Friday, May 29, 2015

"La Marche De La Noce" - Joe Falcon & Cleoma Breaux

A very beautiful tradition that the Cajuns have is the wedding march. The song, like many traditional songs, not much is known about the history and it originates hundreds of years earlier.  The summer after recording "Lafayete", Joe Falcon, along with his wife-to-be, Cleoma Breaux, travel to NYC to record "La Marche De Noce" for Columbia/Okeh (#15325).  The duo would compose lyrics for the first recording of this melody.

Many of the marriage customs of the Cajuns are shared with other peasant peoples of European origin.  According to author Dr. Barry Ancelet, it was common in French weddings to have the wedding party walk together to the church and/or city hall and then to the reception.  The earliest Cajun weddings sometimes took place without benefit of clergy.  A ceremony in which the newlyweds jumped over a broomstick is said to have cemented the alliance.
 Before public dancehalls became popular gathering places for Cajuns, the bal de noce (the wedding reception) was held at home. The bride and groom traditionally begin la bal de noce with a song called "La marche des mariés" (wedding march) followed by a waltz. In the old days when people were poor, the owner paid the wedding couple ten or fifteen dollars to have the dance at his hall and charged fifteen cents entrance fee. 

C’est au jour d’aujourd’hui, rappelle-toi, cher ‘tit cœur, 

Et tout ça tu m’as fait, que y avait si longtemps, jolie fille.

Tu m’as promis de bien me soigner comme l’enfant de la maison,

 Et regarde quoi t’après me faire avec moi, c’est au jour aujourd’hui

Mais, tu m’as pris de la maison comme un pauvre orphelin, 

Qu’aurait perdu son papa, et sa maman, joli cœur, jolie fille. 

Mais quel espoir moi je peux avoir, c’est de te voir me virer l’ dos

 Pour t’en aller avec un autre, oui une autre que moi aujourd’hui.

C’est ça t’as fait aujourd’hui, rappelle-toi, chère ‘tite fille, 

Mais c’est une chose dont je pourra, oui jamais oublier toute ma vie.
 Tu m’as promis de bien me soigner jusqu’à au jour de la mort,
 Et c’est au jour d’aujourd’hui t’es sur le point de me quitter pour t’en aller.
 Pour t’en aller, jolie fille avec un autre que moi, 
Comment tu crois moi je peux vivre, moi tout seul, oui chère jolie fille.
Joseph Falcon and Cleoma Breaux

Before the Cajun band begins to play for everyone to dance, the dance floor is cleared. The bride and groom hold hands and walk slowly around the room at least twice while the band plays La marche des mariés. Then, the guests get a partner and join in the march until everyone is following the bride and groom. After the march, the bride and groom dance a waltz in the middle while everyone watches. Then they dance with their parents. After that, everybody can dance. To get a dance with the bride or groom, it is traditional to pin money on the bride's veil or on the groom's suit. This is an excellent way to make sure they have some money to start their life together.

It’s the day today, you remember, little heart

And all you have done to me, that was so long ago, pretty girl

You promised me, you would take good care of me, like an infant of  the house

Take a look again you are going to me again, on this day today.

Well you took me from the house like a poor orphan

That would have lost her father and mother, pretty heart, pretty girl

Well what hope can I have, to see me turn my back

To leave with another, yes another than me today

What you have done today, you remember, dear little girl

But this is something that I will, yes never forget for all my life
You promised me to take good care of me, till the day of dying.
And it is this day today that you made the point you to leave me.
To leave me, pretty girl with another one
How do you think I can live, all alone, yes dear pretty girl.
It was customary for males to pin money on the bride's veil before they could dance with her, thereby assuring that the couple would have funds to start their life together.  Other older traditions associated with weddings include requiring older unmarried siblings to dance barefoot, often in a tub, at the reception.  This may be to remind them of the poverty awaiting them in old age if they do not begin families of their own.  It is a custom that if a younger brother or sister marries before the older one, then the older one must dance with a mop or broom while everyone watches. In the little town of Mamou, they even have to dance in a tub of water with the mop. This is a way of poking fun at the older one for still being single. Another bit of fun is called charivari (sha-ree-va-rée). When the bride or groom has been widowed or divorced before, family and friends interrupt the wedding night by banging loud pots and pans outside their window. The company does not stop the noise until they are invited in for something to drink and eat. This is a playful way of honoring the new couple. 

