Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Sur Le Borde De L'Eau (On the Riverside)" - Blind Uncle Gaspard

Alcide Gaspard, otherwise known as Blind Uncle Gaspard was born just south of Marksville, Louisiana. Blinded at the age of seven, Gaspard grew up playing and singing with his brothers, and in local string bands.  Gaspard came from a community descended from the original French settlers of Louisiana, and this particular dialect of the French language seems to have completely disappeared. In the 1920s Gaspard teamed up with a left-handed fiddle player named Delma Lachney, and in 1929, as part of a deal with a furniture store owner, the pair went to Chicago, and recorded a handful of 78s for the Vocalion label.3 It's there he recorded his haunting tune, "Sur Le Borde De L'eau" (#5333).  According to author Ray Templeton:
Sur le Borde de l'Eau sounds to my ears like a traditional song that could originate back in France - with its modal tune, and tragic and possibly allegorical narrative about the loss of a ring and the death of a handsome young sailor.  Gaspard's guitar accompaniment is no more than a rudimentary strum, although he creates quite an interesting and pleasing effect by ending each section on a major chord.4,5  

Un jour, je me promène, tout le long de mon jardin,

Tout le long de mon jardin sur le bord de l'île,

Tout l'long de mon jardin sur le bord de l'eau,

Sur le bord d'un vaisseau.

Je m'aperçois d'une barge, de trente matelots,
Je m'aperçois d'une barge, de trente matelots,
De trente matelots sur le bord de l'île,
De trente matelots sur le bord de l'île,
Sur le bord d'un vaisseau.

Les deux plus jeunes des trente,
Chantaient-z-une chanson,
Chantaient une chanson sur le bord de l'île,
Chantaient une chanson sur le bord de l'eau,
Sur le bord d'un vaisseau.

La belle chanson qu' tu chantes, j'aimerais la savoir,
La belle chanson qu' tu chantes, j'aimerais la savoir,
J'aimerais la savoir sur le bord de l'île,
J'aimerais la savoir sur le bord de l'eau,
Sur le bord d'un vaisseau.

Ma belle, rentrez dans ma barge, je vous la montrerai,
Ma belle, rentrez dans ma barge, je vous la montrerai,
Je vous la montrerai sur le bord de l'île,
Je vous la montrerai sur le bord de l'eau,
Sur le bord d'un vaisseau.

La belle fut embarquée et s'est mise à pleurer,
Elle se mise a pleurer sur le bord de l'île,
Elle se mise a pleurer sur le bord de l'eau,
Sur le bord d'un vaisseau.

Alcide Gaspard

It's similar to later French recordings, such as "La Fille aux Chansons" or "Marion s'y Promène" and "Le Bateau Chargé de Blé", in which deal with the same basic story; a girl is lured on board a ship by a captain who has designs upon her. In some forms, she escapes by cunning; in others she comes to a ghastly end. Given the line "sur le bord d'un vaisseau", some have suggested the last word could be "maison" or "ruisseau" which would have him reference the "edge of the stream".  Gaspard's use of language differed than most of the Cajun recordings of the time.  The majority of settlers in Avoyelles, like Evangeline, Pointe Coupee, and the upper part of St. Landry were all Creole French, most descendants of former French soldiers who had served at the Forts in IL (Upper LA), Arkansas, and Mobile. The French spoken in these parts is still, for the most part, slightly different from the French spoken by the Acadians.6

One day, I walked along my garden,

All along my garden on the edge of the island,

All along my garden on the edge of the water,

On the edge of a ship.

I see a boat of thirty sailors,
I see a boat of thirty sailors,
Thirty sailors on the edge of the island,
Thirty sailors on the edge of the island,
On the edge of a ship.

The two youngest of the thirty,
Sang a song,
Sang a song on the edge of the island,
Sang a song on the edge of the water,
On the edge of a ship.

The beautiful song they sang, I wanted to know,
The beautiful song they sang, I wanted to know,
I'd like to know on the edge of the island,
I'd like to know on the edge of the water,
On the edge of a ship.

My beauty, get into my boat, I'll show you,
My beauty, get into my boat, I'll show you,
I'll show you on the edge of the island,
I'll show you on the edge of the water,
On the edge of a ship.

She boarded and she started to cry,
She started crying on the edge of the island,
She started crying on the edge of the water,
On the edge of a ship.

Gaspard died in 1937, buried near his home in Plaucheville, with his music almost forgotten to time.   "Sur Le Borde De L'eau" was recently featured on the 2014 soundtrack of the HBO Television series True Detective, bringing Gaspard's musical endeavors into the mainstream public for the first time.  According to music producer, Christopher King, he states:
I've heard the song "Sur Le Borde De L’eau" by Blind Uncle Gaspard as being one of the saddest records ever recorded. 

