Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Grande Nuit Especial (Big Night Special)" - Iry Lejeune

Iry Lejeune, one of the greatest that ever lived in the Cajun French music field, was acclaimed by all for the way he could deliver the songs, singing and playing the accordion.  He never made a record that was not a big hit, and these many years after his untimely death, his records continue to sell like new releases.  One of the recordings was the "Grande Nuit Especial", also known as Saturday Night Special, for Ed Shuler's Goldband label in in Lake Charles around November of 1952.  Like many of Iry's tunes, he used a melody similar to an Amede Ardoin song.  In this case, it was "Si Dur D'etre Seul" originally recorded in 1934. Eddie Shuler, producer of Goldband records recalled trying to get Iry's music out in stores.   Not everyone was interested in doing so:
At one time I thought I would get me a distributor.  So I talked to the guy in New Orleans that was distributing for Mercury Records.  He said "Send me some samples; I'll let my salesman take them out on the road".  I waited about a month and a half and I never got any orders.5
Eddie managed to track down the salesman for the New Orleans distributors, William B. Allen Supply Co. at a record shop in Opelousas.
So I met him at the car and I said, "Do you have any Cajun records?"  He said "I got one of them lousy things in my car.  I can't stand that stuff. Man, that's the most horriblest thing I ever heard in my life.  I'm not gonna play that thing; I can't stand it."  So I called his boss. I said "Hey, just forget about this distributing thing, we got somebody else".  So I went back to work.5
From that point on, Eddie controlled his own distribution.
Oh ye yaille, chère ‘tit bébé,
Moi je connais, moi je m’ennuie de toi quand même.
Hey ‘tit coeur tu devrais pas oublier,
Tout ça toi tu m’avais parlé avant de t’en v’nir.

Oh tit coeur ça c'est dur à croire,
Ton pap et ta mam t’avaient dit j’étais pas bon.
Oh catin asteur toi t’as du regret,
C’est trop tard c'est pas la peine que tu t’lamentes à moi.

Hey ye yaille, aujourd'hui tu t’lamentes,
Oh bébé, j’peux pas comprendre le bien qu’ça t’fait.
Oh ma chère, tu fais des misères, ça ressemble mais qu’tu mérites,
J’ai du regret, tu mérites pas ça.
High Mount Club, 1954
Robert Bertrand, Wilson Granger
Iry Lejeune, Alfred Cormier

The word "asteur" is the corrupted form of a very old 16th-17th French phrase still used in Quebec, spelled "à cette heure", which translates to "now".  According to Milton Vanicor, he and Eddie Shuler are playing in the background at Iry's home.  According to Ron Yule's interviews with Milton, Eddie had used a session director in order to tell Iry when to start and stop, probably because he sat on the floor due to having a bad habit of tapping his feet. 

Oh ye yaille, dear little baby,
I know, I'll miss you anyway,
Hey little heart, you should not forget,
All that you told me before you came.

Oh little heart, that's hard to believe,
Your dad and your mom told you I was no good,
Oh you little doll, now you regret this,
It's too late, it's not worth you lamenting over me.

Hey ye yaille, today you lament,
Oh baby, I can not understand how you do it,
Oh dear, you're miserable, but it looks like you deserve it,
I regret that, you do not deserve this.

In an interview Eddie recalled the clash he had with the station manager of KPLC when he in 1948 invited a precocious twenty-year-old accordionist from Lacassine, LA, Iry LeJune, to play during his time slot. 

"When he first came to town he was like a hobo, real raggedy, and wearing this big floppy hat. He had his squeeze box in a flour sack under his arm," he said. But after the station was swamped with requests for an encore performance, the program director finally relented. "Iry was a persistent feller all right. But I always believed in giving a man a chance; otherwise, how would you discover what he could do?"6
Towards the end of the original recording, Shuler's tape machine began to inject an obnoxious "whistle" sound, which he later had removed on some pressings.  Shuler re-issued the tune on 45RPM twice, once listed as G-1024 and then much later as G-1024-2 in which he labeled the pressing a "Collector's Item".  In 1958, Lawrence Walker would take the fast paced two-step and create a waltz from it, calling it "Midnight's Waltz". 

