Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Cajun Jitter Bug" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc

It's an early rockabilly influenced tune that seems very little to do with Cajun music, but more with the fact that rock n roll was beginning to have it's influence on the culture.  It was recorded as "Cajun Jitter Bug" (#20-2321) on RCA Victor in 1946 by a group called Happy Fats and his Rayne-Bo Ramblers, named after the town near his home.   

Early uses of the word "jitterbug" may have been associated with social drinking in the mid 1930s. However, by the mid 1940s, the "jitterbug" is a kind of dance associated with various types of swing dances such as the Lindy Hop, jive, and East Coast Swing. Time magazine reported that American troops stationed in France in 1945 jitterbugged, and by 1946, jitterbug had become a craze in England. It was already a competition dance in Australia.  

Jitterbug Dancing, 1939
The instrumental features a boogie woogie guitar piece by Francis “Red” Fabacher on lead guitar and a rhythmic strum by Jimmy Gardiner. Red, along with his brother Joseph, were well known from their days with the Jolly Boys of Lafayette, would occasionally sit in Harry Choates group as well. In the background you can hear Giles "Candy Man" Castillo on steel guitar and Andrus (Ambros) Thibodeaux on fiddle.   

Cajun Jitterbug Dancing
Today, Cajun Jitterbug is a relatively new style of Cajun dancing with two variations. The main style is a classic two-step form of a six-count East Coast Swing, which is differentiated from the one-step Cajun Jig. The other is considered a cowboy-style of Jitterbug or swing dance, also referred to as the Lake Charles Slide, the Cowboy Jitterbug and the Whiskey River Jitterbug.

The sound of this tune foreshadowed what was to come of a lot of music in the south. As rock n roll took over, many of the venues Cajun musicians had to play began a transition away from accordion led bands.  By 1958, many groups either converted over as well, such as the musicians in Lawrence Walker's band, or simply quit playing all together.


HAPPY FATS & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (BACM, 2009)
Leroy Happy Fats LeBlanc: & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (Master Classics, 2013)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Duraldo Waltz" - Iry Lejeune

Iry Lejeune was Eddie Shuler's most prized artists in his Cajun lineup.  Most of Iry's material was produced and distrubuted by Shuler's Goldband label. One of the songs Shuler recorded was "Duralde Waltz" (misspelled Duraldo) between 1952 and 1955 (#1041). However, this time Iry would put the accordion down and sing the tune in all it's glory.  Some list Iry playing the fiddle on this tune.  Others believe it was J.B. Fuselier. However, Eddie Shuler's interview and Wilson Granger's interview with Ron Yule clarify this as Wilson on fiddle.  Wilson had this tune in his head from hearing his father play it on the front porch and around the house.  With Iry being the talented musician he was, he put words to it, and they recorded it.

Dis "bye bye" à ton pop et ta mom malheureuse,

Pour t'en revenir, mais oui, me rejoindre là bas à Duralde.

T'avais promis, fait des promesses de venir me rejoindre, catin,

Avant trop longtemps moi je te vois près t'en revenir.

'Gardez donc, tu croyais ta famille aurait toujours

Pris pour toi, parce que tu m'as fais quitter catin.

A bien jongler, toi, tu vois pour toi-même, bébé

Tous nos chagrins qu'on après se passer, Ça fait pas de bien

C'est trop tard pour les enfants s'en revenir

Et se lamenter pour toi, c'est toi qu'a fait la grosse erreur

Tu m'as dit, toi, bébé, tu voulais plus me voir

C'est trop tard, tu vas revenir peut-être un bonjour.
Wilson Granger and Iry Lejeune

The exact content of these words is rarely made explicit but is implied in their consequences. Typically, the singer mourns a promise, presumably of fidelity, when the woman turns her back on him to join another. Or, as in "Duralde Waltz," her promise to return has not be kept.  Duralde is a small community outside of Eunice where Iry played at. Although listed as recorded at Goldband studios, it was actually a tape recording done at Iry's house.  The recording's raw sound and room acoustics can be heard throughout and a constant rhythm is kept with one of the musician's foot banging the house floor.  Having been formed from Wilson's earlier recording of "Bayou Chico Waltz", the song may have inspired Nathan Abshire's "L.S.U. French Waltz" and Austin Pitre's "Chère Tit Bassette".
Say "bye bye" to your mom and pop, you're miserable,
For you've come back, yes, to join me there at Duralde.
You promised, you promised you'd come to me, little doll,
Before too long, I will see you back around.

'So keep, you always thought your family would,
take care of you, because you made me leave, little doll.
Reminiscing, you'll see yourself that,
All our sorrows after this happens, it's no good.

It's too late for the children to come back,
And lament for you, it is you that has made the big mistake.
You told me, baby, you wanted to see me,
It's too late. You can go back. Have a good day, perhaps.

