Monday, June 19, 2017

"B.O. Sparkle Waltz" - Leroy Broussard

Leroy Broussard started playing at eight, professionally at fifteen and worked with Chester Issac "Pee Wee" Broussard and the Melody Boys, and Cleveland Crochet.  The son of Ulysses and Clotilde Broussard, both musicians (accordion), he would steal his father's accordion to practice and learned to play without his father knowing. 
Oh, comment j'vas faire, bébé,
Oh, je suis moi tout seul, 'tite fille,
Oh, t'es aprés me quitter pour t'en aller,
Oh, comment j'vas faire, bébé.

Oh, mais, moi j'voudrais, 'tite fille. 
Oh, mais, tu t'en viens, bébé.
Oh, oui, me rejoindre Chez B.O.,
Oh, pour un bon temps, bébé.

Leroy Broussard
When he was ten, the family moved to Winnie, Texas and a few years later, at about fifteen, he started to play professionally with local Cajun bands. In the early 1940s he moved back to Louisiana and joins "Pee Wee" Broussard's band, The Melody Boys. It was just a few years later that he formed his own group, The Happy-Go-Lucky Band. By the mid 1940s he is back in Texas playing music and managing B.O.'s Sparkle Club in Bridge City, Texas.  It just across the Rainbow Bridge over the Neches River from Port Arthur. It was an old dance hall with wooden floors and an oyster-shell parking lot.4

The club was named after it's original owners, Alfred Elie "A.E." Billeaud (pronounced "BEE OHH") and his wife Lula Ola Armstrong Billeaud of Port Arthur, TX.  Their family had it's origins from Broussard, Louisiana but left with many Cajuns to the Golden Triangle area of Texas for better job opportunities in the oilfields.  By the 1940s, the Billeaud's settled in the small town of Bridge City and opened up B.O's Sparkle Club with a relative Walter Billeaud managing the nearby movie theater.  By the 1950s, Leroy and his relative, Bill Broussard, were running the place. 
Oh, how am I going to handle this, baby?
Oh, I'm by myself, little girl,
Oh, you're leaving me to go away,
Oh, how am I going to handle this, baby?

Oh, well, I'd like to, baby,
Oh, well, come to you, baby,
Oh, yes, join me at B.O.'s place,
Oh, for a good time, baby.

Daily Advertiser
Jun 15, 1951

By 1957, Leroy and his group recorded the "B. O. Sparkle Waltz" on Eddie Shuler's Goldband label. It was a song that had some influences from Cleoma Breaux's "Pin Solitaire".   His group featured himself on accordion, Freeman Hanks on fiddle, Robert Thibodeaux on drums and Charlie Babineaux on guitar. Just listening to Leroy belt out the vocals, one can understand why this is one of the most difficult songs for Cajun singers. 

Sadly, around that same year, the original building burnt down and by 1958, C.G. "Tiny" Richardson rebuilt it and renamed it the Sparkle Paradise club.  He gave it a dash of honky-tonk glamour. He booked Cajun, country, zydeco, and R&B acts, including legends like Lesa Cormier, Clifton Chenier, Fats Domino, and Freddy Fender, until the Paradise closed in the late eighties.6  He reopened it again in 1999 but in 2005, Hurricane Rita damaged the place beyond repair.   In 2006, although he kept trying to raise the money, the city refused to allow Richardson re-open the famous place, threatening to demolish it themselves.  In a desperate attempt, Tiny used trailers and a truck to keep a wrecking crew from razing the building but to no avail.7  Bassist "Jumpin' Joe" Morris remembered the place:
Oh man, it was a huge club. It was really huge. And everybody would turn out. People were like, you know, on the bandstand, we were standing high over and it would look like, you know, ants, there were so many people that was there.5

As for Leroy, by the late 1950s, he was in Louisiana again working for the city of Lafayette where he retired after fifteen years due to disability. He would later record for Lee Lavergne's Lanor Records.  August Broussard would later re-record the tune for Swallow Records.

  5. Way Down In Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop Music
  8. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  9. The History of Prairie View Bridge City by Charlotte Schexnider-Chiasson
  10. Lyrics by Stephane F

Cajun Dance Tunes Vol.2 (Goldband, 1989)

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