Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Bayou Chico Waltz" - Wilson Granger

Wilson Granger was a fiddling figure who experienced all the many twists and turn in Cajun music.  Basically, he was a sideman who kept the music going and played on some of the most influential recordings in post-war Cajun music.   Nathan rarely sang many of his own tunes, leaving it to other such as Ernest Thibodeaux and Wilson.   Eventually, Nathan let these fine musicians take the lead on a few recordings, including this one called "Bayou Chico Waltz".1

In the late 1920s, Wilson and Sidney Credeur began playing house dances around Black Bayou and Goosport.  By the 1940s, Sidney quit and gave Wilson his fiddle, so Granger struck out on his own to play music in the Lake Charles area.  Good friends with Earl Demary, Wilson teamed up with his group led by Nathan Abshire for the famous "Pine Grove Blues" recording for Virgil Bozman's OT label.1   During this time frame, around 1949, Bozman had a recording of Wilson leading the "Bayou Chico Waltz" with Nathan's same band members.  Wilson tells historian and author Andrew Brown:
We made some records with Nathan Abshire in Crowley.   That's when we made "Bayou Chico Waltz". But just like [I asked] Iry Lejeune, I asked Nathan, "I've got a waltz I'd like to make".  He said, "Go ahead."  So one side, I made the "Bayou Chico Waltz'.6  

Having recorded with Nathan's band as backup, the lack of accordion is barely noticeable because the sound is so typical of the Pine Grove Boys at their best.  According to researcher David Sax:
There is a live performance atmosphere, with Atlas Fruge up front as Bozman pressed the button and left them to it.5  
But, it seems Virgil shoved it away for the time being.  Most likely, he brought it with him to Bob Tanner's facility in San Antonio and had it pressed on his short lived Hot Rod records in 1953. 

Hé 'tite fille, z'aujourd'hui, 

T'aprés me quitter pour t'en aller dans la Louisiane,

Tous les passe de temps, comme ca laisser les enfants,

Pour courtiser, mais malheureuse, t'quitter, tit monde. 

Hé, 'tite fille, moi, j'm'en vas, 

Mais (z)aujourd'hui, mais, mon tout seul à Bayou Chicot,

Quand même tu veux mais t'en revenir rejoindre ton nègre, 

Mais malheureuse, mais, pour longtemps, c'est trop (tard) 'joindre.
Wilson Granger

Bayou Chicot is a piney wooded community in north Evangeline parish named after a small stream.  The land was settled by a Coushatta Indian family.   The name "Chicot", a 16th century French word meaning "stump", can be found in a variety of places in old colonial documents, including Chicot de Cipre ("cypress stumps") and "Prairie des Chicots" ("prairie of tree stumps").2   According to author Jacqueline Peterson, "chicot" was already used for the French coureurs de bois as early as the seventeenth century, when the settlers would strip land of its timber and then abandon the land, leaving "chicots".3,4 

Hey little girl, today,

You left me to go away to Louisiana,

After all this time, just like that, (you) left the children,

To worry, well oh my, you left us, my little everything.

Hey, little girl, I, myself, am going,

Well, today, well, I'm all alone at Bayou Chicot,

Even if you want to go back to your old man,

Well, oh my, well, such a long time, it's too late to come back. 

Aurally from Wilson would go onto record with Iry for a short while; teaching him the melody of this song.  Iry made some minor changes and with Wilson backing him up, they converted it into the well-known "Duraldo Waltz".  But Wilson didn't stay and left the band shortly afterwards.   Granger kept his television repair business going and continued to play music for years afterwards.1

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
  2. Louisiana Place Names: Popular, Unusual, and Forgotten Stories of Towns ... By Clare D'Artois Leeper
  3. A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language ... By Peter Bakker
  4. Prelude to Red River: A Social Portrait of the Great Lakes Metis by Jacqueline Peterson
  5. Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Vol. 2.  Liner notes. 
  6. Wilson Granger interview.  Andrew Brown. 2005.
  7. Lyrics by Stephane F
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Cankton Two Step" - Lee Sonnier

During the 1940s, musician Lee Sonnier was a respected Cajun accordion player from Rayne, Louisiana.   He and his band were invited by his son-in-law J.D. Miller to record several songs in 1950 in Miller's makeshift recording studio. Sonnier's group consisted of Bruce Broussard on vocals, possibly Freeman Hanks on guitar, possibly Louis Miller on fiddle  and possibly Rita Broussard on guitar. J.D. explains:

At the time I had numerous people who wanted French records. An French records, apart from 'Jole Blon' and a couple of other Harry Choates recores, just were not available.  You had the older records that had been made by Joe Falcon, they may have been discontinued.  So I just said 'Well, I'm gonna see maybe if we can make some records'.  I didn't know what would be the first step to do it.1

Les paroles toi t'as écouté ta vieille maman et ton papa, 

Je vas t’emmener ayou jamais, catin, mais, moi je vas t’avoir.

