Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"You Played Around" - Link Davis

When discussing the music of south Louisiana, you will hear about several musicians which had their influences come from Cajun music. Lewis Lincoln Davis, better known as Link Davis, was one of those musicians.  His music was more of a country sound concentrating on lyrics about Louisiana life.  While not exactly Cajun music as most know it, he helped expose the lifestyle of Cajun outside of Louisiana with his western swing style sound.

Billed as "Cajun Rock" or "Cajun Blues", his initial start was playing fiddle in Fort Worth in the 1930s. He moved to south-east Texas and worked with many groups.  After serving in the Army, in 1944, he joined Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers in Houston playing the tenor sax. By 1945, he moved to Port Arthur and married a Cajun girl and formed The Bluebonnet Playboys.

You played around with every gal in town,

You made me love you and then you let me down,

Now I sit and pine, you're always on my mind,

You broke my heart when you played around.

I put all my trust in you, 
I loved you from the start,
I believe you loved me,
Then you up and broke my heart.

I hope you're satisfied since our love has died
Why did you have to go and play around?
My darling how I cried when I found you lied,
You broke my heart when you played around.

I shed a million tears, the nights all seemed like years,
You loved me dear for such a little while,
Our love can never be, wish you were here with me,
You broke my heart when you played around.

I thought maybe you'd be true,
And someday there would be,
A cottage small just built for two,
And someday maybe three.

Now all my hopes are gone, it's hard to carry on,
I guess you'll always be the one I love,
I know there'll never be, another love for me,
You broke my heart when you played around.

Link Davis
Bayou Records was started in the spring of 1953 by record producer Franklin Kort who was originally with the Recorded In Hollywood label. There is some confusion about the record's history.  Possibly recorded at the KRIC Radio Station in Beaumont, TX or the Rice Hotel in Houston, it seems Lew Chudd's Imperial label recorded Davis' "You Played Around" (#3001) around 1947 but released it on Bayou Records much later on after the label was absorbed by the company in the summer of 1953.  The song contains possibly Clyde Brewer on fiddle, Lee Bell on guitar, possibly Deacon Anderson on steel guitar, Mancel Tierney on piano, Shang Kennedy on bass and Merle Powell on drums.  Through his wife’s musical heritage and by working in honky tonks and beer joints around the Piney Woods of south-east Texas and western Louisiana, Link became exposed to, and developed a unique understanding of Cajun music.  Steve Poncio, the right man at Macy Lela Henry’s Macy’s label, commented to researcher Ray Topping:

 “Sure, I remember Link Davis very well. He was always hanging round looking for work. We used him on some of our sessions.” 

By 1949, he moved to Oklahoma City when Harry Choates offered him a job.  Link’s ex-wife, Doris Meadows, remembers:

“ Harry Choates sent him a telegram asking him to come back and play with him. He sent the telegram collect, and we were so poor I couldn’t afford to pay for it “.
Step Inn Club, 1985
Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan & the
Center for Louisiana Studies,
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

They continued to tour in a wide area – Port Arthur one night, Corpus Christi the next, and Pee Wee Calhoun remembered playing with Harry and Link as far away as Kilgore and Odessa, Texas. But most of their shows during this period  occurred around Opelousas and Lawtell, where they had regular gigs at the Green Lantern, and the Step Inn Club. 

“ Link and Harry would have some lively “ Battles of the fiddle “ with our singer/clarinetist Hub Sutter walking back and forth between them on stage at the Dessau Hall, building up to some pretty wild and frantic finales.”

Eventually, he started working for Huey Meaux during the 1960s and made many sessions in Houston and Pasadena, one of them with Louisiana accordion player, Marc Savoy.   Over his career, Davis recorded for many different labels including "D", Al's, Venus, Kool, Paradise, All Boy, Crazy Cajun, Princess, Stoneway, Western, Odle, Goldstar, Starday, OKeh, Columbia, Nucraft, Sarg, and Allstar labels.   His contemporaries were Harry Choates, Leo Soileau, Moon Mullican, J.B. Brinkley, Leon Selph and Bob Wills. 

