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)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"Cajun Love" - Link Davis

Lewis Lincoln Davis was born in Sunset, Texas and grew up in Wills Point, Texas. As a young man he learned to master the fiddle and sax in various kinds of music, including his own style. He knew and played with everyone from his era including having his own bands.  He played with other well known artist such as Moon Mullican, Floyd Tillman, Dean Rasberry, Harry Choates, the ''Big Bopper'', Bob Wills and even backed up Elvis and Tommy Sands at varoius clubs and concerts.1

In his 1954 recording of "Cajun Love", his band consisted of Cameron Hill on guitar, Herb Remington on steel guitar, Buck Henson on bass, and Doug Hudson on piano.  He used the melody of Harry Choates "Jole Blon", but with different lyrics, in English and French, even incorporating Harry's signature "Eh! Ha Hah!" throughout the song.   It's no surprise since Link and Harry had worked together during their career.
Link Davis

What makes me love ya, chere, this way,

What makes me stays home and cry both night and day,

Cajun love will never die,

So in love with you am I,
Eh ha ha, Cajun love.

Oh, my chere petite,
'Pre'm'quitter, pour t'en aller,
Ma jolie (fille) ma jolie (coeur),
Te petite et 'tite migonne,
Eh ha ha, Cajun love.

So many teardrops that flood my lonely soul,
Till the end of time, and I know I'll never change my mind,
Cajun love will never die,
So in love with you am I,
Eh ha ha, Cajun love.

Link recorded and wrote Cajun, rock-a-billy, country, western swing, and even some pop songs. 

The Very Best Of Link Davis (Emusic/Goldenlane, 2009)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"La Musique Encore, Encore" - Dixie Ramblers

During the period of the 1930s, there were at least four different groups recording under the name Dixie Ramblers, one of them being a Cajun group from Lake Charles.  Hector Duhon, at the age of nine or ten, constructed his first fiddle from a cigar box and the first tune he played was T'es Petite mais T’es Mignonne ("You're little but you're cute"). Accordion music faded from public favor and was hardly heard in southwest Louisiana during the 1930's, the popular music of that day being heavily influenced by hillbilly string band music. Accordingly, Hector quit playing traditional Cajun music and created the Dixie Ramblers, a family string band of twin fiddles and two guitars. They traveled to New Orleans in 1936 during the peak of their popularity and cut six sides of blues and swing on the Bluebird label.3

Un jour, j’étais près musicien attablé comme un Parisien, 

Une dame s’approchait vite et bien, elle le regarde un musicien!

Quand moi je soufflais comme ça, le son qui s'en va au bout de là,

Oh, oh, oh, oh écoute là bas.

Si tu souffles ta trompette trop bien, le sang monte à tes reins,

Oh, oh, oh, oh compte du job demain.

Essaye encore, encore, 

La musique quand elle descend,
Comme ci, comme ça, comme ci, comme ça,
Et si quelqu’un qu’écoute là, qu'entendent (ils)*.

Et si tu peux taper dans tes bras, et ça fait tourner le destin venu,
Oh, oh, oh, oh qui choisit.

Quand moi je soufflais comme ça, je sens t’auras écouté,
Oh, oh, oh, oh écoute là bas.

Si tu souffles ta trompette trop bien, le sang monte à tes reins,
Oh, oh, oh, oh compte du job demain.

Essaye encore, encore, 
La musique quand elle descend,
Comme ci, comme ça, comme ci, comme ça,
Et si quelqu’un qu’écoute, qu'entendent (ils)*.

Et si tu peux taper dans tes bras, et ça fait tourner le destin venu,
Oh, oh, oh, qui choisit écoutez.
Hector Duhon

The 1936 song "La Musique Encore, Encore" (#2180) is of particular interest.  It's a 1935 jazz cover made famous by Tommy Dorsey, Hal Kemp, and jazz trumpeter, Wingy Manone.  Originally written by Edward Farley and Mike Riley, the lyrics by Red Hodgson, it's a Cajun version of their tune "The Music Goes Round And Round".   It featured Jesse Duhon on guitar; Hector Stutes on fiddle; Hector Duhon on fiddle; Larry LaLonde on vocals, and Willie Vincent on guitar and vocals.   According to annotator Pat Harrison:

It is a a wonderful side by the Ramblers and at times reminds the listener of something that a French cabaret performer might have used; perhaps not surprising because Hector Duhon himself pointed out that their repertoire included country songs, French numbers and songs they had heard on the radio.4
Many of the original lyrics had changed in Duhon's version, causing alot of confusion on certain lines.   It's quite possible he's trying to state "je sens que t’auras le goût d’là" or "boude là", possibly "I feel they'll get a taste of it over there".  Interestingly, "peux taper dans tes bras" signifies "clapping with your arms", which is another way of saying clapping with your hands, excitingly. *NOTE: "Qu'entendent (ils)" is a bizarre phrase, one which listeners can't quite make sense of.   It's quite possible he wants the audience "to choose to listen" as in "entendent choisir".   It's a phrasing in the song which has been lost to time and the vocalist could be singing something completely different.

