Friday, June 29, 2018

"'T' Mamou" - Lawrence Fruge

Ernest Fruge was one of the most iconic Cajun fiddle players of the 1920s.  He and his close neighbor, Angelas Lejeune, recorded popular regional favorites for Brunswick records in 1929 and 1930.  However, Ernest's brother Lawrence not only played the fiddle skillfully but became one of the areas most talented accordion players.1   

T’en aller aussi loin,

Joli ‘tit monde, à ‘tit Mamou,
Rappelles-toi les paroles, ‘tit monde, 
Mais, ça m'fait du mal.

Oui bébé, tu connais,
Pour toi-même, toutes les paroles,
Tu connais que ça tu fais*, 
Joli ‘tit monde, ça me fait du mal.

Moi, je connais, joli ‘tit monde, 
Toutes les paroles je pouvais pas dire, 
Ça t’as fait, mais, à ton nègre, 
Joli ‘tit cœur, ça me fait du mal.

Lawrence Fruge
Courtesy of Cajun Dancehall Heyday

Around 1950 Lawrence formed the Tee Mamou Playboys, a band basically composed of his own family: Eula Mae Fruge on steel guitar, Luderin Fruge on drums, Joseph (J. U.) Fruge on guitar, and his son, Lawrence "Blackie" Jr., on fiddle. While playing as the Tee Mamou Playboys, they recorded "Country Boy Waltz" and "'T' Mamou" on the TNT label (#104). Although they were playing as the Tee Mamou Playboys the record label reads Lawrence Fruge & the Country Boys.1    Quite possibly a recording done at KPLC in Lake Charles by Eddie Shuler, he was known to outsource some of his recordings to Bob Tanner in San Antonio.  Better known as "Tit Mamou", it was a similar tune to Lee Sonnier's "Cankton Two Step". 

You have gone so far away,
Pretty little everything, to little Mamou,
Remember your words and what you have done,
Well, it hurts me so.

Yeh, baby, you know,
Yourself, all the words,
You know what you have done,
Pretty little everything, it hurts me so.

I know, pretty little everything,
All the words, I can't dare say,
What you've done, well, to your man,
Pretty little sweetheart, it hurts me so.

Lawrence taught four of his five children the instruments of Cajun music and they remained around the Jeff Davis Parish area, working and playing music throughout their life.1  

  1. "Cajun Dancehall Heyday" by Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Jordy A
  3. Photo by Ron Yule
Release Info:
TNT-104 Country Boy Waltz | TNT 104 (1)
TNT-104 Te Mamou | TNT 104 (2)

Monday, June 25, 2018

"Madame Saustin" - Sandy Austin

When Cajun music was brought back to life after WWII, the old classics served as perfect catalysts for emerging artists.  For example, several of Joe Falcon recordings were copied by musical performers after the war.   One of his early tunes "La Valse de Madame Sosten" ended up being covered by dance hall Cajun musicians such as Lawrence Walker and string band Cajun musicians such as Sandy Austin and his Kajans.

Oh, Madame Sosthène, mais, donnez-moi Alida,

La seule moi j'aime tant, mais, depuis l'âge de quatorze ans,

Quand même tu ne veux pas, faudra toujours toi tu viens,

Mon toujours été ton vieux nègre, à pas longtemps, pour ça t'as fais.

Corpus Christi Times
Jun 15, 1951

"Sandy Austin" was actually Abe Manuel Sr., a stage name he started using in 1950.  After he and his brother Joe stopped playing with Harry Choates, they would travel to places around east Texas billed as "Sandy Austin and His Kajans" or "Sandy Austin and His Texans" at places like "The Riviera" club in Corpus Christi.  Meanwhile, his brother could be found across town, billed as "Joe Austin: The Fiddlin' Frenchman and All the Cajuns".  Steel guitarist Carrol Broussard, who played with Manuel during much of this period, recalls:
He used the name Sandy Austin while he was in Corpus Christi.  When his brother Joe joined him, they went under the names Sandy and Joe Austin.  When they left the area they didn't use the name anymore.... No one ever said why they called themselves that.1  

