Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Attendre Pour Un Train" - John Bertrand & Roy Gonzales

John H. Bertrand was born in Prairie Ronde, a small district near Opelousas, Louisiana. He worked primarily as a blacksmith and taught himself the accordion while in his teens. After a spell away from the Opelousas area he and his family returned in 1924 and settled in a small community, L’Anse Aux Pailles. The young Milton Pitre lived next door and he would back Bertrand at his first session for Paramount in what is thought to have been January 1929.  

He traveled to Chicago twice in 1929 to record for Paramount Records; first time with guitarist Milton Pitre and the second time with guitarist Roy Gonzales and fiddle player Anthony Bertrand. At the time, Pitre would have been around twenty. In a macabre echo of the murder of Mayeus La Fleur, just a few weeks after this recording debut, Pitre was shot dead in an argument over a woman.  John and Milton are most known for the song "The Rabbit Stole The Pumpkin" which would influence two more well-known songs in years to come: Iry Lejeune's "I Went To The Dance" and Lawrence Walker's "Johnny Can't Dance".

Tout autour des "tanks" d'eau après attend' pour un train,
De mille miles de chez moi dans une place qu'est bien vilain.
J'ai monté de voir le conducteur, j'lui ai fait deux ou trois pas,
Il m'a dit si tu as d'l'argent, je vois que tu marches pas.
J'ai pas cinq sous dans ma poche, j'ai rien que j'peux montrer,
Tu peux descendre mon vieux bougre, il m'a fait me dépêcher.

Ils m'ont fait descendre dans l'Texas, une Etat que j'aime bien,
J'ai r'gardé autour de moi, mais j'voyais pas le train.
Personne ne voulait pas y me donner un coup d'main,
Tu t'en sors (?) mon vieux hobo, dépêche prend ton ch'min.
En poche mon livre était bien vide et mon cœur était en peine,
J'suis mille miles de chez moi pour attendre toujours un train.

John Bertrand
The recording is extremely rough and any translation is bound to be a guess at best.  Bertrand's style represents an unusual byway of Cajun music that is softer and more introspective than most other styles.  In March or April 1929 Bertrand was invited back for another Paramount session. With the death of Pitre, he appointed Roy Gonzales as back-up guitarist. Gonzales' unique yodeling style would imitate Jimmie Rogers which was popular during the era.  It's one of the few Cajun recordings containing yodeling.

All around the water tanks, I'm waiting for a train,

A thousand miles from home in a place that is very shabby.

I came up to see the driver who was two or three steps away,

He said "If you got money, boy, I'll see that you don't walk",

I don't have five cents in my pocket, I have nothing to show,

"Get off old chap!"  He made me leave quickly.


They made me go down to Texas, a state that I like,

I looked around me, but I could not see the train,

Nobody wanted to give me a helping hand,

You go away, old hobo, hurry along,
In my book bag was empty and my heart was in pain,
I'm a thousand miles from my house forever waiting for a train.

How the two came to work together is unclear but from the two numbers included here, the partnership appears to have worked well. During this second and final recording session, John and Roy record the song "Attendre Pour Un Train" for Paramount (#12762).   The song is a Cajun french verison of Jimmie Rogers' "Waiting For A Train".  Roy, a native of Crowley, Louisiana, was good friends with fiddler Leo Soileau.   It's possible the fiddle player on this song is Leo however, it's still unknown.  They would later team up, travelling together with Moise Robin to record for Paramount in Richmond, Indiana during the summer of 1929.  During this session, Roy would re-record "Attendre Pour Un Train" (#12807), this time, by himself. 

  1. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. Photo by Malcom V
  5. Lyrics by Ericajun and Marc C
John Bertrand / Blind Uncle Gaspard / Delma Lachney Early American Cajun Music (Yazoo, 1999)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Raise Your Window" - Falcon Trio

In 1936, with record sales holding up after the end of the Depression slump, the Victor mobile recording unit under the direction of Eli Oberstein visited New Orleans to record local hillbilly, blues and Cajun artists.  In what was one of the last major field trips, mammoth sessions were held at the St. Charles Hotel, with more than twenty five titles recorded each day.  The ensuing 78s were eventually released on Bluebird, Victor's subsidiary budget label, at a cost of thirty-five cents per copy.  The 2000 series had been set aside for it's Cajun artists.