Music journalist Amanda Petrusich discusses the song in her book about collecting 78 rpm records, Do Not Sell At Any Price. The song was among those featured in a 2015 interview with Petrusich on the NPR program, Fresh Air: 

I think this record contains a particular quality that i sometimes hear in pre-war American music, ...that i have failed to find in almost any other genre or time period which is this sort of unspeakable yearning. Of course, with this record, he's singing in French, and a French that's speckled with Creole idioms.  
Whatever he's communicating, it's extra musical.   It's something in the tone of his voice, the way that he's plays the guitar. It's extraordinarily sad.  When I try to imagine the circumstances that would lead someone to sing this way, it's devastating.3

The song was resurrected by the band Feaufollet.  Interest in Gaspard and his unsung music career have grown in significant popularity since the recent rediscovery of his music; as is featured on rare Cajun recordings re-released gradually into the Millennium.1

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_Uncle_Gaspard
  2. Discussion with Malcolm Douglas
  3. The Lost Bard of Louisiana By KIRBY RAMBIN.   (http://kedm.org/post/lost-bard-louisiana#stream/0)
  4. http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/e_cajun.htm
  5. https://oldtimeparty.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/early-american-cajun-music/
  6. Discussions with Fr. Jason Vidrine
  7. Lyrics by 'pitipoid'
Release Info:
G05 NO-122 Natchitocheo (French Town) | Vocalion 5333

G06 NO-123 Sur Le Borde De L'Eau (On The Riverside) | Vocalion 5333

John Bertrand / Blind Uncle Gaspard / Delma Lachney Early American Cajun Music (Yazoo, 1999)
Blind Uncle Gaspard, Delma Lachney ‎– On The Waters Edge (Mississippi, 2014)

Monday, September 26, 2016

"Crap Shooter's Hop" - Joe Werner

One of Louisiana's string-based groups were Joe Werner and the Ramblers.  His simple sound accompanied with fiddle and harmonica was to capture the success he had with his previous recording of "Wondering". Even though RCA Bluebird listed his song as "Cajun", his lyrics are an English cover of an American tune. According to compiler Samuel Charters:

The source material seems to be white country ragtime, with melodic materials from several rag and black sources.  "Tain't Nobody's Business But Mine" and "Dill Pickles Rag" are suggested in the melody.1

Joe Werner
I'm rollin' them bones on Easy Street,
I'm tellin' you boys I'm hard to beat,
Shakin' those dice both night and day,
Tryin' to make them darn things pay.

Shake them up, shake them down,
Roll them easy upon the ground,
Come on dice, let me hear you rattle,
Turn right up and show me a natural.

Joe Werner was making his name stand out after jumping out on his own after recording with the Hackberry Ramblers.  He started his own Ramblers group, featuring either Doc Guidry or possibly Wayne Perry on fiddle.  During this 1938 session in New Orleans, Joe recorded several Cajun French tunes as well as English tunes.

  1. The Cajuns: Songs, Waltzes & Two Steps.  Liner notes.
The Cajuns: Songs, Waltzes, & Two-Steps (Folkways, 1971)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005) The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Le Garcon Negligent" - Guidry Brothers

The Guidry Brothers had a short stint recording for Vocalion in 1929.  The group, most likely from south Louisiana, consisted of either 3 or possibly 4 members however, it's unknown.  Only 6 songs were listed in the session sheet. 

Allons aller voir la ‘tite fille,

Il y a bien longtemps, j’ai pas eu des nouvelles,

Les jours passés, j’ai envoyé un mail,

Elle m’a jamais renvoyé des nouvelles.


Hé, quoi tu fais, toi, chère petite fille,

T’es après me laisser pour partir avec un autre,

T’aurais pas du me faire des promesses,

Mais quelles nouvelles j’vas apporter à mon père?

T’avais pas su le malheur que j’ai eu, 
Quand j’arrivais, la belle était partie,
Elle était partie se marrier avec un autre,
Mais, quel espoir que moi j’peux avoir?

J’ai toujours dit, "Toi t'es un garçon,
Qui negligeais beaucoup trop ses visites,
Tu sais toi-même quand y a une belle paix dans l'âme,
Y a toujours quequ' malin pour te la prendre."
"Le Garcon Neglignet" (#15849).   It's the first recording of the similar melody later used in "Big Texas" and "Jambalaya".  Lyrically, the theme is a common one; similar to Jolie Blonde where the love interest leaves with another because of a "negligent boy".  While the word "malin" signifies "intelligent", the context here is more along the lines of "mischevious" or "canaille", similar to "smart-ass". 

