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.