Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Mon Chere Bebe Creole (My Creole Sweet Mama)" - Dennis McGee & Sady Courville

"My Dear Creole Baby!" One of the iconic songs by Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee is "Mon Chere Bebe Creole (My Creole Sweet Mama)" recorded for Vocalion in 1929.   Cajuns use of French words, and the dialect that came with it, illustrated how isolated the culture remained from much of the rest of country. This was most evident in the songs they sung.   According to musician Will Spires, Dennis explained the origins of the song to him:
It came to me in a dream and I woke up and I caught my violin and played that tune.7  

The Cajun music genre appears to have borrowed this peculiar intensity from traditional Cajun and black Creole music, which, while they capture a wide range of emotions, excel at conveying pathos and despair.2 Author Shane Bernard recounts Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa's explanation:
In Cajun music you can hear the lonesome sound and the hurt...just like the blues sound of the black man is a sound deep hurt, deep sorrow.  The Acadians had it very tough from Nova Scotia down to Louisiana, and when they did get to Louisiana, they had a hard time.  And sometimes I feel that the Cajun sounds are of the loneliness and hardship they had back then.  This tendency emerges even in the earliest Cajun recordings, such as "Mon Chere Bebe Creole".2 

Regardez, donc, malheureuse,

Tu m'abandonnes pour toujours,

Malheureuse, aye yaille, j'suis après,

M'en aller, c'est pour mourir.

Dit "Bye Bye", chere maman,

Fais pas ca avec ton neg,

Eh, tu vas le faire mourir pour toujours,

Un de ces jours, Malheureuse,

Dit "Bye Bye" chere vielle maman.

Gardez donc, mais j'suis après,

Marcher, chere malheureuse,

Gardez donc pour toujours,

Malheureuse, malheureuse,

Dit "Bye bye" a ton pop et ta mom.

Gardez donc, fais pas ca,
Avec moi, chere petite, ah oui,
J'ai pas fait rien, chere, pour toi,
Fais pas ca avec moi, chere tite fille.

Gardez donc, malheureuse,
Mais gardez donc, jsuis après,
M'en aller dans les chemins,
Tous les jours, et les nuits,
C'est pour toi, malheureuse, si jolie.

Dennis McGee & Sady Courville
Those that lived here, with and without Acadian ancestry, sang songs that reflected the interracial dialogue between Cajuns and their Afro-Creole counterparts.   McGee continued to communicate musically cultural information about the influences and institutions that defined Cajun life before the Great Depression.3  

Cajun people remained largely un-Americanized until U.S. involvement in World War II. Swept up in the period's intense patriotism, Cajuns supported the massive war effort. In so doing Cajun GIs experienced a world much larger than the one back in Acadiana, while loved ones on the home-front pulled together to do their part for victory.4   By the 1950s, Happy Fats and Doc Guidry recorded the tune as "Dans La Platin".   

Look at that, oh my,

You left me forever,

So unhappy, aye yaille, afterwards,

I'm going away to die.

Say "Bye bye, dear mom",

Don't do this to your old man,

Hey, you're going to make him die, 

One of these days, oh my,

Say "Bye bye, dear old mom".

Look at this, well, I'm headed out,

Walking away, dear sad one,

So look at this always,

Oh my, unhappy one,

Say "Bye bye" to your dad and your mom.

So look, don't do this,
With me, my dear little one, oh yeh,
Oh my,
I have done nothing, dear, for you,
Don't do that with me, dear little girl.

So look at that, oh my,
Well, look at that always,
I'm headed down the road,
Every day and every night,
It's for you, oh my, so pretty.
McGee's use of the word "Creole" could be used in a variety of ways; a word hotly debated among those that are familiar with it.  Just writing about this word from an academic standpoint can cause controversy.  The term "Creole" was first used in the sixteenth century to identify descendants of French, Spanish, or Portuguese settlers living in the West Indies and Latin America. There is general agreement that the term "Creole" derives from the Portuguese word crioulo, which means a slave born in the master's household.5 

Determining the accepted definition in 1920 among Louisiana natives can be difficult.   During the early recording years, it's usage differed between New Orleans natives and the rest of the Cajun prairie people.  Even though many non-Acadians settled in the Cajun country, there's no doubt by the 1920s, many considered themselves Cajun and/or Creole.   Even in France today, there's a distinction between "creole noir" and "creole blanche".  Regardless of the accepted definition, historical literature proves the word had different meanings based on location and time period.   

