Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Mon Coeur T'Appelle (My Heart Aches For You)" - Cleoma Breaux

It's one of the most enduring of the Cajun waltzes.  Also known as "J’ai Passe Devant Ta Porte" or "I Passed In Front Of Your Door", it’s a sad song about the passing of one’s true love. This waltz is part of the canon of Cajun music, sung by probably every musician in Louisiana at some point. Often the first song learned by beginning Cajun accordionists, it is also often the first song forgotten by accomplished musicians. Author Raymond Francois says this is an old song and claims his father remembered it from when the Titanic sunk around 1912.6
J’ai passe devant ta porte,

J’ai crie, “By-bye la belle.”

Y a personne qu’a pas repondu,

O ye yaille, mon coeur fait mal.

(Je) m’ai donc mis à bien observer,

Moi, j’ai vu une petite lumiere allumé,

Y quelque chose qui me disait j'aurais pleuré,

O ye yaille, mon coeur fait mal.

Quand j’ai ete cogner a la porte,

Oui, ils ont (r)ouvert la porte,

Moi, j’ai vu des chandelles allumees

Tout autour de ton cercueil.
Cleoma Breaux
The success of the Falcon-Breaux recordings led the Columbia agents to invite Joe and Cleoma to record again.  With her brother Ophy on fiddle and her soon-to-be husband Joe on accordion, Cleoma (misspelled Clemo) and company traveled to Atlanta, GA in 1929 for a recording session with Columbia/Okeh.  Next to "Ma Blonde Est Partie", "Mon Coeur T'Appelle" (#40504) would be one of Cleoma's most iconic recordings. 
I passed in front of your door

I cried, "Goodbye, my beautiful girl."

Yet no one responded.

Oh, how my heart aches!

Then I took a closer look,

And I saw little lights lit,

And something told me I was going to cry,

Oh, how my heart aches!

I knocked again at the door,

and when they opened it,

I saw the (devotional) candles lit,

Around your coffin.
It tells of the suddenness of death from accident and disease. The singer tells of passing by his beloved's door and hearing no answer to his call. Going inside he sees the candles burning around his love's corpse.  According to French Canadian writer, James LaForest:
This song has transcended regional appeal and is known throughout North America. I can believe it and understand why. It’s a lovely, very traditional tune that tells a simple story of lost love. The sound of true ‘country’ music resonates the same in French as in English, the same in Louisiana or Quebec as in Tennessee. It is a song that I feel I actually play, rather than just practice. For me that is a sign of success, no matter how competently I perform it.
As mentioned before in other articles, "yaille" is a word that doesn't translate well or at all.  In this context, it's definitely a cry of sorrow.  It's possible the song's melody is older since it also influenced Amede Ardoin's "Oberlin" melody recorded in 1934. In 1934, Alan Lomax recorded the song during field sessions with Eraste Vidrine, Hart Perrodin, and Hosea Phillips.  Dr. Barry Ancelet mentioned it may be based on a Spanish concerto for classical guitar.  Ancelet states: 
Anecdotal evidence suggests a link with an eigtheenth-century composition for guitar, written by either Frederico Moretti or Fernando Sor, the best-known classical guitarist of his day. Both Moretti and So wrote introductory methods for guitar, and we might speculate that the melody of "J'ai passe" was written for the very same function it fulfills to this day.

By 1946, Happy Fats and Doc Guidry would cover a country swing version as "Setre Chandelle" for J.D. Miller's Fais Do Do records and the following year, Harry Choates would do the same for Jimmy Mercer's Cajun Classics entitled "Je Pasa Durvant'Ta Port (I'll Pass In Front Of Your Door)".  Not to be outdone, Eddie Shuler used George Khoury's label and recorded a country version as "J’ai Passee Devant" in 1952.  

