Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Jole Brun" - Clopha "Shuk" Richard & Marie Falcon

"Jole Blon" made it's national debut in 1946 with the honky-tonk recording by Harry Choates for Gold Star records.   He used the slow Amedie Breaux recording but sped it up with a full band sound and changed the key.   For the next several years, musicians began covering the tune, even re-titling the tune and changing the lyrics to appeal to an ever increasing Cajun music audience.  George Khoury's attempt at recording the tune in 1952 as "Jole Brun" (#621) with Marie Solange Falcon and Shuk Richard's band didn't make a lasting impression.

Mais, Jolie brun, 'gardez-donc, quoi t'as fait,

T’as abandonné ton pauvre vieux nègre, pour t'en aller, 
Pour t'en aller, chérie, aussi loin de moi,
Comment tu crois, moi, je vas faire, moi, tout seul?

Mais, jolie brune, tu croyais qu’il y avait juste toi,
Il y avait juste toi dedans le pays pour moi à aimer,
Il y a pas juste toi dans le pays pour aimer,
Mais, il y a juste toi mon cœur peut désirer.
Louisiana Aces, KLOU, 1947
Eddie Duhon, Jay Dartez,

Clopha "Shugg" Richard on accordion,
Marie Solange Falcon on guitar,
Jack Brock (MC)

Marie Solange Falcon, a vocalist and guitarist, was living with her husband and two children near the Richards in Lake Charles in the early 1940s. It was at this time they met, and it is believed he formed the Louisiana Aces with various local musicians. In 1947 the group included Shuk, Marie, Louis Arceneaux on fiddle, and Earl Demary on guitar, and by 1948, Eddie Duhon was added on fiddle and Jay Dartez on steel guitar. They were known to play on Lake Charles radio station KLOU.  After Crawford Vincent and Will Kegley joined the group, they recorded  "Jole Brun" (pretty brunette) in 1952.  The Jolly Boys of Lafayette featuring the Fabacher brothers were the first to use this alternate title in 1937 with their version called "Jolie (Brunette)".  Even Harry Choates himself  tried to capitalize on the popular melody by also releasing his own song entitled "Jole Brun" that same year.  

Well, pretty brunette, so look at what you've done,

You have abandoned your poor old man, you went away,
You went away, dearie, so far from me,
How do you think I will do this all by myself?

Well, pretty brunette, you thought there was just you,
That there was just you in the country for me to love,
There isn't just you in the country to love,
Well, there is just you that my heart desires.

  1. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
A Le Cote Farouche De La Vic | Khoury's KH-621-A
B Jole Brun | Khoury's KH-621-B

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)

Friday, July 27, 2018

"Merrymaker's Hop" - Miller's Merrymakers

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. He included guitarist Preston Manuel.

Fuselier began playing the fiddle when he was five. He claimed that when he started violin, he was too small to pick it up to play. He had to lie on the bed.  His cousin suggested that they sit him in a chair so he could hold the fiddle.  His fingers were so short at the time, he learned to play with only three finders and never learned to use his fourth finger during his career.  He recalls:
All that money I made, I made it with three fingers. I played my first dance for fifty cents.  The violin by myself.  A country dance in a house.  I was so hot.  The sweat was pouring in my shoes.  I was not quite ten years old.  That's the first time I got money to play.1   
J.B. Fuselier (fiddle)

Eh, chère, tu m'as quitté, bébé,

Oh, s'en aller avec un autre,
Comment j'vas faire, moi tout seul, à ma maison, jolie monde.

Eh, cher joli 'tit monde, catin,
Moi, je m'en vas chez moi, tout seul, jolie.
His first recording at this very first session in 1936 was ""Merrymaker's Hop" for Bluebird (#B-2004).  It's a slower version of Leo Soileau's "Le Blues De Port Arthur" with a different twist during the song's bridge.  His most covered tune is one about his daughter Myrtle named "Chere Tout Tout", recorded in 1937. However, their signature tune would be recorded in 1938 entitled "Ma Cher Bassett" in New Orleans for Bluebird.

Hey, dear, you have left me, baby,

Oh, going away with another,
How will I handle this, I'm all alone, at my house, my pretty everything.

Hey, dear pretty little everything, pretty doll,
I'm going home, all alone, pretty girl.