  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Biography.  The Greatest.  Iry Le June.  GBLP7741.
  4. SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 15.  2015 Regular Session.  Notes to commend Milton Vanicor for his passion, devotion, and his nearly eighty-year commitment to Cajun music.
  5. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
  7. NOTE:  Early 78 RPM pressings (GF 103 A in deadwax) contains the full recording with tape "whistle". (Jeremy R)  Later 78 RPM pressings (G 103 A in deadwax) contains the song cut early without the tape "whistle"
Release Info:
Grande Nuit Especial (Big Night Special) | Goldband G-F103-A G-1024
La Valse Du Grande Chemin (The Waltz Of The Big Road) | Goldband G-F103-B G-1024

The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Goldband, 1992)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2004)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Ma Mauvaus Fille" - Moise Robin & Leo Soileau

The Troublesome Girl.  It was one of the many recordings during the traditional Cajun recording era covered by a unique accordion player named Moise Robin.   Robin himself had teamed up with Leo Soileau once Soileau had lost his first accordion player.   Robin had always wanted to record and Soileau gave him that chance.   On 3 of the songs, Leo sang, and the other 3, Robin took the vocal lead.  Robin learned by being in a musical family.  According to Robin:

My father was a great musician.  He played all over, around the territory [of] Ville Platte and everywhere, play dances, for many years.1

Ah, y'en a qui veut la plus vieille, y'en a qui veut la plus jeune,
Moi je suis pas comme ça, j'en veux pas du tout.

Ah, j'ai eu le malheur de me trouver une p'tite belle,
Mais elle était trop mauvaise mais j'ai eu pour la quitter.

Ah, comment tu voulais mais j'me rende à ta maison,
Tu fermais tout(es) les portes, dessus moi.

Oh, moi je connais qui qu’était après faire ça, 
Ta maman est après troubler ton idée.

Ah, j'ai eu le malheur de me trouver une p'tite,
Mais elle était trop mauvaise mais j'ai eu pour la quitter.

Moise Robin
by Chris Strachwitz

Moise's opportunity occurred once Leo began looking for a replacement accordion player.  After Leo's first accordionist was killed in a bar shootout, he found Moise:

When Mayeus Lafleur got killed, in 1928... right after, he heard about me, so he came home with my daddy and that's when he got me to play with him. And the first place we went, we played all around in clubs.1

Ah, there are ones who like the older women, there ones who like the younger girls,

I'm not like that, I'm not like that at all.

Ah, I went through the trouble to find a nice little girl,

But, she was too bad, well, I had to leave.

Ah, how you wanted things, well, I travelled to your house,
You shut all the doors, in front of me.

Oh I know who it was that made you do that,
Your mom was troubling your thoughts.

Ville Platte Gazette
Oct 19, 1929

  2. Picture courtesy UL Lafayette Cajun & Creole collection
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"French Two Step" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers started with a fiddle and guitar, with Luderin Darbonne and Edwin Duhon, although Duhon played an accordion later.  The first job for the Ramblers was a house dance, without a fee but with permission to pass a hat for donations. They enlisted another Hackberry guitar player, Alvin Ellender, and played with two guitars and a fiddle. The dancers applauded, and put money in the hat when it was passed.2

Darbone ordered a $50 electric amplifier from Sears Roebuck & Co. Then he learned that their first nightclub appearance would be in a club that had no electricity.  Darbone parked his Model A Ford near the back door of the club, ran a line through the door to the bandstand, started the automobile and let the idling engine provide power for the sound system.  It worked, especially enhancing the fiddle played by Darbone.2

Floyd Shreve, Luderin Darbone,
Danny Shreve, Claude "Pete" Duhon

By 1938, the group had picked up Floyd and Danny Shreve on guitars and Claude "Pete" Duhon on bass.   Edwin had left the group by this point and they made their way to the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans to record "French Two Step" (#2059) for Bluebird records.  The tune is based on an earlier called "Charlie's Song" by Charlie Loola.  It was made well known by Bob Wills as "Spanish Two Step".   According to Wills' biographer Charles Townsend, Wills composed the tune in New Mexico in 1927 but didn't record it until 1935.1 