The Balfas would record the song "J’ai passé devant ta porte" in the 1960s and would be popularized by many musicians afterwards.  It's considered one of the most popular songs of all time.  It can be found in many sheet music books such as in Gary Dahl's "Louisiana Cajun Classics for Piano Accordion", Nancy Simon's "Ez-Play Cajun Tunes for Piano" and Larry McCabe's "101 Easy Fingerstyle Guitar Solos".  In 2011, it was performed as a symphony piece at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas as part of a tribute to Col. John Bourgeois, Director Emeritus of the United States Marine Band.   It's also listed as one of Gary Lynn Ferguson's "32,000 Popular Songs in Collections, 1854-1992". 

  1. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  2. Song Finder: A Title Index to 32,000 Popular Songs in Collections, 1854-1992 By Gary Lynn Ferguson
  3. Cajun Music: Its Origins and Development by Barry Ancelet
  4. "Du Chicot": A Collection of Essays by Randall P. Whatley
  5. Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times edited by Janet Allured. Written by Kevin Fontenot.
  6. Ye Yaille Chere, Traditional Cajun Dance Music by Raymond E. François
Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 2: The Early 30s (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1971)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
As Good As It Gets: Cajun (Disky, 2000)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)
The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection (Sony, 2015)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"The Pee Wee Special" - Pee Wee Broussard

Another accordionist that helped usher in the "dancehall era" was Chester Isaac "Pee Wee" Broussard (not to be confused with Joseph "Pee Wee" Broussard, tenor banjo player for Happy Fats and Harry Choates). In 1952, Ned Guilbeau, a DJ on a New Iberia radio station, arranged Pee Wee's first session at J.D. Miller's studio at the old M&S Electrical Shop on North Parkerson Street in Crowley, as he liked Pee Wee's playing. There, he recorded two sessions, one which produced the song "The Pee Wee Special" (#1045) on Feature records.
Pee Wee Broussard

During the 1960s, he played fiddle in Marc Savoy's dancehall band. Eventually, he formed the band The Melody Boys. According to those who knew him, Pee Wee liked to fight when he got drunk. He would try to fight people in the dance hall, and if that failed he tried to fight with his own band members.

For the sessions Pee Wee's Melody Boys comprised himself on accordion, Jean "Kaiser" Perez on fiddle, Walter Guidry on steel guitar, Andy Johnson on rhythm guitar, and Nathan Latiolais on drums. Pee Wee Broussard continued to record, cutting both for George Khoury in Lake Charles and Carol Rachou in Lafayette, while he continued his day job as an automobile mechanic at Charlie Lamar's Mechanic Shop in Lafayette... Although he played the accordion on Miller's releases, he also played fiddle, steel and rhythm guitar, and upright bass.

  1. Flyright 610, Acadian Two Step, 1988. Notes by Bruce Bastin
Acadian Two Step (Flyright, 1987)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Perrodin Two Step" - Angelas LeJeune

Considered a tour-de-force, the "Perrodin" is known as one of the more difficult accordion instrumentals and it was and continues to be a favorite at accordion contest in southern Louisiana. It was first recorded in New Orleans in 1929 by Dennis McGee, Angelas LeJeune, and Ernest Frugé for Brunswick (#369). According to Marc Savoy, it is named after two brothers who often requested it at dances. 

LeJeune (spelled "Le Jeunne"), who was an uncle of Iry LeJeune from the Point Noire area near Church Point, won an accordion contest in Opelousas in 1929. Known to the community as "Nonc Jack", first prize was a trip to New Orleans to record with legendary fiddlers Dennis McGee and Ernest Frugé.  
Angelas Lejeune
Crowley Signal October 1, 1929
Special to Signal:  Opelousas, LA, Oct 1 – Angelas Lejeune a resident of Acadia parish, accompanied by D. McGee, of Eunice, LA., and E. Fruge of Lewisburg, La., won the grand prize offered by the leading accordion player in what was considered the first state-wide contest of its kind yet held.  The accordion contest was sponsored by the Opelousas Herald, local weekly newspaper, and various leading business interest throughout the city. 
Lejeune and his accompanists won the grand prize of $50 in cash offered to the most talented player.  The contest opened Friday morning at 9 a.m. with the finals taking place late Saturday afternoon.  Beginning at 8 p.m. each night of the contest a block dance was given, the street being roped off for one block.  Music for these dances was furnished by players entered in the contest. 
Several recording companies sent representatives to witness the contest, the winner of which was offered a contract for the producing of French song and accordion records.  Mr. Lejeune and his fellow players left accompanied by Dr. A. J.  Boudreau, for New Orleans, where the Okeh Record Company, of which Dr. Boudreau is local representative, has offered the contest an interesting proposition, giving them $00 each, with expenses paid for the recording.
Rayne Tribune
Sept 20, 1929