Recorded at half-time tempo, it could have easily been the source for the Breaux Brother's "La Valse De Bayou Plaquemine", Cleoma Breaux's "Pin Solitaire", J.B. Fusilier's "Lake Arthur Waltz", Happy Fats' "Gran Prairie", Jolly Boys' "Abbeville", and "Allons Kooche Kooche" by the Louisiana Rounders. 
Come see me, little girl,
It's been a long time, I have not heard any news,
The past few days, I sent a letter,
She never returned any news.

Hey, what you've done, dear little girl,
You've left me to go with another,
You should not have made promises,
Well, what news will I bring to my father?

You didn't have the problems I had,
When I arrived, my beautiful one was gone,
She was gone to get married with another,
Well, what hope can I have?

I have always said "You, you're a boy,
Who neglected far too many visits,
You know yourself when there is a beautiful peace in your soul,
There's always someone mischievous to take it away."

  1. Lyrics by Stephane F
CAJUN-Rare & Authentic: 1929 - 1934 (JSP, 2008)

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Khoury’s Label: A Cajun Concern (1949-1956)

NOTE: This story was a collaboration between Bopping.Org and ECM.  The article can also be found on the cooperative blog site:  http://www.bopping.org/the-khourys-label-cajun-concern/

The Beginning

The story of Khoury’s Recordings starts in 1949 with a man named John Hardin "Virgel" Bozman. He was a rustic singer/guitarist and part-time comedian who sometimes billed himself, with tongue-in-cheek, as the "The Arkansas Sinatra" He and Harmon "Lee" Boazeman (no relation), were auto mechanics and had apparently been a staple on the San Antonio country and western music scene for some time. By the end of 1945, he was in Houston recording for Bill Quinn's Gold Star label.  While stationed at a San Antonio military base near the end of WWII, Cajun fiddler Floyd Leblanc befriended Bozman. Together, they had joined Bennie Hess’ Oklahoma Tornados country hillbilly band as a guitar player but Virgil also dabbled in his own material as well. In particular, his band waxed an English-French collaborative song called "La Prison", in which Virgil flirted with Cajun music's sound.  In mid 1947, Floyd had helped Iry Lejeune record a two tunes with the band on Hess’ label “Opera” and they had him touring with the group for quite some time in 1948. Cajun music was well on it’s way back and while selling cow horns in Lake Charles, Virgil ended up moving from Texas to Louisiana in order to record it.
The Oklahoma Tornados
Floyd Leblanc, Iry Lejeune, Ben Oldeg,
Bennie Hess and Virgil Bozman

The O.T. Years

Then came George Khoury, a Turkish-American businessman from Lake Charles and record store owner.  In 1947, as an owner of a record shop, he noticed a lack of Cajun music being recorded in south Louisiana and decided to open a business to compete with Ed Shuler’s Goldband Records and J. D. "Jay" Miller’s Fais-Do-Do and Feature labels. His base of operations was just around the corner from Ed’s on Railroad Ave in Lake Charles.

Khoury never had his own studio, however; he would rent out other studios and press the records in other places.  He had his record shop in Lake Charles and many agree he helped Virgil finance his new record label "O.T. Recordings", named after Hess’ band.  Together, Virgil would try to find new talent for producing records and Khoury would sell the records in his shop.   Even his “O.T.” logo resembled a cattle brand.  According to author John Broven:

Khoury was [Virgel’s] sponsor, so to speak, because he didn’t have that much money. He was a good salesman, he had a log of gab because being a cowhorn salesman he had to have a log of gab.2
George Khoury

Virgil kicked off his label with his own recordings, which were a hillbilly tune sung in French "Tell Me If You Love Me" and a Cajun tune "The Cameron Waltz" (#101), but he knew he needed other groups. It would be Eddie that would help Bozman get his first major outside recording artist.  Eddie Shuler, a record producer in Lake Charles, had been approached by Cajun accordion player Nathan Abshire to record on his label after seeing the success Iry Lejeune’s recordings.   Nathan had been playing at the Avalon Club when the owner Quincy Davis thought having Nathan record would be good for business.   Eddie Shuler, who worked for the KPLC radio station, was too busy with the promotion of Iry LeJeune and put Nathan’s band in touch with businessman Virgil Bozman.   Also, Vigil had been familiar with Nathan’s music since Floyd had played in Nathan’s band years before. Virgil had noticed how Eddie Shuler produced his records for Goldband.  According to Eddie Shuler:

He kept the pot boiling by selling cowhorns (the famous Longhorns) and it is how he landed in Lake Charles one day. He discovered fast how I managed to get artists recorded by a third person and he decided to follow my steps. He arrived at the station studio, gave a bottle of booze to the sound engineer, asked him to cut an acetate, left with it and got it pressed somewhere else.2

He sold cow horns.  In fact, I still have one of his cow horns over the entrance to my door there that he gave me back at that time. I let him sing on my radio show. Anyway, he went then and teamed up with George Khoury and then he went out and found Nathan Abshire.1
Pine Grove Blues Success and Aftermath

Earl Demary, Wilson Granger, 
Eldrige Guidry, unknown on drums, 
Nathan Abshire, and Ernest Thibodeaux

In May of 1949, Virgil gathered Nathan Abshire with Earl Demary ‘s backup band in the KPLC studio, located inside the Majestic Hotel in Lake Charles, to cut 8 tracks; the first of which was the legendary "Pine Grove Blues" for the O.T. label (#102).   The melody was his version of Amédée Breaux’s "Blues du ‘Tit Chien" recorded for Vocalion Records in 1934.   Nathan’s 1935 recording "One Step de Lacassine" clearly anticipates the melody. There are some similarities with Bob Wills‘ "Milk Cow Blues" recorded in 1946 and even a loose similarity with "In The Pines", which some have credited as Nathan’s source. His Pine Grove Boys band included Roy Broussard and Ernest Thibodeaux on vocals, Earl Demary or Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Atlas Frugé on lap steel, Jim Baker on bass guitar, Oziet Kegley on drums, and either Will Kegley or Wilson Granger on fiddle. The flipside contained a less-than-impressive “Kaplan Waltz” based on Angelas Lejeune’s 1929 recording of “Pointe Noir”.  Since most Cajun 78s usually reached a pressing figure of 500, it was a big hit, pressing around 3,200 copies of the single.  Virgil sold boxfuls of “Pine Grove Blues” from the back of a large hearse.2

Virgil Bozman

Virgil kicked the label off with a string of tunes containing a discography of Cajun songs such as Nathan’s cover of Leo Soileau’s "Grand Mamou" (#106), "Lake Charles Two Step" (#106), “New Orleans Waltz” (# 110), “Hathaway Waltz”  (# 111), a re-recording of his pre-war “French Blues” (# 110), and an improved swingy version of his first hit called “Pine Grove Boogie” (#111).  Lacy Adaway, an upcoming country artist, seems to have added Nathan as his accordionist for the two O.T. recordings that year, one of them entitled, "Sulphur Two Step" (#108).  At one point that year, Virgil and Khoury convinced the hit artist of the area, Harry Choates, to wax a record, trying to capitalize on his fame giving it “Jole Blon’s Gone” (#107) and the obscure "Valse de Lake Charles" (#107). Neither Nathan nor Harry could recreate the success of the Pine Grove Blues O.T. recording.

Other musicians Virgil managed to get were Cleo Harves and Jerry Barlow on his listings. (# 103, # 105). The label would eventually move to San Antonio, run by James Bryant and Bennie Hess (former partners at Bill Qunn’s Gold Star records), however, by the end of 1949, O.T. suddenly dried up.

He released his last 4 recordings he was holding onto, outsourcing the pressings by mailing his masters to Stephen Shaw and George Weitlauf in Cincinatti, OH. The records contained Nathan performing covers of the Breaux tune “Step It Fast” (# 114) and a rendition of Harry Choate’s famous Jole Blon hit called "Jolie Petite Juliette" (# 114).  The other one  labeled as Sandy Austin was the stage name for Abe Manuel when he and his brother Joe played Corpus Christi in 1950. They recorded "Scrambled Eggs" and a Joe Falcon cover called  "Madame Saustin" (# 113).  The O.T. label only produced 14 records that are known to exist.


The Khoury/Lyric Years

Meanwhile, realizing Bozman is out of the Cajun music market and with the help of Eddie Shuler, George Khoury decided to continue Virgil’s recordings by creating two labels simultaneously, Lyric and Khoury’s, in 1950.  The reason for both names is unknown, but he set aside the 600 series for Cajun music and 700 series for hillbilly.  It’s also possible he bought out all of Virgil’s material and signed Nathan Abshire exclusively.