  1. The Crooked Stovepipe: Athapaskan Fiddle Music and Square Dancing in ... By Craig Mishler
  2. "Hackberry Ramblers Making music since 1933". DON KINGERY. American Press, Friday, September 24, 2004
Western Swing, Vol. 1 (Old Timey, 1966)
Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown (Arhoolie, 1997)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
The Best of Western Swing (Collector Sound) (Tsk Music, 2012)
Et La Bas (Black & Partners LLC, 2014)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Arcadian One Step" - Joseph Falcon

Joe Falcon recorded the earliest Cajun music during the 1920s.  Joe was one of the greatest accordion players and a pioneer artist of Cajun records. The first recording of authentic Cajun music was made in 1928 by  Falcon and his future wife Cleoma Breaux playing rhythm guitar. One of the song recorded that day  was “Allons à Lafayette” , who became a real Cajun classic. The record sold well and soon the big recording companies were on the hunt for other Cajun artists. One year later, they were in Atlanta, laying down some of the most traditional melodies floating around the countryside. In fact, contrary to popular belief, Joe and Cleoma were the first to ever record this old Creole melody.

Madame Entelle, rappelez-vous bien,

Quoi c'est m'as dit, mais, hiere au soir,

J'ai quitté là-bas, chez vous,

Ayou elle m'as dit,

Quitter là, chère, la dernière fois*.

Petite ou grosse*, c'est tout le même prix, 

Madame Eduard, donnez-moi les,
Votre fille, moi aller t'en dire,
Elle est mignonne, et 'tite, 
C'est moi, chère, 
Après t'en aller, ouais, 
En t'éloignant, si loin de moi.

Moi j'connais chère, 
mais, j'suis parti, belle, 
mais, m'en aller, 
mais, pour te voir. 
Eh oui, mon negre, chère, 
Mais, prends courage, chère, 
J'suis après finir, mais, tout mes mon tracas.

It's quite possible on the first verse, his last line is "Quitter là guerre, là guerre hier au soir" talking about leaving the argument that occurred the previous night.  In the second version, "Si tes voudras c'est tout le même prix" asks if you'd like, they're the same price, however, given this song became the well known "Petite ou Grosse" song, it's more likely he's talking about the small one or the big one.  

This 1929 Columbia recording is a great example of how many melodies would develop into different song titles.   The melody of "Adieu Rosa" would not only influence Douglas Bellard's Creole song "Mon Camon La Case Que Je Suis Cordane" but would also influence hard driving Cajun songs such as Joe Falcon's "Acadian One Step" (#40513).  It's major influence would extend to Angelas Lejeune's 1930 recording of "Madame Donnez Moi Les", keeping some of the lyrics and the melody. However, it reached other musicians and their recordings that year, such as Leo Soileau's "Demain C'Est Pas Dimanche" and Bixy Guidry's "Ella A Plurer Pour Revenir".  Leo would rework the song in the 1930s as "Petit Ou Gros", made famous by Joe Bonsall in the 1960s.  

Lake Charles American Press
Oct 2, 1928

"Acadian One Step" is an extremely energetic performance with classic Cajun instrumentation (accordion, guitar, fiddle). The accordion plays the melody line on the instrumental breaks, while the guitar plays the rhythm and the triangle keeps time. The fiddle is inaudible on the instrumental breaks (likely overpowered by the accordion), but it can be heard in the background during the vocal parts, when the accordion drops out. Although the fiddle can be heard on the recording, it was not listed among the instruments listed on the record label.1  Given they were recording alongside Cleoma's brothers in Atlanta, it's most likely Ophy Breaux on fiddle.  Unlike the old traditional tune "Adieu Rosa" where the love interest is thankful Rosa is leaving, Joe's version talks about a sad lover due to a particular "madame" leaving him. 