The trio waxed 6 songs, 3 records in all for the Brunswick label, that are surely some of the most powerful music in Cajun history. According to Cajun music enthusiast Neal Pomea:
His Perrodin Two Step? Unsurpassed!  This makes a his records some of the rarest.
The second instance of the "Perrodin" occurs with Lomax's recording of Oakdale Carriere in 1934 at Angola State Prison as the "Perrodin Two Step".  Although more often associated with the Cajun repertoire, Carriere's performance of this song reflects the intertwined nature of Cajun and Creole instrumental music in the early part of the twentieth century.  

Happy Fats used the melody for his 1935 recording of "Rayne Breakdown".  The same melody would be used by Miller's Merrymakers called "Round Up Hop" in 1937. Later, the Jolly Boys of Lafayette would record the "Jolly Boys' Breakdown" with the same melody.   Some refer to it as "Mamou Breakdown" as recorded by Wallace "Cheese" Read.

Perrodin Two Step - Angelas Lejeune - 1929

  1. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  2. The Kingdom of Zydeco By Michael Tisserand
  4. MADE IN LOUISIANA.  VRCD 325.  MARC SAVOY - Accordion. DEWEY BALFA - Fiddle. D. L. MENARD - Guitar.  Liner notes.
  5. Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest ... By Amanda Petrusich
  7. Discussions with Neal P
  8. Image by Malcolm V
Times Ain't Like They Used To Be, Vol. 4: Early American Rural Music (Yazoo, 2006)
Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins, 2013)

Friday, August 14, 2015

"Lifetime Waltz" - Aldus Roger

Aldus Roger and the Lafayette Playboys came to the forefront in the 1950s and hosted their own television show on KLFY in Lafayette from 1955 to 1970.  Roger, who played accordion and had other band members do the singing, developed a reputation for superb musicianship, inspiring critics to write comments like "set the standard for the modern traditional Cajun dance hall band" and "No one plays an accordion with better timing and with more perfection". 

Ah Yea!

J’ai condamné pour quatre-vingt-dix-neuf ans, tite monde,

J’ai condamné, chere tit fille, pour tout ma vie, chere,

Tu connait, c’est pas ma fault tu dit comme ça, tite monde,

Pour savoir pour quartrevignt dix neuf ans, tite fille.

Oh, observe moi bien tit fille,
Jamais encore, chere tit monde, tu va m’voir tite fille,
J’ai partie par par rapport a tes manieres, tite fille,
J’ai condamné pour quatre-vingt-dix-neuf ans.

Released in 1953 (some sources state 1956), it seems to be an issue done by Eddie Shuler.  TNT was the closest label he knew of that would press his releases.  According to author Lyle Ferb:
Although Eddie had both Folk-Star and Golband in the late 40's he still had to go out of the area to get his records pressed.  I think NY was his main source,... sometimes Memphis.  I think the TNT deal was for convenience.  Bob Tanner, owner of Tanner N Texas, was looking for records for his label and knowing Eddie, he probably had the money. More than likely, Eddie got the records pressed for free. In exchange, Tanner got his name on the label, which brought more artist and producers to San Antonio including Virgil Bozman.  Eddie got to distribute the records.  I am sure none of the artists ever got a penny.
Raymond Cormier(?), Aldus Roger,
Fernest "Man" Abshire

First recorded as "L'Abandonner" by Bartmon Montet & Joswell Dupuis in 1929, "Lifetime Waltz" (#106) was a rendition of an old Amede Ardoin tune known as "Le Valse Ah Abe". In the song, he mentions how his lover will never see him again. However, it's possible the phrase is "jamais encore, chère 'tit monde, tu vas me r'joindre, petite" which means "they'll never get back together again".  However, the TNT releases never sold well and the melody later became the more famous tune by Iry Lejeune known as "Convict Waltz" or "La Valse De Quatre-Vingt-Dix-Neuf Ans" in 1954.

