Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Early Cajun Music - Volume 2 on PDF

I've released the second volume on PDF.  For those that want to print out copies of this for themselves.  Download below.  Enjoy!

Early Cajun Music - Volume 2 on PDF

Thursday, December 25, 2014

"Manual Bar Waltz" - Milton Molitor & Austin Pitre

One of the later independent Cajun music recording engineers was Floyd Soileau.  His early attempts at recording Cajun music started with two brief labels: VEE PEE and Big Mamou Records.  Soileau's first label, Big Mamou, was formed in partnership with Ed Manuel, a Mamou, Louisiana, jukebox operator, nightclub owner, and regular customer of Floyd's Record Shop, who had the financial backing to assist the young entrepreneur. Manuel had also taped Cajun musicians Milton Molitor and Austin Pitre at a party where they performed "Manuel Bar Waltz" (#101) in 1957.  By releasing the recording, it would become Floyd's entry into the music business.

Hey chère regarde donc quoi toi t'as fait,

Mais aujourd'hui avec moi ma criminelle.

Hey bébé tu pourrais plus.
Hey t'aurais eu le coeur aussi criminelle.
Hey semaine en semaine, jour en jour ici,
J'ai jongler à toi criminelle que t'as tout le temps été.

Hey bébé tous les soirs quand je me couche,
Hey tout le temps de la nuit, je me capote de bord dans mon lit.
Hey je peux pas dormir moi pour moi.
Hey c'est juste rapport a tout ce que toi tu m'as fait.
Manuel's Bar

The word "capote" is an old French marine term for saying "turned upside down" "overthrowing" and finally, "aground".  In Cajun French, the verb "jongler" is a mysterious, old French word and seems to translate as "to think" or "reminiscence".  Although these songs were recorded merely to advertise a couple of Manuel's nightclubs, Soileau shipped the masters to Don Pierce's Starday Records in Nashville. During his days at KVPI, Soileau had often run across promotional fliers from Starday, which read "If you've got a tape, we can press a record for you." The Big Mamou releases sold encouragingly and began to revive interest in Cajun music around Ville Platte.  He said

Ed said, "We're gonna call this 'Manual Bar Waltz' and 'Midway Two Step'" because those were two nightclubs he had an interest in and he wanted some publicity. We put our first record out and started selling it.

Austin Pitre, Lurlin Lejeune and Milton Molitor
Milton had his start early on with Chuck Guillory and his Rhythm Boys as the accordion player. Eventually, Molitor and Pitre recorded for Dr. Harry Oster and Chris Strachwitz in the 1960s.

Hey dear, just look what you've done to yourself,

However, now, you've done it with me, it's cruel.

Hey baby, you could do more.
Hey, you should have a heart, also cruel.
Hey, from week to week, day by day,
I remember you always have been cruel.

Hey baby, every night when I go to bed,
Hey, all hours of the night, I'm tossing and turning in my bed,
Hey, I, myself, can not sleep,
Hey, it's just everything that you've done to me.

After the records were released, Ed was no longer interested in the recording business.  He had obtained the publicity he needed for his clubs.  Floyd was on his own:

So I changed the label to VEE-PEE Records. I had seven hundred 45s and three hundred 78s done, and it started selling very well.  

Later that year, Floyd would record Lawrence Walker and Aldus Roger.  Soon afterwards, in 1958, he would continue his business with 45 vinyl releases on his Swallow label, using the English pronunciation of his last name.  Soileau recalled the name change:

"I knew damn well I couldn't put S-O-I-L-E-A-U on there," he says. "They wouldn't be able to pronounce it in most places out of here." "When my dad saw that, he said [with a thick Cajun accent] 'What's the matter! You 'shame of your name?' I said 'It's not gonna fit. . . . Besides, that's the bird, . . . it's not necessarily my name." And he had a hard time—I don't know if he ever bought that entirely"

  1. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/miller_and_soileau.html
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
Floyd's Early Cajun Singles (Ace, 1999)

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Lulu's Back In Town" - Cleoma Breaux

Not only were the blues influential on Cajun music, even jazz played a part in early Cajun recording artists.  In 1937, Cleoma Breaux Falcon covers this swingy tune called "Lulu's Back In Town" (#17030) for Decca in Dallas, TX.   Recorded at the Adolphus Hotel, the recording consisted of Cleoma Falcon on vocals and guitar with Moise Morgan on violin.  

Mon j'ai pour avoir mon suit bien r'passé,
Pour côde ain bouton sus mon gilet,
Pace qu'a soir j'ai pour m' bien m' préparer:
Lulu est r'venu dans l' village.

