Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Tippy Tee Tippy En" - Crawford Vincent

Crawford Vincent was a talented Cajun from Louisiana that found himself playing drums and guitar, and singing in several groups during the 40s and 50s. In Crawford's early years, he was the main sideman for both the Hackberry Ramblers and Leo Soileau.  In 1940, he recalls being sent to Hackberry, Louisiana with the Civilian Conservation Corps:
My Superintendent was Bob Human, later a postmaster in Sulphur, who played the fiddle. Several other guys in our barracks had guitars and fiddles, and after work we’d sit around and play.1

T’es petite et t’es mignonne,

Et galeuse, mais, j’t’amie quand meme,

Oh, la belle, se pas lavé,

Oh, mais oui, la belle, cherie, te peux aller t’laver.

T’es petite et t’es mignonne,
Trop galeuse, cherie, pour faire ma femme,
Oh, la belle, se pas lavé,
Oh, mais oui, la belle, cherie, te peux aller t’laver.

Petite et t’es mignonne,
Trop galeuse, cherie, pour faire ma femme,
Oh, la belle, se pas lavé,
Oh, mais oui, la belle, cherie, te peux aller t’laver,
Oh, la belle, se pas lavé,
Oh, mais oui, la belle, cherie, te peux aller t’laver.

T’es petite et t’es mignonne,
Et galeuse, j’t’amie quand meme,
T’es petite et t’es mignonne,
Trop galeuse, pour faire ma femme.
Crawford Vincent

On the recordings, it seemed he went by a reversed stage name, Vincent Crawford. It wouldn't be long before he joined the Hackberry Ramblers band.
One day in Hackberry, I met Luderin Darbone, and I soon began playing with the Hackberry Ramblers.  They already had two guitars, so I ordered a set of drums from Sears - Roebuck for $50.  At that time, I received a salary of $30 per month from the CCC.  I was one of the first drummers in a string band. We played a lot at Buddy Little’s Dance Hall in Hackberry, and also at homes in Grand Chenier and Cameron.1
By the 1950s, he was continuously playing around the Lake Charles area with several groups, but mainly with Leo Soileau. Eventually he recorded 2 records with George Khoury and his local label.  One one song, he and musicians from the area he called the Joy Boys gathered together and recorded a tune called "Tippy Tee Tippy En".  It was a misspelled version of the old Creole song "T'es Petite et T'es Mignonne" first recorded by the Fawvor Brothers in 1929.  

You're small and you're a sweetheart,

And shabby, but, I like you anyways,

Oh, girl, you're not clean,

Oh, well yes, girl, dear, you should go wash up.

You're small and you're a sweetheart,
Too shabby, dear, to be my wife,
Oh, girl, you're not clean,
Oh, well yes, girl, dear, you should go wash up.

Small and you're a sweetheart,
Too shabby, dear, to be my wife,
Oh, girl, you're not clean,
Oh, well yes, girl, dear, you should go wash up,
Oh, girl, you're not clean,
Oh, well yes, girl, dear, you should go wash up.

You're small and you're a sweetheart,
And shabby, I like you anyways,
You're small and you're a sweetheart,
Too shabby to be my wife.

Throughout the 1950s, the dancehalls were places Vincent could be found playing music.  They were places full of locals ready to have a great time but only if they followed the rules.  Vincent recalls:
Those old dance halls were great big, drafty buildings.  They had board benches all around the walls, and the ladies sat there between dances. The men had to stay outside, or behind the ‘bull pen’ near the band, until the music started. They’d go in and ask the ladies to dance.  There was a little room on one side with baby beds, so the babies could sleep while the mamas danced.  No liquor was served in the dance halls because of the ladies and children.   If there was a bar, it was an entirely different room or building. 1


Release Info:
-A Tippy Tee Tippy En | Khoury's K640-A
-B Yesterday's Heartaches | Khoury's K640-B

Hillbilly Researcher # 27 - Khoury`s & Lyric (Hillbilly Researcher, 2018)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"War Widow Waltz" - Lee Sonnier

Joseph Denton "Jay" Miller was no stranger to the music industry.   He was able to find many musicians to record after the war.   He himself was a musician as well.  He recalls:
I've always been interested in music. As a youngster, I played in a local band.  When I was 13 years old, I won a Lake Charles Talent contest singing Huey Long's song "Every Man A King".  I was terrible, but I won so you can imagine how bad the competition was".5  
The prize for winning the talent contest was a one year contract to air a 15-minute weekly radio program on KPLC in Lake Charles for $5 per week which Miller said "seemed like a fortune".