Among the artists were the Falcon and Breaux musical families.  Joe and Cleoma most likely brought along fiddle player and family friend, Moise Morgan, to fill in the band labeled as the Falcon Trio.  However, some list the third player as Joe's brother, Ulysse Falcon. Leading the vocals, Cleoma sang the song "Raise Your Window" (#2183) for Bluebird.  
If you see me coming, raise your window high,

When you see me coming, raise your window high,

When you see me leaving, hang your little head and cry.

I went home last night, baby, knocked at my front door,

I went home last night, baby, knocked at my front door,

I heard someone say, I don't live here no more.

I found a stranger passing through your town,

I found a stranger passing through your town,

I'd ask a favor, but boy, you'd turn me down.

I can make more money with my pick and guitar than my good old Jersey cow,
I can make more money with my pick and guitar than my good old Jersey cow,
St. Charles Hotel
I can make more money than a passenger train can ride

I'm wild about Memphis, fool about Tennessee,
I'm wild about Memphis, fool about Tennessee,
Give me sweet Dallas, Texas where the men think the world of me.

It's an English version of a song she had recorded in Cajun french two years earlier for Decca in New York called "Ouvrez Grand Ma Fenetre" (also referred to as "Leve Tes Fenetres Haut" or "Raise Your Window High").  It's a swingy, bluesy song in the style of Jimmie Rodgers' "Anniversary Blue Yodel (Blue Yodel No. 7)" that most likely has an older origin. Even the lyrics between the two versions changed.  In this version, she sings about leaving her home and traveling the country, making more money playing music than farming, and the men she met in different towns.  Songs, like this 12-bar blues and similar others, would eventually influence Iry Lejeune's "Grand Bosco" and Happy Fats' "Blues de Bosco".

  1. Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times edited by Janet Allured 
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
Raise Your Window: A Cajun Music Anthology 1928 - 1941 (The Historic Victor-Bluebird Sessions Vol. 2) (CMF, 1993)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Let Me Tell You About the Blues: New Orleans (Fantastic Voyage, 2011)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Alons Kooche Kooche" - Louisiana Rounders

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.

Papa Cairo was a lap steel guitarist originally from New Orleans, living in Crowley.  Having become friends with Joe Falcon and Cleoma Breaux, he would play with several musicians around the Crowley area, including Leo Soileau, until he joined Werner's group in 1937. He started out playing guitar flat across his knees with a metal finger attachment, and when the first steel guitars appeared he was quick to buy one, mystifying his audiences by taking his hands off the instrument and holding the notes with his feet on the pedals. Happy Fats noticed he always wore a diamond-shaped gem on his tie and finger and gave him the nickname based on the Cajun French word for "diamond" ("carreau", pronounced "cairo"). 

Although the first recording of this melody as a Cajun tune was by the Guidry Brothers called "Le Garcon Negligent" in 1929, his tune was based on the Jolly Boys of Lafayette called "Abbeville", the band used the melody to record the song the 1937 song: "Alons Kooche Kooche" (#17040).

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller à l'anse Kooche Kooche

Pour t'en aller toi tout(e) seul(e) à l'anse Kooche Kooche

Criminelle! Comment j'va faire moi tout seul?

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller, pour t'en aller

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller

Pour t'en aller toi tout(e) seul(e) à l'anse Kooche Kooche

Criminelle! Comment j'va faire moi tout seul?

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller, pour t'en aller

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller
Pour t'en aller à l'anse Kooche Kooche toi tout(e) seul(e)
Criminelle! Comment j'va faire moi tout seul
Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller dans l'anse Kooche Kooche

Hey !  Kooche Kooche !
Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez

In the 1940s, he was drafted into the US Army, became a Sergeant. Lamperez would enter WWII, end up being captured by the Nazis, and held as POW in a stalag.  His sister explains that he escaped four times but never got very far. While captured, he had made a fiddle to entertain the guards and his popularity kept him from being executed. After his last prison escape with a group of men, the Germans killed all the escapees except for a dentist and Julius. However, after the war, he would return to music, recording with many local musicians, yet he never forgot the melody of this song.

You left me to go to the Kooche Kooche cove,

You went all alone to the Kooche Kooche cove,

Criminal! How will I handle this by myself?

You left me to go far away, went away.

You left me to go far away,

You went all alone to the Kooche Kooche cove,

Criminal! How will I handle this by myself?