Tu m'as quitté depuis la terre (?) mais moi j'connais j'mérite pas ça, 
Pas tout ça toi t'après me faire avec ton nègre, ici, jolie fille. 

Avant longtemps, tu vas revenir, pis demander je te fais pardon, 
pour ça t'as fait z'avec moi, mais ouais, je voudrais plus te voir.
Crowley Daily Signal
Jun 21, 1950

Having learned electrical work from his father-in-law Lee Sonnier, he was fascinated on how the recording process worked based on a previous session at Cosimo Matassa's studio in New Orleans that year.   The increasing availability of portable tape machines was a boon in encouraging young men such as Miller to take the plunge into the record business.  Lee's band worked with Miller to record "Cankton Two Step" (#1018), one of the first Cajun accordion recordings after WWII.   The group gathered around three microphones and a tape recorder in the back of Miller's M&S electrical shop.  Miller recalls:
At that time there wasn't much equipment available.  In fact, I had the first tape recorder in Louisiana.  When we recorded at Cosimo's we were recorded with an overhead disc cutter. I went to Houston, Gates Radio Supplies, inquiring about getting me a recorder, and I had in mind an overhead because that was the only one I'd ever seen.  They had just got in three Magnecord recorders; it seems to me it was a model PT-6.  You could carry it around. So I bought that, I bought three microphones, I bought a high-level mixer, which in reality is just three volume controls, and I came back. I had an amplifier that I used for monitoring and setup what I had as a monitor speaker, just one speaker.2
J.D. Miller

The words you had heard from your old mom and dad,

I'm going to take you there forever, little doll, well, I'm going to get you.

You left me from this land, well, I know I didn't deserve this,
Not all that which you've done with your old man, here, pretty girl.

Before long, you'll come back, and ask that I forgive you,
For what you've done with me, well yeh, I would like to see you more.

Lee's group played alongside other Cajun bands of the time such as Iry Lejeune, Lawrence Walker, Nathan Abshire and Aldus Roger at dance halls such as the Welcome Club.  Later recordings by musicians such as Lawrence Frugerework the tune into the song "Tit Mamou".

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A
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)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"The Waltz That Carried Me To My Grave" - Pee Wee Broussard

Chester Issac "Pee Wee" Broussard was one of many accordion players in the 1950s who recorded songs in south Louisiana.  Here, he covers Cleoma Breaux classic known as "The Waltz That Carried Me To The Grave" (#1045) during his very first recording session for J.D. Miller's Feature Records in Crowley, Louisiana in 1952.   The song was a tribute to his wife who had recently died.
Hey, mais toi 'tite fille, chère,
Toi t'as quitté de la maison pour t'en aller,
Je peux pas te voir, je vas pas te voir,
Comment tu crois moi je peux faire, mais, moi tout seul?

Hey, moi j'ai pleuré chère,
De te voir t'en aller, mais pour toujours,
Comment tu crois, mais, moi j'vas faire?
J'ai p'us personne à la maison mais pour m'aimer.

Jessie Credeur, Do Doon Benoit,
Pee Wee Broussard, Tony Thibodeaux,
Johnny Credeur

During this recording session, his Melody Boys consisted of Jean "Kaiser" Perez on fiddle, Walter Guidry on steel guitar, Andy Johnson on rhythm guitar, and Nathan Latiolais on drums.

Hey, you see, little girl, dear,

For you left the house, you went away.

I didn't see you, I'm not going to see you anymore,

How do you think I'll do this, well, all by myself?

Hey, I cried, dear,
I've seen you leave, well, everyday,
How do you think, well, I will do this?
I have no one left at home, well, to love me.