Eddie released two versions of the song as #1041 on both his brown label and red label; with "Grand Bosco" on the brown 78 RPM label flip-side and "I Went To The Dance" on the red label flip-side, both on 78 RPM and 45 RPM.  It was done on two different takes, with two slightly different verses.

Dis "bye bye" à ton pop et ta mom, chère,

Pour t'en venir, m'rejoindre là-bas, là-bas à Duralde,

La promesse que t'as fait, chère bébé, avant d’quitter, 

C'était juste pour me rendre courageux.

'Garde 'tite fille aujourd'hui on est séparé, 

Il y a plus rien, à se reprocher, non aujourd'hui,

Notre chagrin, il est après s'en aller sur les deux bords, 

ça sera trop tard peut-être un jour pour se lamenter.

In the alternate take, he only sings two verses, with the second verse completely different.

Say "bye bye" to your dad and your mom, dear,

For you've returned, joining me over there, over there in Duralde,

The promise that you made, dear baby, before leaving,

It was just to embolden me.

Look little girl, today we're separated,

There's nothing to reproach between us anymore, not today,

Our sorrows, they're on going on between both of us,

It'll be too late, perhaps one day we'll lament.
Wilson Granger whistled the tune to Iry and he made up some words right there on the spot. Although Iry originally wanted to play his fiddle for the tune, Wilson convinced him not to since he had heard his dad whistle the tune.7 Iry had a fox terrier that lived under the house named Rain. According to Ron Yule, during the recording, someone came to the door and the dog barked.  Shuler recalls recording the tune at Iry's house:

“I’ll never forget this: I bought a tape recorder, and it cost $237, which was a lot of money. We went to Iry LeJeune’s house when we first started, and he lived in an old house out there in Lacassine. His relatives had built it out of green lumber. Well, green lumber, when it’s wet, it’s tight like that, but when it dries, it’s got cracks. All of the walls had cracks because the lumber had dried out. We would put the machine on the kitchen table and cut these things, drink coffee and play music.
“We made ‘Durald Waltz’ in there and took the accordion out of that particular song because the fiddle player was a good fiddle player, and Iry decided he didn’t want to play accordion. He would just let the violin player shine, and he’d just sing the song. So we cut this song, and guess what? There’s a dog barking in the record. Well, I had never even heard the damn dog, and people kept coming up to me telling me, ‘You’ve got a dog barking in one of your records.’ And I said ‘I don’t have no dog barking in my record.’ Come to find out I did have a dog barking, and it was a big record. But guess what? It was a classic.”
It's the take on the flip-side of "Grande Bosco" which contains the dog barking as well as a slower tempo. It was the last recording session before Iry was killed.  Wilson stated:
I tell you what, that last record we made, when I made that "Duralde Waltz" with him, that hadn't come out yet when he got killed.7  

  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  4. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  6. Discussion with Neal P
  7. Wilson Granger interview.  Andrew Brown. 2005. 
  8. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephanie D
Release Info:
G1041-A I Went To The Dance | Goldband G-1041-A
G1041-B Duraldo Waltz | Goldband G-1041-B

G1041-A Grand Bosco | Goldband G-1041-A
G1041-B Duraldo Waltz | Goldband G-1041-B

Cajun Dance Tunes Vol.1 (Goldband, 1988)
American French Music From The Bayous Of Louisiana (Goldband)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 1992)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Creole Waltz" - Lawrence Walker

Following Iry Lejeune's lead, previoulsy popular Cajun musicians dusted off their accordions and began providing music for a generation interested in preserving and reviving its fading heritage.1  Here we have one of Lawrence Walker's tunes in which he probably had no name.  It was given a generic title "Creole Waltz" (#617) either by him or George Khoury, the record producer.  
Oh bebé, cher catin, cher tit coeur,

Bébé, moi j'connais pas dans l’monde ayou toi t’es

Petite, tout les soir quand j’vas coucher, chere tit monde,

Bebé, je peux pas dormir avec les larme dedans mes yeux.
Oh bebé, chaque fois moi fermé mes petit yeux,
Te voir dans mon coeur, bebé, ça fait du mal,
Petite, te connait je peut manger, je peut dormir,
Tit monde, 'garde toi dans oui sa m’a dans, bébé"
Oh bebé, moi j'voir pas comment ça fait.
Bon Dieu m'a pas permis de faire, oui, t'aimée.
Tit monde, te connait, bebe, prends ça dur,
Tit fille, prends ça dur, moi j'pas p'us, va p'us pleurer.
Lawrence Walker