Crowley Daily Signal
Jan 17, 1935

Willie Vincent was a versatile multi-instrumentalist, who like a good studio player, used the different varieties of instruments that are at least slightly related to the guitar to bring different blends to various songs. This included the pedal-steel guitar, which has been barely used in Cajun music, although its predominance in western swing bands, known for dueling pedal steels on either side of the stage.  Vincent's very existence on certain sessions is debated however, he definitely worked on and off with the Rayne-Bo Ramblers, the historic Cajun band under the leadership of the rotund, ecstatic Happy Fats.

Other instrumental contributions by Vincent took the music in different directions, such as when he played the banjo, also not the normal choice for a Cajun combo. At times he stayed in the background and played bass, developing primitive versions of the bass lines that would eventually become common currency on the zydeco market. Vincent's name does not show up on credits much past the '40s.1
Daily Advertiser
Apr 10, 1936

One day, I was a musician seated like a Parisian,

A lady approached quickly and well, she looked like a musician!

When I blew like that, the sound which comes out over there,

Oh, oh, oh, oh listening over there.

If you blow your trumpet real good, the blood rushes giving chills down the back,

Oh, oh, oh, oh you can count on a job tomorrow.

Trying again and again, 

The music when it goes down,
Like this, like that, like this, like that,
And if someone is listening, then they'll understand.

And if you clap with your arms, and it turns out it's destiny,
Oh oh oh, which chooses (you).

When I blew like that, I feel you'll listen,
Oh, oh, oh, oh listening over there.

If you blow your trumpet real good, the blood rushes giving chills down the back,
Oh, oh, oh, oh you can count on a job tomorrow.

Trying again and again, 
The music when it goes down,
Like this, like that, like this, like that,
And if someone is listening, then they'll understand.

And if you clap with your arms, and it turns out it's destiny,
Oh oh oh, which chooses to listen.
Daily Advertiser
Nov 7, 1952

Hector had abandoned music when he married, however, he would reform the group in the 1950s, this time with accordion player Octa Clark and his son Bessyl on steel guitar. They performed Saturday evenings on the Bayou Jamboree radio program in Lafayette and even wrote a song together called the "Dixie Rambler Special".  Later, after Bessyl left, the two older gents still played regularly, mainly at Mulate's and occasional festivals. In 1981, Arhoolie's Chris Strachwitz was the first to record the two legends accompanied by Michael Doucet on guitar at Doucet's home.2  Surprisingly, Octa had never before cut a record, turning down a number of offers in the past.3

  4. CAJUN-Rare & Authentic.  Pat Harrison.  Liner notes.
  5. Lyrics by Stephane F, Stephanie D, and 'ericajun'
CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Valse De Pointe Noire" - Angelas Lejeune

One of the most influencial melodies in Cajun music.   Next to "Jolie Blonde" and "Grand Texas", this melody has generated popular tunes, most of them after WWII.  Angelas Lejeune's Brunswick session generated a slew of songs which would become standards throughout Cajun music.   If it weren't for a stroke of luck, entering and winning an accordion contest, Angelas' music may never have been heard for future generations.  

According to Moise Robin, many musicians were passed up to record for this session:

They had a contest in Opelousas.  They awarded the best player in the contest.  The winner was going to make a record in New Orleans.  So, they refused Joe Falcon and his wife and they refused Leo Soileau and me to go because we had made records already. They wanted somebody who hadn't made records yet. So that's why they gave Angelas the best player in the contest.  So he went with Dennis McGee.1

Oh! Malheurse, criminal, chère, malheurse.

Oh, Si souvent, moi j'vois tes, chèrs "tit yeux, qu'est si doux après me regarder moi.

Oh! Jongles chère tu vas voir ton erruer, fait pas ça, toi t'as fait malheureuse.

Oh! Quoi t'as fais avec ton nèg, te connai moi je prends ça aussi dur.