You left me to go far away, went away

You left me to go far away,
To go to the Kooche Kooche cove all alone,
Criminal! How will I handle this by myself?
You left me to go far away to the Kooche Kooche cove

Hey there! Kooche Kooche!
Chuck Guillory's band.
Herman Durbin, Jimmy Newman, 

Chuck Guillory, Kersey "Pork Chop" Roy, 
R.R. Sagg (emcee), Papa Cairo

While the title is labeled with the misspelled Cajun french word allons (which means "to go"), given the context of the lyrics, it actually a different word, l'anse, which can mean cove or a "bend in the river" or "bend in the trees". It's named after the community "L'anse Couche-Couche" located along Hwy 92 between Mermentau and Morse in Acadia Parish.   Couche-couche, itself, is the Carribean Creole cornbread dish served around South Louisiana.  Unlike the Arabic version of couscous (kuskus) which uses durham wheat, the Cajuns replaced this with cornmeal mush. 

The melody would be used in Lamperez's recording of "Big Texas"; first with Chuck Guillory's band.  Eventually he would form his own group, Papa Cairo and His Boys which included Don Lane on xylophone, Murphy Smith on fiddle, Herman Durbin on piano, Albert Roy on guitar and possibly Pete Duhon on bass. He had spent years trying to get his song noticed, later recording it for J.D. Miller's Feature label in French and then later in English.  That same year, he and Jimmy Newman re-recorded the tune for Modern's Colonial label, simply known as "Kooche Kooche".  However, after his recording was used by Hank Williams for his famous song, "Jambalaya", and the song's success went nationwide, Lamperez turned his back on recording in disgust.

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Discussions with Kevin Fontenot
  3. Kevin Fontenot (August 15, 2012). "Over These Prison Walls I Would Fly: Country Music POWs During World War II". Interview with Margie Lamperez 
  4. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  5. Kevin Coffey, liner notes.  Swingbillies: Hillbilly and Western Swing on Modern/Colonial/Flair 1947-52.  Ace Records.
Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Parting Waltz" - Iry Lejeune

After six months recording his first record with Virgil Bozeman and the Oklahoma Tornados in Houston for Eddie Shuler's Goldband label, Iry Lejeune (spelled LeJune) returned home.  There, he would meet Ed Shuler and together they would begin a series of Cajun recordings for his Folkstar label, including one entitled "Parting Waltz" (#1198) in 1955.  Shuler commonly added his name to the list of song credits, in order to maximize his royalties on any song's popularity, however it's generally believed Iry wrote everything he recorded.  It's commonly referred to as "La Valse De Separation".

Oh chère! 

Oh oh catin, ton papa et ta maman t'a toujours dit: 

t'es pas capable d'aller ta chercher 

j'ai dis quoi faire, même moi si je connais pas

Hey ah ah !

Oh toi tous les soirs, t'es là après chère, ma guetter

À ta fenêtre me dire quoi faire t'es après faire
Tout ça, juste rapporte que ton papa.

Oh fait pas ça!

Oh rappelle toi toutes ces paroles
Toutes ces paroles que tu m'as dit avant d'partir
Tu m'as fait des accroires t'allais venir
C'est pas la peine que moi je t'espère.

(Hey petite fille!)

Based on Amede Ardoin's "La Valse De Amities", several of the phrases are difficult to discern.  The term "accroires" is similar to the phrase "fais croire" which means "believe", however, it is seldom used in France.5  Most of the recordings afterward were made at the artists's home south of Lacassine.  Shuler recalls:
We would take the tap recorder (after they came out) and set it on the table in the kitchen. 
Eddie Shuler
Folk Star was Shuler's attempt to record "folk" music.
I intended that to be a folk type of music label because that's what I termed Cajun music as: folk music.  I decided that  I’d have those kind of songs on my folk label. On top of that, if I had them all on Goldband, when I’d go out to the jukebox operators, they could only buy so many copies of one label. So I started this other label, so then I’d have two labels to get on the jukeboxes. That’s how I wound up with all those other labels. And, in later years, I found out that it worked the same way with radio stations. They could only play so many of one company’s records. So, I said, "Well, I’ll give them other labels, and they won’t know they’re mine." So that’s what I did.3   

(Hey dear!)

Oh you, doll, 
Your papa and your mom 
Always told you 
That I am not capable 
Of going to get you. 
It is just because 
You don't know me.

Hey ah ah!