J'ai pour trouver ain ciquante-sou en queque part,
J'ai pour briller mes souiller, bien peigner mes chfeux,
Pace qu'assoir j'ai pour m' bien m' préparer:
Lulu est r'venu dans l' village.

Ti peux dére à tous mes préférées:
Mes blones et mes brunes,
Que monsieur Otis regréttait
Il etait pas à l'entour.

Aw ti peux dére au postillion d' pas vnére;
J'vas pas ête à la maison avant automne; 
J'vas peutête pas m'en r'venere ditout:
Lulu est r'venu dans l'village.

Daily Advertiser
Aug 18, 1937

Cleoma was born into a musical family.  Contrary to popular belief, the song was not written for her daughter Loula, however one wonders if the song was recorded with her in mind.  It's a Cajun french cover version of the popular Fats Waller song. Originally written for the 1935 musical Broadway Gondolier, Waller, whose innovation of the Harlem stride style which laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano, recorded the tune for Victor records. Taking a more moderate tempo than Waller, the limiting structure of the song inhibited the full power and range of Cleoma's vocal abilities as she casually swung through the tune backed by Morgan.  It's one of the clear evidences of popular music influencing Cajun musicians in the 1930s. The song would later be popularize again by Mel Tormé in the 1950s.
Adolphus Hotel, Dallas, TX

Gotta get my old tuxedo pressed

Gotta sew a button on my vest

'Cause tonight I've gotta look my best

Lulu's back in town

Gotta get a half a buck somewhere

Gotta shine my shoes and slick my hair
Gotta get myself a boutonniere
Lulu's back in town

You can tell all my favorites
All the blondes and brunettes
Mister Otis regrets
That he won't be aroun'

Tell the mailman not to call
Ain't comin' home until the fall
And then again I might not get home at all
Lulu's back in town
Cléoma had an enormous impact on Cajun music. At the time, women had a significantly smaller presence in Cajun Music. Her vocals and guitar skills fascinated many people. This made her recordings very successful. 

  1. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music: By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
Cajun Music (Goldenlane, 2009)

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Jennings Two-Step" - Ernest Thibodeaux

Although Amede Ardoin used the name "Tostape de Jennings" on an early tune, the same name would be used on a different tune recorded around 1949 by a Cajun french band led by Nathan Abshire's guitarist, "Calcasieu" Ernest Thibodeaux (spelled Tipidoe), for Khoury records.  Between 1949 and 1951, he and Nathan recorded the "Jennings Two Step" (#105).  

Owner George Khoury would have the record pressed by an independent label out of San Antonio called Hot Rod Records. (This label is not to be confused with Hot Rod records started by Rob Petersen). After Virgil Bozeman's failed attempt at the Opera label, and then his finances for his O.T. label dried up, he moved back to San Antonio where he started the Hot Rod label with local record man Bob Tanner.  

Hey ! Quoi faire pour toi mais malheureuse ?

Hey y aïe ! Tu me fais mais avec moi ?

Hey y aïe ! Pourquoi mais malheureuse ?

Moi je suis là Catin mais pour moi même

Hey y aïe ! Pourquoi toi mais tu fais ça ?

Tu connais ça me fait mais ça de la peine !

Hey y aïe ! Pourquoi donc mais toi tu fais ?
Que toi mais t'es plus tard après mais sera plus tard !
Hey Catin tu me fais des sentiments !
There are only 7 known records made by this label, including songs by artists Nathan Abshire and Carrol Sammons. According to collector Lyle Ferbrache:
Nathan Abshire and Ernest Thibodeaux
"there was no rock & roll in sight . . . yet. Post-war hot rodding had just begun, so this label art actually was a cutting-edge development, though mostly unseen."
Jennings is a small town in Louisiana located along the interstate between Lafayette and Houston and the location of the band's featured dancehall, The Pine Grove Club.  It's this club where Ernest invited Nathan Abshire in 1948 to join with Will Kegley and Will’s sister Oziet Kegley to make the band called the Pine Grove Boys. After playing with four members until 1949, they took on Atlas Fruge and Jim Baker. The song's sound is rough compared to the quality of other independent labels involved in recording Cajun music.  The instruments are hard to hear with the vocals clipping loudly. 

Ernest started playing guitar at 10 years old and played professionally at the age of 13 with Will Kegley and the Lake Charles Playboys. Nathan often gave up the vocal duties to other singers, such as Ernest, to concentrate on his playing.  Thibodeaux would often sang short stories in French, with delightful funny, good natured lyrics or lamenting about a female cheating.  During this session, Ernest had asked Nathan if he could "take couple of sides".6  Most likely, all the musicians were part of Abshire's Pine Grove Boys band.  