The music itself became known as either Cajun and/or Creole music.  Even by 1939, accordion player Joe Falcon, of Cajun and Spanish ancestry, was a featured performer on what was known as the "Creole Hour" at the National Rice Festival.3   Yet, Canray Fontenot, notably considered one of the finest Creole fiddlers, personally regarded his fiddling technique not as a traditional Creole expression, but an interpretation of Harry Choates' style.3  What could McGee mean by the word "Creole"?    Is this something different than Cajun?   According to author Herman Fuselier, "ask 30 people and you'll get 30 different answers."6

Despite the dialect's decline, Cajun identity and ethnic pride remain strong to the present. The ethnic intermixing that created the Cajuns is still evident in the names of some of the most famous Cajun musicians: Nathan Abshire, Lawrence Walker, and Dennis McGee were all renowned Cajun musicians with surnames of non-Acadian origin. This paradoxical embrace of others while forging a strong Cajun identity can perhaps be summed up with this observation from Dennis: 
"McGee, that's a French name," he proclaimed. "I don't know anyone named McGee who doesn't speak French."4

  1. Dennis McGee & Sady Courville.  Jack Bond
  2. Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues By Shane K. Bernard
  3. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. http://www.medschool.lsuhsc.edu/genetics_center/louisiana/article_acadianscajuns.htm
  5. Creoles by Helen Bush Caver and Mary T. Williams
  6. http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/entertainment/2015/07/09/mean-creole/29942095/
  7. Discussions with Will Spires
  8. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
NO-108 Madame Young Donnez Moi Votre Plus Jolie Blonde (Madame Young Give Me Your Sweetheart) | Vocalion 5319
NO-109 Mon Chere Bebe Creole (My Creole Sweet Mama) | Vocalion 5319

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 1: First Recordings - The 1920's (Old Timey, 1970)
The Early Recordings Of Dennis McGee: Featuring Sady Courville & Ernest Fruge (Morning Star, 1977)
The Complete Early Recordings of Dennis McGee (Yazoo, 1994)

Friday, August 26, 2016

"Louisiana Stomp" - Floyd Leblanc

Bennie Hess of Texas had gathered several musicians during the 1940s between Texas and Louisiana for his string band.   He had Virgil Bozman on guitar, Floyd Leblanc, and even Iry Lejeune on accordion for a brief period.  Floyd was a fiddler and guitarist that had emerged on the scene during the 1940s.  By 1949, Virgil had settled in Lake Charles and created his new OT Recording Company label with the help of George Khoury.   Virgil, needing artists for his label, worked with his exemplary fiddle player Floyd to record a few tunes including the "Louisiana Stomp" (#104).   

Comment, tite fille,
Oui, tu croire j'vas faire,
Mon toute seul, jolie coeur, à ma maison,
Il y a pas longtemps.

Pourqoui, tite fille,
Te fais ça, te aller,
Te rejoindre ta maison, mais,
Moi j'connais tu croire petite.

Faudra, tite fille,
Te m'as fais, te rejoindre,
Ta maison, jolie coeur, mais,
Moi j'connais tu croire, tite fille,

Pourquoi, cherie,
Ta fais ça avec,
Oui, ton negre, malheureux,
Il y a pas longtemps, m'rejoindre de toi.