According to Roy Hoffpauir's description of "Acadian Marriage Customs", writer Elisabeth Brandon describes the "Bal de noce", or wedding dance, followed the marriage feast, and although the newlyweds had departed by midnight the dancing continued until the morning.  In some instances, a wedding ball lasted as long as a day and two nights, beginning with the wedding party taking part in a series of seven dances: a waltz, a two-step waltz, a polka, a mazurka, a "jig-a-line", a glide, and "lanciers", with a promenade after each dance.4

The wedding dance was held in a public dance hall.  The owners of the dance halls would bid for the wedding dance because it brought a big crowd and they spent a lot of money.  At the dance, they played French music on the accordion.  My father played the accordion and sang for many of these dances.  The dance started with "La Marche de la Noce", or the wedding march.4,5

Happy Fats would follow up with his song "La Nouvelle Marche de Marris" in 1938.

  1. Discussions with Dr. Barry Ancelet Cajun Dancing By Speyrer, Rand
  2. Cajun Country By Barry Jean Ancelet
  4. Attakapas Gazette. Vol, III, No. 1
  5. Lauren C Post.  Cajun Sketches from the Prairie of Southwest Louisiana. Baton Rouge. LSU, 1962.
Release Info:
W146906-1 Vieux Airs (Old Tunes) | Columbia 15325-D

W146909-2 La Marche De La Noce (Wedding Marche) | Columbia 15325-D

Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Cajun Music, The Pretty Girls Don't Want Me (Firefly, 2012)
Cajun Swamp Stomp, Vol 1 (Lumi, 2012)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

"Kaplan Waltz" - Nathan Abshire

In the late 1940s, Virgel Bozman created a string band that became the studio band for the Benny Hess' Opera label.  The band would be called the Oklahoma Tornados and featured fiddler Floyd Leblanc. Iry Lejeune would travel with Leblanc to record his most signature Cajun tunes for Opera with Virgel's backup band, "Love Bridge Waltz" and "Evangeline Special".  After seeing the success of this, Virgil moved near Lake Charles and created a label which would attract other Cajun musicians such as Nathan Abshire.

Oh mais malheureuse, 

Criminelle chère, 

la miserable ! 

Oh Petite!

Oh mais tu vas voir ton erreur,

Sera trop tard pour t'en revenir,

J'veux plus de toi, vilaine manière!

Oh la criminele!

Oh mais tu vas voir ton erreur,

Sera trop tard pour t'en revenir,
J'veux plus de toi, hah hah!
George Khoury

In 1949, George Khoury, who saw the need for more Cajun music decided to help Virgel finance a new label called "O.T. Records" named after his band. Broven mentions: 
Khoury was his sponsor, so to speak, because he didn't have that much money.  He was a good salesman, he had a log of gab because being a cowhorn salesman he had to have a log of gab.  

Shuler introduced Nathan to Virgil Bozman, who had started the O.T. label. On May 23, 1949, Bozman convinced the Nathan and Earl Demary's Musical Aces group to record “Pine Grove Blues” and “Kaplan Waltz” (#102). Nathan was backed by Earl Demarcy on guitar, Atlas Fruge on steel, Jim Baker on bass, Oziet Kegley on drums, and either Will Kegley or Wilson Granger on fiddle.   Earl, who drove a city bus in Lake Charles and known as the "Singing Bus Driver", played dances on the weekend at the Avalon Club where Nathan played.  Unfortunately, Bozman didn’t have the money to manufacture the records so in stepped Lake Charles businessman George Khoury, who assumed the pressing bills.   It sold several hundred and would be Nathan's first release after WWII, resurrecting his musical career.

Virgil Bozman
That sounds minuscule by today’s standards, but considering the limited Cajun market at the time, it was a certified hit and the band attracted even more bookings. Abshire, and the Pine Grove Boys, cut approximately ten 78s on O.T. including “Step It Fast” and “Pine Grove Boogie.” Abshire’s Creole and blues influences were heard throughout. This caused Khoury to start his own label, enticing Abshire to record with him.  

Oh, my,

It's wrong, dear,

It's miserable.

Oh small girl!

Oh, but when you see your mistake,

It'll be too late for you to return,

I want more of you, so bad!

Oh it's criminal!

Oh, but when you see your mistake,
It'll be too late for you to return,
I want more of you, ah ah!

It was a delicate, spine-chilling performance in the crying style of Amade Ardoin about a small town in south Louisiana.  But the song was unfairly eclipsed by the surging power of the record's flip side.  Nathan used the melody from the Angelus Lejeune's 1929 recording of "La Valse de Pointe Noire".  The melody was recorded by Bixy Guidry & Percy Babineaux as "Vien A La Maison Avec Moi" and even earlier by Dudley and James Fawvor as "La Valse De Creole" in 1928.  Even Amede Ardoin's "Valse De Ballard" carried some similarities.   
Daily World
Oct 28, 1949

He would re-record the tune with various versions of the lyrics over a period of time, including for Swallow in 1968, a field recording by Ray Alden & Dave Spilkia in NYC in 1970, and for La Louisiane in 1973 in Lafayette, LA.  Each time, the lyrics changed even more.  Dewey seemed to sing about the "t'en aller" theme common among post-war recordings about leaving to go to a certain place.  But it would be Dallas Roy's recording of the song in about 1966 with Andrew Cormier for Crazy Cajun records which solidified the lyrics into the most popular, well-known version today.