Carrol Broussard, Curly "Pee Wee" Maples, Abe Manuel,
George Duhon, Joe Manuel, Benny Fruge
Corpus Christi, Tx,
Dec 1950

However, years later, western swing researcher, Andrew Brown, tracked down Abe and found out the truth:
There were five Abe Manuels in Lake Charles.  And man, I was getting everybody's bills.  My credit wasn't all that good, but it wasn't that bad, either.  I just said, "Look, I've got to get off of the name Abe Manuel.  Call me something else."   And somebody jumped up and said "Sandy Austin".  I don't know how in the hell they wound up with "Sandy Austin".2   

Oh, Mrs. Sostene, well, give me Alida,

The only one I like so much, well, since the age of 14,

Even though you do not want me to, I'll come visit,

I'll always be your old man, it wasn't long ago, that you've done this.
Recorded at the Corpus Christi Radio KWBU Studio during their long-term booking at a club in the area, O.T. Records co-producers, Virgil Bozeman and Bob Tanner, had already worked with Choates in San Antonio and had scheduled this early 1951 session with Abe's band to record "Madame Saustin" (#113).2  Abe's had his brother Joe on guitar and Lake Charles natives, George Duhon and Crawford Vincent, on bass and drums.  Tanner and Bozeman had Abe backed up by the "king of the steel willie", Skillet Garner, on steel guitar.   

By 1951, he was performing with Adolph Hofner and his Pearl Wrangles in central Texas and later, traveled the country with Lefty Frizzell before returning to Lake Charles in late 1953.2  By the mid 1950s, he had formed the Louisiana Hillbillies.

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  2. Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Vol. 2. Liner notes.

Release Info:
OT 5 (113A) Scrambled Eggs | O.T. A-113
OT 6 (113B) Madame Saustain | O.T. B-113

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"Fille De La Ville" - Vin Bruce

Ervin "Vin" Bruce was a South Louisiana treasure of unparalleled significance. His signing to Columbia Records in the early fifties was positively historical in more ways than one. The first Cajun artist to be marketed to the widespread record buying public by a major record company, his first 1952 single, "Dans La Louisianne", backed with, "Fille De La Ville", was sung purely in French, but, like Harry Choates' "Jole Blon" before it, that didn't keep it from becoming a country music sensation.1 

Après chercher pour cette fille, cette fille de village,
Après chercher pour cette fille qu'aurais pas du s'en aller,
Après chercher pour cette fille, cette fille de village.

Quand tu m'vois après pleurer chere,
Après pleurer pour cette fille qui s'en a été hier,
Elle est la plus belle femme dans l'village,
Mais, j'connais j'va la r'voir une journée.
Vin Bruce
by Jack Vartoogian

Hailing from Bayou Lafourche, below New Orleans, Vin and his peers Leroy Martin, Gene Rodrigue and Dudley Bernard developed their own stripe of Cajun music; an accordion-less string band style that was as much hillbilly as it was French. Vin, along with Tommy Jackson on fiddle, Owen Bradley on piano, Bob Foster on steel guitar, Grady Martin on mandolin, and possibly Ernie Newton on bass, recorded "Fille De La Ville"(#20923) in Nashville in 1952.  Vin's Columbia sides brought that sound to the jukeboxes, airwaves and the Grand Ole Opry. Hank Williams was so endeared to Bruce's music that he invited him to play his public wedding ceremony at New Orleans' Municipal Auditorium.1  

Searching for this girl, this girl of the village,
Searching for this girl, that shouldn't have left,
Searching for this girl, this girl of the village.

When you see me crying dear,
Crying for this girl who was here yesterday,
She is the most beautiful woman in the village,
Well, I know I'll see her again one day.