"Louisiana Stomp" was a western swing version of J.B. Fuselier's "Lake Arthur Stomp", also covered by Harry Choates in 1947 as "Fa-De-Do Stomp".  However, by 1950, it seems that Khoury had acquired the recording after O.T.'s demise and re-released it alongside Shuler's "J'ai Passe Devant Ta Porte".  Khoury renamed the group as "Le Blanc's French Band" however, it's believed the majority of the members were the Oklahoma Tornados.    This could be because he wanted to avoid royalties, possibly to get around any discrepancies with Virgil and Floyd's early attempt, or wanted to increase jukebox sales with something that seemed brand new.
How, little girl, yeh, 
Do you think I'm going to do this,
I'm all alone, sweetheart, at my house,
Before too long.

Why, little girl, 
Did you do that, you're leaving,
You returned to your house, well, 
I know you're thinking about it, little one.

You will, little girl, 
Make me return to you,
To your house, sweetheart, well, 
I know thinking about it, little girl.

Why have you, little girl, 
Done that with,
Yeh, your old man, oh my, 
Before too long, I'll return to you.

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephane F

Boppin' Hillbilly 25 (White Label/Collector Records)
Crowley Two-Step (Flyright, 1985)
Cajun Honky Tonk: Khoury Recordings (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Cajun Champs (Arhoolie, 2005)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Le Gran Mamou" - Leo Soileau

While there was no single style of Cajun fiddling, the musician who did the most to revitalize the instrument, and who also played a central role in the 1930s in both the popularization and modification of Cajun music, was Leo Soileau.7 Before stepped into Victor's Bluebird studio to record "Le Gran Mamou", he had previously recorded the tune in Atlanta with his former partner, Mayeus Lafleur.  Back in 1928, he called it "Basile Waltz".  It was the flip side to his famed "Mama, Where You At?" recording.   But after Lafleur's death, Leo created a new band in 1934, called the Three Aces, with two guitarists and a drummer.  The accordion was dropped from the lineup and the new sound was Cajun country music.  His Three Aces were composed of Floyd Shreve on guitar, Bill (Dewey) Landry on guitar, and Tony Gonzales on drums.  While the song has slight similarities to the Joe Falcon recording of "Aimer Et Perdre (To Love and Lose)" recorded in 1928, however, it comes much closer to Cleoma Breaux's recording of "Ma Valse Prefere".

Oh mais s'en aller dans grand Mamou, 

C'est pour voir ma jolie petite chère.

Oh mais toi, t'es mon chéri,

Moi je connais je mérite pas ça mais toi t'as fais,

Avec moi, il y a pas longtemps malheureuse,

Faudra que tu regrettes pour ça t'as fait malheureuse.

Oh, toi 'tite fille cherie, 

Moi je connais je mérite pas ça, mais toi t'as fais, 

Jolie fille, pour ton vieux nég', mais ça t'as fait, 

Tu vas pleurer mais il sera trop tard.

Oh, toi 'tit monde chéri, 
Moi je m'en vas dans grand Mamou, malheureuse,
Quand même tu veux t'en revenir, joli petit monde,
Moi, je veux pas que tu t'en reviens (z')avec moi.

Leo Soileau and the Three Aces
Floyd Shreve, Tony Gonzales, 
Leo Soileau, and Dewey Landry 6

Mamou, labeled as "The Cajun Music Capital of the World", was located near many of the dance halls in which Cajun musicians played in.  "Grand Mamou" refers to the large, mammoth (mamou) prairie where many Cajuns and colonial French settled during the 18th century.  By the late 19th century, the melody had become popular with old-time fiddlers such as Doxie Manuel,
I remember "Grand Mamou" as far back as 1895.  When I used to play for fais-do-do, it was just a sad, very sad waltz with no words. Suddenly, it would stop being sad and people would holler "ah, ha, ha" and would stomp their feet 'till the kerosene lamps would flicker and nearly fall off the table.8   

Like several of RCA Victor's Bluebird label, they were also pressed on the Montgomery Ward label. After the beginning of the depression, Montgomery Ward got into the cut rate record business. Montgomery Ward released records from 1933 through 1941 with their own label however, they didn't actually have a recording studio. A lot of the companies had labels that only sold in certain department stores, or at a discount. Some were extremely inexpensive and some were done under pseudonyms.  These were apparently pressed by Victor and made available through their mail order catalog.  Most of the discs they issued seem to be from Victor, though they did get material from other labels. Even Sears had their own label called Silvertone.