Oh, all night long 
You are there watching, dear, 
At your window, I can tell what you are doing 
All that is just because of you papa.

(Oh, don't do that!)

Oh, remember all those words 
All those words that you told me before leaving. 
You made me believe that you would come back. 
It's no use that I wait for you.

Hey little girl!
According to some, the fiddle player is Milton Vanicor, however, it's most likely Wilson Granger on fiddle with Alfred Cormier on rhythm guitar.  This would be one Iry's last records before his untimely tragic death.  The record wasn't pressed until after Iry's death, causing Eddie to quickly rush the production of the recording.  It's captured in Eddie's plea to the California Record Mfg. Co. in October of 1955.

Eddie's letter after Iry's death
University of North Carolina

  1. Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Volume 2 By Steve Sullivan
  2. "Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style" by Ron Yule
  4. Lyrics by 'ericajun' and Raymond Francois
  5. Goldband Recording Corporation Collection, 1930-1995.  #20245. PF-20245/678.  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  6. Discussions with Stef Fan-Ni
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Goldband, 1993)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Sugar Cane Festival" - Happy Fats

Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc recorded early in the Cajun music genre.  His band, the Raynebo Ramblers, had several releases in 1935 with RCA Victor.  Later, his music focused on hillbilly and country styles.  Occasionally, he'd have different people on vocals for different songs, including Bob Terry and Al Terry.  Leblanc recorded and played with many Cajun musicians and while he was influenced by Cajun culture, his music would more align with country hillbilly music which had gained popularity among southerners in Louisiana.

Happy Fats
The Bella label was created by John Pusateri out of San Jose, California.  John, a native of Franklin, Louisiana, had moved to San Jose in the 1920s but kept close contact with musicians in south Louisiana.  He produced and created a wealth of great music, mostly doo-wop in the 1950s. He was also a prolific writer and composer for other labels as well.  According to his John's grandson:
Sugar Cane Festival was one of John Pusateri's songs.  I have records of my mother singing that song when she was a teenager in the 1940s.
Hank Williams and John Pusateri
By 1952, he had met Pusateri and recorded 4 songs, one of them which was "Sugar Cane Festival" (#BPT-2).  Sugar cane is one of many strong, vibrant agricultural crops in the low lying marsh areas of south Louisiana.  The song refers to the annual Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival held in New Iberia, Louisiana located along the Bayou Teche near the town in which Pusateri grew up. Happy and John were good friends for many years.  John also wrote others for Happy's recordings, including "Bayou Man" and was currently working on Hank Williams' biography when he suddenly passed away. 

Although the recordings were slated to be recorded in California, they were done in Houston at the ACA studio to have them in time for the New Iberia sugar cane festival.  

Rayne Tribune
Sep 12, 1952

Down where the beautiful Bayou Teche flows,
There's a place I know I'm longing to go,
From far away, they all come down to see,
The fun and the frolic in the bayou country.

Oh, Sugar Cane Festival, Sugar Cane Festival,
Yonder way down the bayou,
Sugar Cane Festival, Sugar Cane Festival,
Yonder way down the bayou.

Sound of the cane ring clear on the air,
The folks are in laughter and heard everywhere,
Troubles are over and praises are high,
And even the sun seems to shine in the sky.

Queen as she reigns on her thrown for a day,
The boys in their vests are all dancing and gay,
Sugar is fine, molassis is flowing,
The whole bayou country's like a bird in the wind.

Father he blesses the fruits of land,
for friends, for all, there's a welcoming hand,
the fun and the frolic, for the cane that is grown,
as sweet as the beautiful queen on her thrown.

Oh, Sugar Cane Festival, Sugar Cane Festival,
Yonder way down the bayou,
Sugar Cane Festival, Sugar Cane Festival,
Yonder way down the bayou.

His musical groups contained many members, which came in and out, including names such as Happy Fats and the Southerners and Happy Fats and his Bayou Buckaroos. Happy Fats made personal appearances with Tex Ritter, Alan Lane and Hank Williams, and was featured several times on the world famous Louisiana Hayride.  This spontaneous Houston session had Happy Fats, Al Terry, Bobby Terry, Curley Doucet, Doc Guidry, and Jack Leblanc. 

In 1956, since recording companies were recording music elsewhere, Leblanc had to seek employment outside music, mostly due to the influence of rock n roll.  

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Billboard Magazine, May 23, 1953
  4. Discussions with Billy D.