Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"The Criminal Waltz (La Valse Criminale)" - Leo Soileau and Mayuse Lafleur

A Cajun fiddle master, Leo Soileau was one of the giant figures in Cajun music history.  His early recordings from the late 20s are both powerful and emotive, and rank among the all-time classics of Cajun music. His greatest contribution to the music could be his earliest recordings with Mayuse Lafleur.  In October 1928, the duo headed to Atlanta and recorded several tunes including "The Criminal Waltz (La Valse Criminale" (#21770) for Victor.
The Shreveport Times
Oct 30, 1928

Toi 'tit monde, yaille, fais pas ça, malheureuse,

Toi 'tite fille, jongle à moi avant d'faire ça.

Toi 'tit monde faut pas te jongles à ton papa et avec ta maman.

Mais écoute pas avec ton papa et avec ta maman.

Malheureuse, si t'écoutes ton papa et après ta maman,

Tu s'ras jamais heureuse.

Ah, ye yaille, qui j'ai fait à ton papa, après ta maman,
Pour m'haïr autant qu'ça .

Moi j'connais j'ai pas fait rien ton papa, chère,
Toi 'tite fille, faut' qu'tu jongles à tout ça.

Toi 'tite fille, moi j'crois pas t'as le cœur
Aussi criminel que ça, malheureuse.

Rappelle-toi, petite fille, chère,
J't'avais dit tu vas jamais faire ça.

'Garde donc qui t'as fait avec mon y a pas si longtemps ?
Malheureuse t'aurais pas dû faire tout ça.

Toi 'tite fille, j'suis parti m'en aller, yaille,
M'en aller à la maison avant longtemps.
Mayuse Lafleur

Mayuse had allegedly told Victor A&R representative Ralph Peer that he couldn't sing without having something to drink.  According to their sponsor, Frank Dieltein:
It was during Prohibition and of course, we did not know where to find anything to drink.  Finally, Peer found a taxicab driver who was willing to get a bottle of what he called 'mountain dew' for $5.  Taking the bottle to Mayuse, he handed it to him saying, "This is all we could get."5  

I'll never forget how Mayuse looked at the bottle and took a deep drink.  For about 15 minutes the musician kept taking drinks from the bottle.  Finally, I noticed that his right foot began to tap on the floor in rhythm as if he were humming to himself.  At last, he looked at his partner, smiled, and raised his accordion and squeezed a chord as a signal that hew was ready.  The two musicians struck up several more chords and then told the Victor recording engineer that they were ready to start making the record.5  

Nine days later, the two played a house dance in Basile.  On the way home, they stopped at a "blind tiger" (illegal drinking establishment) run by Alexander Bellon.  A violent fight broke out between gamblers shortly after the duo arrived and Lafleur was killed in the melee.  Soileau cradled his dying friend's head on the blood soaked bar floor.  It haunted him the rest of his life.

You, my everything, oh, don't do that, oh my,

You, little girl, remember me before doing this.

You, little girl, should not reminiscence about your papa and your mama,

However, listen! Not with your dad and with your mom.

Oh so sad, if you listen to your dad and also your mom,

You'll never be happy.

Ah, oh, what did I do to your father, also, your mother,
For them to hate me that much. 

I know I have not done anything to your father, dear.
You, little girl, you must remember all of that.

You, little girl, I don't reckon you have the heart,
To be criminal as that, oh my.

The Shreveport Times
Oct 30, 1928
Remember, dear little girl,
I told you to never do that.

Just look at what you did with me, not so long ago?
Oh my, you'd not have done all that.

You, little girl, I'm gone, oh!
I'll be going home before long.

Although LaFleur's style of playing was different from Anglelas and Iry LeJeune's music, there is some of the quality of loneliness in those two men's recordings.   LaFleur cut the only two records he made in 1928, the year he died. In fact according to Leo Soileau who accompanied him on the fiddle, he never heard his records.4  It must have made some sort of impression on other musicians since the following year, Artelus Mistric used the melody for his Victor recording of "Belle Of Point Clare".  By 1936, Leo and the Shreves formed the Four Aces and re-recorded the song as a string band tune entitled "Je M'Ennui Ce Soir".  By 1951, Amede Breaux covered the tune for J.D. Miller of Crowley as the "Criminal Waltz".  