Hey little doll! What can I do with you?  So unfortunate.

Hey, yaille! What are you doing with me?

Hey, yaille! Why? So unfortunate.

I'm here by myself, little doll.

Hey, yaille! Why are you doing that?

You know, it's punishing me.

Hey, yaille! Why are you doing this?
You're going to come back too late, and afterwards, it'll be too late.
Hey little doll! You'll get lonesome.

Tanner would go on to create his own label known as T.N.T (Tanner N Texas) releasing material by Iry Lejune and Aldus Roger.  Ernest would go on to play every Saturday at Fred's Lounge in Mamou, Louisiana alongside musicians such as August Broussard, Don Thibodeaux, Iry Lejeune, and Wilson Granger. Ernest was the last member of the Pine Grove Boys, playing music until the age of 75.

  1. http://library.mcneese.edu/depts/archive/SWLAMusicians/encyclosz.htm
  2. http://rockindownthehighway.blogspot.com/2006/10/rockin-big-apple.html
  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. http://www.bopping.org/nathan-abshire/
  5. http://files.usgwarchives.net/la/jeffersondavis/obits/2006/t06obit.txt
  6. Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Vol. 2. Liner notes.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Mon Dernier Bon Soir" - Alleman and Walker

Even though Lawrence Walker would be known helping the resurgence in Cajun music after the war, few remember that his first entry in the music scene was in the mid 1930s during the Cajun string band craze.   Lawrence teamed up with his brothers for a recording session in New Orleans in 1935.   Fellow musician, Tony Alleman, tagged along and while they were there, Lawrence and Tony recorded "Mon Dernier Bon Soir" (#2193).

J'ai fait mon idée,

de m'en aller, chère

Quand je suis parti, belle,

c'est pour toujours

Observe-moi bien, chère,
pour la dernière fois
Donne moi ta petite main,
pour dire au revoir
(fait pas ça!)

Regarde voir le char neg,
Donne moi un ticket
Pour moi m'en aller,
si loin que je peux.

Et dans le tracas,
Je va t'oublier mon neg'
Faudra que je l'oublie chère,
Ou je va mourrir là.
Lawrence Walker

The simple song has Lawrence on vocals, however, there is some confusion on if Tony is on guitar or on fiddle.  According to Richard Spottswood, he lists Tony Alleman on vocal and Lawrence Walker on violin.  Lawrence Walker's recordings with Tony Alleman for the Bluebird label provide further evidence of Cajun musicians organizing Texas-tinged proto-Cajun swing.  The duo bristles with energy from the interplay between the song's Franco and Anglo components.

I have an idea,

To go away, my dear,

When I leave, my beautiful,

It will be forever.

Look at me good, my dear,
For the last time,
Give me your little hand,
In order to say goodbye.
(no not that!)

See the car, neg',
Give me a ticket,
In order for me to leave,
As far as I can,

And within these worries,
I will forget you, my neg',
I must forget you, my dear,
Or I will die.

This record would be the only one with Alleman.  Walker would record only once more before the war in 1936 at the National Folk Festival in Dallas, TX.   Afterwards, he stopped recording and began rice farming.   He wouldn't record again until Cajun music's popularity grew again in the 1950s; this time with an accordion led band.

  1. http://www.amazon.com/Cajun-Early-Recordings-Cajun-Early/dp/B0001ZXNS0
  2. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  3. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. Lyrics by 'ericajun' and Marc C
Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 2: The Early 30s (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1971)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Listen: ECM Radio Show on KPOO San Francisco 11-24-2014

The blog has garnered some attention, including a radio station in San Francisco.  On Nov 24th, I phoned into a radio station program called Gramophoney Baloney on KPOO.   I cover some of the articles I've posted here and listeners get to hear a selection of the tunes throughout the 2 hr show.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Abbeville" - Jolly Boys of Lafayette

After 1933, Decca began looking to record more southern American music including hillbilly and Cajun music. Their A&R man, David Kapp, made pilgrimages through the south in areas such as Memphis, New Orleans, Dallas, San Antonio and Charlotte. He stated 
"In Dallas we got a lot of Cajuns coming in. I've seen some of those artists drive 500 miles in tumble-down cars to get an audition". 
One of those many Cajun bands was the Jolly Boys of Lafayette. Lafayette is a city in the heart of Cajun country. Composed of Leon "Crip" Credeur on fiddle and vocals, Joseph Fabacher on accordion and Francis "Red" Fabacher on guitar, they would travel to Dallas in 1937 and record 10 songs. Allegedly, Oran Doc Guidry claimed he and the band recorded earlier for Decca in 1934, however, there is no record of this in the Decca archives. 

