Monday, April 30, 2018

"La Valse Du Ballard" - Amede Ardoin

One of the greatest to ever record Cajun music was invited to a Decca session in New York in 1934.  (mistakenly listed as "New Orleans")  After almost drowning in a ferry accident on the way there, Amede Ardoin recorded a series of songs, by himself, including the song entitled "La Valse Du Ballard" for Decca (#17014).  Most likely, "Ballard" refers to Amede's close friend Douglas Bellard.  Bellard is even mentioned in his "Valse De La Pointe D'Eglise".

The recording contains somewhat of a mystery.  Given that his recording of "La Turtape De Saroied" mentions "c'est la valse de Bellard" and recording labels were notoriously known to make mistakes on Cajun listings, it's possible both of these songs were swapped during production.  
O, moi je m'en vas, moi je m'en vas moi tout seul,
O, je connais pas quand jamais,
Que moi je sera capable, donc, te voir. 

O, comment je vas faire,
O, comment je vas faire, moi je m'en vas.
O, c'est temps moi je m'en vas,
Pour coucher éou je vas aller?

Quoi je vas faire,
Moi, j'suis bien, mon tout seul, elle veut partir,
O, mes parents ça veut pas croire en ça je vas dire.

O, éoù je vas aller, moi, je m'en vas,
Tout seul à la maison, comment je vas faire?
Toi, oubliais tous les misères toi t'as fais,
A ton nèg, il y a déjà pas longtemps.
Douglas Bellard

The song had a distinct similarity to Angelas Lejeune's "La Valse de Pointe Noire".  However, most of Ardoin's tunes were considered originals, some written on the spot and in his dreams.  According to Milton Ardoin,
I remember that he said that at night, he would dream.  And he would take his accordion and play that dream, and then he was making a song with it.

Oh, I'm going, myself, I'm going all alone,

Oh, I don't know when ever,

I'll be able to see you.

Oh, how am I gonna make it?
Oh, how am I gonna make it, myself, I'm going.
Oh, it's time for me to go.
To sleep, where will I go?

What am I going to do?
Myself, I'm all right by myslef, she wants to leave,
Oh, my family doesn't want to believe what I say.

Oh, where am I going to go, myself, I'm going,
All alone to the house, how will I make it?
You had forgotten all the misery you caused,
I was your little boy, not long ago.

  1. The Kingdom of Zydeco By Michael Tisserand
Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Beginner's Guide to Cajun Music (Proper/Primo, 2008)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"Home Sweet Home" - Breaux Brothers

Another great cajun musician from the old days, Amedie Breaux, along with his brothers Ophy, Clifford, and his sister Cléoma were sons and daughter of a great accordion player, Auguste Breaux. Auguste was never recorded but his sons made many sides under the name "Breaux Frères" from 1929 through 1934. The Breauxs were one of those big Louisiana family where Cajun music was passed down from father to son and all the children learned to play at a very young age. Amedie was the one who took the accordion.  He learned the instrument quickly, started to play at house-parties at age 14 and became a great player like his father.1

Amedie Breaux

In the fall of 1934, the Breaux brothers traveled to San Antonio, Texas for a recording session for Vocalion where they cut several titles, including this version of "Home Sweet Home."   Clifford Breaux is listed as the lead vocalist, with his brothers credited as additional vocalists.  According to Anthology of American Folk Music author Harry Smith, he points out that this version of the popular song is performed in waltz time:

A well known popular song is here played in waltz time, a dance of much greater importance to the French speaking rural population. The freedom with which the melody is treated, particularly in incorporating long downward runs, is also very typical of Louisiana.

Moi, j'm’en vas de la maison, 

Moi tout seul comme un pauvre, 

Malheureux, mais, c’est toi, 
R’garde, c’est dur après tout ça, 
Oh, c’est dur d'quitter,
Hé mignonne, petite fille,
De m’en aller, hé, tout seul,
Oh malheureux, oh chère, chagrin.

Ah,moi, j'm’en vas de la maison.

