Monday, November 27, 2017

"Valse De Beaumont" - Singing Frenchman

With the success of licensing the re-release of Harry Choates' Jole Blon, the New Jersey label DeLuxe found themselves curious about future of Cajun music and the possibilities it had for it's struggling label.   On a tour of the area, company A&R scout Joe Lieberwitz discovered the Hackberry Ramblers, Happy Fats and a relatively unknown Texan billed as the "Singing Frenchman".1   

Named Johnny William “J. W.” Billiot, he and his wife Bessie "Grace" lived in the Beaumont area.  Born in Hamshire, Texas, he and his father moved to Louisiana for about a year where Johnny attended school.  He had a “larger than life” personality, and is described by relatives as a showman who loved the music and had a lot of rhythm in his music. He played the fiddle and piano in addition to the accordion. His nephew Joseph recalls, 
“He bought an accordion at a hock shop on Pearl (Street) in downtown Beaumont. He and my father (Antone) added another leaf (bellow) where he could pull it out real far. They did this to all his accordions.”1 

Hé, petite, moi j'connais, chère,
J’ai parti de la belle pour m’en (aller) à grand Texas.

Hé, chère, j’ai pleuré, petite,
(Qui) t’as fait à ton vieux nègre, c’est pas longtemps.

Hé, petite, j'ai parti, chère,
Parti de la belle pour m’en (aller) à grand Texas.
The Singing Frenchman
Johnny Billiot, George Jones (behind),
Billy Rayon, Bill Guillory

After the oil economy boomed in the 1930s, Beaumont was a hotbed of Cajun influence and activity.  So many of the Cajuns have settled in the southeastern corner of Texas known as the "Golden Triangle" of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange that the area has been referred to as the "Lapland", where Cajun culture overlaps into Texas.2  As lead accordionist and vocalist, Johnny assembled a group with his wife Grace on backup vocals, Bill Guillory on fiddle, Billy Rayon on guitar, Nick Guidry on fiddle, Lloyd Gilbert on guitar and Bill Guidry on guitar.  By 1949, the group occasionally found themselves playing gigs further east in Sulphur.  Once, a radio show announcer, Joe Trum of KTRM, discovered his talents. It's believed he contacted DeLuxe records executive Joe Lieberwitz for this recording session.1  There, his band recorded "Valse de Beaumont" (#6045) as an ode to the town he was living in.

Hey, little girl, I know, dear,
I have left the beautiful one to go to big Texas.

Hey, dear, I've cried, little one,
Who, you've done this to your old man, it wasn't long ago.

Hey, little one, I've left, dear,
Left the beautiful one to go to big Texas.

  1. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"Choupique Two Step" - Nathan Abshire

Nathan Abshire was the first in the family of six children.  His parents, also musicians, played accordion, and two of his brothers, known to have been top-notch accordion players, gave it up when still young.3  Abshire was especially taken with the spirited playing and singing of Creole accordionist and singer Amede Ardoin, and Ardoin often invited Abshire to play with him.2  
“Every Saturday we used to go to John Foreman’s saloon. I’d see Amédé Ardoin coming down the way. He’d say, ‘Abshire, you’ve got to help me tonight.’ I’d say. ‘Amédé, I can’t help you.’ ‘Oh yeah,’ he’d say, ‘We’re both going to play. I’ll play for awhile, you play for awhile.’ I’d say, ‘I don’t feel much like going Amédé.’ But I’d go and we’d sure make some music. As far as that goes, we made some great music.”2

Oh, jolie parti, c'es partie à Choupique,

C'es parti, jolie catin, 

Pour voir des belles 'tit blondes.

Aye! C'es Choupique!

Oh, jolie catin, jolie sa m'fais du mal.

Oui, ces drole qui tu m’a dit,

Jolie, sa m'fais du mal.

Oh, jolie catin, jolie tu m'fais du mal,

M'fais du mal, catin du mal,

J'vas pleurer pour toi.

Nathan Abshire
by Todd Kruse

The choupique (pronounced "shoe pick") is a trash fish, known outside Louisiana as the bowfin, which isn't eaten much but can be found plentiful around Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. Choupique is also the name of a rural community north of Eunice, Louisiana, not far from a small stream called "La Coulée Choupique".

George Khoury, the owner of Lyric label, recorded Nathan's "Choupique Two Step" (#610) in 1951 but chose not to co-release it on his Khoury's label until years later when he re-released many of these pressings on 45 RPM.  The band consisted of his typical lineup of Nathan on accordion and vocals, Will Kegley on fiddle, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Jim Baker on bass, Ozide Kegley on drums. It could very well be a version of Happy Fats' "Les Fille De St. Martin" that Nathan had remembered from their first session together 16 years earlier.   All of these are based on Amede Ardoin's "Amede Two Step".
Church Point News
Dec 12, 1961

Oh, my pretty went away, went away to Choupique,

She left me, my pretty doll,

Going to go see the pretty little blondes.