Mrs. Entelle, remember well,

What was said to me, well, last night,

I left that place, your house,

Where she told it was,

I left there, dear, for the last time.

The small or big one, it's all the same to me,

Mrs. Eduard, give her to me,
Your daughter, I'm going to tell you,
She's cute and small, 
It's me dear, 
You've gone away, yeah,
As far as you can, so far from me.

I know, dear,
Well, I have left, beautiful,
Well, I've gone,
Well, to see you,
Eh yeh, my friend, dear,
Well, take care, my dear,
I'm finished, well, with all my troubles.

After the war, his niece Marie Falcon teamed up with Shuk Richard and recorded "Madame Entelle Two Step" in 1952, based heavily on this version.  By 1959 Austin Pitre would take the Bellard song and convert it to his famous "Les Flammes D'Enfer".

Falcon continued to record into the late '30s, but his music was eclipsed in popularity by the emerging Country and Western genre and was soon considered old fashioned. He stopped recording after his final session in 1937.1

  2. Lyrics by Bryan L, Stephane F and Stephanie D
  3. Edits by Herman M

Anthology Of American Folk Music Volume Two: Social Music (Folkways, 1967)
Les Cajuns Best Of 2002 Les Triomphes De La Country Volume 12 (Habana, 2002)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Un Fussi Qui Brille" - Roy Gonzales

Some of the best Cajun music was inspired by artists of other genres.  In 1929, Roy Gonzales recorded a series of memorable, though mostly long unavailable sides for Paramount that translated Jimmie Rodgers songs into Acadian French.1  Rodger's "T For Texas" was reworked into Roy's "Un Fussi Qui Brille" or "A Shiny Rifle" or "A Rifle That Shines" for Paramount records (#12807).    It was a song he had previously recorded with John H. Bertrand earlier that year in Chicago called "Je Veux M'Ahete Un Fuse Qui Brille" or "I Want A Rifle That Shines".

Je veux m'acheter un fusil avec une canon qui brille, 

oh j’veux m'acheter un fusil avec un canon qui brille, 

et je vais, sûr, tuer un homme qui a volé ma fille. (yodel) 

Garde-donc ici, chère, garde-donc ça t’as fais, 
Oh, garde ici chère, garde-donc ça t’as fais, 
Tu m’as fais t’aimer, là tu veux même plus. (yodel)

Quand je t’ai pris chez toi chère, tu marchais pieds nus, 
Quand je t’ai pris chez toi chère, tu marchais pieds nus, 
J’ai arrivé juste à temps pour pas tu m’as connu. (yodel) 

J’suis parti dans le Texas et  je peux sûr pas t’amener, 
Oh  j’suis  parti dans le Texas et  je peux sûr pas t’amener, 
ça fait rien (de bon) pour une fille (qui vient).

La maison dedans, chère, c'est dur pas pour toi,
La maison dedans, chère, c'est dur pas pour toi,
Et l’homme qu’est devant moi, j'vas lui montrer que c'est pour moi. 
Starr Piano Company

The plaintiveness of the vocals and the French yodels require no understanding of the language to provoke emotional involvement, the way many French speakers responded to hearing Jimmie's original records.1  It's a story about the singer protecting his love interest, even at the barrell of a gun.   He states "c'est dur pas pour toi" meaning, "it's not hard for you", however, he wants his love interest to not fear living at the house while he holds back a man with his rifle.   He arrived at the Gennett Recording Studio, Starr Piano Company Building, Whitewater Gorge Park, Richmond, Indiana on the same day while Leo Soileau and Moise Robin were gearing up for their own Cajun recording session.  Roy sang, yodeled and played guitar and became friends with Leo.  His fascination with Jimmie Rodgers may have been due to Leo having met Jimmie the previous year.

Clarion News
July 18, 1929

I want to buy a gun with a barrel that shines,

Oh, I want to buy a gun with a barrel that shines,

And I will, surely, kill a man who stole my daughter.

So, look here, dear, look at what you've done,
Oh, look here, dear, look at what you've done,
You made me love you, now, I want you even more.