S'en aller là bas à Abbeville

C'est pour voir ma chère mignonne petite veuve

Quelques jours passés, je lui ai envoyer une lettre

Elle m'a jamais renvoyé de ses nouvelles

Petit coeur tu connais t'auras du regret

D'avoir eu fait tous les misères que t'es après me faire

Mais oh y aïe moi j'connais tu vas pleurer

Tu vas pleurer, c'est pour ça que t'es après faire
Francis Fabacher

The Fabacher brothers descend from a Bavarian family that settled in the region during the 1870s. Joseph's German accordion would have been very familiar to the families older generation. One of the songs recorded included the country influenced entitled "Abbeville" (#17026), named after a town south of Lafayette. The tune is typical of the country-hillbilly sound which influenced Cajun music in the late 1930s. An old country-western tune called "Lonesome Pine", which Cleoma Breaux covered as "Pin Solitaire" in 1936, most likely was the influence.  The first recording of this melody as a Cajun tune was by the Guidry Brothers called "Le Garcon Negligent" in 1929.  The melody was previously recorded by her brothers the year before as "La Valse Du Bayou Plaquemine".  The melody would later influence "Alons Kooche Kooche" and "Grand Texastunes by Papa Cairo.  All of these tunes would lead to Hank Williams' "Jambalaya".

Going away to there Abbeville,
It's for my cute dear little widow,
Past few days, I've been sending letters,
She never sent me anything new.

Small heart, you know you'll regret this,
Having made me miserable after all of this,
But oh yaille, I know you're going to cry,
You're going to cry, it's what will happen.
Daily Advertiser
Apr 12, 1937
In the same fashion, the group would also record the song "Jolie Brunette", a different take on the famous "Jole Blon" melody. The group didn't last and disbanded. Francis would later end up playing guitar with Happy Fats and both steel guitar and electric guitar with Harry Choates. Leon would later work with Leroy Broussard of the Happy-Go-Lucky Band.  Joe is believed to have played with Pee Wee Broussard and the Melody Boys.

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  2. Billboard Magazine. Hotel Room Recording Studios. Apr 3, 1971.
  3. Lyrics by 'ericajun'
Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"La Manvais Femme" - Thibodeaux Boys

Bluebird had several Cajun swing musicians come to New Orleans for a marathon recording session on April 1938. Many of the musicians during that session would play along side different groups recording western swing music.  

7 ans avec la mauvaise femme,
C'est plus qu'un homme peut durer 
7 ans avec la mauvaise femme,
C'est assez pour jeuner un an
7 ans avec la mauvaise femme,
C'est assez pour tuer un bon homme
7 ans avec la mauvaise femme,
C'est assez pour jeuner un an

Garcon, si tu penses a t'marier,
Ecoute a quoi j'va t'dire!
Si tu maries la mauvaise femme,
C'est pire que vivre dans l'enfer
Si tu maries la mauvaise femme,
L'a juste une seul chose tu peux faire:
Fouille un trou et lance dedans
Et couvre tout avec la terre!
Joe Werner

One of the impromptu groups that formed was the Thibodeaux Boys. Composed of Erby Thibodeaux on fiddle and vocals, T.C. Thibodeaux on guitar, and Joe Werner on guitar, they recorded 12 songs for Bluebird. One of the songs they recorded would be "La Manvais Femme" (#2043) for Bluebird, which was based on an old time, hillbilly tune known as "Seven Years With The Wrong Woman". The title should have been spelled "la mauvais femme" which means "the wrong woman". Not much is known about this group. Only Joe continues to record afterwards, filling in and forming other bands such as Riverside Ramblers, Hackberry Ramblers, Louisiana Rounders, Joe's Acadians, and Happy Fats.

7 years with the wrong woman
This is more than a man can take
7 years with the wrong woman
That's enough for lunch for a year
7 years with the wrong woman
It is enough to kill a good man
7 years with the wrong woman
That's enough for lunch for a year

Son, if you thinking of marriage
Listen to what I'm going to say,
If you marry the wrong woman,
This is worse than living in hell
If you marry the wrong woman,
There is just one thing you can do:
Dig a hole and throw yourself in
And cover yourself with dirt!

Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Hix Wagon Wheel Special" - Aldus Roger

This tune is one of many dancehall era songs made popular by Aldus Roger.  This would be  J.D. Miller's first recording of Aldus and his band, helping popularize the music being heard throughout the Cajun countryside.   The song is commonly played at the start of the night allowing musicians to warm up and get the patrons on the dance floor.  Sometimes spelled "Hicks", Miller released "Hix Wagon Wheel Special" (#1028) on his Feature label in the early 1950s with Roger on accordion and Roy Morgan on guitar.  The song is named after a popular dancehall near Opelousas, LA, owned by Hillred "Hicks" Sylvester, known as the Hicks' Wagonwheel Dancehall & Racetrack where Roger and other bands played.  The melody derives from a much older tune originally known as "La Queue d'Tortue" which influenced the Segura Brothers in their 1928 recording of "Bury Me In The Corner Of The Yard".
Aldus Roger and Lafayette Playboys
KLFY in Lafayette
Rodney Miller, Fernest "Man" Abshire,
Aldus Roger, Aldus "Popeye" Broussard,
Daemus Comeaux

Aldus Roger's father didn't want him to play accordion, however he would borrow one and play it in the barn.  By the 1950s, national programming dominated the airwaves, but like elsewhere, television stations in south Louisiana provided a few shows aimed solely at local audiences.  Shortly after KLFY began broadcasting in June 1955, it offered viewers a weekly half-hour Cajun music program featuring Roger and his band: the Lafayette Playboys.  Dixie 45 brand beer sponsored the program, and so successfully did Roger market the beverage taht even non-French speakers were known to refer to it offhandeldy as "Dixie quarante-cinq". 

Inside the Hick's Wagon Wheel, ca. 1944
Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan & the
Center for Louisiana Studies,
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Roger led his group for over twenty years and set the standard by which Cajun dance bands are judged even today. He surrounded himself with some of the best backing musicians of his time -- some of whom are still the best today -- and helped bring Cajun music to a wider audience thanks to his weekly television program on Lafayette, Louisiana's KLFY Channel 10.  Roger paid tribute to the show in the mid 1950s with his recordings entitled "KLFY Waltz" and "Channel 10 Two Step".  In 1962, he represented Louisiana at the National Folklore Festival in Washington, D.C. 

Recently, a lost archival footage of the band playing during a KLFY taping of the show in 1968 surfaced from a French film website.

Daily World
Dec 23, 1952

  1. The Cajuns: Americanization of a People By Shane K. Bernard
  2. Historic Lafayette: An Illustrated History of Lafayette & Lafayette Parish By Michael S. Martin
  3. http://www.flattownmusic.com/Aldus-Roger-Legend-Series-Aldus-Roger-the-Lafayette-Playboys-CD-P3090.aspx
  4. Image by Cary Ginell
  5. Image identification by Michael Dupuy

Friday, November 21, 2014

"La Valse Crowley" - Cleoma Breaux

In 1934, after the depression, record labels began recording Cajun music again. By August, Joe and Cleoma were in San Antonio and in December, they were on their way to New York City. They accompanied Amede Ardoin on a bus for a recording session with Decca. When they reached Hoboken, New Jersey, they boarded a ferry to cross the icy Hudson River. As the ferry crossed, it began to sink, with water filling up the bus. In the darkness, Cleoma's thoughts were on her daughter and began to think she'd never see her daughter again. After they were rescued, both of them arrived at the studio. Cleoma collected her emotions and wrote them into a song for her daughter: "La Valse Crowley" (#17006).  

Oh, ma chère ‘tite fille, 

Moi j’connais, j’suis si loin de toi mon nègre.

Ca me fait faire dans la peine de t’quitter,

Pour venir si loin de toi, malheureuse.

Prends courage, oui ma chère ‘tite fille,

Moi j’après m’en aller pour te r’joindre.

Tu connais, toi t’es bien soignée,

Mais j’peux pas m’empêcher d’m’ennuyer.

Moi j’après m’en aller de te r’joindre,

Prends courage, chère ‘tite fille, prends courage.

Moi j’après m’en aller, oui te r’joindre,
Ca s’ra pas longtemps, oui ma chère ‘tite fille.

Separately, Amede Ardoin recorded for Decca during the same session.  Twelve songs were recorded the session; location mistakenly listed as New Orleans, however, both the Breaux and the Ardoin family recall the session being in NYC.  Cleoma was from the town of Crowley, Louisiana and it's the town where both her and Joe settled after they got married.  The melody would later become the basis for the "Eunice Waltz" and Elise Deshotel's "La Vase De Temper Tate".   It even influenced Aldus Roger's recording of "Lafayette Playboys Waltz". 

Oh, my dear lil girl

I know I'm so far from you.

It makes me sorry to have left,

I've gone so far away from you, I'm unhappy.

Take care, my dear, please lil girl

After all of this, I will be with you.