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  2. Early American Cajun Music: The Early Recordings Of Leo Soileau. Liner notes.
  3. Lyrics by Marc C and Herman M
  4. Discussions with Pete B
  5. Daily World (Opelousas, Louisiana) 17 Dec 1967, Sun Page 4


Early American Cajun Music: The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 1999)
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)
Cajun: Essential Guide (Union Square, 2007)

Friday, May 20, 2016

"Lafayette Two Step" - Lawrence Walker

Allons A Lafayette!  Lawrence Walker, like many others during the 1950s, took earlier recorded Cajun tunes and modernized the sound, speeding up the tempo, and creating a frenzy of listeners eager to dance.   Walker played classic mainstream Cajun music and his performance was full of Cajun soul.1 

Allons à Lafayette, c'est pour changer ton nom, 

On va s'appeler madame, madame canaille, comme moi,

'Tite fille, t'es trop mignonne pour faire ta criminelle, 

Comment ça se fait, bébé, tu m'fais ton neg comme ça.

Le monde parle mal de toi, Tu danses mais trop collée, 

Comment tu crois je peux faire, bébé, pour ton venir, 

Petite, t'es trop mignonne, t'es trop canaille pour moi,

(Tit fille, mais) chere tit monde (pour quoi t'me fait tout ça).

Oh , tu connais ça, ça me fait du mal!

Le monde parle mal de toi. Tu danses mais trop vilain, 
Comment t'y crois je veux faire, pour te courtiser. Yay.
Rayne Acadian Tribune
Dec 2, 1954

Along with Harry Choates and Aldus Roger, the old Joe Falcon tune "Allons A Lafayette" would get reworked into "Lafayette Two Step" (#617) in late 1951 or early 1952. The O.S.T. Nite Club and dance hall was a favorite for musicians and locals around Rayne, Louisiana including both Lawrence and Aldus.  It was located on the Old Spanish Trail, the road coming through Rayne as a principal "highway" in those years.2  It easily would have been the highway in which musicians in southwest Louisiana, such as Joe Falcon and Lawrence Walker, would have traveled in order to "go to Lafayette". 
O.S.T. Nite Club in Rayne3

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

We'll call you Mrs, Mrs. Naughty, just like me,

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

How is it, baby, you do that to your old man like that?

Everyone in the world speaks bad about you, you dance, well, too stuck-up,

How do you think feel, baby, for you in the future?

You're small, you're too cute, you're too vulgar for me,

Little girl, well, dear little everything, why do you do this to me?

Oh, you know this, it makes me sad!

Everyone in the world speaks bad about you, you dance, well, too nasty,
How I think I want you, baby, to woo you.  Yeh.
O.S.T. Nite Club in Rayne3

He was a leader in the accordion revival. By spotlighting the most identifiable instrumental sound in Cajun music, he helped to halt the lemming-like rush of local musicians into the arms of country music.  During the lean fifties, he and Aldus Roger were the most popular accordionists in Acadiana.1

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Rayne By Cheryl McCarty, Tony Olinger
  3. Pictures by Tony Olinger, Charles Stutes and Lafayette Clerk of Court
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Beginner's Guide to Cajun Music (Proper/Primo, 2008)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Mama Rosin" - Yvonne LeBlanc & Nathan Abshire

By the late 1950s, Nathan Abshire's band was slowing down.  Cajun music was struggling to keep up with the last 10 years of a resurgence.  Even Khoury's recordings were changing direction towards rock n roll and country music.  The group looked towards other genres that were gaining popularity at the time.  Recorded for George Khoury's label around 1956, it would be one of his last releases of Cajun music, using a new label design.  With Nathan on accordion, Dewey Balfa on fiddle, Jake Miere on steel guitar and Shelton Manuel on drums, together they would record "Mama Rosin" (#652).

Rhumba music became popular amount country musicians for a short period of time during the 1950s and Nathan's band seemed to jump in on the action.  With songs like this and "Boora Rhumba", you can hear the influence.   

Oh, Mama Rosin, oh, Mama Rosin,

'Gardez-donc, c’est de la rumba pour toi.

Oh, Mama Rosin, oh, Mama Rosin,
Maurice Chevalier
Quand-même les autres vient
Ça va pas faire pour moi

Quand j'ai pris, mais, te à la "bango"*, 
J’ai tombé en amour pour le tango,
Asteur c’est plus belle d’un tango
Même comme j’ai jamais même dansons.

Oh, Mama Rosin, oh, Mama Rosin,
Ça c’est dur, c’est de la rumba pour toi.