Vin would continue to record with labels such as Swallow and perform throughout Louisiana. 

  1. Vin Bruce - Dans La Louisianne BCD 16895 AH.  Liner notes.

Release Info:
CO 47686 Fille de la ville | Columbia 20923

CO 47687 Dans la Louisianne | Columbia 20923

Vin Bruce: King of Cajun Music: Dans la Louisianne (Bear Family, 2011)
Vin Bruce: Vintage Cajun Classics of the 1950's (Vintage Masters, 2012)

Friday, June 15, 2018

"Poche Town" - Joe Falcon

Joe Falcon, dubbed “The Accordion King,” helped push the instrument to the peak of its prewar popularity. Although button accordions were available in Louisiana as early as the 1880s, the instrument wasn’t popular until 1925, when the Monarch and Sterling boxes arrived on the scene. Set in C and D, they could be played alongside the open-tuned Cajun fiddle and, with their prodigious volume, they quickly came to dominate the dance music of the fais do do.1    

Oh, promets-moi, joli cœur,

Tu vas jamais m’oublier comme t'as pris, oui, ton cœur,

Tu m'as pris de la maison, jolie fille,
En promettant de me soigner, garde-donc ça tu fais, chère

Oh, observe-moi bien, joli cœur,
Tu vas avoir, ouais, pitié, moi tout seul dans la misère,
Tu m'as pris de la maison, jolie fille,
Tes bons parents qui m'a fait donc quitter de la maison.

Oh, j'ai p'us d'espoir, chère,
J'ai d'espoir t'en aller en virant le dos pour la vie,
Tu m'as dit, chère, tu voulais la promesse,
De bien te soigner tous les deux, bonne ‘tite fille, jusqu'à la mort.

Many of Joe's tunes had no titles by the time he entered the studio.  Executives persuaded him to make up names on the spot, either after family or towns he was familiar with.   Entitled "Poche Town" (#40506) in 1929, it was an old Cajun melody. Today, the area referred to as Poche Town (pronounced "poh-shay") is a rural section, north of the railroad tracks in Sulphur, Louisiana.  The area is named after George Simeon Portie, Sr.son of Oscar and Corrina Elender Portie, who moved here in 1902 from Hackberry, Louisiana.2

Adolph "Bixy" Guidry in 1929 did the same with his tune "Waltz Of The Long Wood" with Percy Babineaux for Bluebird Records.  Several of Joe's songs influenced Leo Soileau, including this one entitled "Promise Me".  The song also has some similarities to the Chuck Guillory's "Tolan Waltz", "La Valse De Grand Bois", Shirley Bergeron's "La Valse De La Belle", Blackie Forestier's "Crying Waltz" and The Veteran Playboys' "La Valse De La Belle".  

Oh, promise me, pretty sweetheart,

You will never forget me when you took, yes, your heart (away),
You took me away from home, pretty girl,
Promising to take care of me, so look what you've done, dear.

Oh, pay attention well, pretty sweetheart,
You'll have, yeah, pity, I'm all alone in misery,
You took me away from home, pretty girl, 
Your good parents who made me leave home. 

Oh, I'm hoping, dear,
I have hoped you'll go turn back forever,
You told me, dear, you wanted the promise,
Of taking good care of both of us, good girl, until you die.

The accordion-fiddle combination reigned at dances and on phonograph records until about 1935, when the slicker sounds of the hillbilly string bands and, soon, Western swing came rushing into the French-speaking parishes.   

