Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Valse De Lake Charles" - Harry Choates

Harry Choates played fiddle, guitar, and mandolin throughout south Louisiana and Texas.  His 1946 rendition of “Jole Blon,” the song that would come to be called the “Cajun National Anthem,” had not only been the first French song to crack the Billboard national charts but its ascent above the Number Five position is an achievement unsurpassed to this day.  The audience taste at that time had succumbed to the popularity and influence of cowboy and western swing styles and Cajun Music had followed their trend towards fiddle-led outfits. String bands led by stars like Harry Choates and Leo Soileau were in heavy demand.  

Tu m'as quitté, pour t'en aller,

Dans Grand Lake Charles, mais jolie cœur.

Oh, mais chère petite, mignonne,

Oh, sera pas longtemps.

Oh, vilaine manière,

Moi j'connais, t'as pas fait bien.

Oh, mais chère petite chérie,

Oh, mais moi j'connais t'as fait de la peine.

Nathan Abhsire's main recording outlet, O.T. records, was gaining some momentum with his music and the producer, Virgil Bozman, easily saw Harry's popularity.  In 1949, he convinced him to land two sides, one of which was "Valse De Lake Charles" (#107), the town in which Virgil had his operations based.  Having played alongside Leo Soileau during his stint with the Four Aces, it's no surprise that he learned this song from their 1938 recording "Lake Charles Waltz".  Recording closer to his home town at the KPLC radio station, Harry dropped most of his regular Melody Boys for some local Cajun musicians, most notably Leo Soileau's drummer Crawford Vincent and Happy Fats' pianist Harold "Popeye" Broussard.  B.D. Williams remained on bass guitar.   The tune is clearly a rendition cut from the older versions by Anatole Credure in 1929 and The Four Aces' instrumental done in 1938 called "Lake Charles Waltz".
You left me to go away.
To big Lake Charles, my pretty sweetheart,
Oh, well, dear little cutie,
Oh, it hasn't been long.

Oh, how terrible it is,
I know, you aren't doing well,
Oh, dear little darling,
Oh, well, I know you hurt (me). 

Harry's lyrics were limited by what he knew, often repeating the same words, general phrasing and his signature "Eh! Ha ha!".  In this case, writer's love interest is leaving to the big town of Lake Charles. This was the first and only time Crawforrd Vincent teamed up with Harry.  Vincent was still a member of Leo Soileau's band, but Soileau was in the process of building his own club, so Vincent had time off.   He played with Harry during events near the Green Lantern near Opelousas.  Then, suddenly, Harry left, as he usually did, just when his musical fortunes were beginning to turn in a positive direction.  Vincent remembered that Harry received calls for engagements and booking dates, and over half of these he didn't fulfill, many times failing to show up.1 

  1. Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates, a Cajun Legend by Tim Knight
Release Info:
107-A Jole Blon's Gone 107 O.T.
107-B Valse De Lake Charles 107 O.T.

Cajun Music - The Early 50s (Arhoolie, 1969)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Taunt Aline" - Amede Ardoin

In the 1920s and '30s, Amédé Ardoin was the zipper of Cajun and Creole music. While he was performing, the two genres - though distinct - came together in a groove that shared his repertoire and style.  Breaking Jim Crow era barriers, he routinely played with Cajun musicians.6  After witnessing his friend Douglas Bellard record in New Orleans, Amede Ardoin got an opportunity to pursue his first recording session with Columbia that same year. Along with Dennis McGee as his accompanying fiddle player, the song would be the first listing of an Ardoin recording for Columbia known as "Taunt Aline" (#40514).  The duo cut their first recordings together in 1929 at a joint Columbia/Okeh field session in New Orleans. The song is believed to be an ode to his aunt Oline Ardoin Poulard, wife of Alcee Poulard, who is mentioned in the title of another Ardoin song called "La Valse A Alcee Poulard".  

Eunice News
Dec 13, 1929

Born in 1898, Ardoin lost his father in an accident when he was nine months old. His mother and seven brothers eked out a living as sharecroppers in Eunice in St. Landry Parish. As a teenager, Ardoin acquired an accordion and taught himself to play it. Illiterate, he also “wrote” songs that seemed to vary with every rendition.1 Poet Darrell Bourque states:

He never sang a song the same way twice. He’d change the lyrics. He made up the songs. It’s all in the oral tradition.1
He, chère catin, malheureuse,
Tu connais moi j't'aime avec tout mon coeur, malheureuse,
Tu devrais, mais, pas fair ce ça, mais, t'après faire, mais, malheureuse,
C'est pour ça, chèr 'tit monde, tu fais du mal à mon coeur.