Oh, mais moi j'ma vas, 

Oui la bas à grand Kaplan,

Bébé ses pour voir m'a chere tit fille,

Moi j'connais, catin, que moi j'amie autant.

Oh mais tout les soir, 
Moi j'suis la après jonglé,
Hé Hé, après jonglé à ça t'a fait,
Ça t'as fait avec ton neg.

Virgil sold boxfuls of Nathan's records from the back of a large hearse. Later, the O.T. label would be exhausted and Virgil moved it to San Antonio with the help of James Bryant and Bennie Hess, former partners at the Opera label.  Bozman returned to San Antonio, Texas where he set up the Hot Rod label with local record man Bob Tanner of T.N.T. records. 

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
Nathan Abshire & Other Cajun Gems: Vol.2 (Arhoolie, 1972)
14 Cajun Hits (Swallow, 1987)
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

"Te Ma Lessa Jolie Blonde" - Miller's Merrymakers

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 early 2000 series had been set aside for it's Cajun artists.

Te m’a quitte chere jolie blonde,

T’on aller avis d’un autre,

Comment tu crois mon j’peu faire,

Mon tout seule à m’a maison?
Tu m’a promise ta vieux neg,
Avis tourner un jour avenir.
Eli Oberstein
In 1936, both the Hackberry Ramblers and the Merrymakers would enter the Bluebird makeshift studio in New Orleans on the same day.  Both would be the first use the title "Jolie Blonde" however, the Hackberry Ramblers used the melody of "Ma Blonde Est Partie".  The song would forever be known as by this name.   J.B. Fuselier and Miller's Merrymakers used a different melody for their version called "Te Ma Lessa Jolie Blonde" (#2006) however, the theme of a "pretty blonde leaving" ties the songs together.  The rest of the session would be filled up with Cajun songs from both groups, adding to the dozens recorded between 1936 and 1938.  This is an older song, a heavy waltz with a beat that is slow and almost majestic.  The vocal phrasing closely follows the fiddle in its extended tones, and the two alternate regularly through-out the song.

You left me, dear pretty blonde,

You've gone away, I've noticed, with another,

How do think I'll manage,

All alone in my house?
You promised me, your old man,
You'll come around in the future.
Miller used the phrase "te ma lessa jolie blond" (loosely translated to "you're my little pretty blonde") while the Ramblers chose to shorten the name to simply "jolie blonde".  Beethoven Miller would eventually relieve himself from the group with J.B. Fuselier taking over command.   Once in control, the group would go one to become one of the 1930s most successful string-band recording groups, laying down songs such as "Chere Tout Tout" and "Ma Chere Bassett".

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Liner notes.  The Cajuns: Songs, Waltzes, and Two-Steps.
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M
The Cajuns: Songs, Waltzes, and Two-Steps (Smithsonian Folkways, 2004)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Madam Entelle Two Step" - Clopha "Shuk" Richard & Marie Falcon

After Joe Falcon's success with music in the 1930s, one of his nieces, Marie Solange Falcon, (who is featured in the Les Blank film "French Dance Tonight") took up the guitar and with Clopha "Shuk" Richard, formed the L.A. Aces in the 1950s. They had a short career playing dancehalls around the area and recorded two records for George Khoury's label. One of those songs was the "Madame Entelle Two Step" using an old melody which would later become "Les Flammes d'Enfer", "Petite ou la Grosse", "Donnez Moi La", and "Madame Edouard".

Madame Entelle donnez-moi les,

Tout quell qui chose est tout le même prix,                    

Madame Entelle donnez-moi les, 

Tout quell qui chose est tout le même prix. 

Adieu Rosa, yaille, comment ça se fait, chère,

Quoi toi tu m' fais ? 'garde donc quoi tu m'fais. 

Adieu Rosa, yaille, Comment ça se fait, 'tite fille. 

Quoi tu m' fais ? 'garde donc toi t'après m'faire. 

Madame Entelle donnez-moi les, 

Tout quell qui chose est tout le même prix,

Madame Entelle donnez-moi les,

Tout quell qui chose est tout le même prix. 

Hey, mais moi j'aime ça, chère, 
Viens me voir mais m'en aller. 
Plus personne mais pour m'aimer,
Plus personne m'appeler le sien.
Madame Entelle donnez-moi les,
Petite ou grosse c'est tout le même prix.