Oh! Quand prends jonglé, chère, tout l'temps, moi j'pourrai même pleurer tout(es) les nuits, mais, pour toi.
Angelas Lejeune

Pointe Noire was a small community in Louisiana which the Lejeune family originated.  It was a an area known to be a rowdy and rough, similar to the Marais Bouleur community.  According to author Barry Ancelet:
When the men from Marais Bouleur came to Ossun, there was a fight.  When the men from Pointe Noire came to Marais Bouleu, there was a fight.  And if men from Marais Bouleur and Pointe Noire came to Ossun, there was a big fight.2

His fiddle player backing him was Ernest Fruge and Dennis McGee, who himself had previously recorded with Amede Ardoin.  Together, the three-piece group recorded "Valse De Pointe Noire" (#370) in 1929.   It was very similar to the Fawvor Brother's version of "La Valse De Creole" and Bixy Guidry's "Vien a la Maison Avec Moi" recorded the same year.   Amede Ardoin would borrow similar stylings for his "La Valse Du Ballard" in 1934.  According to the local papers in Opelousas and Crowley:

Angelas Lejeune a resident of Acadia parish, accompanied by D. McGee, of Eunice, LA., and E. Fruge of Lewisburg, La., won the grand prize offered by the leading accordion player in what was considered the first state-wide contest of its kind yet held.  The accordion contest was sponsored by the Opelousas Herald, local weekly newspaper, and various leading business interest throughout the city. 
Oh! Oh my, it's terrible, dear, oh my.

Oh, so often, I see your dear little yes, which are so sweet looking after me.

Oh! Reminiscing, dear, you'll see your mistake, don't do that, you've made yourself so unhappy.

Oh! What've you done to your old man, you know I'm taking this hard, also.

Oh, When I take to reminiscing, dear, all the time, I could even cry all night, well, for you.
Anglelas' song stayed mostly forgotten until after WWII when a slew of musicians used the melody for their own songs.  Floyd Leblanc first used it in his "Brow Bridge Waltz" in 1947 followed by Abe Manuel and his "Ville Platte Waltz"  Most notably, Nathan Abshire's "Kaplan Waltz" in 1949 and his "Texas Waltz" in 1954 adopted the melody. 

  2. Cajun Country By Barry Jean Ancelet
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephane F
Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 5: The Early Years 1928-1938 (Old Timey, 1973)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins, 2013)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"O! Bebe" - Oscar "Slim" Doucet & Alius Soileau

A fantastic Cajun tune, recorded in New Orleans in late 1929.  It was during the same session, Alius Soileau teamed up with his cousin, Leo, who had just finished recording with Moise Robin the previous month. Together they were spearheading some of the earliest Cajun music with Victor records.  However, Alius chose to also play alongside his friend Oscar "Slim" Doucet, an accordion player, who had waxed some Cajun crooner tunes with Patrick Pellerin.  With Slim on accordion and Alius on fiddle, they duo belted out four sides, two of which were issued on RCA Victor and two which were issued on Victor's subsidiary budget label called Bluebird.  The Victor songs contained "O! Bebe" (#22366), a song which Slim sang on his own.
Oscar Doucet

Ah, Joline, si loin de d'la maison,

Mais, écoute moi bien chérie viens voir,

Mais, 'coute toi-même, t'as maltraité ton nég', par rapport à les conseils, 
Mais, tu vas me payer ça, Joline, mais, jolie fille.

Ah, mignonne, quoi faire t'as fait tout ça, 
Mais, si jolie bouclé, mais ça z'à moi savoir,
On va s'en aller, chère, mais voir les jolie filles, 
Mais, écoutes pas les conseils tout le monde est z'aprés dire.

Hey, oui donc, allons aux Opelousas,
Mais, c’est pour voir ma belle,
Mais, oui, mais ma ‘tite fille.
Mais, écoute-moi bien, chérie
Viens voir, mais pour toi-même.
T’as maltraité ton nègre,
Par rapport à les conseils.
Ruston Daily Leader
November 22, 1929

Some of the language is interesting to casual readers. The word "joline" could be referring to someone's name, however, it's common for Cajun speakers in certain areas to add an 'n' to the word "jolie".   It was more of a regional phrasing. "Jolie bouclé" was more of a term of endearment, similar to the Cajun phrase "jolie blonde" or "chere bebe".   The phrase "quoi faire" literally means "what make", sometimes translated to "what to do".    It is commonly found in Louisiana French songs.  However, it's usage is more along the words "why have" or "what reason", possibly based in a unique mixture of the Louisiana French "pourquoi" and the African Kwa language word "kofe" which means "why".  It is best explained as a case of convergence between the vernacular and dialectal varieties of French spoken by the white settlers of colonial Louisiana and the languages spoken by the African slaves.2
Ah, Joline, so far from home,
Well, listed to me well, my beloved, come see me,
Well, listen to yourself, you've abused your old man, respect the advice given,
Well, you are going to pay for that, Joline, well, pretty girl.