I have been condemned for 99 years, my little sweetheart,

I have been condemned, dear little girl, for a lifetime, dear,

You know, it's not my fault, i'll tell you that, my little everything,

Found out it's for 99 years, my little girl.

Oh, pay good attention to me, my little girl,
Never again, dear little girl, will you see me, my little girl,
I'm leaving because of your ways, my little girl,
I have been condemned for 99 years.

Bob Tanner of TNT had several Cajun releases but the lable was short lived.  Considered one of the more difficult post-war recordings to find, it shows off some of the earliest talent in Aldus' band.

  1. Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California Modern Pleasures in a Postmodern World By Mark F. DeWitt
  2. Lyrics by Jerry M, Bryan L and Marc C

Hot Rod Cajun. Vol 2. (Zeaux)

Monday, August 10, 2015

"La Recomendation Du Soulard" - Guidry Brothers

The Guidry Brothers produced six sides for Vocalion Records in 1929.  Containing the earliest known recordings of Cajun yodeling, the group from Anse La Butte were hardly known outside of the small town of Breaux Bridge.  A record store owner in Lafayette invited all three gentlemen, Isidore, Dosete and Arthur Guidry to New Orleans with other contemporary Cajun artists from the St. Landry Parish area.  They recorded the drinking song "La Recomendation du Soulard" (#15844),  incorporating an accordion, guitar, and fiddle.
Quand j'étais jeune garçon,
Les choses étaient différentes,
J'avais tout mon idée,
C'était sur les jeunes filles.
A présent que je suis vieux,
Tous les choses ils sont changées,
J'ai mis mon iyoutntention,
De dessus la boisson.
Parlez-nous à boire,
C'est là dans nos plaisirs,
Il faut jamais penser,
De juste se marier.
Quand on est marié,
Si la femme elle soigne(?) pas,
On est dans les dangers,
De toujours travailler.
Parlez-moi (z)à boire,
C'est là dans mes plaisirs,
Il faut jamais penser,
De juste se marier.
Quand on est marié,
On se met à tout crier(?),
Toujours en regrettant,
Ce joli temps pas.

It's an old drinking song about getting reminiscing about single life, getting married, and the regrets which lead to drinking.  It may have some similarities to a much older tune known as "Si J'aurais Des Ailes".  Although recorded in New Orleans for Vocalion in 1929, records do not show who played what instrument on any of the songs. The tune incorporates yodeling buried between the french lyrics.  However, it seems that at some point, one of the members begins to yodel and just gives up halfway through.  According to author Chris King:
Le Recommendation Du Soulard displays this less than first-class yodel but it has to be said the performance is very individual; at times one is reminded as much of an English Morris Dance number than a Cajun piece, all of which adds to the enjoyment. 
When I was a young boy,
Things were different,
I had thoughts,
They were of young girls.
Now that I am old,
All things have changed,
I set my intentions,
Topping the drink.
Tell you about drinking,
It's our pleasures,
We never think,
Of just getting married.
When we are married,
Whether the woman nurses or not,
We are in danger,
Always working.
Tell me about drinking,
It's my pleasure,
We never think,
Of just getting married.
When we are married,
We start to cry,
Always regretting,
It's not a pretty time.

The Balfa Brothers would later turn this song into their famous tune "Parlez Nous a Boire" in 1964 and again in 1966.