He influenced and worked with many musicians later including Leroy Broussard and Marc Savoy.  You can hear a lot of his style in Marc's early recordings.  Pee Wee not only played accordion, but also the fiddle.  During his early life, he cut the tendon on his left middle finger by a knife wielded by his brother, so every time he played fiddle, it seemed he was always flipping people the bird. 

  1. Acadian Two Step.  Flyright.  Liner Notes.
Acadian Two Step (Flyright, 1987)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"Orphan Waltz" - Floyd Leblanc

Floyd Leblanc was a western swing Cajun fiddle player that played during the 1940s with bands across southeast Texas and Louisiana.   His biggest break came from teaming up with Bennie Hess and his Oklahoma Tornados.   The group traveled around the area playing their mixture of country music and by 1948, Hess created a recording label called Opera records.   Watching closely was their fill in guitarist named Virgel Bozmen.  Virgel eventually left the group and took upon the idea of creating his own recording label called O.T. records named after the band.   By 1949, after the band's fiddler Floyd Leblanc had recorded a slew of songs on Bennie's label, Virgel convinced Leblanc to bring his talents to the local radio station in Lake Charles where he recorded "Orphan Waltz" (#104).  

Tu m’as quitté, chérie, pour t’en aller,
T’en aller, jolie, jolie fille.

Aujourd’hui, chérie, tu vas r’venir,
Pour me voir, jolie malheureuse.

Moi j’connais, chère, tu vas pleurer.
Quo t’as fait, malheureuse, y a pas longtemps

Aujourd’hui, chère, tu vas r’venir,
Pour connaître, jolie fille, qu’il sera trop tard.

possibly Ernest Benoit, Floyd Leblanc,
Lee Drew LeBlanc

The song carried the typical theme popularized by contemporary fiddle player Harry Choates.  It spoke of a love interest that left a poor lover.  In this case, the love interest returns but it's too late.

By the early 1950s, drinking took a toll on Floyd and the nightlife wasn't the type of thing he wanted his family to be involved in.   He could see what drinking and music was doing to him and made sure his children had no part in this.  He quit playing for awhile and focused on his family. It wouldn't be until the mid 1960s when he'd start occasionally picking up music events locally and play periodically around the house.1

You left me, dear, to go away,

You went away, pretty, pretty girl,

Today, dear, you have returned,
To see me, pretty, oh my.

I know, dear, you have cried,
What you've done, oh my, it hasn't been long.

Today, dear, you have returned,
Know this, pretty girl, it's too late.

  1. Discussions with Jeanne
  2. Lyrics by Marc 
Cajun Honky Tonk: Khoury Recordings (Arhoolie, 1995)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

"Durald Two Step" - Amar Devillier

Amar "Ti-Frère" DeVillier.  Amar first learned to play the accordion in his late teens from his brother-in-law Angelas Manuel and also with a young teenage prodigy, Alphonse"Bois Sec"Ardion, a family acquaintance from the nearby community of  Duralde, who helped hone his skills. Occasionally on weekends, Amar would hitch up the horse and buggy and ride the family to their neighbor, Cheese Reed's house and "passe la veille" (play music and visit).1,2  

Devillier recorded some of the earliest known Cajun music with harmonica, similar to the recordings of Joe Werner. The Louisiana Jambileers gathered at the KEUN Radio studios in Eunice and laid down two songs, one which was the Duralde Two Step (#1).  It  featured the vocalist Wallace Lafleur and was named after the rural community known as Duralde in South Louisiana.  Recorded in 1952 on George Khoury's Lyric label, it would be the only record in his catalog identified with a single digit.  
Amar Devillier

Moi aller, chere tite fille, 

Oh, là-bas à Duralde,

Eh, ye yaille, moi je connait,

Chere tit fille, t'es mien, je t'aime.

Chere tit monde, mon aller,

Oui, là-bas au si loin, 

Mon aller, chere tit fille, 

Mon aller là-bas à Duralde.

Chere tit fille, moi'je connait,
Moi'je connait, c'est pas la peine, 
Moi te faire tout de ça,
Tout ça m'a fait mal.
Ah, chere tit monde, 
Moi aller là-bas à Duralde,
Moi aller mon tout seul,
Moi aller là-bas à Duralde.
Angelas Manuel and Amar Devillier
Courtesy of Neal Granger

Amar began playing in dance halls in the 1930's and 1940's and therefore was able to greatly supplement his income during the Great Depression.   He played many bals de maison in the early years and considered by local music buffs as one of the original French musicians from the area. Musicians had to play loud to be heard thus were hard on their instruments.  Because of his rough playing and due to no amplification at the time, he would wear-out a set of bellows often on his accordion.  

