Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Rice City Stomp" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers had one of the longest histories of a musical group in the United States of America.  Having begun their recording career in 1935 and helping fill Bluebird records commitment of more rural field music, two years later, they would be in the Bluebird's makeshift studio in the Masonic Temple in New Orleans. There, they would record a slew of songs, one which would be an ode to the city of Crowley, Louisiana called the "Rice City Stomp" (#2017).  Given the song was in french, Bluebird kept their name listed as Hackberry.

C'est la vie des Cajuns, 

Sont partir couper du bois, 

Pour emmener son hache à main,

Pour chasser les ouaouaron.
Hackberry Ramblers, 1945
Westley "Chink" Widcamp (bass),
Jim Gentry (mandolin),
Luderin Darbone (fiddle),
Eddie Shuler (guitar),
Edwin Duhon (guitar seated),
Lennis Sonnier (guitar)

Crowley has been the heart of Acadia Parish; an area which became the capital of rice farming for south Louisiana since the 1870s. However, it wouldn't be unusual to have the locals in the nearby town of Rayne, known for it's frog export businesses, to chop up frogs and use the frog meat for dinner.  The song seems to be a slower version of "T'en A Eu, T'en Au Vas" which is better known as "Step It Fast" first recorded by the Breaux family. The group consisted of Lennis Sonnier on guitar, Joe Werner on harmonica, Luderin Darbonne on fiddle, and either Joe or Lennis on vocals. Johnny Purderer on upright bass. It contains one the shortest set of lyrics in Cajun music, with a strong harmonica sound by Joe Werner filling in for solos.
New Orleans
Masonic Temple

It's the life of the Cajuns,

To leave chopping wood,

Taking an axe,

To hunt bull frogs.

  1. The Old-time Herald: A Magazine Dedicated to Old-time Music, Volume 9
  2. Lyrics by Jerry M
Early Recordings: 1935-1948 (Arhoolie, 1988)
Hackberry Ramblers: Early Recordings: 1935-1950 (Arhoolie, 2003)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)
The Best Of Cajun And Zydeco (Rapier, 2014)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Unis Two Step" - Floyd Leblanc

Right before Bill Quinn started Gold Star records, he tried out his luck by recording artists locally in Houston and then sending out the masters for production in other places.  Quinn paired up with Bennie Hess of Opera Record Company in Los Angeles, CA producing his first records of the Cajun fiddle player Floyd Leblanc including the "Eunice Two Step" (misspelled "Unis") in 1948.  The song originates with Amede Ardoin's 1929 recording "Two Step de Eunice" for Columbia.

Bennie, originally from Chriesman, Texas, would travel back and forth between Houston and LA and knew Quinn through the business.  In 1948, he formed the Opera label and later signed with Mercury.  

Floyd Leblanc, Iry Lejeune, Ben Oldeg,
Bennie Hess and Virgil Bozman

Ma jolie, mais joli cœur,

Quoi ta fait il y a pas longtemps,

Moi je l'aime, mais jolie fille,

Mais ça, ça m'fait du mal.

Jolie fille, joli cœur,

Tu vas voir, mais, ton vieux neg,

Moi je connais tu vas pleurer,

Mais aussi loin de moi.

Moi je connais, mais jolie fille,

Tu vas voir ton vieux neg,

Joli cœur, mais moi je connais

Mais ça tu fais pitié.
Daily World
Aug 12, 1948

Floyd was from Mermentau, Louisiana and born into a musical family, influenced by his father's fiddle playing and the Hackberry Ramblers.  After WWII, while stationed in San Antonio, he would eventually meet up with Virgil Bozeman and join his group called the "Oklahoma Tornados".  Composed of Ben Oldag on bass, Dudley Champagne on drums, Bennie Hess on guitar, Virgel Bozman on guitar and Floyd on fiddle, Virgil's group became the backup band for any artist that Quinn had in the studio and Floyd took the opportunity to record his own songs.  Virgil had heard Iry play music in Evangeline and Iry convinced Virgil to travel to Houston and record with the Oklahoma Tornados.  There, they produced Iry's first record containing "Love Bridge Waltz" and "Evangeline Special".  Floyd's and Iry's records would be pressed in California on Hess' label.
Bennie Hess

My pretty, but, a pretty heart,

What you did, not long ago

I love you, but, pretty girl, 

It's making me ache.

Pretty girl, pretty heart, 

You'll see, my old friend,

I know you're gonna cry, 

But, you're away from me. 

I know, however, pretty girl, 

You'll see, my old friend,

Beautiful soul, but I know 

Well, that makes you pitiful.
Virgil Bozeman

Eventually, Floyd, Virgel and Iry would make a trek to Nashville in 1947 to seek fortune.  Iry returned home after a couple of weeks, but Floyd played with several bands while there including Enest Tubb's Texas Troubadours and numerous jam sessions with many of the stars on a nightly basis. Hess' label didn't last after Mercury terminated his contract when the company discovered that Hess was bootlegging his own recordings on his Opera label. 