Yvonne Leblanc

"Mama Rosin" is very similar to a classic Cuban song from the 30's "Mama Inez" (or "Ay Mama Inez"), written by composer Eliseo Grenet. It was covered by, among others, Xavier Cugat, Charlie Parker and the French singer Maurice Chevalier.   In fact, it would be Chevalier's lyrics that come closest to the version Yvonne used. 

Yvonne's phrasing of the line referring to "the bango" is quite confusing and difficult to discern.   According to Ray Abshire, Yvonne LeBlanc was a major fan of the band and brother of Nathan's steel guitar player, Darius Leblanc.  She was at the Avalon most weekends and had a table close to the front with her friends.  Nathan called her "Petite Yvonne".  She was only 4 foot 6 at the most.  She loved to dance and was on the dance floor for most of the night.1,2 Sometimes, Nathan would let her sing a song with the band.  

Oh Mama Rosin, oh, Mama Rosin,

Look at that, it's the Rhumba for you,

Oh Mama Rosin, oh, Mama Rosin,
When the other ones come,
That won't do it for me.

When I took you to do the "bango"*,
I fell in love with the tango,
Right now it's the most beautiful tango,
Even though I never even dance.

Oh Mama Rosin, oh, Mama Rosin,
That's the hardest part, to do the Rhumba for you.

She was on her way to the Avalon with her parents and brother when they were involved in a fatal wreck with a slow moving rice truck.  Only Yvonne survived.2   As far as Khoury himself, his Cajun listings began to decline at this point, with only a few issues remaining, venturing out into the 45 RPM market.  

  1. Discussions with Ray Abshire
  2. Louisiana Music, Vol 1 by Lyle Ferb
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A, Stéphanie D, and Marc C
French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Prenez Courage (Take Courage)" - Cleoma Breaux

Unlike other Cajun songs, the origins of this one do not come from the typical Cajun prairies or American hillbilly songs.  This early Cajun recording had its roots in a Croatian folksong, that came to Cleoma Breaux Falcon by way of 19th century American ditty and the last Queen of Hawaii—Lili’uokalani.  The queen's song was entitled "Aloha ‘Oe".  

Prends donc courage, cher,

Prends donc courage, cher,

Quand-même ma famille est tout contre toi,

C’est un jour à l’avenir,

Qu'moi j's'hâte(?) avec toi,

Prends donc courage,
Prends donc courage.

Prends donc courage, chere,
Je seras donc viens vite, oui,
T'en r'viens vite, on a joué, cher,
Ça fait dur à m’en aller avec toi,
Prends donc courage,
Prends donc courage.

L’amour, c’est bien dur d’ambondonner, oui,
Serait donc autant de plus dur pour moi,
'Donc courage,
Prends donc courage,
Moi je seras donc bien vite,
Avec toi, ouais cher.

The words "Aloha ‘Oe" were the same iteration that Falcon heard.  Legendarily, the queen had composed this lover’s farewell during a horseback ride on the windward side of Oahu in 1878. The queen's inspiration came from watching a mixed couple taking leave of one another. Later she sang the song in her own farewell to her kingdom when Hawaii was incorporated into the United States, the 50th state, in 1959.

The most direct translation of the title is "have courage", however, in English, it's more common to say "take care".  In the line "c’est le derniere a l’annee, qu'moi j's'hâte avec toi", her pronunciation is very difficult to discern.  In one take, she slurs the phrase "je suis hâte" which means to be in a hurry, or in this case, anxiously awaiting for someone.  Another possibility is she's saying "moi, je seras donc avec toi" meaning she'll be with him real soon.  

So, have courage, dear,

So, have courage, dear,

Because even my family doesn't care for you,

One day soon to come,

I'm looking forward to being with you,

So, have courage,
So, have courage.

So, have courage, dear,
I'm awaiting your quick return,
Come back soon, we've been playing around, dear,
So that I'll be able to go away with you,
So, have courage,
So, have courage.

The love, it's hard to abandon, yeh,
Therefore, the tears will be difficult for me,
So, have courage,
So, have courage,
Therefore, I'll go soon,
With you, yes dear.

The song "Prenez Courage (Take Courage)" was recorded for Columbia/Okeh (#90003) in 1929 during her trip to Atlanta with Joseph Falcon and Ophy Breaux.  According to musician Peter Simoneaux:
It's a wonderful example, one of the best I know, about how Cajun music has always been imbued with outside influences. Louisiana Cajun & Creole people always had big ears, I think. They always soaked up what was going on around them, but then, and this is key, they proceeded to make it uniquely their own.

