertainer Joe Werner.  After his big break with "Wondering" recorded with the Hackberry Ramblers, he went on to follow up with a mildly successful recording career.  In the early 1930s, country music from Texas began it's large scale influence on local Cajun music in Louisiana.  Several bands from west Louisiana and east Texas popped up using country music instruments and sang Cajun French lyrics. Joe Werner had alot of success with Happy Fat's early band and made a name for himself.  It wouldn't be long before Decca would ask him to travel to Dallas for a recording session where he invited Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez to come along and record with Wayne Perry as the Louisiana Rounders.

Ils ont coupé le vieux arbre de pin,
Ils l'ont halé loin au moulin,
Pour faire un cercueil de pin pour le cher cœur a moi,
Quand ils ont coupé le vieux arbre de pin.

Elle a pas une fleur* dans sa poche ce soir,
Où, là, mon cœur va toujours être,
Ils ont coupé mon cœur quand ils ont séparés,
Quand ils ont coupé le vieux arbre de pin.
Daily Advertiser
Aug 18, 1938

In 1937, Werner, fiddler Wayne Perry and steel guitar player Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez traveled to Dallas, TX and recorded the old tune "Le Vieux Arbe De Pin (They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree)" for Decca records (#17046).  The song was an old American folk tune, first recorded in 1929 by George Brown, Edward Eliscu, William Raskin and Albert Barbelle and then later by the Carson Robison Trio and Dick Robertson.  It would eventually become a staple of western music.  In his line, "elle a pas une fleur dans sa poche ce soir", he could be referencing the line "elle a pas seule dans sa tombe ce soir" which speaks of the love interest buried in the grave but never really alone.

Papa Cairo

They cut the old pine tree,
They hauled it away to the mill,
To make a pine coffin for my dear sweetheart of mine,
When they cut the old pine tree.

She is not alone in her grave tonight,
There, where my heart will always be,
They cut my heart when they separated it,
When they cut the old pine tree. 
Joe Werner and Papa Cairo continued to work together throughout their careers.  The song's popularity continued for decades, recorded by artists such as Sons of the Pioneers, Jimmy Driftwood and George Fisher, Gene Autry, Black & White, Buck Wilson & His Rangers, Dan Parker w/Orch, Dick Robertson w/Orch, Frank Luther, Frankie Marvin, Gene Carroll - Glen Rowell, Hart & Ogle, Joe Rines & His Orch, Paul Mason, Redd Evans & His Billy Boys, Rice Brothers Gang, Tennessee Moonbeams, Tommy & Willie, and the Tune Wranglers.

  1. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
63075 Le Vieux Arbe De Pin (They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree) | Decca 17046 A
63078 Vingt Et Un Ans (Twenty One Years) | Decca 17046 B

JOE WERNER Early Cajun Artist (BACM, 2016)