  1. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A
Release Info:
BS-02674-1 Merrymakers' Hop | Bluebird B-2004-A
BS-02677-1 Lake Arthur Waltz | Bluebird B-2004-B

CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Monday, July 23, 2018

"Fais-Do-Do Breakdown" - Happy, Doc and the Boys

The earliest independent recording producer of Cajun music was Joseph Denton "J.D." Miller.  Miller had acquired a large building for his electrical repair business he started alongside his father-in-law, Lee Sonnier.   In the back, he used the extra space to sell records and music gear.   After traveling to Houston to purchase a tape recorder, he felt confident enough to use it record local Cajun musicians, although mostly unsure of his technique:
I think I was helped by my electrical background. It wasn't technical as far as audio, but I had a sense of something. I didn't go by the book because I went by these two things: my ears.  I've had so many compliments about the sound I got. People asked me how I did it and I said "I really don't know".3

J.D. Miller

However, Miller felt confident enough to record Happy Fats and his group and have the recordings sent to California for pressing.  "Fais Do Do Breakdown" (#1004) was allegedly recorded at their second Miller session in Miller's own studio, sometime around October of 1946.  As J.D. pointed out:
"Fais Do Do Breakdown" was a name we gave it after it was recorded.  Many Cajuns don't really have a name or, should I say, they have different names.  They were generally known as French waltzes or French two steps.  Of course there were some exceptions.  However, most of the names of songs recorded by me were named by me after being given the lyric story of the song.1
Happy Fats, Al Terry, Dudley Leblanc
Doc Guidry

Miller must not have realized much of Doc's melody was borrowed from the Breaux Brother's 1929 recording of "Vas Y Carrement".  Regardless, it's an impressive display of Oran "Doc" Guidry's swing fiddle style he brought into Cajun music. As the fifties drew near, the Happy Fats and Doc Guidry radio shows were required listening throughout Acadiana.2 Both Happy Fats and Doc Guidry would push Cajun music into the local and rural areas using all the means necessary.  According to J.D. Miller:
Happy Fats, through his radio and television programs and his personal appearances, has done more for Cajun and South Louisiana music and musicians than anyone I've ever known and cannot praise him too highly for what he has done.1

  1. Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's.  Liner notes.
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  3. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
Release Info:
-A Fais Do Do Breakdown | FDD F1004-A
-B Chere Cherie | FDD F1004-B


Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's (Flyright, 1986)

Friday, July 13, 2018

"Osson Two Step" - Lawrence Walker

In 1956, Cajun music was headed into a slump.   The most exciting accordion player of the time, Iry Lejeune, was gone and so was the the most influential Cajun swing player, Harry Choates.  Other Cajun artists like Nathan Abshire and Lawrence Walker kept the Cajun dancehall fire going but records sales weren't keeping up.   Record man Floyd Soileau saw an opportunity.   So in 1956, Soileau borrowed $500 from his parents to open Floyd’s Record Shop, a one-room, second-story office on the same floor as KVPI. 

After spending $50 for a phonograph and $300 for records, Soileau went to work selling the hits he played on the air as a deejay. Locals were soon standing in line after they heard the deejay in Ville Platte was selling records during his breaks. But when Soileau slapped a Christmas tape on the air during one of his breaks in July, the station manager told Soileau to make a decision–spin records or sell them. Soileau picked the recording and sales route, a decision that opened the doors of fate. Word spread that there was a record company in the most unlikely of places: Ville Platte.1 He stated:
And then word got out that somebody in Ville Platte was releasing French records again.   I say again because most--in fact, I think everybody, had stopped, they weren't selling enough French records.  Country music had come through and sorta swept around here and there was nobody interested in doing Cajun records anymore.  So we put that first record out. It sent the message that there was somebody releasing that kind of music again.2  
Jennings Daily News
Jul 2, 1959

Several local artists began to ask Soileau to release their work. His first label, Big Mamou, was quickly followed up by his next label, VEE PEE.   Lawrence Walker had just left Khoury's in Lake Charles, mainly since Khoury was then moving into the R&B and rock market.   Among these were Lawrence Walker and Aldus Roger.  The two musicians had some of the biggest crowds and often competed for opportunities, even recording many of the same tunes.  In 1957, Walker offered to sell Soileau four taped songs.   Soileau bought two for 60 dollars and optioned the others for 40.2  

One of those songs become what he referred to as the "Osson Two Step" (#102), not to be confused with Joe Falcon's "Osson One Step".   His recording was a change on what Aldus called the "Crowley Two Step", a variation of the Breaux Brother's "Le One Step a Martin". Lawrence had Uray Jules "U.J" Meaux on fiddle, Al Foreman on guitar, Bheul Hoffpauir on drums, and an upcoming young steel guitarist that would lead his own band for years to come, Johnnie Allen.    Osson was a community between Carencro and Lafayette that people like Lawrence and Aldus played in.  Aldus remembers playing in the town:
There were only two dance halls between Lafayette and Carencro, located between Vatican and Osson.  The entrance fee was ten cents to dance, but for a wedding dance, it was fifteen cents.  There were more people and the owner had to pay the wedding couple to celebrate at his place. Yes, he paid the wedding couple ten or fifteen dollars. It was in the country and, if it was too far for them to go on foot, there was a school bus or a truck that'd pass and pick up the people for five or ten cents a head.3  