Oh, well, I'm going to big Mamou,

It's to see my pretty little darling.

Oh, well, you, you're my darling, 

I know I do not deserve this, but, you've done that,

With me, it's not been long I've been unhappy,

You will regret why you've made me unhappy.

Oh, you dear little girl,

I know I do not deserve this, well, what you've done,

Pretty girl, to your old man, well, it's been done,

You're going to cry but it'll be too late.

Oh you little world of mine,
I am going to big Mamou, oh my,
Anyway, you want to return, pretty little world of mine,
I do not want you to come back to me.

Twisting the familiar French language repertoire with the drummer's back beat, adding healthy doses of western swing, and in turn applying that recipe to American standards, Soileau's group essentially defined the Cajun string band sound.1  Oddly enough, he'd re-use the same melody in "La Bonne Valse" in 1937.  The song itself would carry itself throughout Louisiana as "Grand Basile", "Basile Waltz", "Grande Mamou", and "Big Mamou".  It would be recorded by Harry Choates twice, Link Davis, Clifton Chenier, Aldus Roger, Dewey Balfa, Eddie Shuler and many more.   Over time the song would be interchangeably known as both Basile and Grand Mamou.

  1. Louisiana Music: A Journey From R&b To Zydeco, Jazz To Country, Blues To Gospel, Cajun Music To Swamp Pop To Carnival Music And Beyond by Rick Koster
  2. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  3. http://www.mainspringpress.com/book_MW.html
  4. http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/an-interview-with-78-rpm-record-collector-gary-herzenstiel/
  5. http://jopiepopie.blogspot.com/2014/01/basile-waltz-1928-gran-mamou-1935-big.html
  6. Country Music Originals : The Legends and the Lost: The Legends and the Lost By Tony Russell
  7. Southern Music/American Music By Bill C. Malone
  8. "Come On Back To Big Mamou" by Diane Farrell. The Ville Platte Gazette (Ville Platte, Louisiana) 02 Jul 1953
  9. Lyrics by Stephane F
  10. Image by Devon F

Le Gran Mamou: A Cajun Music Anthology -- The Historic Victor-Bluebird Sessions, 1928-1941 (Country Music Foundation, 1990)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"La Valse De Cajin" - Iry Lejeune

Known for his soulful music, many consider Iry LeJeune to be the greatest Cajun accordion player and recording artist of all time.  Produced by Eddie Shuler and Folk-Star, a subsidiary of Goldband Records out of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Iry’s recordings of "Calcasieu Waltz," "Jolie Catin," "Evangeline Special," and many more were big hits.  Believed to be recorded in 1950 at the KLPC radio station, "La Valse De Cajin" (#GF102) included Milton Vanicor on fiddle, Ellis Vanicor on fiddle, and Ivy Vanicor on rhythm guitar.  It was a slight take on his uncle Angelas' recording of "La Valse De La Louisianne".   Orsy Vanicor did not appear because he had left the Lacassine Playboys. It was a rendition of Bixy Guidry and Percy Babineaux's "Qu'est Que J'ai Fait Pour Etre Peuni Si Longtemps".

Around 1954, the Vanicors were playing with other bands or had quit.  Iry regrouped with a new set of band members around the Calcasieu area including Duckhead Cormier and Wilson Granger.  By mid 1955, fiddler J.B. Fusilier moved to Lake Charles around the same time Iry's fiddler Wilson Granger quit the group.  After playing with Iry at the Blue Moon, guitar player Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier told Iry:
I think we're gonna keep that man on the violin.  He's as good as you ever did have.2

Eh, yé yaille, chere tit monde,

Quo'faire t'es comme ça,

Autant dans les misères?

Eh, yé yaille, je te fais pas arien,

Je veux que toi tu sois,

Comme toi, chère, t'es après faire. 

Eh, yé yaille, tout cette peine,

Tu devrais écouter,
Ton vieux nègre une fois,
Quand, moi, je te dis quelque chose,
Tite fille, rappelle-toi,
Jongle voir quand ton papa,
T'as déjà aussi maltraitée.