  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A

Release Info:
W110552-2 Poche Town | Columbia 40506-F Okeh 90006
W110553-2 Osson | Columbia 40506-F Okeh 90006

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 1: First Recordings - The 1920's (Old Timey, 1970)
Cajun, Vol. 1: Abbeville Breakdown 1929-1939 (Sony/Columbia, 1990)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Baby, How Can It Be? (Songs of Love, Lust and Contempt from the 1920s and ‘30s) (Dust To Digital, 2010)
The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection (Sony, 2015)

Monday, June 11, 2018

"One Step A Cain" - Angelas Lejeune

Angelas LeJeune, who was great-uncle of Iry LeJeune from the Point Noire area near Church Point and known to the community as Nonc Jack, won an accordion contest in Opelousas in 1929. First prize was a trip to New Orleans to record with legendary fiddlers Denus McGee and Ernest Fruge.  While there, he recorded a fast-paced instrumental that would later become the well-known "Crowley Two Step" made popular by Aldus Roger.

The Brunswick/Vocalion session in New Orleans that fall was an iconic one, featuring some of the most influential of early Cajun artists such as Moise Robin, Ernest Fruge, Douglas Bellard, Leo Soileau and Dennis McGee.  Many of them would later play dances with each other.

Angelas Lejeune

Dennis joined Angelas and others after sharecropping for years:
When I stopped playing music, I stayed a long time without playing again.  I don't know why, I was just tired of all that.  I didn't enjoy playing any more.  I worked in the fields. I couldn't work hard in the fields all day and play all night.  Then, I decided that I was tired of that and I started playing the fiddle again.  That's when I started playing with Amede Ardoin and Angelas Lejeune and Ernest Fruge.1  

One of those plantations that many people farmed on in St. Landry parish was the Isaiah Cain plantation.  "One Step A Cain" (#530) may have been an ode to this prominent area farmer and land owner. 

In 1934, Amede Breaux re-titled the song as "Le One Step A Martin", adding a handful of lyrics to the tune.  Angelas' song would live on, reinvented around 1962 by Aldus Roger.   Not to be confused with the Doc Guidry recording of the same title, the "Crowley Two Step" would become the staple of Aldus' TV performances on KLFY, often heard as the first song during the show's opening.

  1. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
Release Info:
NO-6715 One Step A Cain | Brunswick 530
NO-6716 La Valse Du Texas | Brunswick 530

Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins, 2013)

Monday, June 4, 2018

"Rayne Breakdown" - Happy Fats

The early years of Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc's career can be summed up by his first music teacher, Eva McBride of Rayne, Louisiana. Eva brought her musical talents with her to Rayne when she married Walter J. McBride, and was at McBride's Pharmacy to "encourage the arts" at every opportunity.   At the left, far corner was an array of musical instruments from which families in Rayne purchased everything from clarinets and flutes to the smaller horns. She believed a family didn't just buy an instrument for a youngster, Eva was there to give "first lesson" on any instrument in the store.1

But the one instrument that had "intrigued" young soda-jerk and shoeshine boy, Happy Fats, was this guitar, which McBride always "strummed" at her every visit to the store. Happy would build up his courage one day to ask if "Miss Eva" might teach him " a chord or two" on the guitar.   After he paid for the guitar with a sack of rough rice given to him by his mother, who worked a the local mill, it began Happy Fats' musical career.1
Eric Arceneaux, Louis Arceneaux, Happy Fats
1936 Blue Goose Dancehall2

By 1935, he formed his group and kicked off his string-band recording career with "Rayne Breakdown" in New Orleans for Bluebird Records.  It was an old traditional melody made famous by Angelas Lejuene known as "Perrodin Two Step".  His group had Warnes Schexnayder on guitar and Norris Savoy on fiddle.  Happy played his guitar on street corners up and down Adams Avenue, formed his Rayne-Bo Ramblers, performed at the Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry.   He published music in both English and French and associated with the likes of Tex Ritter, Hank Williams, and Louisiana's Jimmie Davis.1  

  1. Plan Of Rayne by Sidney Stutes.  Rayne Tribune. 2014.
  2. Rayne's People and Places By Tony Olinger
Release Info:
BS-94404-1 Rayne Breakdown | Bluebird B-2176-A
BS-94405-1 Dor, Baby, Dor | Bluebird B-2176-B

Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)