Lawrence Walker, Aldus Roger and Adam Hebert, all soon-to-be Cajun music legends, beat a path to Soileau’s door to put their creations on vinyl. After releasing his earlier recordings on the Big Mamou and VEE PEE labels, Soileau decided on “Swallow” for his French records, a spin-off on the pronunciation on his last name. It's on this label he re-issued Walker's tune, changing the title to "Opelousas Two Step".  In order to score points with his soon-to-be wife Jinver Ortego, Soileau named a new label for her–Jin.1

  1. http://www.offbeat.com/articles/lifetime-achievement-award-floyd-soileau/
  2. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/miller_and_soileau.html#N_3_
  3. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois

Release Info:
VP-102-A Osson Two Step | VEE PEE VP-102-A
VP-102-B Bon Ton Rouley | VEE PEE VP-102-B

Floyd's Early Cajun Singles (Ace, 1999)
Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow, 2010)

Monday, July 9, 2018

"La Valse De Meche" - Eddie Shuler

Goldband Records founder Eddie Shuler made immeasurable contributions to Louisiana music before his death.  Behind his folksy, down-to-earth demeanor, Shuler was a shrewd businessman and the driving force behind Goldband Records. Without him, Louisiana's musical heritage wouldn't be what it is today.  Shuler was born in Texas and grew up on a farm. By the mid 1940s, he had moved to Lake Charles and opened up business.  According to Shuler
My first store was in a trailer house. I started about June of 1944. I didn't have too much of a business because I didn't have too much stock.  I had no pianos and no sheet music.  Yeh, I sold records in the store too, the pop music.  And we were fixing radios, too, on the side.   That's back in the radio days.1 
I went to work as an insurance company salesman, and, of course, I was already a musician by that time, because I had been playing with the Hackberry Ramblers before all this stuff come about.  Then I decided I wanted to make records, so I found an ad in Billboard magazine, a place in New York, because I had written to all the record companies and nobody even answered my letter.  I said "Well, that's not going to work; I'm going to to it anyway [myself]".1 

Ooh, chérie, mais, moi, j'm'en vas, mignonne, 
Mais, c’est pour voir ma jolie petite fille

Ooh, chérie, mais, quel espoir, mignonne, 
Que, moi, je peux avoir, c’est de te voir t’en aller 

Ooh, chérie, mais tu m’as dit, mignonne, 
Que tu m'aimais, mais aujourd'hui, t’après m'quitter 

Ooh, chérie, mais quel espoir, mignonne, 
C'est de te voir t'en aller avec un autre
Sears in Lake Charles
Johnny Babb, Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons, 

Johnny Reems,
Ronald Ardoin, possibly Johnny Porter,
unknown, Eddie Shuler

Eddie took his band and using his own methods cut the song "La Valse De Meche" (#1015) in 1946 (although some sources say 1947), playing the guitar, while Norris Savoy accompanied on fiddle and vocals.  It's possible that Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons filled in on steel guitar and Johnny Babb backed them up on bass.
The first Cajun record was "La Valse De Meche" by Eddie Shuler and his Reveliers with Norris Savoy doing the vocal in French, and we cut that in KLOE radio down on Clarence St in the middle of the studio.1  

Oh, dearie, well, I'm going, cutie,
Well, it's to see you, my pretty little girl.

Oh, dearie, well, what hope (is there), cutie,
That I can have, seeing you go away.

Oh, dearie, well, you said, cutie,
That you loved me, well, today, then you left me.

Oh, dearie, well, what hope (is there), cutie
Seeing you, you went away with another. 

His first pressing batch in the 40s lacked the name of his band, and above all, Eddie's name.  He fixed this by having all the issues stamped with "Eddie Shuler" in gold and silver lettering.  Later, in 1955, he would open up a new studio in a white frame building along Church Street in Lake Charles, which was once home to an Assembly of God church before Shuler purchased it.  It's at this time, he re-released the tune on the flipside of Hackberry Rambler's "The Misery Of A Broken Heart", keeping the same catalog number #1015.   Over the years, others would record the song including Sidney Brown, Nathan Abshire, the Balfa Brothers, Maurice Barzas, Nolan Cormier, Rufus Thibodeaux and Octa Clark.

  1. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
  2. http://theind.com/article-168-the-record-man.html
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A

Eddie Shuler & His All Star Reveliers: Grande Mamou (BACM, 2016)