Eh, moi, je voudrais que tu reviens,
Me rejoindre, cher tit monde,
Coucher ta chère tite tête,
Dessus mon épaule,
Quitter tes chères tites larmes,
Couler pour te pardonner tout ça t'as fait.

Church Point News
Oct 11, 1955

Sadly, Iry LeJeune died at age 26 when he and J.B. stopped to change a flat tire on his car late one night on their way home from a performance at the Green Wing club (believed to be located between Mamou and Eunice, Louisiana) along Hwy 90. Unfortunately, widening the highway for extra lanes meant the pair had no shoulder on which to pull the car. Both men were on the side of the road when Luther Holt of Houston, TX slammed into both men.  Fuselier, who was driving, survived the accident with numerous broken bones and a head injury, but LeJeune, unable to see well, had no warning and died instantly.  

Eh, ye yaille, dear little everything,
Why are you like that,
In so much misery,
Eh, ye yaille, I didn't do anything to you,
I want you to return to,
Your old self, dear, after all of this.

Eh, ye yaille, all of this pain,
You should listen,
To your old man one more time,
When I tel you something,
Little girl, you'll remember,
Think of how your papa,
Has already mistreated you so much.

Eh, I'd want your to come back,
To meet me, dear little everything,
To rest your dear little head,
Upon my shoulder.
Let your dear little tears,
Fall to pardon you for all you've done.

Church Point News
Oct 11, 1955

He left behind a young family of five children, dozens of recordings, and a Cajun music legacy.  Luther was jailed and charged with "negligent homicide".   

According to author Ron Yule:
I think Iry's impact was enhanced by his early death, but his unique accordion style and bluesy, earthy voice as presented in his recordings would have continued to be recognized. This great talent would have lived on, and he would have impacted other musicians just as it continues to do today.1

B.O. Sparkle, Bridge City, TX, 1954
Robert Bertrand, Wilson Granger,
Iry Lejeune, Alfred Cormier

  1. http://theind.com/article-16337-l'effet-papillon.html
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2004)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"La Valse De Hadacol" - Happy, Doc, & The Hadacol Boys

During the 1940s, after a lengthy stint recording for RCA Victor, Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc and his group disbanded, no doubt because the members were drafted for service. RCA had already quit marketing traditional Cajun music and by 1946, Happy's group was one of the only remaining Cajun-influenced groups to keep recording with a national label.  His star vocalist, Al Terry, who was gaining attention with his own solo work, had released a song the previous year called "H-A-D-A-C-O-L" for Bill Quinn's Goldstar label.  The song was an ode to a popular drink which Happy spent years marketing.  So much that Feature Records producer J.D. Miller changed the name of the band to the Hadacol Boys on this particular label.
Mon 'tit garçon a plus des crises,
Ma vieille a plus des rhumatismes;
Sont plus malades "at all, at all",
Depuis ils ont pris le Hadacol.

Sois garanti, tu prends quelques doses,
Tes yeux sont claires, tes joues sont roses;
Prends quelques bouteilles et je te promets,
Tu vas jongler pour courtiser.

J’ai fait serment dessus la Bible,
Me sentir mieux, c’est pas possible!
Moi qui te dis j'peux remercier,
Le Hadacol à Nonc Dudley.

Si t’as des douleurs mais tout partout,
Dans tes jambes et dans ton cou;
Si t’as besoin des vitamins,
Le Hadacol peut l'mettre "within".

Si les docteurs t’ont décomptés,
Y a une chance pour t’as cassé;
Y a une chance pour t’as santé,
Le Hadacol peut t'le donner.

Advertisement in Lafayette, LA
Viens faire serment dessus la Bible,
Te sentir mieux, c’est pas possible!
Moi qui dis qui a remercié,
Le Hadacol à Nonc Dudley.

"Pendant longtemps j’ai miséré
Sus juste du lait et du pain grillé
Asteur, c'est bien, je m'bourre des huitres," 
Say Nonc Ignace a L'Anse la Butte.