Ça c'est dur de m'en aller d'la maison, moi tout seul, 
En tournant , en disant c'tte mignonne fille, "Chère petite fille,
Ça c'est dur, j'ai quitté, chère mignonne, 
Petite fille, m'en aller à la maison, hé, pour ça!"

Ta maman et ton papan étaient contre moi,
Et c’est toi, par rapport à les conseils.
The “Home Sweet Home” (#02961) played by the Breaux Brothers is a very “Cajun-ized” version of a very famous song written in 1823 by dramatist and actor John Howard Payne with a melody by English composer Sir Henry Bishop (the later claimed that it was originally a “sieilian air”, a traditional melody from Sicily). Composed for Payne’s opera “Clari, maid of Milan”, the song became very popular throughout America and even abroad (It is known in Japan as “Hanyū no Yado”). With its beautiful and simple melody and its nostalgic lyrics (“There’s no place like home…”) it was a favorite among soldiers from both sides during the Civil War and of Abraham Lincoln and his wife.French-Canadian Joseph Allard recorded a version in 1928, set as a reel entitled "Quadrille de chez nous (Our House/Home Quadrille)", and again in 1945, this time as "Reel de Tadoussac."4  Like the Breauxs, songs like this influenced other Cajun musicians such as Leo Soileau.  He stated: 
When I first started playing, I learned "Home Sweet Home" and "Dixieland" like nobody's business.  I used to play that in school.5 

I'm going home,
All alone like a poor person,
Oh my, well, it's because of you.
Look, it's hard after all that
Oh, it's hard to leave,
Hey cuitie, little girl,
I'm leaving, hey, all alone,
Oh my, oh dear, it's sorrowful.

It's hard to go home alone,
Turning around, saying to that cute girl, "Dear little girl,
All of that is hard, I am leaving, dear cutie,
Little girl, I'm going away to the house, hey, because of all that."

Your mom and your dad were against me,
With you, because of the advice given.

Cowboys and frontier people loved to sing the song too and even made their own versions. It was also a favorite among opera singers and many versions were put on records during the early years of the phonograph.  The song was heard as well in many rural homes and entered the folk repertoire, both as a song and as an instrumental piece. In the South, it became a favorite number to play on the 5-string banjo, and bluegrass players included it in their repertoire.1

The Breaux Frères were not the only Cajun band to record “Home Sweet Home”. Versions can be found by Creole players like Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin and the Carrière Brothers.

  3. Harry Smith.  Anthology of American Folk Music.  Liner notes.
  6. Lyrics by Jordy A
  7. NOTE:  Only a few Vocalion labels with the black lettering on a gold box design were ever issued.   This design only appears with a few issues and was short lived.  It is shown at the top.
Anthology Of American Folk Music Volume Two: Social Music (Folkways, 1967)
Pioneers of the Cajun Accordion (Arhoolie, 1989)
Cajun Vol. 1 Abbeville Breakdown 1929-1939 (Columbia, 1990)
Les Triomphes De La Country Music (Habana, 2002)
Shine on Me - Classic American Folk Songs and Anthems (Get Gone, 2014)

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Vingt Et Un Ans (Twenty One Years)" - Louisiana Rounders

Growing up, multi-talented musician and entertainer, Joe Werner, dazzled the local audiences in Crowley with his abilities to sing, whistle, play guitar, and the harmonica as a kid on stage.   Before long, his name as a local entertainer would reach neighboring cities. Throughout the 20s and 30s, he learned the popular tunes of the day and converted the lyrics to his native Cajun French language.  By 1936, Joe worked alongside the Hackberry Ramblers before forming a small group for his own recording session with Decca to record some popular American cover songs.  Still considered an amateur musician, he continued to perform in many talent contests, winning awards and garnering more fame. 
Rayne Tribune
May 8 1936

Le juge dit "Lève-toi debout garçon et sèche tes larmes,
T'es condamné a Nashville pour vingt et un ans",
Embrasse-moi bye-bye, chère, et dis tu seras pour moi,
Parce que vingt et un ans, chère, c'est bien longtemps.