  2. Lyrics by Stéphanie D, Stephane F and Jordy Allen

Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 2: The Early 30s (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1971)
Cajun, Vol. 1: Abbeville Breakdown 1929-1939 (Sony/Columbia, 1990)
As Good As It Gets: Cajun (Disky, 2000)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)
The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection (Sony, 2015)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Midway Two Step" - Austin Pitre & Milton Molitor

By 1957, 10 years had passed since the dance-hall revival of Cajun music after the war.   Khoury's Cajun recordings were on the decline, only occasionally recording Nathan Abshire from time to time.   J.D. Miller was still going, but both were leaning towards country, R&B and rock n roll artists; no longer interested in the dismal attention Cajun music was getting.  

Then came the first pressing by record-man Floyd Soileau.  Soileau's first label, Big Mamou, was formed in partnership with Ed Manuel, a Mamou, Louisiana, jukebox operator, nightclub owner, and regular customer of Floyd's Record Shop, who had the financial backing to assist the young entrepreneur. Manuel had also taped Cajun musicians Milton Molitor and Austin Pitre at a party where they performed "Midway Two Step"(#101) in 1957.  It was taken from Milton's early recording with Chuck Guillory known as "Walfus Two Step". 

Hé, chérie! qu'est ce qui t'as fais faire ça,

Hé, j'connais pas je mérite pas ça t'as fait.

Hé, aujourd'hui, tu plais z-à tout le monde,
Hé pointe au doigt, ça dit que c'est grand vaurien,
Hé, bébé, moi je mérite pas ça,
Hé, chérie, gardez donc que tous j'ai eu.

Hé, chérie, tu vas tuer(?) à mes parents, 
Hé, quand , moi,j'vas aller pour m'en aller,
Hé ,chérie, je connais pas (ce) qui arrive,
Hé, maman, t'espere moi je m'en vas.

Hé, chérie, j'pars, moi, la bas, 
Hé yéyaie, je connais pas tu vas revenir,
hé yéyaie, y' plus personne qui veut me voir,
Hé maman, j'espere donc pour je m'en vas.

Although these songs were recorded merely to advertise a couple of Manuel's nightclubs, Soileau shipped the masters to Don Pierce's Starday Records in Nashville. During his days at KVPI, Soileau had often run across promotional fliers from Starday, which read "If you've got a tape, we can press a record for you." The Big Mamou releases sold encouragingly and began to revive interest in Cajun music around Ville Platte.1  He said

Ed said, "We're gonna call this 'Manual Bar Waltz' and 'Midway Two Step'" because those were two nightclubs he had an interest in and he wanted some publicity. We put our first record out and started selling it.2
Austin Pitre, Lurlin Lejeune and Milton Molitor
In time-honored fashion, the artists were using the records to encourage dance bookings.  Soileau recalls his exposure to the music:
And then when word got out that somebody in Ville Platte was releasing French records again. . . . I say again because most—in fact, I think everybody had stopped, they weren't selling enough French records. . . . Country music had come through and sorta swept around here and there was nobody interested in doing Cajun records anymore. So we put that first record out. It sent the message that there was somebody releasing that kind of music again.1
Author John Broven jokingly refers to the name of the Midway Club as "midway between this community and that community!", referring to Breaux Bridge and Lafayette.4  

Hey honey! What makes you do this,

Hey, I don't know, I don't deserve what you've done.

Hey, now, everyone likes you,
Hey, pointing your finger, saying that here is a big scoundrel,
Hey, baby, I do not deserve this,
Hey, darling, look at everything I had.

Hey, honey, you're going to ruin my parents,
Hey, when I go, I've got to go,
Hey, honey, I don't know what happened,
Hey, mom, you expect me to leave.

Hey, darling, I'm leaving, I'm feeble,
Hey, oh my, I don't know if you're gunna come back,
Hey, oh my, over there, no one wants to see me,
Hey, mom, I expect I'll be leaving. 