NOTE: Keeping track of George’s numbering scheme is confusing and leads to plenty of misinformation when creating a complete discography.  His reasoning for jumping around issue numbers, repeating numbers and missing numbers completely can frustrate anyone researching the label.  Over time, he would have two sets of 700 series, using several different logo styles.  Some numbers are issued only with “Lyric” name and some only with “Khoury’s” with a few issued on both.  He followed up with R&B issues using the 800 and 900 series. However, this didn’t prevent him from using the number “1” once, issuing one “500” once on Khoury’s, issuing a “100” on Lyric, and later issuing a “1000” and “5000” both on the Lyric name.   As far as anyone can tell, there were no session sheets that remain to prove any particular session dates.   Most of the discography work is speculation based on historical recordings and personal interviews with musicians. Dates here are approximates at best. 3

There are a number of batches of records by artists which were probably assigned and then released at intervals.  The location of some of the larger gaps do suggest that the missing numbers could have been deliberately skipped.3

The Early 1950s

During the first year in 1950, he formed a new label called Lyric with the first issue containing Amar Devillier’s “Shoe Pick Waltz” and “Durald Two Step” using number #1 but never continued the series.  He moved on with a new label entitled Khoury's Recordings.  The rest of the year followed up with Lawrence Walker, Horace Lebleau, Crawford Vincent with Will Kegley, and Jimmie Choates.  Walker was a Cajun accordion player who had a history of playing music with his brother Elton, Norris Mire and Aldus Broussard before the war.  He even hosted a group of musicians at the National Folk Festival for the Texas Centennial in 1936.  By 1950, he was back in the studio interested in recording again, this time with Khoury. Lawrence’s songs such as “Mamou Two Step” (# 601), "Country Waltz" (#601), “Wandering Aces Special” which was Joe Falcon’s "A Cowboy Rider" (# 606), "La Valse Kim Fe Du Mal" (# 606),  "Tu Le Du Por La Mam" (#607) which was a Fawvor Brothers original and “Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All” (# 607) first appeared here.

All of these recordings appear on Khoury’s early 600 series as Cajun artists.  It’s possible the Texas Melody Boys with Pee Wee Pitre may have been recorded during this period which was given the only # 500 for “Ain’t No More”, a version of “Step It Fast”, and an old Creole melody they called “Old Time Waltz”.  Jimmy Choates band recorded “Lonesome For You” and “Belle Isle Waltz” and the band also appears on the country 700 series as #705.  Crawford Vincent, who played with Leo Soileau for years, teamed up with Will Kegley of the Pine Grove Boys for two tunes "Chere Petite Blun" (# 605) and the J.B. Fuselier classic "Lawtell Two Step" (# 605).  They were listed as Vincent & Cagley.  Horace "Ricky" Lebleu was a hillbilly musician from the Lake Charles area that teamed up with Nookie Martin of Eddie Shuler’s band for two songs "Korea Blues" and "Basile Girl"  (# 603).

Meanwhile, Virgil was back in San Antonio pressing songs by Cajun musicians he had previously recorded backin 1949; most of them being Nathan Abshire’s band members. While in San Antonio, Bozman and Hess set up the Hot Rod label with local record man Bob Tanner of T.N.T. records. There, between 1950 and 1952, they released a few of Virgil’s artists such as Nathan’s lead singer, Ernest Thibodeaux on “Jennings Two Step” (# 105) and Nathan’s fiddler Wilson Granger on “Bayou Chico Waltz”. He released his last recordings of Nathan himself with "Hathaway Two Step" (# 103) and "Chere Te Mon" (# 103).  Other recordings he had left overs were of Cliff Lemaire and the Kaplan Swingmasters with the songs "Cow Island Special" and "Rou Li Aie" (#104).  The remaining songs were of Tan Benoit performing, "Iowa Two Step" and "Gueydon Waltz". 

Outside a few recordings by Virgil himself, the label did not last long.  The recording quality wasn’t particularly impressive and could have been the reason for their unpopularity.   He and Tanner chose to release some masters that Eddie Shuler had sent previously to their label TNT.   The master recordings consisted of Eddie and his band performing "Grande Mamou" (#103), Iry Lejeune's "Bayou Ponpon Special" and "Waltz of the Mulberry Limb" (#105), Lawrence Fruge's "'T' Mamou" and "Country Boy Waltz" (#104) and Aldus Roger's "Widows Of The Village" and "Lifetime Waltz" (#106).  During this timeframe, Bob had also launched his Allied label, releasing several recordings of Harry Choates. Virgil’s attempt at the recording business was over.  Bob continued his TNT label without him.