"J’ai pris l'tonique à Nonc Dudley,
C'est ça ça pris pour m’engraisser;
Asteur, ma vieille me trouve si mieux,
Ces prend pareil qu’un amoureux."

J’ai fait serment dessus la Bible,
de m'sentir mieux, c’est pas possible!
Moi qui dis j'peux remercier,
Le Hadacol à Nonc Dudley!

Happy Fats, Al Terry,
Dudley Leblanc, Oran "Doc" Guidry
Two years later, the boys (not anymore the Rayne-Bo Ramblers) were on Jay D. Miller’s Feature and Fais-Do-Do labels in Crowley, Louisiana. They had here the song called "La Valse de Hadacol" (#1020) listing the group as Happy & the Doctor and the Hadacol Boys.   His talented fiddle player was Oran Guidry which Happy referred to as "The Doctor".  One reason for the nickname was because he always dressed so nice.   In the song, he reminisces having relations with his wife.  After drinking it, maybe she'll want to "take him" as a lover.

Dudley has spent time marketing the drink everywhere. His advertisements usually promoted the mixture as one that would help relieve nervousness, irritability, indigestion, chronic fatigue, dyspepsia, loss of appetite, loss of strength, and a slew of other ailments. The only disclaimer he ever made was during a speech in Chicago in which he denied that Hadacol could be used as antifreeze in automobile radiators.
My little boy has many problems,
My wife has a lot of rheumatism;
No longer sicker at all, at all,
Since they took the Hadacol.

Be guaranteed, if you take a few doses,
Your eyes are clear, your cheeks are pink;
Take a few bottles and I promise you,
You'll reminiscence having quality time with me.

I swore over the Bible,
Feeling better is not possible!
I'm saying "Thanks!" to,
The Hadacol of Uncle Dudley.

If you have pain but everywhere,
In your legs and your neck;
If you need vitamins,
The Hadacol can put it within.

If you paid the doctors,
There's a chance you are broke,
There's a chance you are healthy,
The Hadacol can handle that.

Come swear over the Bible,
You feel better? It's not possible!
Me, who to say "Thanks"?
The Hadacol of Uncle Dudley.

"For a long time, I was miserable,
Was just on milk and toast,
Now, it's good, I stuff myself with oysters."
Say Uncle Ignace of L'Anse La Butte.

"I took the tonic of Uncle Dudley,
That's what it took to fatten me;
Now, my wife finds me better,
She takes me like a lover"

I swore over the Bible,
Feeling better was not possible!
I'm saying "Thanks!" to,
The Hadacol of Uncle Dudley.

Dudley's Advertisement for Hadacol
It’s hard to imagine now the vast popularity of this stimulating drink launched by politician Dudley LeBlanc (no relation apparently). Hadacol was a patent medicine marketed as a supplemental "vitamin". Its principal attraction, however, was that it contained 12 percent alcohol (listed on the tonic bottle’s label as a "preservative"!), which made it quite popular in the southern dry counties.  Apparently, there were places you could go, "health bars" I guess you could call them, where this tonic was offered in shot glasses.

By 1950, Dudley stepped up his advertising expenditures to more than $1 million dollars a month and sales were averaging four times that amount. There seemed to be no end to the phenomenon.   He finally hit upon the idea of creating the greatest medicine show caravan that the nation had ever seen, with Hollywood stars and international stars as well.  As he was lying in bed at his home in Abbeville, he had an idea.  The entire show would operate as a great financial write-off because it would be "free" since admission would be by Hadacol box top only.  He was so excited, he jumped out of his bed at 4 am and raced to his Lafayette office to begin work on formulating the complete scheme.