Later on, Lafleur was supposed to be the key musician at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, but his wife wouldn't have it.  At the last minute, before the band left, he dropped out.  Instead, the mostly unknown Dewey Balfa took his place, creating one of the most important events in Cajun music history: the Cajun music "renaissance".   After Balfa's return, he helped create what is known as Festival Acadiens. 

I'm going, dear little girl,

Oh, over there to Duralde,

Hey, ye yaille, I know,

Dear little girl, you're mine, I love you.

Dear little everything, I'm going,

Yes, over there as of now,

I'm going, dear little girl,

I'm going over there to Duralde. 

Dear little girl, I know,
I know, it's not worth it,
You've done to me, all of that,
All that, I'm miserable.
I'm going over there to Duralde,
I'm going all alone,
I'm going over there to Duralde.

Amar and Cajun fiddler, Dennis McGee, were known to have co-written some songs together, most notably "La Valse de Lanse Meg", also known as "La Valse de Devillier".1,2   By 1960, Wallace would end up playing with Shirley Bergeron and his group while Terry Clement would take the melody and use it in his song "Diggy Liggy Lo". 

  2. Discussions with Neal G
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M
Cajun Music - The Early 50s (Arhoolie, 1969)
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"Valse De Estherwood (Estherwood Waltz)" - Leo Soileau

Leo Soileau was a Cajun musician from Ville Platte that recorded the second Cajun group after Joe Falcon.  He recorded late 1928 with a bluesy accordion player named Mayuse Lafleur.   Leo kept recording traditional Cajun music with an accordion led duo until the end of 1929.  After string bands took over the airwaves in 1936, Louisiana saw bands like Leo Soileau's Aces changed from purely Cajun French songs to a mixed group of English and French tunes.   Leo used this session in New Orleans to record both styles.  In the wake of Ace' initial and influential recordings, Soileau continued to revamp extensively the sounds of commercial Cajun music. 

I had fiddle, piano, sometimes I had two guitars, a steel, electric mandolin, and saxophone and bass.   I have as much as eight piece bands.

Ohh, mais toi m'avais*, chère

Ohh, mais pourquoi, donc, bébé

Hé, mais toi p’tite fille, chère

Ohh, mais aussi loin bébé

Oh, mais toi m'avais*, chère,
Oh, mais pourquoi donc, mais, tu fais ça?

Hé, mais moi, je m’en vas à la maison
Oh, mais pour te rejoindre, malheureuse

Hé, tu m’as quitté moi tout seul
Ohh, pourquoi donc mais tu fais ça?
Leo Soileau (second, bottom row)
Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan & the 
Center for Louisiana Studies, 
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

His line containing "toi m'avais" is confusing.  The love interest either had his love or would have had his love.   It could very well be saying something else, sounding similar such as "t'as m'avoué" in which the love interest confesses to the person.  

His Four Aces consisted of  Bill ‘Dewey’ Landry on guitar, Floyd Shreve on guitar and a slew of other musicians.  Leo named his song "Valse de Estherwood" (#17016) after a town not far from his residence of Crowley, Louisiana.   Estherwood is a small community originally named "Tortue" after the Indian Chief Celestine La Tortue of the Attakapas nation.  It sits alongside the Trief bayou, which was named for Jean-Baptiste Trief, a mysterious person believed to have been one of Jean Lafitte's pirates.  In 1816, he was described as a "tall, dark, sinister-looking" man who wore large earrings like pirates once did.   The entire Mermentau River basin area was notoriously known for pirate activity.

There are several stories about how Estherwood got its name. A likely one is that it is the combination of two names: Wood, for a Dr. Wood who was once prominent in the area, and Esther, for the wife of a railroad executive. Another is the wood part may come from the fact that the trains stopped for fuel wood here.

Oh, well, you could've had me, dear,

Oh, well, why so, baby?

Hey, well, you little girl, dear,

Oh, well, so far away, baby.

Oh, well, you could've had me, dear,
Oh, well, why did you do that?

Hey, well, I'm going home,
Oh, well, to you you, oh my.

Hey, you left me all alone,
Oh, so why, well, did you do that?

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. Label scan by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Cajun and Creole Music Collection - Special Collections
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A