Bayou folded in 1953 and in the 1970s, Floyd Soileau would create a separate label called Bayou to begin recording zydeco accordionist Clifton Chenier.  The label eventually fell away, which soon led to the creation of Maison de Soul Records, which is the first record label dedicated to the soulful, upbeat style of music termed "Zydeco."

  1. http://www.flattownmusic.com/OurHistory.aspx
  2. http://www.bopping.org/link-davis-the-man-with-the-buzzin-sax/
  3. http://home.earthlink.net/~jaymar41/labels_2.html
  4. http://darinrmcclure.soup.io/post/64638477/THE-BAYOU-RECORDS-STORY
Let the Good Times Roll, 1948-1963 (Krazy Kat, 1993)
Cajun Blues: Papa Link Davis (Collectables, 1996)
Gumbo Ya Ya: Best of 1948-58 (Rev-Ola, 2008)
The Very Best Of Link Davis (Emusic/Goldenlane, 2009)
Jerry Irby & Link Davis: Texas swing (BACM, 2010)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"La Blouse Française" - Sydney Landry

During the same recording session in 1929 that Amede Ardoin recorded in New Orleans, a musician named Sydney Landry recorded two songs for Columbia.   Also influenced by the blues, Landry's style was a Cajun version of what blues guitarist Jimmie Rodgers was doing.  He and Roy Gonzales were imitating this style during this time, recording them as Cajun tunes.

Si tu'm veux pas malheureux, c'est pas la peine tu dit ça,

Si tu’m veux pas malhuerse, c’est pas la peine tu dit ça, Haaa!

Parce que j’ai l’voir du ici et le Lulu garde à toi.


Dit pas quoi te fait, je vas dire pour mon seule, mais chere,

Dit pas ça te fait, je vas t’dit comment je me vu faire, Haaa!
Je soif pour ma bière et mon bon vieux père 


Je assis mon tout seul avec mon couer qui fait mal,
Je assis mon tout seul avec mon couer qui fait mal, Haaa!
Je près d’ esperer pour mon couer pour ma femme.

Bien seul moi tout les ans personne vas me voulez voir,
Bien seul moi tout les ans personne vas me voulez voir,
Si la belle veux me voir c’est la seul moi l’amie voir.

The song "La Blouse Française" (#40516), known as "French Blues", is a simple hillbilly song played on guitar, sung in Cajun french, with a couple of instances of vocal yodeling. 

If you don't want me unhappy, then don't say that,

If you don't want me unhappy, then don't say that, Haaa!

Because I see you've been here and Lulu's looking at you.


Don't tell me what to do, i'll do it myself, my dear,

Don't tell me what you do. I will tell you how I want to do it, Haaa!
I want my beer and my good old dad.


I am sitting here with my heart that is hurting,
I am sitting here with my heart that is hurting, Haaa!
I'm nearly desperate for the love of my wife.

Although I'm here all year, nobody wants to see me,
Although I'm here all year, nobody wants to see me,
If the beauty wants to see me, it's the only friend i'll see.

Not much is known about Landry since he was one of several musicians that showed up to record during these sessions and then left.  Records show it's possible he was born in 1907 and lived in New Iberia, Louisiana but no one knows for sure.  However, his music gives us a glimpse of what early Cajun music sounded like during the late 1920s. From what we can tell, he most probably went home to live an obscure life, never to record again.  

  1. Encyclopedia of the Blues edited by Edward Komara
  2. Lyrics by Jerry M

Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Cajun Music, The Pretty Girls Don't Want Me (Firefly, 2012)
Cajun Swamp Stomp, Vol 1 (Lumi, 2012)
The Very Best of Cajun: La Stomp Creole, Vol. 1 (Viper, 2016)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Bon Ton Rouley" - Lawrence Walker

During the late 1950s, Cajun music was on a slow decline and rock music was taking over the area.  However, it didn't stop Cajun musicians from recording or starting new record labels.  Lawrence Walker was one of these who would keep the music alive. Walker would record on Floyd Soileau's VEE-PEE record label, named after the initials of Floyd's hometown of Ville Platte. One of these tunes was "Bon Ton Rouley" (#102).Although the song does not allude to it, Lawrence's band did play often at the Bon Ton Rouley dancehall in Lafayette.  