  1. Authentic Cajun & Rare: 1929 - 1934 (JSP, 2008).  Liner notes.
  2. Image by Malcolm V
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M and Marc C
Authentic Cajun & Rare: 1929 - 1934 (JSP, 2008)
Old Time Cajun, Vol. 2 (Count, 2013)

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Te Mone" - Iry Lejeune

Almost blind, Iry Lejeune devoted himself to the accordion, developing a style based on the singing and playing of Creole musician Amede Ardoin.  His emotional, heart wrenching singing full of blues notes and slurs is emulated by most Cajun singers.  Eddie Shuler, owner of Folk-star, created the label specifically to record Iry Lejeune and his Lacassine Playboys. From there, he recorded a slew of what he considered "folk" music with artists such as Sidney Brown, Joe Manuel, Gene Rodrigue, Popeye Broussard and Phil Menard.  The Folk-star recording of "Te Mone" (#101) was the second pressing Eddie Shuler released of the group, recorded at the KPLC radio studio in Lake Charles.   It featured the Vanicor family musicians, Ellis on fiddle, Ivy on guitar, and Orsy on steel.  In fact, this song features the only steel guitar ride in all of Iry's recordings.   
Eh, quo'faire, toi, tu crois,
Moi, j'suis là tout le temps,
Après t'espérer, chère.
Tu devrais mais pas m'oublier, yé yaille,
Tant loin que, moim
Je m'éloigne de toi.

Eh, quo'faire t'es comme ça,
Après espérer juste pour moi mais jour et nuit,
Juste pour me faire des misères,
'Tit monde,
Des misères que je mérite pas.
Iry Lejeune

The song was heavily influenced by Amede Ardoin's 1934 San Antonio recording of "Oberlin".  While the phrase "tit monde" directly translates to "little world", it's meaning isn't apparent here.  The phrase of endearment in this case is similar to "chere tout tout", referring to a loved one, usually a young girl or daughter.  While "chere tout tout" has the meaning of "you're my all in all", similarly, "tit monde" has a deeper meaning, more along the lines of "you're my whole world" or better yet, "you're my everything".    According to producer Eddie:
The song Te Mone and the song Duralde Waltz we did that when they came out with the little cheap tape recorders. A little cheap one track tape recorder, I think , was the name of the thing was Echo or something like that.  Some little thing cost $278 and I was in hog heaven because I had a way to make records and didn't have to go give that guy a fifth of whiskey.4 
Eh, why do you think,

I am here alwayss,

Waiting for you, dear.

You shouldn't forget me, yé yaille,

So far that,

I distance myself from you.

Eh, why are you like that,

Waiting just for me day and night,

Just to make me miserable,
Little one,
Misery that I don't deserve.
Eddie Shuler

Milton Vanicor did not record on this project since he felt they had enough musicians and did not need him.  It's the only session in which Iry recorded with a steel guitar.  According to Milton Vanicor:
When Iry came to my house, he was hitch-hiking. He’d play maybe for a dollar at a restaurant in some town, he’d hitch-hike to go elsewhere and stop maybe at a bar. If you’d tell him, "Play, I’ll give you a dollar," he’d play. If you’d tell him, "I’ll give you 2 dollars," he’d play. It didn’t make any difference to him... He came to my house dirty, dirty clothes, poor thing. He said, "I’ve come to ask you if I could stay with you." And I told him, I said, "You’ve got to ask your cousin, my wife." She put her head down and she said, "I guess so, Iry."  She was a good person. So, we got him some clean clothes and he stayed at my house and that’s when we started The Lacassine Playboys and we had a band. Me, and my brother and R.C. (R.C. Vanicor) and my nephew. It was all family, my brothers. There were 3 brothers and then, my brother-in-law and Iry. The Lacassine Playboys. It was a good band... I went over there and recorded with them.... We’d play almost for nothin’. We’d go and get maybe $6 a man. It was kind of a lot of money in them days, but at the most I had, the big dances, maybe $12.

  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Encyclopedia of the Blues: K-Z, index By Edward M. Komara 
Release Info:
-A Teche Special | Goldband F-101-A

-B Te Mone | Goldband F-101-B

The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2004)