By 1946, he began recording hillbilly music alongside Cajun music.  Miller's biggest Cajun recording success during the 1950's was the "War Widow Waltz" (#1018) by father-in-law Livaudais "Lee" Sonnier and his Acadian Stars on Jay's second label, Feature.  Besides Laura Broussard's vocal, the record's highlights were Sonnier's classically perfect accordion playing and the "cowboy" steel-guitar accompaniment.   In fact, it's not quite known who the steel player is.  While Atlas Fruge claimed for years to be the first steel guitarist in accordion-led Cajun music after the war, few people know that it's Lee's unknown steel guitar player rightfully holds this honor.   It's possible Freeman Hanks is on guitar and Louis Miller on fiddle.

O yé yaie mon mari z'il est parti, 

Il est parti pour se battre pour notre pays, 

Hé yéyaie, mais, regardez donc moi je prends ça dur, 

Ouais c'est pas de connaitre si jamais il va revenir.                                

ça, ça me fait du mal c'est d'entendre mes petits enfants, 

Tout le temps après pleurer et demander pour leur papa. 

Hé, yéyaie, mais eux peuvent pas comprendre, 

Pourquoi leur papa mais s'en revient plus nous rejoindre nous autre. 

O yéyaie moi, je prie au bon Dieu, 

De t'envoyer et rejoindre nous autre avant longtemps,

Comment, toi, tu crois, que je peux consoler mes petits enfants,

Avec mes larmes dans mes yeux, avec mon cœur aussi cassé.
Freeman Hanks, Willis Miller,
Doug Higganbotham, Lee Sonnier,
Laura Brouassard, Rita Broussard

Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan & the 
Center for Louisiana Studies, 
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
It was a version of Ardoin's "La Valse de Amitié" recorded back in 1934 in San Antonio for Bluebird. Around the same time Lee was recording his tune, Iry Lejeune re-used the same melody for his "Calcasieu Waltz" in 1948.  Nathan Abshire borrowed the melody for his "La Valse De Theo".   The recording's female vocalist, Laura Broussard, a relative and bandmate of Aldus "Popeye" Broussard who performed with Lawrence Walker at the 1936 National Folk Festival, sang to Cajun widows who experienced the myriad of conflicting emotions.

Jay "J.D." Miller

J.D. recalls the recording:
"The War Widow Waltz" had a woman singing on it, Laura Broussard. I don't know what she had but I've seen women crying listening to it on a jukebox, so it must have been pretty strong.  And I'd give anything if I had the master. The masters we had, the stampers were lost when a pressing plant burned in Los Angeles.1
Only one can imagine the heartbreak that lonely Cajun widows suffered after realizing their husbands would never come back home to their families. 

Oh my, my husband is gone,

He went to fight for our country,

Hey, ye yaille, well, look at me, I'm taking this hard,

Yeh, its not knowing if he will come back.

That this hurts to hear my small children,

Crying all the time and asking for their dad,

Hey, ye yaille, well, they can not understand,

Why their daddy went back to never return to us again.

Oh, ye yaille, I pray to God,

To come back and return to us before too long,

How can you believe I'll ever console my children,

With tears in my eyes, with my heart too broken.
This honky tonk mix of bouncy accordion, smooth steel guitar and fiddle, soul-wrenching vocals, and drums on the beat would come to define the post-war Cajun sound that launched so many careers.4  According to Jared M:
[Lee Sonnier] has a simple and clean style, but it's always solid and just enough to fit the song perfectly. He has an almost percussive sound that I like and the band is excellent. Thank goodness his daughter married a pioneering record producer!4  

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. Discussions with Jared M
  5. Interview with J.D. Miller. By Stacey Courville. Crowley Post Signal. 1983.
  6. "Acadian All Star Special" by Bear Records
  7. Lyrics by Stephane F

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)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Le Blues De Petit Chien" - Breaux Brothers

By 1929, the Breaux Brothers were following in the footsteps of their sister, Cleoma.   They were recording tunes for major labels and playing music alongside many other musicians throughout the countryside prairies.  In June of 1934, John Avery Lomax began touring the Cajun prairies in search of musicians to record for the Library of Congress.  He found the Breaux Brothers in Crowley and setup his portable recording machine, probably at one of their homes.   There, he recorded a tune with the brothers on fiddle, accordion and guitar.  You can make out the bluesy rhythm backed by the first line of English vocals "Let me be your little dog, mama, till your big dog come".   Apparently the recording cuts the song short, but does demonstrate the brother's abilities to sing and play the blues.   Lomax entitled it "Little Dog Blues".1,2 

Oh, laisse moi être ton p'tit chien

Jusqu'à le gros chien vient.