The Hadacol caravan became a phenomenon, consisting of seventy Hadacol trucks, twenty-five automobiles, buses, photo lab truck, sound trucks, beauty queen floats, airplanes, and two calliopes.   Some performers were George Burns, Mickey Rooney, Carmen Miranda, Jack Dempsey, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and more.  According to musician Weldon "Big Bill" Lister, who performed in the Hadacol Caravan, 

"The only way you could get into that show was with a Hadacol boxtop, And believe me, we played to crowds of ten, twelve thousand people a night. Back in those days there wasn't many auditoriums that would hold that many people. We played ball parks, race tracks - you know anywhere where they had enough big bleachers to handle those kind of crowds."
Dudley in Mamou, LA

Everywhere, the show was a success. By 1951, he planned an even bigger show and confidently predicted sales of $75 million. But after attempting to get doctors to vouch for his drink, the AMA began investigating his claims.  Earlier, the FTC had launched their own investigation on his claims as well, ordering him to stop proclaiming Hadacol "assured good health, restoring youthful feeling". It was discovered all too late that Dudley was spending more for advertising by that point than he was taking in as receipts had concealed both $2,000,000 in unpaid bills and a $656,151 tax debt, and another $2,000,000, listed in the ledgers as "Accounts Receivable", were cases of the tonic out on consignment, much of which was being shipped back. The ensuing bad publicity played a contributing factor to Dudley losing a gubernatorial election in 1952 and effectively halting his future statewide electoral chances.

The drink's name spurred Bill Nettles, and later Jessie Rodgers, to record a song called "Hadacol Boogie" in 1949. Basin Street Six ended up recording a jazz version on for Mercury records called "Everybody Loves That Hadacol" in 1951. In 1952, when Groucho Marx asked him what Hadacol was good for, Dudley gave an answer of startling honesty:
"It was good," the senator said, "for five and a half million for me last year."
Dudley Leblanc

  1. Vermilion Parish By Warren A. Perrin
  2. Coozan Dudley LeBlanc: From Huey Long to Hadacol By Clay, Floyd Ph.D.
  3. http://musicweird.blogspot.com/2014/06/songs-about-hadacol-from-1949-1953.html
  4. http://www.bopping.org/happy-fats-leroy-leblanc-his-rayne-bo-ramblers-louisiana-extraordinaire-1935-1967/
  5. http://theind.com/article-142-dudley-leblanc-and-the-hadacol-boogie.html
  6. Lyrics by Christian Landry, Daniel Blanchard, and Neal P
Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's (Flyright, 1986)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Pas Aller Vita (Step It Fast)" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers were the first band in southwest Louisiana to blend Cajun music, sung in French, with old-time string band music and a wide variety of popular styles disseminated by the then-new medium of radio. They were also the first group to use electronic amplification in order to increase the volume of acoustic instruments such as the fiddle. Although the Ramblers started out as an all-acoustic string band, by the 1940s they had evolved into a full Western swing orchestra.2   

Luderin Darbonne's father worked in the Louisiana-Texas oilfields and the family moved frequently. When Darbone was 12, his mother gave him his first fiddle.
"She called it a violin," he remembers. "That's for reading sheet music; when you play by ear, it's called a fiddle."2 
Crowley Daily Signal
Apr 19, 1938
With no teachers available, he taught himself via correspondence course.

Here, the Ramblers recorded "Pas Aller Vita (Step It Fast)" for Bluebird records (#2021) in 1937. Sometimes spelled "Pas Allez Vite", it was a cover of the 1929 instrumental "Vas Y Carrement" by the Breaux Brothers.   Recorded at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, LA, the group consisted of Lennis Sonnier on guitar, Floyd Shreve on guitar, Claude "Pete" Duhon on bass, and  Luderin Darbone on fiddle.  Recalling their session, Darbonne stated:
At that time, we'd record with one microphone, and we'd surround the microphone -- four players. And they used a wax disk.1
The band dissolved a few times before the war before reorganizing as Luderin Darbone and the Hackberry Ramblers in 1945.  Two years later in 1947, the group re-recorded the tune for Deluxe Records as "Step It Faster".

(top) Lennis Sonnier, Claude "Pete" Duhon,
(bottom) Luderin Darbonne, possibly Floyd Shreve

  1. http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9711/11/hackberry.ramblers/
  2. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/makethemdance/music.htm

Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)