Eddie Richard, Jay Dartez,
Shuk Richard on accordion,
Marie Solange Falcon on guitar,

Jack Brock (MC)
The song has a raucous, accordion driven sound, similar to much of the sound Khoury had on other recordings he produced.  Even Marie's voice comes across as a series of yells rather than sung.  Marie's song is the post-war version of the old Creole song called "Adieu Rosa" that Joe Falcon used to create his "Arcadian One Step". The song has a alternate take on the song "Madame Sostene" in which a lover is asking for one of the mother's daughers.  In this case, either daughter, the big one or the small one, will do.

Mrs. Entelle, give one to me,

Any of them are the same to me,

Mrs. Entelle, give one to me,

Any of them are the same to me,

Farewell Rosa, yaille, how come you do this, dear?

What are you doing?  Look at what you've done.

Farewell Rosa, yaille, how come you do this, little girl?

Do you know what you've done? Look at what you've done.

Mrs. Entelle, give one to me,

Any of them are the same to me,

Mrs. Entelle, give one to me,

Any of them are the same to me,

Hey, I love ya, dear,
Come see me, because I have to leave,
I have no one to love me,
No one calls me their own,
Mrs. Entelle, give one to me,
The big one or the small one, it's all the same.

  1. Discussions with Neal P
  2. Lyrics by Jerry M and Marc C
Release Info:
-A Madame Entelle Two Step | Khoury's KH-622-A
-B Chere Vere Naig | Khoury's KH-622-B

Cajun Music - The Early 50s (Arhoolie, 1969)
Cajun Honky Tonk: Khoury Recordings (Arhoolie, 1995)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)

Monday, May 4, 2015

"Fais Do Do Negre" - Breaux Brothers

Once the Breaux brothers (listed as Breaux Freres) showed the recording industry the type of success they could generate by recording "Ma Blonde Est Partie" in 1929 for Columbia, the Vocalion label had them come to San Antonio in 1934 for a marathon recording session. There without Cleoma, they laid down many tracks which would become standards in years following. One of the tunes they recorded in October that year was "Fais Do Do Negre" (#2857) with Ophy Breaux on fiddle, Amadie Breaux on accordion and vocals, and Clifford Breaux on guitar.  

Fais do-do, fais do-do mon nègre,
Dans les bras de ta chère vieille maman.  
Va donc là-bas, réveille toi, 
C’est l’heure d’aller à l’ouvrage. 
Hey, vaurien !

Pour la cause tu connais (?) 
‘Tit nègre mais chère maman  
Réveille-toi, bon matin, 
C’est l’heure d’aller à l’ouvrage.

Fais do-do ‘tit nègre, 
Dans la bras d’ta mam, 
Fais do-do, ‘tit nègre, 
Hey, hey.

Réveille-toi ils disent.
The song is a fast paced waltz, casually asking a little boy to sleep in his mother's arms followed by waking him up to go to work.  It's one of the earliest Cajun songs to have developed in the prairies. It became one of the most favorite waltzes during the 1920s outside of "Jolie Blonde" and "Allons A Lafayette".3  

Fais do-do is also a name for a Cajun dance party, originating before World War II. According to Mark Humphrey, the parties were named for "the gentle command (‘go to sleep’) young mothers offered bawling infants.” He quotes early Cajun musician Edwin Duhon of the Hackberry Ramblers, 

“She’d go to the cry room, give the baby a nipple and say, ‘Fais do-do.’ She’d want the baby to go to sleep fast, ’cause she’s worried about her husband dancing with somebody else out there.” 

Do-do itself is a shortening of the French verb dormir (to sleep), used primarily in speaking to small children. Comparable to the American English ‘”beddy-bye”, it is still commonly used by French-speaking people. According to author Stivale, "neg" and "negresse" are corrupted forms of the word "negre" which in Cajun french has an endearing meaning such as "hey, my man" or "hey, honey", completely void of racial tones.
Sleep, sleep, my little boy, 
In the arms of your dear old mom. 
Now, get out there! Wake up! 
It's time to go to work. 
Hey, ya rascal!

You know the reason, 
Little boy, for your dear mother, 
Wake up! It's morning!  
It's time to go to work.

Sleep, my little boy,

In the arms of your mom.

Sleep, my little boy,

Wake up!

Hey, hey!

Wake up, we said!

  2. Disenchanting Les Bons Temps: Identity and Authenticity in Cajun Music and Dance by Charles J. Stivale 
  3. The Eunice News (Eunice, Louisiana) 30 Aug 1962

Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 2: The Early 30s (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1971)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection (Sony, 2015)