C'est par rapports à ton papa et par rapports à ta maman,  

Si moi j'peux p'us t'aimer, mais laissse le bon ton rouler.

J't'ai trouvè dans les grands mêches. j't'ai amené aux "Holly Beach",

Les maringoins sont aprés m'manger, mais laisse le bon temps rouler.

Ton pa pa il est fàcher et ta maman est pas contente, 
Les marengoins sont aprés m'manger, 
Mais laissse le bon ton rouler.
J't'ai trouvér dans les grande mêches, j't'ai amené aux "Hackberry",
Les maringoins sont aprés m'manger, mais laisse le bon temps rouler.

Ton papa aprés river, moi l'entende su' la galerie,
Ta mamam  aprés quereller, les enfants sont aprés pleurer,
Les vaches sont pas tirés et les "gaimes" sont aprés chanter, 
Les maringoins aprés m'manger, mais laisse le bon temps rouler.
Lawrence Walker

The Cajun word "gaime" refers to a rooster.   The song's also listed as "Les bons temps rouler". The song is about a set of parents not allowing their young girl to be courted by a probably much older man.  Even though he traveled with her to the towns of Holly Beach and Hackberry, completely bitten by mosquitoes in the marshy countryside, he shrugs if off saying "Let the good times roll".   Floyd started his record label, Big Mamou Records, with the help of local bar owner, Ed Manuel. After this early attempt at recording, Lawrence Walker would record on Floyd Soileau's VEE-PEE record label, named after the initials of Floyd's hometown of Ville Platte.  According to Floyd Soileau:

Then the late Lawrence Walker came in one day and says, 'I know you got a record company started, you making records.  I did four sides at the radio station in Eunice and I'd like for you to release them.  One of them, "Bon Ton Rouley," is going to be a real hit, I know--they're all good, but this particular one I've got a lot of hope for'"1  
Lawrence had just invited Johnny Allan to play with his group, The Wandering Aces.  They had traveled to Eunice in 1958 to record at KEUN radio station. There, they laid down two songs, "Bon Ton Rouley" and "Osson Two Step".  Johnny Allan recalls:

After the radio station would go off the air at night, around seven or eight o’clock, they allowed us to use the microphones and the equipment and we recorded in the radio station. I was playing steel guitar at the time. I think I have a copy of that record, "Bon Ton Rouley" and the other side is the "Ossun Two-Step". On the VP label.
Floyd Soileau

After some bargaining, Floyd purchased the two sides from Lawrence for sixty dollars with a forty dollar option on another two if the first single was a success.  But Floyd's partner, Ed, was no longer interested in the recording business; he had obtained the publicity he needed for his clubs. Soileau recalls:

So I changed the label to VEE PEE records c/o Floyd's Record Shop, and that issue was 'Bon Ton Rouley' and we used a 102 number on that because that was the second record release we had.  It started selling very well. It got me in touch with some more operators and music stores.   In fact, we got a good relationship built up as a result of this.1   

Rock music influence would take over and Johnny Allan would leave Walker's group to start recording music for this new musical style; creating some of the first Louisiana rock and pop songs.   Floyd's follow up artist would be Aldus Roger and then later Adam Hebert.  By 1958, Floyd would focus on swamp pop, rock, and blues on his JIN label, named after his soon-to-be wife Jinver.   At the same time, Floyd created his Swallow label for all Cajun music recordings; a play on the pronunciation of his name.  

It's because of your dad and mom,

I'm not allowed to love you, well, let the good times roll.

I found you in the big marshy area. I brought you to Holly Beach,

The mosquitoes are eating me up, well, let the good times roll.

Your father is angry and your mom is not happy,
The mosquitoes are eating me up, well, let the good times roll.