Aye! Choupique!

Oh, my pretty doll, pretty, you hurt me,

Yes, it's odd what you said,

Pretty, you hurt me.

Oh, my pretty doll, pretty, you hurt me,

You hurt me, my doll, it hurts,

I'm going to cry over you.

  1. Louisiana Music, Vol. 1 by Lyle Ferbrache
  3. Pine Grove Blues: Swallow LP 6014. Liner notes.
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"Valse De La Lousianne" - Angelas Lejeune

Angelas Lejeune became one of the unsung heroes of Cajun music who helped propel Dennis McGee into the fiddle-playing limelight.   Growing up around Pointe Noire, Louisiana, he, Dennis and Ernest Fruge teamed up to play as a trio around south Louisiana.  During one of his sessions in New Orleans for Brunswick records, he recorded the tune "Valse De La Lousianne" (#369).  Similar to Columbus Fruge's "Pleur Plus" and Bixy Guidry's Qu'Est Que J'Ai Fait Pour Etre Peuni Si Longemps?", and Anatole Credure's "Lacassine Waltz", it was a tune that inspired Iry Lejeune's 1954 "La Valse de Cajun".

According to Neal Pomea: 

One listening to the Vieille Valse de la Louisiane, especially the bridge or "turn," will show what a powerful player he was. Brilliant! 1

Ohh, p’tit bébé, viens-toi-z-avec ton pop, ouais, dans la Louisiane.

Ohh, quittes ta mom pour t’en venir avec ton pop pour finir tous nos jours.

Ohh, gardez-donc comment ton pauvre papan est tout le temps dans les douleurs.

Ohh, quittes ton pop et ta mom pour t’en venir avec ton neg dans la Louisiane.

Ohh, jongle bien, tu vas avoir les misères que je passe pour, malheureuse.
Angelas Lejeune

Like many musicians living in south Louisiana, he was a fan of playing music for family. His music was remembered and enjoyed by those that remembered him.  According to neighbor and friend Debi Morain:
How well I remember him playing...he always joined us on Christmas Eve and played for our gatherings.  When I'd visit, he'd always play and sing for us, sitting outside on his porch.  His wife was a 'traiteuse' and treated us for sun and heat strokes.  What wonderful memories I have of them and, of course, his music!
According to his niece Candance McIntyre:

How I loved his music and his singing and the "get-togethers" we all had as a family. His wife aunt Doris was such a sweet lady and she and my grandmother were the greatest of friends.  We would have old time home dancers and that is where I learned to dance and how I love to dance. Listening to this music brings back such warm memories.

Oh, little baby, come with your pop, yeh, to Louisiana.

Oh, leave your mom to come with your pop forever.

Oh, so look at that, how your poor papas always in great sorrow.

Oh, leave your pop and your mom, you come with your man to Louisiana.

Oh, remember well, you'll have the same misery which I passed (lived through), oh my.
According to Cajun accordion player Ambrose Thibodeaux,
I learned La Vieille Valse de la Louisiane from Angelas Lejeune. He recorded it and I listed to him play it. I recorded it in my head. I heard it several times and I'd replay it till I knew it. Angelas was like me, he liked that old waltz a whole lot.3  

According to Cajun musician and accordion builder, Bryan Lafleur, he states:

It's an early version of "Cajun Waltz". I especially love the way he does the turn, which I haven't heard anyone do like him except Michael Doucet in his recording called "Angelas' Waltz", which seemed to be a fiddle copy of Angelas' song.2 

  2. Discussions with Bryan L
  3. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  4. Lyrics by Jordy A and Stephane F
Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins, 2013)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Si Vous Moi Voudrez Ame (If You'd Only Love Me)" - Leo Soileau

Leo Soileau was one of the first Cajuns to incorporate elements of commercial country music into Cajun music.2  Formed in 1934, Leo Soileau's Three Aces--although there were never less than four musicians--soon shot to the forefront of this embryo "Cajun country" movement.  Apart from the Cajun tradition, their major inspiration came from western swing, a cheerful, spirited amalgam of swing, blues, ragtime, and fiddle music that originated in Texas.1  

Tu m’as dit, jolie fille, tu p’us, mais chère,

Tu pouvais pas p’us m’aimer, chère,

Pourquoi donc, mais tu fais ça à ton vieux neg, chérie?