Oh, laisse moi être ton p'tit chien

Jusqu'à le gros chien vient.

Là je voulais t'dire 'tite fille
Tout ça ton gros chien t'a fait.

Oh 'yoù t'as resté hier au soir?
Oh 'yoù t'as resté hier au soir?
T'as des cheveux tous mêlés,
Et ton linge te fait pas bien.

Oh moi j'ai peur, ton père est après filer.
Oh moi j'ai peur, ton père est après filer.
Si t'as pas un père,
Tout à perdre d'un bord.

1934 Lomax Session Notes
The sexual innuendo is obvious, especially in the insinuation that the lover is actually a whore, leaving for the night, coming back with her clothes all tattered.   According to French musician Marc Chaveau, the term is even more scandalous:

Petit Chien, or "little dog", is sometimes used to refer to a [male] prostitute. 
By October that year, the Breaux Brothers (known as Breaux Freres), left for San Antonio and re-recorded the tune "Le Blues De Petit Chien" (#03053), this time in it's complete form for Vocalion Records and in their native Cajun French.   It is this song that most likely became the main inspiration for the Nathan Abshire's melody in "Pine Grove Blues".3 
Oh, let me be your little dog,
Until the big dog comes,
Oh, let me be your little dog,
Until the big dog comes,
I wanted to tell you, little girl,
All that your big dog has done.

Oh, where were you sleeping last night?
Oh, where were you sleeping last night?
You have your hair all messed up,
And your clothes are not good. 

Oh, I'm afraid your father has taken off,
Oh, I'm afraid your father has taken off,
If you have no father,
You'll lose everything over the edge.

The Breaux's last verse is quite confusing and mysterious.   In one version, the returned lover is being told her father has fled and she might lose her mind.  In another interpretation, there's no father at all.  He's interpreted as "Oh, moi j’ai faim, t’as fait ça pour m’quitter, si t’as pas de cœur, tout à perdre d'un bord" meaning he's hungry, wondering why she left him and that he's going to lose his mind. Other artists used similar droning melodies and blues scales on accordion, such as Lawrence Walker and his 1935 recording of "What’s the Matter Now".

According to author Josh Caffery, the fact that the Breaux brothers performed an English version for a folkloric collection and a French one for a commercial recording could be because record companies were marketing to a French speaking region and Lomax saw this sort of music commercialized enough to only want it sung in English; a version of the song he may have considered "more authentic".3

  3. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  4. Lyrics by Marc C and Bryan L
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Noir Chaussette's Two Step (Black Sox Two Step)" - Sidney Brown

After the death of Iry Lejeune, Eddie Shuler scrambled to find other artists with such popularity as he had.   In 1956, a Cajun dancehall accordionist in Lake Charles became Shuler's next big thing.   For the remaining decade, Sidney Brown and his Traveler Playboys played to crowds around the region alongside other players such as Lawrence Walker showing off lively tunes such as "Noir Chaussette's Two Step" (#1061).
C'est les veuve de bayou qui est parti au village 

Pour achete les chaussons noir à la boutique 

Pour aller oui au bal pour un tas de  beau temps 

Ça aller, oui, toute seul, dedans chagrin.

C'est la veuve de bayou (elle est) venu au village 
Tout l'monde est content de la voir
On connait chere catin elle est belle et si migonne 
Quoi faire (elle est) comme ça, on connais pas.

Crowley Daily Signal
July 2, 1959
Black Socks Two Step takes on the same melody as Happy Fats' 1942 recording of "La Veuve De La Coulee". The 1958 song would be masked in popularity by the record's flipside "Pestauche Ah Tante Nana".  It featured Sidney Brown on accordion, Vinus Lejeune on fiddle, Bill Matte on drums, Wallace Ogea on guitar and Tilford McClelland on steel guitar.  

It's the widows of the bayou who left to go to the village,

To buy some black socks at the shop,

To go to the dance for there will be good times,

She's going to that, yes, all alone, in sorrow.