Pas le loin du chemin d'fer, chère, aussi loin tu peux voir,
Et continue à m'faire bye-bye, chère, a "farewell" a moi,
Alors, embrasse-moi bye-bye, chère, et dis tu seras pour moi,
Parce que vingt et un ans, chère, c'est bien longtemps.

Daily Advertiser
Aug 18, 1938

Werner teamed up with Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez and Wayne Perry, who were both Crowley residents.   By the end of 1937, they were in Dallas, TX at the Adolphus Hotel for their first Decca session.  The trio covered a popular 1930 Bob Miller tune called "Vingt Et Un Ans (Twenty One Years)" (#17046) in a Cajun string band style.   Werner's harmonica mimic'd the accordion sound that had been so popular 10 years earlier.  
The judge said "Stand up boy and dry your tears,
You've been condemned to Nashville for twenty one years,"
Kiss me bye-bye, dear, and say you'll be mine,
Because twenty one years, dear, it's a very long time.

Not far from the railroad, dear, as far as you can see,
And continue waving bye-bye, dear, wishing farewell to me,
So, kiss me bye-bye, dear, and say you'll be mine,
Because twenty one years, dear, it's a very long time.
Bob Miller
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame

The original song writer, Bob Miller, was among the pioneering professional songwriters who specialized in what was then called hillbilly music. He worked for Irving Berlin Music, formed his own publishing company in 1933, and also worked as an A&R man and record producer for the Columbia and Okeh labels. His biggest early hit was the prison song "Twenty-One Years." During the Depression, this song was so popular and was sung by so many artists that Miller wrote a number of follow-up songs to it, including "Twenty-One Years, Part Two," "New Twenty-One Years," "Answer to Twenty-One Years," "Woman's Answer to Twenty-One Years," "After Twenty-One Years," "The End of Twenty-One Years" and "The Last of the Twenty-One Year Prisoner."1    

  2. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
L05 63075 Le Vieux Arbe De Pin (They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree) 17046 A Decca
L08 63078 Vingt Et Un Ans (Twenty One Years) 17046 B Decca

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All" - Lawrence Walker

Cajun accordion player Lawrence Walker grew up listening to the great players around south Louisiana.  Although he grew up in Orange, TX, he was born in Duson, LA and was bilingual enough to sing both French and English tunes throughout the 1920s and 1930s.   He played music with his siblings and eventually recorded with RCA in the 1930s before declining a recording career in 1936.   Walker wouldn't enter the studio again until 1950.

After the war, according to author Dr. Barry Ancelet,
Cajuns began to show signs of learning to better negotiate the American mainstream in a way that would allow them to preserve their own cultural identity.  Musicians were among the first to announce the change by returning to traditional sounds.1

Eh, ton papa et ta mama m'a jeté dehors,

M'a jeté dehors d'm'a maison, m'a maison que j'aime tout l'temps.

Eh, chère tit fille, mais, pour quoi donc, mais, tu m'fait ça?

Moi, j'connais j'mérite pas, mais, tout ça que t'es après faire.

Eh, malheureuse, moi, j'connais une jour à venir,
Tu vas revenir pour pardonner à ton vieux nègre, il y a pas longtemps.
Crowley Daily Signal, August 1949

They were able to do so in large part because record company officials were more interested in expanding markets than in regulating minority cultures.1  Walker resurrected his recording career in 1950 with a series of recordings in Lake Charles with George Khoury.  There, with the help of vocalist Mitch David, they covered the classic 1928 tune: Leo Soileau and Mayuse Lafleur's "Your Father Put Me Out".  The phrase shown here "sta da all" in Khoury's title "Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All" (#607) is the corrupted spelling of "jeté dehors".

His work on KPLC radio station in Lake Charles with what got Khoury's attention. According to Shelton Manuel:
We'd do the broadcast at the same time that we had a dance in the vicinity. The broadcast was on the route to the dance.2  

Hey, your dad and your mom tossed me out,
Tossed me out of my house, my house which I've always loved.

Hey, dear little girl, well, so why, well, have you done that to me?
I know I don't deserve this, well, all that you've done.