Nathan Abshire

In1951, with Nathan no longer working for Virgil’s label, George contracted him to re-record "Pine Grove Blues" as a follow-up. It didn’t sell nearly as well as Virgil’s recording two years earlier, but it produced several titles popular with Nathan’s band such as “Belezere Waltz” ("La valse a Belezere") (# 610) based on the tune "A Precious Jewel" by Roy Acuff and “Choupique Two Step” (#610) based on Amede Ardoin‘s "Amede Two Step" . These were pressed on both the Lyric and Khoury label. Other songs were completed such as, “Valse de Hollybeach” (# 611), "Iota Two Step"  (# 612) and “Valse de Bayou Teche” (# 612), a tune originally recorded by the Segura Brothers in 1929. Nathan’s career with the Pine Grove Boys was taking off.

1951 would round off the year with Lawrence Walker again, this time recording “Johnny Can’t Dance” (# 615), the bluesy "Evangeline Waltz" (# 615), “Bosco Stomp”(# 616), "Waltz Of Sorrow" (# 616), "Creole Waltz" (# 617) and an upbeat version of Joe Falcon’s Lafayette as the “Lafayette Two Step” (#617).   It’s around this point when George began to switch labels from black to blue.

Lawrence Walker

By 1952, George’s label is doing well enough for him to attract other obscure local bands. He invites Lawrence Walker back again for “Reno Waltz” (#623) and an old Joe Falcon song “Madame Sostan” (#624), sung by Man Abshire.  But Lawrence feels the pressure to record some of his English country favorites including "Little Bitty Girl" (# 623), which was a 1946 comical jazz recording by Velma Nelson and "Keep Your Hands Off It" (# 624). Khoury tries his luck with recording two rather unknown groups, one being Clopha "Shuk" Richard with Marie Falcon. Marie was Joe Falcon’s niece and played music in some of the same venues in which Joe had played. She sang her version of “Jole Blon” called “Jole Brun” (#621) and her Cajun version of the Carter's “The Wild Side Of Life” entitled "La Cote Farouche De La Vie" (#621). The group cut "Madam Entelle Two Step" (# 622) and "Chere Vere Naig" (# 622) during the same session.  But it would be Elise Deshotel’s group that would eventually spawn the music career of a rather unknown singer and fiddler known as Dewey Balfa.   Possibly recorded in late 1951 or early 1952, they waxed some of the best known tunes with a young Dewey on vocals such as Leo Soileau‘s “Quand Je Suis Bleu” he called “La Valse de Bon Baurche”, Cleoma Breaux‘s “Crowley Waltz” he called “La Valse de Tepetate (Tamper Tate)”, and “La Valse da Courage” which is very similar to Nathan’s “Bayou Teche”.   The flipsides were instrumentals such as "La Two Step De Villeplatte", "Two Step De Avalon", and "Two Step De Kindergarden" (# 618, 619, 620). However, Khoury failed to latch onto marketing the bluesy vocals and powerful fiddle solos which Dewey would make famous ten years later.

Dewey Balfa and Nathan Abshire

The following year seemed to slow down for Khoury and his recordings.  Jimmy Newman would be George’s brand new artist but his recordings only sold moderately.  Nathan’s group was in turmoil due to band member changes and they were looking for more material to record.  Jimmy recorded his country tune “Darling” which somehow landed on the Cajun 600 series while the 700 hillbilly series seemed to fade away. Nathan recorded “Musical Five Special” (# 631), a cover of Joe Falcon‘s “Fe Fe Ponchaux” and “Avalon Waltz” (# 631) but also recorded some cover tunes, “The New Jole Blon” (# 636) and “Tee Per Coine” (# 636), a version of "Keep A Knocking But You Can’t Come In".  

Crawford Vincent, who had played for years with Leo Soileau and other members, headed to the studio with Cleadis Mott, recording two songs on Khoury's Lyric label, "Tran La Ezy (Drag It Easy)" and "Chere Ami Waltz" (#609).  The group adopted the name Musical Four Plus One as an ode to Nathan's band.  Later, Crawford joined with Albert "Curly" Lebleau on Khoury's label and recorded “Tippy Tee Tippy En” (#640), an old traditional Cajun ballad known as "T’es Petite et T’es Mignonne".

By 1954, things seemed to remain slow.  His 600 series seemed to employ more country music from Cliff Lemaire and Rick Johnson with one record by Nathan containing “Texas Waltz” (# 645), a slightly different version of his "Kaplan Waltz" and "Point De Lou” (# 645), a rendition of “Rabbit Stole The Pumpkin” in which Iry Lejeune had famously made into his “J’ai Ete Au Bal”.  He kicked off his second 700 series again, this time with a leftover recording of Eddie Shuler covering “J’ai Passee Devant Ta Porte” (#700) and re-issuing Floyd Leblanc’s “Louisiana Stomp” (#700), a tune Virgil had recorded previously on O.T.