I found you in the big marshy area. I brought you to Hackberry,
The mosquitoes are eating me up, well, let the good times roll.

Your dad is arriving, I hear him on the porch,
Your mom is quarreling, the children are crying, 

The cows are not drawn in and the roosters are crowing,
The mosquitoes are eating me up, well, let the good times roll.
Crowley Daily Signal
July 6, 1961

By 1961, Walker himself would succumb to the rock n roll fever sweeping the area by releasing songs such as "Lena Mae", "Allons Rock And Roll" and "Let's Do The Cajun Twist".   But by then, Johnny's career was taking off and he convinced many of Lawrence's band to change their name to the Rhythm Rockers (soon renamed the Krazy Kats). A change of instruments accompanied the group's reorganization. Allan gave up steel guitar to sing and play rhythm guitar, rhythm guitarist Al Foreman switched to electric lead, fiddler U.J. Meaux switched to the piano and while Bhuel Hoffpauir remained on drums, the group hired Leroy Castille on sax.  Johnny recalls:

The one we got in trouble with was the Big Oaks Club in Vinton. [Walker] found out that we had booked a rock and roll gig for the Friday night and we were playing there on the Saturday.  So going back on Saturday, he was extremely perturbed about all of this.  He said we could not do this.  So U.J. Meaux, who was the fiddle player and who was playing keyboards in the rock and roll band said, "Well, if you don't like that, we all quit". 
 After being kicked out, Walker laments:

"So that's what happens when you put an old horse out to grass."

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues By Shane K. Bernard
  3. The Cajuns: Americanization of a People By Shane K. Bernard
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M
  5. Interview with Johnny Allan by Jim Bradshaw, 2007.
Floyd's Early Cajun Singles (Ace, 1999)
Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow, 2010)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Jole Blonde" - Amidie Breaux

After making some of the first Cajun recordings in the late 1920s, Amidie Breaux (also spelled Amedie and Amedee) would return to the recording studio, after a 13 year absence, with a different group called The Acadian Aces for J.D Miller's Feature label. Legend has it that Breaux's sister, Cleoma, had written the lyrics to this old tune back in 1929 and with Amidie's brothers, they recorded the tune as "Ma Blonde Est Partie" for Okeh/Columbia.  

Jolie blonde ! Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller.

T'en aller, petite avec un autre.

Avec un autre oui que moi, malheureuse chère !

Quel espoir quel avenir, moi je peux avoir ?

Jolie blonde ! Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller.
T'en aller, de ta famille.
Tu connais, t'as pas écouté tous les conseils de les autres.
Quel avenir avec moi aujourd'hui ?

Jolie Blonde ! Tu connais il y avait juste toi.
Y a pas juste toi dans le pays que moi j'aimais.
J'ai trouvé chez une autre que tes bras.
Oh je sais, babe moi j'aime ça !
Amidie Breaux

Miller was inspired by this early success, and when his family settled in Crowley in 1937, Miller began to play professionally in local groups. He played his first dance with the Breaux Brothers who were playing at the Cow Island nightclub that lacked an electrified sound system. Although the group was billed as "string" band, Miller recalls that it featured traditional Cajun musicians. He recalls:

"I'd never seen an accordion before. When [Amidie Breaux] pulled that thing out of the box, I didn't know what I'd gotten into!"2,3

With Harry Choate's "Jole Blon" in 1947, a revival of Breaux's earlier recording, Miller remembered Breaux's popularity among local folk from his early recordings with the accordion.   As the surge of accordion tunes became popular again, Miller realized he could market Breaux's music again, this time with a much fuller band and backed up by a lap steel guitar.   He brought the aging Breaux into the studio around 1950 and recorded "Jole Blonde" for his Feature label (#1023). 
Crowley Daily Signal
Aug 28, 1959

Pretty blonde! You left me and went away,
You went away, little girl, with another,
With another that I'm so unhappy, dear,
What hope, what future, I can have?

Pretty blonde! You left me and went away,
You went away, to your family,
You know, you have not listened to all the advice of others,
What does the future hold for me this day?