I know you are well cared for

But I can not help but be lonely.

After all of this, I will be with you.

Take care, dear lil girl, take care.

After all of this, I will be with you.
It won't be long, yes, my dear lil girl.

  1. Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times edited by Janet Allured
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"L'Abandoner" - Bartmon Montet & Joswell Dupuis

One of the earliest, fairly obscure, groups to record in New Orleans in the early years was Bartmon Montet & Joswell Dupuis.  In November 1929, this unknown duo recorded for Victor records, one of the first labels specifically looking for Cajun music.  

By the late 1920s, Victor Talking Machine Company was interested in selling more of their record players and realized in order to do this in the south, they were going to need to sell more regional records.  Victor had just traveled to Atlanta and recorded Leo Soileau and Mayeus Lafleur the previous year and enjoyed amazing sales of Cajun music.   During this session lasting from November 6th to the 16th, Victor would record musicians such as Bixy Guidry & Percy Babineaux, Soileau Cousins, Delin Guillory & Lewis Lafleur, Wilfred Fruge & Leo Soileau, Oscar Doucet & Alius Soileau, Joe Credeur & Albert Babineaux, and Joseph Landry.  

Oh quoi faire toi tu me dis,

Je m'ennuis de rester, qu'elle était mais si belle

Oh je connais aussi dur,

tu peux pas oublier ton p'tit neg et la terre!

Oh moi j'm'en va à la maison,

Pour mourir moi tout seul,

Pourquoi-donc tu viens pas?

The duo would only record 4 songs, one of them entitled "L'Abandoner (The Abandoned Waltz)" (#22211).  The song is jubilant yet doomed account of lost love buoyed by lively accordion and guitar.  Bartmon's name is listed in Victor's roster as "Berthmost" and "Bartmonse".   Montet plays the accordion and sings while Dupuis strums guitar.  Author and collector, Richard Spottwood, asserts that only 810 were sold.   

Oh, what do you say?

I'm bored staying here, but she's so beautiful,

Oh, I know it's just as hard,

You can't forget your little boy and the place of your home!

Oh, I'm going home,

To die by myself

So why don't you come with me?

Their tune would be resurrected by Iry Lejeune with is recording of "Convict Waltz". The duo would also record another song, "L'Eau Haute (High Water Waltz)" which was probably about the famous 1927 flood that hit Louisiana and the Mississippi River.

  1. Lyrics by 'Ericajun'
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)
Aimer Et Perdre: To Love & To Lose Songs, 1917-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2012)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Early Cajun Music - Volume 1 on PDF

If you like this information, there's no book that you can buy that contains it all. Instead of publishing this, I decided to create a volume of articles.

I decided to move 10 songs into the first volume on PDF.   Feel free to share, store, email, and print the material as you wish.  Over time, as information is added or corrected, I will update the version and keep the most current version located on this site.

Download Early Cajun Music, Volume 1

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Jole Blon" - Harry Choates

Jole Blon is a traditional cajun waltz, often called "the cajun national anthem" because of the popularity it had in cajun culture. The song was then later popularized on a nationwide scale by a series of renditions and references in late '40s country songs. It has been the subject of occasional cover later in the 20th century by cajun and classic country revival bands. Becoming a part of the band's repertoire in 1951, "Jole Blon" became the official fight song of McNeese State University in 1970, and it is played by the "Pride of McNeese" band upon scoring at athletic events. It's a swing and dance tune that and became the first and only Cajun record to reach the Billboard Top Five.

The original Cajun version is a brief address to a "pretty blonde" who had left the singer and moved back in with her family, and is also now in the arms of another man. The singer concludes that there are plenty other women, and pretty blonde women out there that he can find. The fiddle-based, instrumental melody of this song dates back before the 1900s.  It's influence can be found in the Guidry Brother's "Homme Abandonne" introduction, Angelas Lejeune's "La Valse De La Veuve", and the Segura Brother's "La Fille De La Veuve". 

As discussed in a previous article, the earliest recording of the song is believed to be a 1929 version by the family trio Breaux Brothers entitled "Ma blonde est partie", recorded in Atlanta.  The title "Jolie Blonde" was first given to the melody by two bands separately: the Hackberry Ramblers version of "Jolie Blonde" and J. B. Fuselier and his Merrymakers' version of "Ta Ma Lessa Jolie Blonde", both during a New Orleans recording session in 1936.  The melody also appears in "La Valse de La Lafayette" by the Jolly Boys of Lafayette  and Happy Fats' "Nouveau Grand Gueydan" in 1937.