  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Floyd's Early Cajun Singles.  John Broven.  Liner notes.
  5. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephane F
Floyd's Early Cajun Singles (Ace, 1999)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"La Valse De Tamper Tate" - Elise Deshotel

Elise Deshotel of Mamou, Louisiana, featured a young fiddler and singer named Dewey Balfa.   With the Balfas in tow, in 1951 the group used an old Cleoma Breaux tune called "La Valse Crowley" and entitled it "La Valse De Tamper Tate" (#620) for Khoury's label.  Tamper Tate is the corrupted form of the location Tepetate; a small community near Eunice, Louisiana.  The group featured accordionist Maurice Barzas.
Ouais, tit monde, t’après me quitter, chère, 

Après me quitter pour t’en aller à Tepetate, yaille.

Eh, quoi faire toi t’est fais ça, catin, 

Te connais quoi t’après faire un erreur, yaille.

Eh, tit monde, garde t’après faire, chère, 

Te connais un jour avenir tu vas voir du regret, tit monde,

Eh, catin, tes voudrais t'en venir,

T'en venir serais trop tard pour ton erreur, yaille.
Elise Deshotel, Cleveland "Cat" Deshotel,
Atlas Fruge, unknown girl, unknown guitar,
Eldridge "Coon" Guidry

As the popularity of the accordion waned in the late '30s and early '40s, Maurice Barzas decided to hang it up. After World War II, when the accordion became more popular than ever, the Balfa Brothers came to see him one afternoon to form a band. Maurice didn't even own an accordion anymore. New ones weren't available anymore from Germany, so he borrowed one for two or three dances and then bought a used one from JM LaFleur's country store in Lawtell. The band began playing on Saturday nights at the Dixie Club in Eunice.

Yeh, my little everything, you left me, my dear,

You left me and went away to Tepetate, oh my,

Well, what are you worrying for, little doll,

You know that you made a mistake, oh my,

Well, my little everything, look at what you've done, dear,

You know one day, in the future, you're going to regret this, my little everything,

Well, little doll, you would like to come back,

You've come too late for this is your mistake, oh my.

Dewey Balfa
Later Elise Deshotel, a guitar player from Basile with his wife Ester on drums, formed a band with Dewey and Rodney Balfa and Maurice on accordion.  The group, known as Elise Deshotel and the Louisiana Rhythmaires, played around the Lake Charles and Creole area, and made three 78s at KSLO in Opelousas, all on the Khoury label.  However, on this recording, allegedly, they were done at Dewey's home and Maurice wasn't featured.

Maurice played with this group through about 1951, but also formed the Mamou Playboys during that time.   He and Vorance Barzas created the more popular version of this melody, the "Eunice Waltz".

  1. Maurice Barzas and the Original Mamou Playboys.   Liner notes.
  3. Discussions with Lyle F
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M and Herman M

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Black Bayou One Step" - Anatole Credure

After Falcon, Soileau and Ardoin recorded some of the first Cajun music in 1928, production peaked in the autumn of 1929, after which the number of issues tapered off in the wake of the famous stock market crash.  One of the last Cajun recordings of this traditional era was Anatole Credeur.

Qu'y c'est tu veux faire, 

Quitter, mais, ton vieux nèg, 

Quoi faire tu veux faire ça, 

quand moi j'ai pas rien fait chère.

Tu devrais pas, babe, 
Faire ça mais z'avec moi,
Par moi je mérite pas ça, 
'Garde donc combien loin moi je suis.

Tu dois quitter ton nég,
Quelque, mais(?), oui, chère,
Jamais je (re)tourne à toi, 
La faute à tes beaux yeux.
Sidney Granger, Anatole Credeur,
Tieho Young, Ada Gauxtreaux Credure,
Levy Credure

Credeur was from a small community south of Lake Charles called Black Bayou and learned how to play the accordion. He would play often accompanied by Wilson and Sidney Granger at house parties on Black Bayou and other dancehalls such as Patin's Club in Goosport.  Wilson recalls their music:

"We played tunes like 'Jole Blond', 'Chere Tout Tout,' them old songs.  They're still playing them."2

Dressed in contemporary garb, accordionist Anatole Credeur (misspelled Credure) and his dapper band recorded four sides for the Brunswick label in Dallas, Texas, in 1929.  One of these tunes was known as the "Black Bayou One Step" (#383).1

What you want to do is,

Leave your old man, well,

Why do you want to do this,

When I haven't done anything, dear.

You shouldn't, baby,
Do this to me, well,
Myself, I do not deserve this,
Look at how far away I am.

You must leave your old man,
Something, well, yes dear,
I'll never return to you,
It's because of your beautiful eyes.

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F

Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)