With characteristic exaggeration, Hess later recalled that he was on “the brink of stardom” when this setback occurred. He followed this with seven more of his own releases on Opera through to 1951. For the last Opera release he offered the dealers, in a March 1951 advertisement, a sure-fire hit or 100% returns on records purchased. However, the dealers were unmoved. His Opera label artist Floyd LeBlanc left by signing with Virgil Bozman's new O.T. label whilst Iry LeJeune pacted with Eddie Shuler. 

  1. House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios By Andy Bradley
  2. Laurie E. Jasinsk, "HESS, ORVILLE [BENNIE]," Handbook of Texas Online
  3. Handbook of Texas Music edited by Laurie E. Jasinski
  4. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  5. Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Volume 2 By Steve Sullivan
  8. Lyrics by Jerry M

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Iota Two Step" - Nathan Abshire

Although not one of Nathan Abshire's more well known songs, this 1951 recording for George Khoury is a rough, upbeat song with his band called "The Musical Five".  In it, he had Will Kegley on fiddle, Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Atlas Fruge on lap steel, Jim Baker on bass, and Ozide Kegley on drums.  Together they recorded the "Iota Two Step"  (#612) in Lake Charles.  

‘Tite fille tu m’fais pitié
Ce soir après pleurer,
Ce soir après pleurer,
Quand même, mais malheureuse.
‘Tite fille c’est toi la cause
Mon cœur est si cassé,
‘Tite fille prends donc courage,
Allons j’viens avec toi.

‘Tite fille c’est toi la cause
Si moi, mais moi j’me va,
Si moi, mais moi j’me va,
Là-bas (z)à la maison.
Hey, mais ça ça m’fait du mal
Oh, ouais tu vas pleurer.
Nathan Abshire

Iota is a small town in southwest Louisiana located in the prairies. The song has similarities to the Walker Brothers' 1929 "La Breakdown La Louisianne" recorded for Brunswick in 1929.  In the following years, Robert Bertrand and Nolan Cormier renamed it as the "Pogey Boat Special". 

Lil girl, you make me pitiful
This evening, I cried
Tonight, I cried
Anyways, oh my, i'm miserable.
Lil girl, you're the reason
My heart is so broken,
So lil girl, be courageous,
I'll go with you.

Lil girl, you're the reason
So me, oh my, I'll be fine,
So me, oh my, I'll be fine,
There at the house.
Hey, but it's going to hurt
Oh, yeah you're gonna cry.

 According to Dr. Barry Ancelet, Nathan told him:

I learned to play by myself. I would hear and see others playing. I was six-years-old. I started playing an accordion that cost $3.50. It wasn’t mine. It was one of my uncles. I can’t read. I can’t sign my name, but I make up songs in my head. I listen to them on accordion until they sound like they’re supposed to.

Release Info:
La Valse De Bayou Tech | Khoury's K-612-A
Iota Two Step | Khoury's K-612-B

Nathan Abshire - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Continuez De Sonner" - Clifford Breaux

After the Breaux's recorded "Ma Blonde Est Partie" in 1929 (which i covered earlier), they would head to Dallas, TX in 1937 for their last recording session ever where Clifford would record 2 songs accompanied by his sister Cleoma for Decca. One of these would be a Cajun french take on the song "Keep A Knocking But You Can't Come In" called "Continuez de Sonner" (#17043)

Moi, j'sus la ayou tu peux pas rentrer

Moi, j'sus la ayou tu peux pas rentrer

Moi, J'ai un cadenas sur la porte en avant

Moi, j'sus la ayou tu peux pas rentrer

Toi, tu la cogner mais tu peux pas rentrer

Toi, tu la cogner mais tu peux pas rentrer
Moi j'ai un cadenas sur las porte en arriere
Toi, tu la cogner mais tu peux pas rentrer

(Oh boy!)

Moi, j'sus la ayou tu peux pas rentrer
Moi, j'sus la ayou tu peux pas rentrer
Moi, j'connais t'aime ton pauvre vieux nègre
Non, tu peux pas rentrer

Clifford sings jazz-like scat with a raw, lazy charm along with his swinging fiddle solos. It's the only known Cajun song with a scat style incorporated (that I know of). The first recording of this song seems to be the James "Boodle It" Wiggins version done on Paramount in 1928. This shows some of the influence jazz and blues had on early Cajun music.  Between 1953 and 1954, Nathan Abshire records the same tune but calls it "Tee Per Coine". 
Clifford Breaux and Joe Falcon

I'm in a place where you can't come in
I'm in a place where you can't come in
I already put a lock on the door
I'm in a place where you can't come in

You keep a knocking but you can't come in
You keep a knocking but you can't come in
I have a lock on the back door
You keep a knocking but you can't come in

(Oh boy!)

I'm in a place where you can't come in
I'm in a place where you can't come in
I know you love your little boy
No, you can't come in

Clifford would go on to play with Joe Falcon and his band well into the 1960s and by all accounts, he was actually a much better musician all around.

  3. Lyrics by N Pomea
Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown (Arhoolie, 1997)