Malheureuse, tu connais, chère 'tit fille, tu vas pleurer,
Pour ça tou t'es après faire, tu m'as dit, chère 'tit fille, mais criminelle,
Malheureuse, tu connais tu vas pleurer, mais, malheureuse.

This song is something the Cajuns call a 'valse à deux temps', or a 'two-step waltz', as it has two dotted quarter notes per measure for rhythm guitar.2  Sometimes referred to as a 'waltz in two beats', the pattern was made popular in France during the 1840s and involved the gentleman beginning with his left foot and the lady with her right, and together they'd take one step forward and then one step back.3 Joshua Caffery makes note of songs with this particular rhythm.
A 'valse à deux temps' originally referred to a dance step rather than a song type.  Although the notion of a "two-step waltz" seems counterintuitive, as waltzes and two-steps are generally considered two discrete, even opposite, steps, particularly in Louisiana and Texas, the 'valse à deux temps' is simply another style of dancing to a triple meter.5 
Amede Ardoin

According to Dr. Barry Ancelet, it was a style already familiar to Cajuns before Americans had migrated into the area.

From their Anglo-American neighbors, [Cajuns] learned jigs, hoedowns, and Virginia reels to enrich their growing repertoire which already included polkas and contredanses, varsoviennes and valses à deux temps.4 

Hey, dear little doll, oh my,

You know I love you with all my heart oh my,

You shouldn't, well, do what you're doing, well, on my,

That's why, dear little one, you hurt my heart.

Oh my, you know, dear little girl, you'll cry,

For what you're doing, you told me dear little girl, well, it's criminal,

Oh my, you know you'll cry, well, oh my.
Soon Ardoin was in great demand to play and sing—in a voice that has been described as haunting and unearthly—at house parties and little country honky-tonks. Ardoin reworked his "La Valse A Austin Ardoin" into this more well known song, "Taunt Aline".  It would later become Iry Lejeune's 1954 recording "Viens me Chercher" and the Balfa's 1974 recording "J'Sus Orphelin".

  2. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  4. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  5. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  7. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold
  8. Photo by Jeremy S
Release Info:
W111384-2 Taunt Aline Columbia 40514-F, OKeh 90014
W111385-2 Two Step De Mama Columbia 40514-F, OKeh 90014


Amadé Ardoin – Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 6 : Amadé Ardoin – The First Black Zydeco Recording Artist (1928–1938) (Old Timey)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994) 
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie)" - Cleoma Breaux

Much of recorded Cajun music had converted from accordion-led bands to Cajun string bands by 1935.   In fact, the Falcons were the last Cajun recording artists to still use the accordion in their sessions.   Almost all others had either converted over to the contemporary style or retired from recording all together.   Given their unique position and popularity, Cleoma and Joe not only adopted regional folk songs into their string band sound, but also covered popular radio tunes of the day. 

Peut-être c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimais,

C’est un péché de dire une menterie,

Une million de cœur qu’a été cassé,
Par la parole a été parlée,
"Ouais je t’aime, ouais que je t’aime
Tu connais que je t’aime",
Si tu casses mon cœur, ça va me tuer,
T’es sûr que c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimes?
C’est un péché de dire une menterie.

Peut-être c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimais,
C’est un péché de dire une menterie,
Une million de cœur qu’a été cassé,
Par la parole a été parlée,
"Ouais, je t’aime, tu connais que j't’aime, chère",
Si tu casses mon cœur, ça va me tuer,
T’es sûr que c’est vrai quand tu dis ouais tu m’aimes?
C’est un péché de dire une menterie.

Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon

"It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" is a popular 1936 Fats Waller song originally created by Billy Mayhew.2   Billy was featured on singer Kate Smith's popular Washington D.C. radio show where the tune was introduced to the world.1  Waller's rendition was produced early that year on records with many dance bands including Dick Robertson.2  By 1937, Cleoma, probably along with her brother Clifford, was covering Waller's "Lulu's Back In Town" and as well as this classic "C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie)" for Decca (#17028)

Maybe it's true when you say you loved me,

It is a sin to tell a lie,

One million hearts that have been broken,
By the words that were spoken,
"Yes, I love you, yes, I love you,
You know I love you",
If you break my heart, it will kill me,
Are you sure it's true when you say you love me?
It is a sin to tell a lie.

Maybe it's true when you say you loved me,
It is a sin to tell a lie,
One million hearts that have been broken,
By the words that were spoken,
"Yes, I love you, you know that I love you, dear",
If you break my heart, it will kill me,
Are you sure it's true when you say you love me?
It is a sin to tell a lie.