Hey, oh my, I know one day in the future,
You will return for forgiveness from your old man, over there not long ago.

  1. Southern Music/American Music By Bill C. Malone
  2. "Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader" by Ron Brown, Ryan A. Brasseaux, and Kevin S. Fontenot
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephane F
Release Info:
A Tu Le Du Po La Mam 607-A Khoury's 
B Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All 607-B Khoury's

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Drunkard Waltz" - Jimmy Durbin

Chuck Guillory's band was a very successful Cajun string group in the early 1950s.  Having a slew of musicians in his band, many went off to create their own solo careers, with Jimmy Newman becoming the most successful.   At some point, in 1949, Jimmy decided to leave the group, possibly due to Chuck's drinking but also because of his passion to have his own recording career.   Either way, Newman gathered some of Chuck's members in recording one of his earliest vocal performances, the "Drunkard's Waltz" (#1008).

The band was most of Chuck Guillory's backup band with Jimmy Newman on vocals and guitar, Shelton Manuel on fiddle, Francis "Red" Fabacher on steel, possibly Howard Thibodeaux on bass, Curzey "Pork Chop" Roy on drums, and Farrel "Benny" Fruge on piano.   The band recorded the session at Benny's Fruge Piano House in Eunice about 1949 after Miller decided to try out his new tape recorder for a remote session.  Author and producer of the Acadian All-Star box set, Lyle Ferbrache explains:  
The name could be a combination of Newman's first name and the amp he might have been using at the time, which was a Durbin brand.1

Eh, malheureuse, toi t'après m'quitté,

Eh, chère 'tit monde, quoi tu vas brailler?

Quoi tu m'a dis, tu voulais plus m'aimer,

Eh, malheureuse, mon j'suis parti m'soûler.  

Eh, jolie monde, toi jolie coeur,
Eh, malheurse, toi te m'fais du mal.
Quoi tu m'a dis, tu voulais plus m'aimer?
Eh, malheureuse, mon j'suis parti m'soûler.

Herman Durbin, Jimmy Newman,
Murphy "Chuck" Guillory

Another theory could be that Chuck's former piano player, Herman Durbin, could have influenced the name.  Maybe it was a combination of Jimmy Newman and Herman together?   Maybe Durbin is actually on the recording and was nicknamed "Jimmy"?  The source remains unknown.   It's most likely Miller's attempt to label the group as "Jimmy & Durbin". 

Hey, it's terrible, you have left me,

Hey, dear little everything, why are you crying?

Why didn't you say, you didn't love me anymore,

Hey, it's terrible, I left to get drunk.

Hey, pretty everything, you pretty sweetheart,
Hey, it's terrible, you made me sad,
Why didn't you say, you didn't love me anymore,
Hey, it's terrible, I left to get drunk.

Not to be confused with the Balfa's "Drunkard's Waltz" or Louis Cormier's "Drunkards Blues", it would find it's way into Belton Richard's version of "Drunkard's Waltz" around 1967.

  1. Discussions with Lyle F
  2. Lyrics by Jerry M and Jesse L
Release Info:

-A Drunkard Waltz F1008-A Fais Do Do

-B Fais Do Do Two Step F1008-B Fais Do Do

Jimmy C NEWMAN - The Original Cry, Cry, Darling (Jasmine, 2009)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Redell Breakdown" - J.B. Fuselier

During the 1930s, a tenor banjo player named Beethoven Miller created the band called Miller's Merrymakers and they recorded in New Orleans. After Beethoven left the group, a Cajun fiddle player named Jean Baptiste Fuselier took over as bandleader and changed it's name to J.B. and the Merrymakers.

Live radio broadcasts propelled Fuselier's huge success. His early band, including Miller on drums, Preston Manuel on guitar and Atlas Fruge on steel, would work live radio shows during the day and then play dances at night.1  

The song "Redell Breakdown" was an ode to the small Louisiana town of Redell located north of Mamou.  It familiar similarities with Joe Falcon's "Au Revoir Cherie".  Melodies such as this one would go on to influence Iry Lejeune's "Evangeline Special" in 1947.   After WWII, the band was composed of J.B. on accordion, Manuel on guitar, Norris "T-Boy" Courville on drums, and Elius Soileau on fiddle.1

Quitter toujour, tit fille chere, avec ton neg, aujourd'hui.
Tit monde, m'en aller toujour, jamais te 'joindre, me t'veux encore.