When I took you home, you walked barefoot,
When I took you home, you walked barefoot,
I arrived just in time, for you didn't remember me.

I have left for Texas and I surely can't bring you,
Oh, I left for Texas and I surely can't bring you,
It's nothing good for a girl who comes along.


In the house, dear, there's nothing to worry about,
In the house, dear, there's nothing to worry about,
And that man in front of me, I'll show him that (the gun), it's for me.

Roy's jazz-playing brother, Tony, would join Leo Soileau's Cajun string band as the first Cajun drummer.  In his later years, Roy would end up gambling his money away through horse racing and died a very poor man.2

  1. Meeting Jimmie Rodgers : How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the ... By Journalist Barry Mazor
  2. Discussions with Deborah G
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F

Friday, December 9, 2016

"Allons A Lafayette" - Harry Choates

America’s Cajun craze reached its apex in 1946 after Harry Choate's "Jole Blon" went national.  In the fall, Quinn enticed Choates back to the studio, insisting on straight-forward Cajun music. He was shocked at the response he got and urged Harry to get into the studio to record more traditional Cajun tunes, thinking he was on to something. Choates cut "Allons A Lafayette" (#1319) for his third session later that year with Bill Quinn's Gold Star label.  Clearly influenced by the music he heard as kid, Joe and Cleoma Falcon's music had a huge impact, especially "Lafayette". Harry himself played not only the fiddle, but also the guitar and what he jokingly called "an Abbeville Air Compressor" which was the Cajun accordion.5   Harry's version of the song is the first to be recorded with the fiddle and without an accordion.  

Allons a Lafayette c'est pour changer ton nom,

Comment mais on va t'appeller? Madam Cannaille, comme moi,

Tite fille tes trop mignonne pour faire ta criminelle,

Pour quoi te fait pitié, oui mais, jolie fille.

Allons a Lafayette pour voir les 'tites francais,

C'est, mais, se aimables, (z)'aimaient, mais, l'amuser.

Hey petit fille (pour)quoi t'après ma quitté,

Quoi tu fait quitté oui c’est criminelle.
Billboard Magazine
March 15, 1947
His group now contained seven members in which they would play dance halls between Louisiana and Texas.  Esmond Pursley on guitar, Abe Manuel Sr. on guitar, Joe Manuel on vocals and banjo, B.D.Williams on bass, Curzy Roy on drums, and Johnnie Manuel on piano.  Choates stayed with The Melody Boys, who recorded two dozen songs for Gold Star Records in 1946-47, primarily to promote his live performances. For one session, Choates had to buy a fiddle from a pawn shop on the way to the studio, having absentmindedly left his regular instrument with a woman he’d spent the night with.

Let's to go Lafayette, to change your name.

What will we call you? Mrs. Mischievous, like me.

Little girl, you're too cute to be this bad,

For you are pitiful, oh yeh, pretty girl.

Let's go to Lafayette to see the little french ones,

They're kind, lovable, however fun.

Hey, little girl, why are you leaving me?

Why are you pitiful?, Yeh, it's terrible.
Lake Charles American Press
Feb 19, 1947

In 1959, Pappy Daily acquired the Gold Star masters and re-released the song on their label as "Allons A Lafayette" (#273) on 78RPM and on D Records 45RPM (#1023).  It was very likely that Harry Choates had no idea that "Jole Blon" had made him a national celebrity. He was perfectly content to play his Texas and Louisiana night spots. In 1947 (some say 1948), at the Lake Charles Coliseum, two Grand Ole Opry performers who later become immortals, Ernest Tubbs and Minnie Pearl, had stopped in Lake Charles while on tour and were in the crowd.  When they heard Harry, Tubbs was overwhelmed and pleaded with Harry to come to Nashville.  Harry's drummer Curzy Roy could not believe what he was hearing. Harry refused, telling Tubbs that Nashville was 800 miles away... just too far to travel.1 


  1. Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates, a Cajun Legend by Tim Knight
  3. Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M, Bryan L, and Marc C
Release Info:
Allons A Lafayette | Gold Star 1319-A