Harry Choates
Bill Quinn had a background in electronics and experience working as a sound man for a carnival show. In Houston, he started repairing radios, and as another twist of fate would have it, everything changed one day when a customer brought in a disc-recording machine that needed repair. Quinn became fascinated with the concept, and purchased one for himself.   By 1941, he started the Quinn Recording Company and did custom recordings and commercial jingles for radio stations, but soon ventured into the record business, with the short-lived Gulf label. 

É ha ha!

Jolie blonde, jolie fille

Chère petite, jolie cœur

Tu m'as laissé pour t'en aller

Avec un autre, mais chère petite fille

Dans l'pays de la Louisiane

Mais malheureuse

Oh, mais jolie cœur

Ca t'as fait à ton pauvre papa

Tu m'as laissé, mais, chère petite

Mais moi tout seul

Mais malheureux

Quelle espoir, mais quel avenir

Mais moi j'peux avoir?

É hé hé!

Oh ha ha!

Chère petite, jolie blonde

Mais ca t'as dit, ma malheureuse

Quoi t'as fait? Tu vas avoir

Tu serais pitié

Daily Advertiser
Nov 16, 1946

The popularization began in 1946 with Harry Choates and his French version of "Jole Blon" for Gold Star records (#1314). Harry Choates had his first stint playing with Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc and the Rayne-Bo Ramblers in 1939 in which Happy's band performed the song as "Nouveau Grand Gueydan".  Eventually, Choates made his recording debut as fiddler with the band at a 1940 session in Dallas.  Afterwards, Choates next started playing electric mandolin with Shelly Lee Alley and the Alley Cats. Later in 1941, he was playing guitar with Pancho and the Farmhands over in Beaumont.  Around this time, Choates also played guitar and second fiddle for Leo Soileau’s Aces with Joe and Abe Manuel, and Francis “Red” Fabacher. Harry had been playing with Leo Soileau when he was exposed to their song "La Valse De Gueydan".  According to Happy:
Harry had first performed the tune in Soileau's band but on his Gold Star recording he stepped up the key from G to A.4  
It was about this time when Happy Fats began toying around with the idea of recording "Jole Blon" with his group the Rayne-Bo Ramblers.  According author to Andrew Brown, with the onset of WWII, Steve Sholes of RCA Victor records told a disappointed Leblanc that the session had to be cancelled because of wartime shellac rationing.13 

In January of 1944, Choates was drafted into the army and shipped to California for basic training.  After being discharged, back home, he played off and on with Leo Soileau’s Rhythm Boys, Toby Kelley’s Kings of Swing, Dean Rasberry’s Streamliners and as a solo performer. One night Choates passed out with a lit cigarette in his mouth and his bed caught on fire. Soileau and another bandmate pulled him, still unconscious, to safety. By late 1945, he quit the Rhythm Boys for good.  Choates began playing jazz guitar with guitarist Esmond “Eddie” Pursely at The Club Irving, one of East Orange’s many nightclubs. His first wife, Helen Daenen Cundiff, drove their ‘38 Ford station wagon with “Harry Choates” painted on the side to performances where she sold tickets.10
Bill Quinn

Pursely, now in Jimmy Foster & His Swingsters, tracked Choates down and convinced him to join that group. They consisted of James "Jimmie" Foster on bass, Eddie Pursley on acoustic lead guitar, B.D. Williams on rhythm guitar, Charlie Slagle on banjo and Bill Slay on piano. Before long, Choates took over the group’s direction. One night, whilst playing a honky-tonk on Beaumont Highway in Houston, a local record producer, Bill Quinn, caught a performance and, impressed with Choates’s playing, convinced the band to record for his pioneering independent label, Gold Star. 

In 1946, Choates recorded his song "Jole Blon".  It struck a nerve with the record-buying public and reached #4 on the Billboard charts in 1947, twice!  Later, he would record an English version and several different versions, playing off of the name name Jole Blon, such as "Jole Blon's Gone" and "Mari Jole Blon". None of these garnered the success he had with the first recording.   

At the time Quinn, a transplanted New Englander, entered the record business, however, the manufacture of phonograph records was a closely guarded secret by the major companies. It was something he had to largely figure out for himself, which took a lot of trial and error. He even tried melting down other people's records for his need of shellac materials.  Quinn admits that many of the fragile acetate masters never materialized out of his homemade processing tank — and with no backup of any kind (audio tape was not in widespread use at the time) — the recording was simply lost forever.  
Harry Choates '&&' His Fiddle

Bill Quinn, "required at least a dozen takes" before he was satisfied with Choates’ rendition of “Jole Blon.” Choate's version took the traditional waltz and accelerated the tempo, adding a prominent piano accompaniment.  Bill was not prepared by the response he got from that record. After a Houston DJ began playing the “Jole Blon,” the song exploded in popularity and Gold Star was unable to meet the public’s demand.  A Galveston-based jukebox operator, Lester Bihari , convinced Quinn to license the track to his Modern Records, managed by Bihari's family.  Harry's recording shows up on multiple labels and even multiple releases on the same label, such as Modern Music (#20-511), Starday (#187) in both English and French, D Records (#1024) and the Deluxe label (#6000).  