Pretty Blonde! You know, it was just you, however,
You're not the only one I love in this countryside,
I found another one's arms, other than yours,
Oh I know, babe, I love that!

The tune was much closer in similarity to Choate's modern version and Breaux was determined to capture the wider audience that fell in love with the song.   Miller's recordings of Breaux are the one of the last recordings of the early Cajun musical accordion players. 

  1. Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller
  2. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/miller_and_soileau.html
  3. Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge By Martin Hawkins
Jole Blon: 23 Artists One Theme (Bear, 2002)
Acadian All Star Special: The Pioneering Cajun Recordings of J. D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Calcasieu Waltz" - Iry Lejeune

Iry Lejeune's sound would be copied from a Creole accordion player named Amade Ardoin.  When Iry reintroduced the accordion into Cajun music in the 1950s, he was inspired by many hours spent listening to his Uncle Angelas' old 78s of Ardoin.  In fact, the celebrated return of the accordion into contemporary Cajun music was largely due to Lejeune's versions of Ardoin tunes. 

Hé, gardez donc, moi je connais tu voudrais,
Hé, t'en revnir à la maison pour rejoindre ton nèg.
Hé, catin, moi je voudrais que toi tu reviens, quand-même,
ouias, une fois, mais, oui, une fois avant de mourir.

Oh, jolie, comment moi je vas faire?
Comment toi tu crois j'sus là tout te le temps pour toi?
Hé, 'tite fille, tout le temps après jongler
Autant dans les chagrins pas être capable jamais de t'avoir.

Hé, 'tite fille, pourtant rappelle-toi donc,
Que tu vas toujours écouter un autre que moi.
Hé, c'est pas la peine que moi je te dis quelque chose.
Toi, tu me ressembles pas jamais être contente.

Between 1949 and 1950, Shuler produced Iry's first Folk-Star 78 record, "Calcasieu Waltz" (#100).  It was a version of Ardoin's "La Valse de Amitié" recorded back in 1934 in San Antonio for Bluebird.  Similarly, Lee Sonnier composed his "War Widow Waltz" using the same melody roughly around the same time.  Shuler mentioned:

“I bribed the engineer at the radio station to cut the disc for us.  It was easy; just a fifth of Old Crow.”
"His first recording had a fiddle, a guitar, and a steel guitar. Them were all his wife’s brothers. That was “Lacassine Special” and “Calcasieu Waltz,” that was his first recording (on Folk-Star)."

The recording was done during Iry's second session at KPLC in Lake Charles. It included Milton Vanicor on fiddle, Ellis Vanicor on second fiddle and Ivy Vanicor on guitar.  Calcasieu is an Attakapas word that means "crying eagle" named after an Attakapas Indian chief who gave a peculiar cry like an eagle as he went into battle.   Eventually a parish was named after him; with the song taking the name from the parish.  
Doug Kershaw and Iry Lejeune
Avalon Club

Hey, look, I know that you'd like,

Hey, to come back home to join your lover.

Hey, doll, I'd like for you to come back, even if,

yes, one time before dying.

Oh, pretty girl, what am I going to do?

How can you believe I am always there for you?

Hey, little girl, I am always thinking in sorrow about because I'm can't ever have you.

Hey, pretty girl, remember well!

You will always listen to another besides me.

He, there's no use for me to tell you anything.

It seems you can never be happy.

Eventually, Lee Sonnier, along with Laura Broussard on vocals, would record a slower version of the melody and call it "War Widow's Waltz".  

  1. The Kingdom of Zydeco By Michael Tisserand
  2. Iry Lejeune: Wailin The Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  3. http://www.wendyrodrigue.com/2011/04/iry-lejeune-cajun-accordion-player.html
The Legendary Iry LeJune (Goldband/Swallow, 1991)
The Legendary Iry LeJune Vol. 1 (Goldband/Swallow)
The Legendary Iry LeJune Vol. 2 (Goldband/Swallow)
Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest; The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2013)