Daily Advertiser
Jun 7, 1937

A version by Somethin Smith and the Redheads reached #7 on Billboard's 1955 listings.1  Other artists who have recorded versions include Billie Holiday, The Ink Spots, and Tony Bennett.2  

  1. Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era By Don Tyler
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A

61910-A C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie) DE 17028 A
61906-A Prairie De Pin (Pine Prairie) DE 17028 B

Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Widows Of The Village" - Aldus Roger

Aldus Roger was one of the most influential Cajun performers during the era when the musical genre was little known outside of the French Triangle in southwest Louisiana. The leader and frontman of the Lafayette Playboys Rogers reached his largest audience, in the 1950s and '60s, as host of a Saturday afternoon show on Lafayette's KLFY Channel 10. The Lafayette Playboys, which Roger formed in the mid-'40s, featured many Cajun musicians who went on to influence the musical genre including Johnnie Allen, Rodney Miller, Fernice "Man" Abshire, Raymond Cormier, Belton Richard, and Doc Guidry.  According to Marc Savoy:
Before that, [Cajun music] was too segregated in small places, it was too isolated. It didn't really take off like it did until Roger got on television and presented it to the masses. That legitimized it for so many people - the fact that they saw it on television, 'It's ok to be Cajun, because look, it's on television.'2
Aldus Roger and the Lafayette Playboys
Tit Maurice in Bosco
(top) Aldus "Popeye" Broussard, Ellis Richard,
Aldus Roger, Paul Baque, unknown
(bottom) Claude Sonnier, Roy Morgan
Johnnie Allan Collection,
Center for Louisiana Studies,
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

C’est les veuves de la ville,

Ils sont partis chez ‘Tit Maurice,

Ils sont partis pour avoir un bon temps,

Moi, je connais c’est les belles,

C’est les veuves de la ville,
Ils ont nous joint, c’est là-bas, chez ‘tit Maurice.

Tous les soirs, ayou tu vas?
Il y a rien pour dur,
Tout je te demande, chère bébé, viens donc me rejoindre,
Tu m’as dit tu m’aimais,
Moi, je connais c’est pas vrai,
Je suis parti, c’est là-bas, chez ‘tit Maurice.
Crowley Daily Signal
Aug 3, 1950

It's possibly one of the only releases by record producer Eddie Shuler of Aldus before he began recording with J.D. Miller.  It's Roger's rendition of Happy Fats' classic "La Veuve De La Coulee" originally recorded in 1942.  However, the song gained moderate success with Happy's re-recording of it in 1946.  The band mostly likely had Aldus "Popeye" Broussard on fiddle and possibly Claude Sonnier steel guitar.  Aldus television spot garnered lots of local attention. According to music historian Pierre Daigle:
So far as music to dance by, there can be no better, but I find that he plays a cool music, and in my opinion it does not stir the heart. Yet, despite this, Roger had a devoted following among both dancers and musicians.1
Between 1953 and 1956, Aldus and Shuler recorded the tune as "Widows Of The Village" (#106) on the Bob Tanner's label "Tanner N Texas".  It was an ode to the women that frequented the dance hall famously known as the 'Tit Maurice, located near the community of Bosco.   It was owned by Ellis Richard who, like many dance-hall owners, had a betting horse racetrack in the back.  Happy recalls the place:
This old one, the dance floor was about 100 feet by 100 feet, so it was a pretty big dance floor. The bandstand was at one end with the bar at the other end.  They had chicken wire on the windows so they wouldn't come in, in some places they had chicken wire in front of the band.3

It's the widows of the village,

They are headed to the 'Tit Maurice,

They are headed to have a good time,

I know it's the beauties,

It's the widows of the village,
They have joined us, it's over there, at the 'Tit Maurice.

Every night, where do you go?
There's nothing that's too difficult,
All I ask of you, dear baby, is to come and join me,
You told me you loved me,
I know it's not true,
I left to go, it's over there, at the 'Tit Maurice. 

  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
TNT 106-1 Lifetime Waltz TNT 106
TNT 106-2 Widows Of The Village TNT 106

Sunday, January 7, 2018

"I've Got Your Heart Locked Up" - Abe Manuel

Abraham "Abe" Manuel provided some of the earliest fiddle playing recordings during the 1940s and 1950s.   Although never gaining the same popularity as Harry Choates, his imitation of the Cliff Bruner style carried him into the 1950s, allowing him to start his own band, the Louisiana Hillbillies.   By 1954, the group worked with J.D. Miller and his Feature label to record "I've Got Your Heart Locked Up" (#1086).

Ton petit cœur, il est barré dedans l’armoire,
Dans l’armoire de mon amour, mais, jolie fille,
Il y a pas longtemps, tu m’as promit de me soigner, 
Et m'aimer, mais, pour toujours, mais, jolie fille.

Ton petit cœur, il est barré dedans l’armoire,
Dans l’armoire de mon amour, mais, jolie fille,
Mais, moi, j'connais un jour avenir, t’auras du regret,
Pour ça t'as fait, mais, z-avec moi, il y a pas longtemps.