It is the widow of the bayou, she came back to town,
Everyone is happy to see her,
We understand, dear doll, she is beautiful and she is so cute,
Why is she like that, we don't know.

By the late 1960s, Eddie Shuler of Goldband records re-released the recording on 45 RPM giving it the name "Chico Two Step" yet keeping the same #1061.   Like many of Shuler's later recordings, it's believed the electric bass guitar was overdubbed, possibly by Jo-El Sonnier.

  1. Lyrics by Jerry M, Herman M, and Bryan L
Cajun Dance Tunes Vol.2 (Goldband, 1989)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Bayou Man" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc & Al Terry

In the heart of Cajun music came local musicians singing of the Cajun countryside for English country music labels.   The Southerners were a group led by Allison Joseph Theriot on vocals with his brother Charles Edward "Bob" Theriot on steel guitar.  They were better known as Al Terry and Bob Terry.  Al was among the first musicians of Cajun ancestry to succeed in both country and rockabilly music.  The group performed live on KVOL in Lafayette, Louisiana where Terry also worked as an announcer.  It would be people like Happy Fats who would help steer their careers.

By 1952, Happy used Al's band and the song "Bayou Man" (#2) was released on a California label called Bella. The label was run by John Pusateri, a native of Franklin, Louisiana and a good friend of Hank Williams. That same year, Al and Bob was touring with Hank Williams.  After his release of "Good Deal, Lucille" in 1954, he made an appearance on the Louisiana Hayride show; co-billed with Elvis Presley.

Southerners, 1950
Sexton Trahan (guitar), Danny Boulet (piano),
Alton Bernard (drums), Al Terry (vocals),
Bob Terry (steel guitar), Rufus Alleman (bass)

Bayou man, bayou man,
Wild and free to roam, bayou man.
Row, row, r-o-w, row,
Just going along.

Going to the swamps
Setting traps today,
'Cause the possum trail is moving far away,
And the coons are coming up from the across the bay,
Tra-la-la, tra-la-la,
Just rowing along.

Bayou man, bayou man, 
Bold and gay, a loving bayou man,
Row, row, r-o-w, row,
Just singing along.

When the season's over,
This racoon trapping man,
Will serenade his gal,
And ask her for her hand,
In the church he'll wed, 
The fairest dame in the land.
Tra-la-la, tra-la-la,
Just rowing along.

Church Point News
Aug 17, 1948

The Bella session was one of Happy's last Cajun recording attempts.   He recorded a session with Alex Broussard and Doc Guidry in 1964 for Swallow Records but two years later, focused his efforts in a different direction.

By 1966, with race relations making the news, Happy, along with local record producer J.D. Miller, used his musical abilities to bring controversial attention to the changes he saw happening.  Miller created the label Red Rebel Records specifically for segregationist music which Happy used to record roughly 20 songs between 1966 and 1972, including one called "Dear Mr. President". 

"Dear Mr. President" was a spoken word condemnation of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights policies that sold over 200,000 copies despite its appalling racism. 

According to Happy in an interview:
"We didn't have any problems with that, not at all," Fats maintained. "There wasn't anything violent about it -- it was just a joke. I had a car of black people run me down on the highway one time coming in Lafayette, and they said, 'Are you the fellow that made " Dear Mr. President"?' I said I was, and they said, 'We'd like to buy some records.' They bought about 15 records. There was a big van full of black people and they loved it . . . Either side at that time, they didn't want integration very much. They wanted to go each their own way."3

In his songs, he made clear his confusion on the civil rights legislation that was being passed as well as his discontent for race integration.  Some songs vehemently and overtly express hatred such as "Looking For A Handout" and "Kajun Ku Klux Klan".  Others weren't so direct.  Similar to his promotion of Dudley Leblanc years earlier, he used his recording outlet to promote politics in songs such as "Dear Daddybird (From A Plow Mule To A Politican)" and "Vote Wallace in 72".   Other songs dealt with the growing discontent with the war overseas such as "Birthday Thank You Tommy , From Viet Nam" and "Veteran’s Plea".  

By 1976, Happy's output was on the decline.  He helped record a few singles that year on some obscure labels with only a handful of songs in the years to come.  Although his later years tarnished his name, he was a colorful character that helped promote Cajun music and musicians themselves in his earlier years.