(You're) leaving forever, dear little girl, with your old man, today.
Little everything, I'm leaving forever, never returning to you, yet still want you.

In Sam Tarleton's interview, J.B. states:

When we'd go to New Orleans to make some records, part of the road was gravel, part of the road was dirt.  The last time I went to make records in New Orleans, I had a Model A.  We went in a a Model A; four of us.

  1. The Encyclopedia of Country Music.  Ann Savoy

Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown (Arhoolie, 1997)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"La Valse Da Courage" - Elise Deshotel

During World War II, a 16-year-old Dewey Balfa left home to work in a Texas shipyard followed by a stint in the Merchant Marines. He maintained his chops with Texas swing, containing a heavy swing influence, and maybe it was here, being away from home where he felt the missing connection with his cultural music. In 1948, he returned to Louisiana and formed the Musical Brothers, a popular string dance band, with brothers Harry, Will and Rodney. By then Dewey had blossomed into a virtuoso with his accurate, flowing style and was often requested to gig with other musicians.1 

Ton papa et ta maman m’a toujours dit, chère,

Pas te quitte, ouais, notre amour d'être gouverné,

Quoi faire donc, ‘tit monde, t’après faire ça, chère, 

Tu connais je mérite pas tous ces misères.

Quoi faire donc, ‘tit monde, toi, tu fais ça, chère,

T’après m'quitter, mon tout seul dans les misères,

Tu connais, ‘tite fille, avant longtemps, chère, 

Tu voudras t’en revenir, découragé.

Atlas Fruge, Will Kegley, Nathan Abshire, 
Cleveland "Cat" Deshotel, Elise Deshotel

During this early period, Dewey met musician Elise Deshotel.   Elise Deshotel and fellow accordion player, Maurice Barzas, teamed up with the young fiddle player named Dewey Balfa in a makeshift recording studio in Opelousas.   One the Dewey's earliest releases with Elise Deshotel, "La Valse De Courage", (#619), recorded in 1951 was Dewey's take on the well-known 1928 Joe and Cleoma Falcon tune "Waltz That Carried Me To My Grave".  The tune manifests itself in other original forms such as Bixy Guidry's "La Valse Du Bayou" and the Breaux Brothers "La Valse des Pins".  It has a melody that seems to borrow from Nathan's "La Valse de Bayou Teche" but steers itself in a slightly different direction.  Meant to be "La Valse Découragée", it tells of a love interest who has left, leaving the lover discouraged.  The recording had Dewey's brother Rodney Balfa on guitar, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, and Ester Deshotel on drums.  In 1953, Iry borrowed Cleoma's tune for his better known "La Valse de Grand Chemin".

Your dad and your mom always told me, dear,

Don't you let, yeah, our love be controlled,

Why did you do, my little everything, all that you've done, dear,

You know I do not deserve all of this misery.

Why did you do, my little everything, what you have done, dear,

You have left me, all alone in misery,

You know, little girl, before long, dear,

You'll want to come back, discouraged

In the ’50s, Dewey’s notoriety was reaching new heights. Around the same time, he began his lifetime association with Nathan Abshire, the jovial, soulful accordionist who rightfully has his own place in the annals of Cajun music. But just as music was making a come back, the Balfas considered it be a celebratory past-time, not taken seriously as a profession. In order to support a growing family, at various times Dewey worked as a farmer, an insurance salesman, a school bus driver, a disc jockey and a furniture store owner.1  It wouldn't be until the 1960s when Dewey would try to revitalize his recording career with Floyd Soileau. 

  2. Discussions with Lyle F.
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
A Two Step de Avalon KH-619-A Khoury's
B La Valse de Courage KH-619-B Khoury's

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)