Interestingly enough, Walker would have been familiar with the Fawvor's title.  The lovely "Creole Waltz" done by the Fawvors has the lyrics associated later with Walker's "Tout Les Deux Pour la Meme (Both for the Same)".   However, this particular melody here became Walker's "Creole Waltz" instead, which creates some confusion when researching songs.   According to researcher Neal Pomea, he discusses the situations that arise with Cajun song titles:
There are many instances of completely unrelated songs that have the same title. Not just variations. I mean completely different tunes. You really have to listen to them before concluding that two recordings with the same title are really the same song at all.3
It's quite possible the "creole" referred to here is Canray Fontenot, who's intro to the "Barres De La Prison" seems to have some similarity.   Even Cleveland Mire used the melody for his "Prison Waltz", signifying it's connection to an old creole prison song.  The song has a lot of similarities to his "Waltz of Sorrow" and his "Chere Alice".  
Oh baby, come find me, my sweetheart,

Baby, I don't know where in the world you are,

Little one, every night when I go to lie down, my dear everything,

Baby, I can not sleep with tears in my eyes.

Oh baby, whenever I close my little eyes,
I see you in my heart, baby, it hurts,
Little one, you know I hardly eat, I hardly sleep,
My little everything, look at what you, yeh, have done to me, baby.

Oh baby, I can't see why it's like this,
The good Lord wouldn't allow me to love you, yeh,
My little everything, you know, baby, it's so hard,
Little girl, it's so hard, I don't want to cry no more.

  1. Cajun Country By Barry Jean Ancelet
  2. Lauren Post interview with Joe Falcon
  3. Discussion with N Pomea
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M
A Legend At Last (Swallow, 1983)
Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow, 2010)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings" by Joshua Clegg Caffery

If you like this material and want more, be sure to check out "Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings" by Joshua Clegg Caffery.

Barnes and Noble 
LSU Press

"La Valse De Chagrin" - Austin Pitre

Austin Pitre was the front man for "Austin Pitre & the Evangline Playboys" for many years and played dance halls around the South Louisiana area. His unique style of playing included standing up to play the accordion without the aid of a shoulder strap, as well as playing the accordion behind his head and between his legs. Besides being a talented musician, Pitre was also a highly regarded mechanic and had his own automotive repair shop near Ville Platte, Louisiana

Yeah, catin, comment j'vas faire,

Ton popa veut pas me voir chez toi, 

Ta moman, tu connais, elle est contre moi,

Quel espoir,moi j'peux avoir, aussi longtemps.
unknown, Claney Perron, Clifton Fontenot,
Austin Pitre, Floyd Fontenot, 

Pee Wee McCauley (sitting)
Shoe store in Ville Platte, LA
It's a rendition of Lawrence Walker's "Waltz of Sorrow".  Austin would later turn this song into "Jungle Club Waltz", named after a popular dance hall in New Iberia.  French "Hits" was a later J.D. Miller release.

Yeah, little doll, how I'm gonna do this?

Your poppa doesn't want to see me at his home,

Your momma, you know, she is against me,

What hope can I have, for so long?
Austin and his band toured the U.S. over the years and were recognized with several awards. In 1973, Austin was even invited to perform and entertain fans in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Festival in American Folk Life. He returned for that same festival in 1976 for the bi-centennial celebration. In 1980, the Louisiana Freedom Festival in Elton, Louisiana, presented Austin an award in appreciation for 50 years of contribution to and promotion of Cajun music. 

  3. Discussion with Neal P
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F
Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 4: From The 30s To The 50s (Old Timey, 1972)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

"The Rabbit Stole The Pumpkin" - John Bertrand & Milton Pitre

Children's songs can be some of the most inspirational pieces of music passed on through generations.  One of the most influential instrumentals floating around the Cajun prairies would be recorded by an almost obscure duo.  Recorded by John H. Bertrand and Milton Pitre, it would influence one of the earliest versions of the melody which became Iry Lejeune's "J'ai Ete Z Au Bal" and be the sole influence for Lawrence Walker's "Johnny Can't Dance".   

The duo traveled to Chicago in 1929 when Paramount decided to bring more blues to their recording studio.   The song, "The Rabbit Stole The Pumpkin" (#12730), was based on a children's tune that Lawrence Walker remembers hearing played as child.1
Later that same year, it was recorded separately as "J'vai Jouer Celea Pour Toi (I'll Play This For You)" by Bixy Guidry and during the mid 1930s as "Ne Buvez Plus Jamais" by Joe Falcon.

While there are some similarities with Iry Lejeune's "I Went To The Dance"; covered by countless Cajun musicians, it would be Lawrence Walker's "Johnny Can't Dance" that would take the melody and popularize it for all time.  Much later, Rick Michot would write lyrics to the song, calling it "Le Lapin a Volé Le Giraumon"2


Crowley Daily Signal
Mar 15, 1929

  1. Ye Yaille Chere, Traditional Cajun Dance Music by Raymond E. Francois
John Bertrand / Blind Uncle Gaspard / Delma Lachney Early American Cajun Music (Yazoo, 1999)
The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records: Volume Two, 1928-1932, CD G (Third Man, 2014)