  1. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Discussions with Billy D
Al Terry featuring Bob Terry & "Happy Fats": Better Late Than Never (BACM, )

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Sunset" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

Accordion player Amede Ardoin recorded 22 songs in New Orleans and San Antonio with Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee, some of which would become Cajun standards.  Author Darrell Bourque described Amédé as bringing the white Cajun and black Creole traditions together in a society that policed racial boundaries so rigidly that it ultimately brought about his death. 

"His music", Mr. Bourque said, represented “a little pocket of possibility that didn’t get replicated in the larger culture.”2

His music streamed into the open air fields of the prairies and the closed rooms of house dances in rural areas.  McGee recalls:
Every once in a while, we would play for a dance in the neighborhood. Then, Oscar [the sharecropping boss] went broke and quite farming.  Amede left to come live in Eunice, and I came to live here, too.  That's when we really started playing seriously. We started playing all over the area. We would go as far as old Mr. Leleux's dance hall in Bayou Queue de Tortue. And for Dumas Herpin.  We brought so many people to Dumas' place that they climbed up on the little fence that they had put to protect the musicians from the crowd and they broke it. They came rolling in like balls. It was really funny to see.1 

Oh mon nèg', moi j'men vas aller, ce soir,
Moi j'connais pas éoù j'vas aller,
Moi j'crois pas arriver éoù t'es, eh.

Oh, je relate pas à mes parents, 
Pleure pas fille, où j'peux aller,
On dirait y a toujours quelqu'un qui m'fait de la misère pour rien.

Oh, mon nègre, donne-moi ton adresse,
Donne-moi j'suis capable d'écrite à toi, parce (que),
Parce (que) j'ai pas capable aller à ta maison,
Et ta mom et ton papa, veux pas de moi, j'vas ce soir.

Oh, j'ai arrivé à la maison,
Maman est assis dans son lit,
Qui est après pleurer rapport à moi,
Oh, maman, des mots mal faut pas dire ça, priez pour moi,
Moi j'ai été voir ma catin hier soir,
Elle m'a dit c'est plus la peine de me retour,
J'vas jamais retourner chez elle,
Parce sa maman m'a mis dehors.

Oh moi nèg, j'ai cru qu'elle-même m'aimait,
J'm'a aperçu que c'est pas vrai,
C'est ses parents qu'on fait tout ça.
Amede Ardoin

Recorded at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio, with Eli Oberstein directing, the 1934 Bluebird recording of "Sunset" (#2192) wasn't particularly influential however, it was a lively tune.  Most likely, the title was an ode to the small community of Sunset in south Louisiana.  The town is not far from many of the homes which Dennis and Amede played at.  
McGee recalls:
The people wanted to come to us.  We were making good music in those days. I sang well and played the fiddle well and Amede played and sang well too.  Joe Falcon came to dance to our music. And we'd play just us two, fiddle and accordion.1 
Ardoin's lyrics can be very difficult to understand.  In certain lines, he may be stating different things.   Instead of "le relate pas à mes parents, Pleure pas fille, où j'peux aller", it could be "ça m'fait d'la peine, mes parents, J'sais pas c'éoù j'peux aller", meaning "it hurts me and my parents, I don't know where I can go".

Oh, my friend, I'm leaving to go, tonight,

I don't know where you're going,

I don't think I can get to where you are, ehhh.

Oh, I'm not telling my parents,

Do not cry girl, everywhere I go,

It seems like there's always someone who's making life miserable for nothing.

Oh, my friend, give me your address,
Give it to me, I am able to write to you, because,
Because I'm not able to go back to your house,
Because of your mom and your dad do not want me, I'm leaving tonight.

Oh, I got home,
Mom is sitting the bed, who's crying about me,
Oh, mom, don't say these bad things, pray for me,
I went to see my sweet doll last night,
She told me it would be painful if I returned,
I'm never going back to her home,
Because her mom kicked me out.

Oh, I thought she, herself, loved me,
I'm realizing that it's not true,
It is those parents who've done all of this.

According to music producer, Christopher King, who produced the CD compilation "Mama, I'll Be Long Gone", he states:
That one recording "Sunset" is one of the most sublime pieces of music I've ever heard and it bring me out of any great depression.  It's pure pleasure.3

  1. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  3.   Chris travels at 78 RPM: “Eargasims”– Episode 7.   Radio show.
  4. Lyrics by Stephanie D and Stephane F
CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Mama I'll Be Long Gone: The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin (Tompkins Square, 2011)