George reverted back to his original recording artists that he trusted and in 1955, released a string of tunes by Nathan Abshire and at least one by Lawrence Walker such as Nathan’s "Casa Blanca Waltz" and, "Lu lu Boogie" (# 647), "Shamrock Waltz"  (# 652) and "Carolina Blues" (# 649). The unusual songs, "Boora Roomba" (# 649), Dewey and Nathan’s version of “La Cucaracha”, and "Mama Rosin" (#652), also known as “Ay Mama Inez”, were attempts to cash in on the briefly popular Cuban rhumba influence which entered mainstream country music that year. However, George was now pressing his records using different logos and label styles, some in California.  Lawrence followed up with "Waltz of Regret" (# 648) and the "Brunette Two Step", a version of Joe Falcon's "Nonc Hilaire".  One inventory listing by Nathan’s band shows them covering some Happy Fats tunes but it seems to never have been released. The 600 series seemed to be fading away as well.

The Final Years

By the end of 1955, the writing was on the wall.   The influence of rock and roll was taking a toll on Cajun music sales.   R&B and country music was on an up hill swing and Cajun music sales weren’t the same as they were almost 10 years earlier.   Khoury wouldn’t record any Cajun music until about 1956 with Nathan Abshire, both "Crying Pine Grove Blues" (# 701) and "L.S.U. French Waltz" (# 701), and in 1957 Cleveland Crochet with Shorty Leblanc, both on 45RPM and both on his new second 700 series. But by the time Cookie and the Cupcakes released their huge R&B hit “Mathilda”, George wasn’t interested in Cajun music anymore.  He would occasionally issue out a Cajun record to keep sales up.  He released one more Nathan Abshire on 45RPM in 1958 containing “Cannon Ball Special” (# 704) and “Red Rock Waltz” and a 45RPM of Pee Wee Broussard containing Angelas Lejeune’s “Perrodin Two Step” (# 709) and “Jolie Te Brun”.

Eddie Shuler, George Khoury,
Phil Phillips

Between 1956 and 1958, Cajun music recordings across Louisiana were on the decline.   Needing more exposure, Lawrence Walker heard a man named Floyd Soileau was starting up a recording label in Ville Platte.   Having already recorded Austin Pitre and Adam Hebert, the Khoury recording artist was eager to switch over to Floyd’s new Swallow label.   This ended the relationship between George Khoury and Lawrence Walker.   Nathan would eventually follow suit.

The following year, Khoury would land an even bigger R&B hit with Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love” and yet only released two Cajun records that year, Pee Wee Broussard’s “New Iberia Stomp”   (# 720) with “La Valse De Bons Amies” (# 702). The other one being “La Robe Barre” (# 725) and “Elton Two Step” (# 725) by Lawrence “Blackie”Fruge in 1959.

He would only re-release an earlier Cleveland Crochet “Sha Meon Waltz” in 1961 when he restarted his 1000 series as an R&B label which lasted until 1966.   Finally, in 1966, Wilfred Latour recorded “Bye Bye Cherie” and “Te Julie”, a couple of zydeco based tunes, believed to be George’s last French recordings.

  1. http://arhoolie.org/eddie-shuler-goldband-records/
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven. P32.
  3. Generous amounts of information and guidance by Lyle F.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"Tolan Waltz" - Chuck Guillory

Murphy "Chuck" Guillory, originally from Mamou, was a good hillbilly, Cajun-swing singer and fluent fiddle player who recorded J.D. Miller's Feature and Folk-Lyric labels. He regularly performed alongside his father, playing fiddle duets at a local bar each Saturday afternoon. After WWII, he recorded with Cajun musician Milton Molitor with his band the Rhythm Boys (featuring a young singer from Beaumont named George Jones).   Miller had heard about Modern Records recording Chuck's group in New Orleans featuring Jimmy Newman and Papa Cairo in 1948.  The sessions had been part of an extensive southern field trip by Modern. By 1949, it's believed Miller brought them to his studio to record Guillory's "Tolan Waltz" and released it on Colonial.

Moi, j'connais, chérie, un jour à venir, chérie. 

Tu vas revenir, tu seras trop tard. 
Chuck Guillory

Tolan McCullough was a popular blacksmith, rice mill operator and saloon owner in Eunice, not far from Mamou. Chuck Guillory and Jimmy Newman composed this song in his honor. The song features a lengthy sample of Red Farbacher's playing style on steel guitar; the key person from whom Papa Cairo had borrowed the melody for "Allons Kooche Kooche" and "Grand Texas".  This time, they borrowed some of the melody of Joe Falcon's "Poche Town".

I know, dear, one day eventually, dear,

You'll return, you will be too late.