Port Arthur Waltz | Gold Star 1319-B

ST2295 Allons A Lafayette | Starday 273
ST2302 Drag The Bow | Starday 273

Harry Choates ‎– The Fiddle King Of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982, 1993)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)
Cajun Champs (Arhoolie, 2005)

Monday, December 5, 2016

"Tostape De Jennings" - Amede Ardoin

Singer and accordionist Amédé Ardoin is generally recognized as the most influential figure in the early development of both Creole and Cajun music, two distinct styles which nonetheless have much in common, especially in the years between the two World Wars, when the recording of Southern folk music first became possible.1 His last session, a solo one, was done by Decca in New York City in 1934.  According to historian and author Dr. Barry Ancelet:

Those New York recordings that he did, every single cut, he made up there.3

Oh, catin, t'es parents ça veut pas,
Oh, jolie, ayou moi je vas aller pour être capable-donc, te voir,
Toi, t'es parents veulent pas moi je vas là avec toi. 

Oh, ye yaille, comment je vas faire, j'suis tout seul,
Oh, catin, si toi, tu jongler, toi, sur les misères tu m'as fait.
Y a déjà pas longtemps tu me ferais donc, pas ça.

Oh, c'est beau.

Oh ye yaille, catin,
Ayou c'est moi je vas aller, 'tit monde,
Je m'en va à la maison, toi, je vas en demandant,
Oh, catin, ayou je vas aller pour moi te rejoindre, tit monde.

Dimanche matin, toi, moi j'avais contûme,
Penser te rejoindre pour te ramener à quique part.

Sûre, ta maman veut pas que je t'emmène en nulle part.
Jennings, Louisiana, 1909

Two Step de Jennings" (#17002), incorrectly written as "Tostape De Jennings", was an ode to the small town of Jennings, Louisiana.  The Jennings area was settled in the main by wheat farmers of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and other Midwestern states.  Named after Southern Pacific Railroad contractor, Jennings McComb, these settlers were predominately of Anglo-Saxon stock.  Over time, Cajuns would migrate westward into these areas as the oil industry boomed.  Oddly enough, the song is not actually a two step but a waltz.  

Amede Ardoin

Milton Vanicor recalls:
I’d go to the dance and Amédé Ardoin was our musician at that time, cuz the dances were all house dances. Amédé Ardoin, when I was a little boy, my daddy let the young kids have his house for a dance. He said, "I’ll let you have the house for a dance, IF you get Amédé Ardoin." I knew him very well. One of my cousins would go get him in Crowley and bring him to the house. My daddy would ask him to go get Amédé early, like on Saturday night, and he said, "I want to hear him with not a lot of noise like at the dance." He’d play around 4 o’clock, something like that... he’d play for my daddy a little bit before the dance.2

Oh, little doll, your parents don't want this,
Oh, little doll, where am I going to go to see you?
Your parents don't want me to go there with you.

Oh, ye yaille, what am I going to do, all alone?
Oh, little doll, if you would, reminisce on all the miseries you'e done to me,
It's not so long ago that you wouldn't have done that to me.

Oh, it's my beauty.

Oh, ye yaille, little doll,
Where am I going to go, little everything?
I'm going to the house, you, I'm going, asking,
Oh, little doll, where can I go to meet you, little everything?

Sunday mornings, I was always in the habit,
Of thinking about going to get you and take you somewhere,
Surely, your mom doesn't want me to bring you anywhere.

  1. Southeast Texas: Hot House of Zydeco by R. Wood.  Jared Synder
Amadé Ardoin – Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 6 : Amadé Ardoin – The First Black Zydeco Recording Artist (1928–1938) (Old Timey)
I'm Never Comin Back: Roots of Zydeco (Arhoolie, 1995)
Mama I'll Be Long Gone: The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Wandering Aces Special" - Lawrence Walker

Lawrence Walker restored the accordion to center stage and purveyed the simpler, old-time style then in demand. Walker reached his peak of popularity during the 1950s with his Wandering Aces Band, performing in dance halls through south Louisiana and east Texas. Walker's talent and spirit always come through in songs such as the "Wandering Aces Special" (#606) recorded for Khoury's label in 1950.1

It was his rendition of the old Joe Falcon tune called "A Cowboy Rider".  Later, the song would become Marc Savoy's "Melville Two Step".  The recording contained possibly Houston Fruge, Mitch David on fiddle, possibly Valmont "Junior" Benoit on steel guitar and, possibly Simon Schexneider on drums.