Ah, cutie, why have you done all of this,
Well, so, pretty curls, well, that is what I know,
We're going to go, dear, well, to see the pretty girls,
Well, don't listen to the advice everyone has told you.

Hey, oh yeh, let's go to Opelousas,
Well, it's to see my beauty,
Well yeh, well, my little girl,
Well, listen to me well, dear,
Come see, well, for yourself,
You have mistreated your old man,
Respect the advice given.

It doesn't seem that they were able to achieve the success they had garnered with other recording sessions.   The session is the last one for both artists and only Alius' cousin Leo would go on to record for years to come.

  1. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  2. The Structure of Louisiana Creole', Albert Valdman and Thomas Klinger
  3. Lyrics by Stephanie D and Jerry M
Le Gran Mamou: A Cajun Music Anthology - The Historic Victor–Bluebird Sessions 1928–1941 Vol. 1 (Country Music Foundation, 1990)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)
Cajun Hot Stuff 1928-1940 (Acrobat, 2011)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"Vous M'Avez Donné Vôtre Parole (You Gave Me Your Word)" - Dennis McGee

Few people can be justifiably regarded as both an originator of a particular style of music and also as a conveyor of an older style of folk music in its own right.   One such artist was the unique Cajun, Dennis McGee. Every recording was done either with a second fiddler and with McGee providing the vocals, or in the role of the accompanying fiddler behind an accordion player and vocalist.  Since McGee was one of the earliest Cajun artists to record commercially, most musicians, collectors, and scholars regard him, along with the black accordion player, Amédé Ardoin, as the source of most traditional Cajun tunes and the techniques developed to play them; the true vine, as it were.1 

Tu m'as promis, tu m'as promis, mais ton 'tit cœur malheureux, 

Mais, 'gardez donc, tu vas faire mais pour toujours,

Mais, rappelle toi, les promesses tu m'as fait, 

Mais, rappelle toi, jolie, tu m'avais dit "mais jamais cher", 

Tu m'aurais tourner ton dos pour un autre joli-cœur.

J'ai la blâme, mais, aujourd'hui mais tu fais ça, t'es joli, 
Mais, gardez-donc, malheureuse, ennuyeuse,
Mais, comment-donc tu vas faire, mais, moi tout seul, malheureuse.

Oui, t'as fait chère cousine te va m'abandonnes de ton nèg', 
Mais joli-cœur, mais rappelles toi,
Mais, des accroires que t'avais fait avec ton nèg'.....,
Tu rappeler, mais, si longtemps.

'Gardez donc, malheureuse, comment tu l’aime toujours,
Comme un misérable, oh mais m’aime, mais, malheureuse,
Yéyaïe, je voulais, mais bien, eh chère.
Dennis McGee and Sady Courville

"Vous M'Avez Donné Vôtre Parole (You Gave Me Your Word)" was a song recorded alongside fiddler Sady Courville.   Together, they headed to New Orleans in 1929 and recorded it for Vocalion records (#5348). The song's melody has a loose similarity to Amede Breaux's "Ma Blonde Est Partie".  

You promised me, you promised me, well, your little heart, oh my,

Well, look at what you've gone done, well, always.

Well, you remember the promises you had made, 

Well, you remember, my pretty one, you had said, "I'll never" dear,

Yet, you have turned your back for another sweetheart.

I am to blame, well, today, well, you have done that, you pretty one,

Well, look at that, oh my, I'm lonesome,

Well, how are you going to do this, well, I'm all alone, oh my.

Yes, you did, dear cousin, you have abandoned your old man,
Well, sweetheart, well, you've returned,
Well, all the tears you have done to your old man,
Well, remember, it wasn't long ago.

Look at that, oh my, how do you still love him,
Like a miserable one, oh, you like him, well, oh my,
Oh ye yaille, I wish you well, dear. 

Not only did McGee record from 1929 to 1934 with such artists as Amédé Ardoin, Sady Courville, Wade Fruge, and Angelas Le Jeunne, but he also later recorded two “studio” albums in 1972 and 1977 with Sady Courville for Morning Star and Swallow, respectively.  Fewer still are those who were aurally documented in the 1920s & 1930s and in the 1970s & 1980s who showed little loss of skill or recollection of repertoire.1

  2. Lyrics by Stephane F, 'ericajun', and Marc C
The Complete Early Recordings of Dennis McGee (Yazoo, 1994)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Aimer Et Perdre: To Love & To Lose Songs, 1917-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2012)