Tu vas me faire (mourir??), jolie.

Tu m’as dit jolie fille, tu pouvais p’us m’aimer,
Toi, maman, quoi faire t’as fait ça, chérie?

Tu m’as dit, jolie fille, pourquoi-donc, chérie,
Tu fais ça avec ton neg, chérie,
Tu m’as dit, joli cœur, que tu peux p’us m’aimer, chère.

Ohh, toi, ‘tit monde, jolie fille, criminelle,
Haa, toi ‘tite fille, ohhh, bébé.
Rayne Tribune
Dec 10, 1937

He learned to play fiddle from his father at around the age of 12 and was inspired by other local Cajun musicians such as Dennis McGee.3   
I'd steal his fiddle from under the bed and when I'd break a string, I'd get a whipping.  That's for sure!3

In early 1935, Soileau's string band, without an accordionist, but with the first drummer to play on Cajun sessions, made popular recordings such as "Si Vous Moi Voudrez Ame (If You'd Only Love Me)" (#4880 & #2194) which Bluebird co-issued on Montgomery Ward's label.  His Three Aces were composed of Floyd Shreve on guitar, Bill (Dewey) Landry on guitar, and Tony Gonzales on drums.  The smooth, rhythmic music was in sharp contrast to the raw folk sound of Joseph Falcon's performances.   However, "Voudrez" was eclipsed by the more popular tune on the flipside, "Le Gran Mamou". 

You told me, pretty girl, you could, well dear,

You couldn't love me anymore, dear,

Why then, well, did you do that to your old man, darling?

You are going to make me an old man, dear.

You told me pretty girl, you could love me,
You, little momma, why did you do that, darling?

You told me, pretty girl, why so, darling?
You did that to your man, darling,
You tole me, pretty sweetheart, that you could love me, dear.

Oh, you little everything, pretty girl, it's terrible,
Ha, you little girl, oh baby.
Leo Soileau and the Three Aces
Floyd Shreve, Tony Gonzales, 
Leo Soileau, and Dewey Landry

By  late 1935, he renamed his band to the Four Aces and signed with Decca, which had already signed Joseph Falcon and Amade Ardoin.  Working with a completely different company, many unaware of his previous recordings, he used the opportunity with Deccas to re-record the song in 1937.   His swinging tune became more well known as "La Blues de Port Arthur".  

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  4. Lyrics by Jordy A
Raise Your Window: A Cajun Music Anthology 1928 - 1941 (The Historic Victor-Bluebird Sessions Vol. 2) (CMF, 1993)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Pauvre Hobo" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers had sustained a successful Cajun music career between 1935 and 1939.  In 1940, they disbanded when some musicians were drafted for World War II. Fiddle player, Luderin Darbone, reorganized; bringing back Edwin Duhon and adding Eddie Shuler.  During that time, the group was looking for a steady place to play.   A year after World War II ended in 1945, Leo Soileau moved from the Silver Star Club in Lake Charles to begin a regular stand at the Showboat in Orange, Texas. The Hackberry Ramblers replaced him and played every Saturday night at the Silver Star for 10 years.  In addition, the band added Chink Widcamp on bass.

Fais pitie t'voir, mais, comme un pauvre hobo,

(Plus) de soulier, (plus) d’argent, mais, ça sa fait pitie,

Eh, catin.

J'ai parti pour Texas, mais, comme un pauvre enfant,
Par rapporte à la belle, mais, si moi, j'suis comme ça, chere.

Oui, oui.

Lake Charles American Press
Jul 11, 1947

They were always traveling, like poor hobos.  In one instance, they quickly raced to a recording session to lay down several tunes, including an old Breaux Brother's recording called "Les Tracas Du Hobo Blues".  In a way, the song exhibited the bands essence.  In 1947, Luderin was contacted by Joseph Leibowitz of Deluxe records where they were requested to record over two hours away in New Orleans.  Luderin Darbone recalls the DeLuxe encounter:
One day I was at work, and I got a long distance call from St. Louis, Missouri. It was this fellow with the DeLuxe. He wanted to know if he could come down and listen to us play. I said "Sure". I told him where we were playing. Sure enough, that next night before we started the dance, I went into Lake Charles at the Majestic Hotel, that's where we were to meet.1  
He was in Linden, New Jersey.  He called me and said for me to be in New Orleans on Sunday with the band. We played the dance Friday night. I worked Saturday. We played Saturday night. We left after the dance, went to New Orleans. We didn't sleep.  We started recording about 2:30. We recorded to 11:30 that night. We left and had to be back to go to work the next morning. I slept 30 minutes in all that time. I don't know if I could still do that.1 

You're pitiful to look at, well, like a poor hobo,

No more shoes, no more money, well, that's pitiful. 