During the 1950s, performers like Nathan Abshire, Iry LeJeune and Lawrence Walker were enormously popular with their playing.  

Advertisement, 1961

  1. Let the Good Times Roll!: A Guide to Cajun & Zydeco Music by Patricia Nyhan


A Legend At Last (Swallow, 1983)
Cajun Honky Tonk: Khoury Recordings (Arhoolie, 1995)
Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow, 2010)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Pine Island" - Miller's Merrymakers

The Merrymakers were a string band led by Beethoven Miller, fiddler Jean Baptiste Fuselier and guitarist Preston Manuel.  They band didn't live far from the area known as Pine Island.  Pine Island is a small community west in southwest Louisiana where dancehalls such as Forestier's would dot the region catering to Cajun musicians of the 1930s.  This farm community was settled in the middle of a prairie around a hill thick with pine and oak trees. Pine Island became the home to many in the late-1920's after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The many people that lost their homes and livelihoods moved west and settled in Pine Island.2 According to Preston Manuel, his guitarist:
When I first playing, I was about eighteen or nineteen years old, my first dance was in Iota, Louisiana.  I started playing with J.B. Fuselier and the Merrymakers, just a little group. We played in Pine Island there, so we made "Pine Island Two Step".1 

Eh, chère p'tite fille,

Me quitter ma chere mignonne pour toi.

Il y a pas jamais pleurer tout seul,

Quoi te faire avec ton nègre aujourd'hui.

Eh, moi j'm'en va la-bas, dans la maison,

Oh, toujour li mon tout seul, chérie, (aw, chère),
Eh, personne, pour mamay, chere belle,
Pour ma yeh chere blonde (....).

J.B. Fuselier

In 1936, they recorded the tune "Pine Island Two Step" (#2006) with either Manuel or Miller on guitar.  His line "Il y a pas jamais pleurer tout seul" maybe heard as "je croyais pas jamais t'aurais tout ça" meaning "I never thought you would do that".   It resembled a slowed down version of "Abbeville" by the Jolly Boys of Lafayette.  Given that Cleoma Breaux used a slightly different version of the melody for her "Pin Solitaire (Lonesome Pine)", it's not surprising the same melody was chosen for his Pine Island.

Hey, dear little girl,

I've left my dear cutie for you,

There, you'll never cry alone,

Why have you gone done this to your old man today.

Hey, I'm going over there to the house,

Oh, I'm always alone, dear (aw dear),
Hey, no one, for my mom, dear beautiful,
For my dear blonde girl (.....).
Like many pre-war Cajun tunes, the melody was used in other recordings, including Fuselier's own "Lake Arthur Waltz".  Other notable tunes of the era was Happy Fats' "Gran Prairie" with Harry Choates on fiddle and Papa Cairo's "Allons Kooche Kooche" and "Big Texas".   All of these tunes would eventually become Hank William's "Jambalaya" in 1952.  Slow versions, such as Fuselier's, became known better as "Quelle Etoile"

The town of Pine Island also had a general store, a Catholic church, and a big dance hall where the Merrymakers and Hackberry Ramblers often played in the late 1930’s. In a PBS documentary, Independent Lens, Make 'Em Dance, Edwin Duhon remembered playing in the dance hall in Pine Island where they first used an amplifier.2,3

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F

The Cajuns: Songs, Waltzes, & Two-Steps (Folkways, 1971)
Gran Prairie: Cajun Music Anthology, Vol. 3: The Historic Victor Bluebird Sessions (Country Music, 1994)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)