Lake Charles American Press
Jul 1, 1954

In the early 1940s, he played with Leo Soileau at the Avalon Club in Basile, follwed by playing with varios bands and country musicians during the 1940s, including Chuck Guillory, Carrol Broussard, Harry Choates, Ralph Richardson, Pee Wee Maples, and Ferrell Benny Fruge.  By the 1950s, he was playing alongside the Hackberry Ramblers at the Silver Star Club.  His 1954 lineup included  Jerome Stubbs or Dottie Vincent on guitar, Bradley Stutes or Dusty
Rhodes on steel guitar, Merton Thibodeaux on bass.

Your little heart, it's locked inside the closet,
In the closet of my heart, well, pretty girl,
Not long ago, you promised to look after me,
And love me, well, forever, well, pretty girl.

Your little heart, it's locked inside the closet,
In the closet of my heart, well, pretty girl,
Well, I know one day in the future, you'll regret this,
For what you've done, well, with me, not long ago.

Abe would go on to play with many country giants before settling in to play with his own family band later in life.  He periodically played on KWKH Shreveport "in the Louisiana Hayride days".1

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Jordy A


Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

"French Blues" - Nathan Abshire

While many remember Nathan Abshire after the war, helping create the resurgence of Cajun music, most are unaware his start began much earlier in the 1930s. By 1935, Abshire teamed up with guitarist Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc and his Rayne-Bo Ramblers, whose line-up was a fluctuating one and began to record with them, as an accordionist – vocalist on 4 songs.  

This New Orleans session was split between Fat’s Rayne-Bo Ramblers and the Hackberry Ramblers, giving, among others, "French Blues" (#2177).  An Abshire arrangement based on Amede Ardoin's "Les Blues De Crowley", the song would achieve classic status during the later years. An itinerant studio was set up by the technicians of Bluebird (whom misspelled his name "Nason Absher") in a time when the majors of the recording industry were showing an interest in ethnic music. 

Oh! tu m’a fait du mal tit monde


Tu pres ma quitté, j’vas tout temps aimé.

C’est malheurse de m'voir.

Avec deux mains j'pourrai pleurer.

Ah Haa!
Nathan Abshire

Abshire was especially taken with the spirited playing and singing of Creole accordionist/singer Amede Ardoin.  Ardoin’s influence was especially evident on Abshire’s first recording in 1935, "French Blues."  "French Blues" is a generic name Nathan gave to this lazy, swingy instrumental, with a few bluesy call-outs. While most won't recognize the song as traditional blues, it was what the Cajuns used to express the limited blue notes that the accordion could mimic. In this early version, you can hear Happy Fats and Simon "Warnest" Schexnyder on guitars and Norris Savoy on fiddle. It was a quasi-instrumental with Nathan interjecting different phrases throughout the song. According to author Ryan Brasseaux:
Like the Breaux family and Lawrence Walker, Nathan composed his blues numbers from the cross-cultural fodder that nourished Cajun music's evolutionary mechanisms.1

Little did he realize that his abilities would shine after the war when asked to bring the accordion back.  When the Pine Grove Boys needed an accordion player in the late 1940s, their memory of Nathan playing in these early years sealed their decision to invite him to join.  Nathan resurrected the tune he remembered and at the KPLC studio, Earl Demarcy and Nathan recorded his "French Blues" for George Khoury and Virgil Bozman's O.T. record label (#110).  The 1949 session would re-launch Abshire's music career. The group consisted of either Ernest Thibodeaux or Earl Demarcy on guitar, Atlas Fruge on steel, Jim Baker on bass, Oziet Kegley on drums, and either Will Kegley or Wilson Granger on fiddle.
Oh! you did me wrong, my little world.


You're leaving me, yet, i've always loved you.

It's so sad to see me.

I could cry with both hands.

Ah Haa!

Like his "Pine Grove Blues", he would re-record the tune a slew of times throughout the 60s and 70s.  The group recorded a live session at The Frontier Bar in Basile, Louisiana in 1966 with the Balfas backing him up.  By 1968, the crew entered the Swallow Studios in Ville Platte, Louisiana and re-recorded it again. By 1973, Carol Rachou grabbed a triangle and with Merlin Fontenot on fiddle, Rufus Thibodeaux on bass, Joe Thibodeaux on drums, and Bessyl Duhon on guitar, they re-recorded the tune once more, entitling it "Le Blues Francais" for Carol's La Louisianne Records label. 

French Blues - 1935

French Blues - 1949

  1. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M and Raymond Francois
Cajun Music - The Early 50s (Arhoolie, 1969)
Pioneers of the Cajun Accordion (Arhoolie, 1989)
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)