Colonial, a subsidiary of the Bihari brother's Modern Records, was a label out of Hollywood, California that released recordings between 1947 and 1952.  Les Bihari handled the sales and the other two brothers, Joe and Jules, supervised the production and distribution.  It focused on hillbilly, race, and gospel "spiritual" genres.  Sometimes confusion occurs with other labels with the same name in Monterey Park, North Carolina, Nashville, Berkeley Springs, Boston, and NYC.  It's possible J.D. Miller had outsourced his recordings and had Modern/Colonial press even more than he could back home.  Despite the popularity of the song, the market was too localized for this ambitious concern or its fellow independents.  Chuck retired in 1958.

Opelousas Daily World
May 20, 1949

In 1982, having been re-discovered, he re-recorded the tune in a new recording session, this time with band members Michael Doucet, David Doucet and guitarist Preston Manuel taking most of the vocals. In the late '80s, Guillory re-formed the Rhythm Boys to play dances and record for the Arhoolie label, with his 1987 sessions for the company later collected on the 1998 release Grand Texas. Later, Tolan would be covered by Dennis McGee and Sady Courville.

Chuck Guillory - Tolan Waltz - 1949

Chuck Guillory - Tolan Waltz - 1982

Chuck Guillory - Tolan Waltz - 1987

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven. p34.
  2. MADE IN LOUISIANA.  VRCD 325.  MARC SAVOY - Accordion. DEWEY BALFA - Fiddle. D. L. MENARD - Guitar.  Liner notes.
  3. Billboard Apr 23, 1949
  4. Chuck Guillory: Grand Texas.  Liner notes.
  5. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/chuck-guillory-mn0000099796/biography
  6. Lyrics by Stephane F
Chuck Guillory: Grand Texas (Arhoolie, 1998)
Jimmy C NEWMAN - The Original Cry, Cry, Darling (Jasmine, 2009)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Hathaway Waltz" - Nathan Abshire

Nathan Abshire grew up near Gueydan, Louisiana and lived on the prairies around Basile, not for from Hathaway.   After recording in the 1930s, he began playing at the Avalon Club during after his service in the war.   Several of the band members, including the bar owner Quincy Davis, wanted the band to record tunes in a studio.  According to Eddie Shuler of Goldband records, he didn't have time for Nathan because of Iry's success and sent him to Virgil Bozeman.  Having teamed up with George Khoury and Virgil Bozeman in 1949, Nathan Abshire recorded a slew of tunes, one entitled "Hathaway Waltz" (#111).   With Nathan on vocals and accordion,  Earl Demary or Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, Jim Baker on bass, Oziet Kegley on drums, and Will Kegley or Wilson Granger on fiddle, the group pioneered the first recordings for Bozeman and Khoury.
Earl Demary, Wilson Granger, 
Eldrige Guidry, unknown on drums, 
Nathan Abshire, and Ernest Thibodeaux

Hathaway is a rural community in Jeff Davis Parish, between Jennings and Basile, founded by George Hathaway. The community sits on an old trail which connected the French Opelousas settlement with the Spanish settlements in Texas. It was an area frequented by musicians passing through, playing dance halls between the major highways.  
Hé, toi tit fille, rappelle toi, chere, 
Les consel tu as entendu de autant que mon, 'tit monde.

Hé Ha Ha! 

Hé te vas voir ton erreur, chere, 
Te vas voir ton erreur, ça sera trop tard.

Hé! Hé  Hé.... 

Hé! Te malheurese, te peut voir, chere, 
Tu peut voir tant les chargin merite peu ça, tit monde.

George Hathaway

George Hathaway, a native of Indiana and educated at Greencastle, moved to Jennings to develop rice farming and built the Lake Arthur Rice Mill.  He moved with several families from Iowa, Kentucky and Indiana in the late 1800s in order to develop agriculture in the south.   With his success came more farmers and their families populated the area.2

Hey, you little girl, remember, dear, 

The advice you heard so much from me, my dear little everything.

Hey ha ha!

Hey, you are going to see your mistake, dear, 
You are going to see your mistake, it will be too late.

Hey hey hey!

Hey, you're miserable, you can see, dear, 
You can see so much the grief, deserving so little of that, my dear little everything.
By 1949, Nathan was the key artist Virgil Bozman had on his OT label.  He played in dance-halls such as the Continental Club located near Hathaway where many of the local rice farmers frequented.  "Hathaway Waltz"  is an ode to the region where Nathan played.

  1. http://hathawayhistory.blogspot.com/
  2. American Miller and Processor. Volume 39, Issues 1-6. June 1, 1911.
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)