Eh, little doll.

I have left for Texas, well, like a poor child,
(It's) because of the pretty girl, well, if I'm like that, dear.

Yeh, yeh. 

Edwin Duhon and Luderin Darbone
During this session, the group recorded the song which Harry Choates had just popularized for Gold Star records that year, called "Pauvre Hobo" (#5037).  Sung by guitarist Lennis Sonnier, he was backed by Luderin's fiddle, Grover Heard's lead guitar, and Lefty Boggs' drums.  Many of these recordings were co-released on their 6000 series.   DeLuxe hadn't prepared for this field recording. The recording levels were too low. Since they were in discussions with plans to be merged with King records, little was done to market or give much consideration to the recording.  Darbone wrote a letter, complaining it wasn't near the sound compared to Harry Choates, but to no avail.1 

  2. "Hackberry Ramblers Making music since 1933". DON KINGERY. American Press, Friday, September 24, 2004
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Sulphur Breakdown" - Charlie Broussard

Charles Broussard was born into the Nicholas Broussard family of fiddlers who played in the mid-1800s around the town of Creole, Louisiana. He learned to play on a homemade fiddle in his youth, eventually playing house parties and house dances as well as dancehalls with his brothers, Albert and Theo Young.1

By the late 1940s, Charles Broussard started playing a more western swing and country style of music and formed the Sulphur Playboys, recording "Soldier’s  Waltz" and "Sulphur Breakdown" with French lyrics on the Houston-based Opera label. His son, Carrol learned the steel guitar and played and recorded with Harry Choates, Jimmy C. Newman, Abe Manuel, Robert Bertrand, and Rufus Thibodeaux.1
Baytown Sun
June 30, 1951

C'est les filles de la campagne,
J'connais qu'est si mechante,
C'est les blondes du village,
Qui depensent tout mon argent.

Travailler tout la s'maine,
Pour Faire l'argent pour samedi au soir,
Dimanche matin je serai malade,
Y a personne oui qui veut d'moi.

C'est la fille a Nonc Edouard,
Qui mangeait du Gumbo Toloche,
C'est les filles a tee Tante Rosa,
Qui veut rester au bal chez Joe.

Cinquante sous dans ma poche,
Et la bouteille dans ma main,
Ma tit fille m'a dit hier encore,
Voudra s'marier, la s'maine qui vient.
Charles Broussard

In 1947, Bennie Hess, bandleader of the Oklahoma Tornadoes got together with Bill Quinn of Gold Star records in Houston and created their own label called Opera records.   It was originally created to push Hess' own band material.  But that year, he decided to dabble in recording some Cajun artists.   Charlie, having worked with Hess's fiddle player Floyd, was an obvious choice to have round out his Cajun pressings.  His song "Sulphur Breakdown" (#109) was an ode to the small town of Sulpher, Louisiana, not far from where he grew up.   He was backed by Billy Christian on guitar, Carrol Broussard on steel guitar, and C. J. Broussard on drums.

It's the girls of the countryside,

I know which are so michievous,

It's the blondes of the village, 
Who spend all of my money.

Working always,
To make money for Saturday night,
Sunday morning, I will be depressed,
There is no one who wants me.

It's the daughter of Uncle Edouard,
Who ate the gumbo,
It's the girls of Tee Aunt Rosa,
Who want to stay at Joe's place.

Fifty cents in my pocket,
And a bottle in my hand,
My little girl told me again yesterday,
Would like to get married, the hand which I'd take. 

Carrol Broussard, Billy Christian,
Charles Broussard, C. J. Broussard,
Homer Goodrich, Jack Granger
Courtesy of Cajun Dancehall Heyday1

  1. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule

Friday, November 3, 2017

"Cajun Records: 1946-1989" by Nick Leigh

I'm excited to announce that Nick Leigh and I (and countless other volunteers and authors) have completed one of the most momentous and challenging projects conceived regarding Cajun music recordings. The second edition of "Cajun Records 1946-1989" is released. For the first time, we've helped Nick highlight and document the post-war recording era of Cajun music. It features details on almost every commercial Cajun recording between 1946 and 1989. It includes all the 78 RPM recordings of the Cajun Dancehall Era. It also contains information on almost every 45 RPM recording during the Cajun Renaissance Era until 1989. Considered a project which has been way overdue, it's a must-have document for any Cajun music record collector and for any student of Cajun music history. Be sure to visit the Rhythm and Blues Magazine website and download a PDF copy now.