The song appears in at least 3 different "Gold Star" labels, #1313, Quinn's address number on Dumble Street.  The originals with the red/yellow label with gold print were on non-flexible acetate.  A few have the mistaken double-ampersand "& &" printed on the label.  Later, the ones on the red/yellow label with black print were pressed on vinyl.  D-issues are recent and were pressed by the H.W. ‘Pappy” Daily distribution concern in Houston.  The Modern Records version, outsourced to the Bihari Brother's label in California, was released listed as Harry Coates & his fiddle.

E ha ha!

Pretty blonde, pretty girl,

Dear little pretty heart,

You left me, went away,

With another, my dear,

Into the countryside of Louisiana,

Oh my! I'm miserable.

Oh, my pretty heart,

You did this to your poor papa,

You left me, but, my dear,

Oh my! I am all alone,

Oh my! I'm miserable,

What hope, what future can I have?

E heh heh!

Oh ha ha!

Dear pretty blonde

Oh my! I told you I'm unhappy

What did you do? Have mercy, would you?

Lake Charles American Press
Oct 24, 1947

Jimmie Foster sued and was subsequently awarded a half cent for the first 50,000 recording sold, amounting to $250.  An acute alcoholic, Choates sold the rights to "Jole Blon" for $100 and a bottle of whiskey. His habit of missing concerts led him to be blacklisted by the musicians union in San Antonio and resulted in his band breaking up. Quinn would go on to record other artists, including the famous Lightnin’ Hopkins, however, by 1952, Bill Quinn had simply had enough. With Lightnin’ recording for anyone who had the cash, the government breathing down his neck seeking to collect excise taxes on his record pressings, plus the untimely deaths of his big star, Harry Choates, and his first wife, Lona, to cancer — he folded up Gold Star and called it a day.  His studio, however, stayed open for business.   

By 1955, Harold "Pappy" Daily of Starday Records purchased the masters from Quinn and released them on his label in both French and a "new" version in English, even having Moon Mullican record it.   The English version seems to be an unissued Quinn recording, which Daily decided to press.  However, it's success was over.   The last release was on Daily's "D" Records in 1959 on a 45. Billboard magazine listed it as:

A familiar country and Creole subject gets new treatment, although the voice is weakly recorded.  Limited sectional appeal.

The song comes in at #99 out of Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time".

NOTE: Don Pierce claimed that Buddy Dee (whose name appears on several Mercury-Starday 45s as writer) was actually a pseudonym for D. Kilpatrick and used to give monetary thanks to the man who created Mercury-Starday, though Kilpatrick (the former head of Mercury’s country division, who left to become the manager of the Grand Ole Opry in 1957) remembers nothing of the alter-ego. It very likely could have been used as a pseudonym for Pappy Daily instead.

  1. Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates a Cajun Legend by Tim Knight 
  2. House of Hits The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios By Andy Bradley and Roger Wood
  3. Lightnin' Hopkins: His Life and Blues By Alan B. Govenar
  4. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  5. “Jole Blon”—Harry Choates (1946) Added to the National Registry: 2005 Essay by Ryan Brasseaux
  6. http://www.rocky-52.net/chanteursc/choates_h.htm
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jole_Blon
  8. http://bluesunlimited.podomatic.com/entry/2014-04-01T07_27_40-07_00
  9. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/100-greatest-country-songs-of-all-time-20140601/99-harry-choates-jole-blon-1946-0629823
  10. http://www.amoeba.com/music/artist/64745/bio
  11. Billboard Magazine, Apr 23, 1955
  12. "Harry Choates: Devil in the Bayou".  Liner notes.
  13. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  14. Lyrics by Neal P and Bryan L
Jole Blon (D, 1959)
Fiddle King of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)
Jole Blon - 23 Artists One Theme (Bear, 2002)
Harry Choates: Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear, 2002)

The Beginner's Guide to Cajun Music (Proper/Primo, 2008)
J'ai Ete Au Bal - Vol. 1 (I Went To The Dance) (Arhoolie, 2011)
GOLD STAR LABEL Classic Country Music (BACM, 2018)