Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Cajun Crawl" - Hackberry Ramblers

It was the mid-'30s, a period when the Louisiana music scene was practically under unending assault from the gargantuan state of Texas directly to the west. Western swing was something that had the ear of both musicians and public, and was being broadcast throughout the Bayou State over the radio. Louisiana musicians who became interested in the style gravitated toward membership in a new type of Cajun string band in which the traditional kingpin accordion player was often told to stay at home.2  

Tu m'as pris dans ma maison,
Comme un pauvre orphelin,
Tu m'as promis de me soigner,
Jusqu'a le jour de ma mort,
Et aujourd'hui, t'es après me quitter,
'Près quitter pour t'en aller,
T'en aller avec un autre,
Chère 'tite fille, que de l'amour.
Crowley Daily Signal
Jul 17, 1936

Throughout this period, the Hackberry Ramblers took the lead in promoting this sub-genre of Cajun music.  The group ended up playing throughout the Cajun country side and by 1936, they were featured three times a week on the local radio station KVOL.  The following year, Luderin Darbone and guitarist Lennis Sonnier grabbed Crowley native Joe Werner and headed to New Orleans to record "Cajun Crawl" (#2013)

You took me into your home,
Like a poor orphan,
You promised to look after me,
Until the day that I die,
And today, you are leaving me,
Leaving to go away,
Going away with another,
Dearl little girl, which I love.

The song features Joe's hard driving harmonica playing.   It was his only recording stint with the Ramblers.  Joe would eventually leave the group to form his own series of bands after his hit song "Wondering".  Behind RCA's back, Decca approached Werner to leave RCA.   Quick to get his own act up and running, he pleaded with Darbone to jump to Decca with him.  Luderin turned him down, telling him:
RCA has been real good to us. They call us every time to come to New Orleans to make records...I don't feel like I should leave.1   

KVOL, Lafayette, LA
Joe Werner, unknown, Luderin Darbone, 
Robert Escudier, Lennis Sonnier

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. https://www.allmusic.com/artist/willie-vincent-mn0001716219
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
BS 07221-1 Cajun Crawl | Bluebird B-2013-A
BS 07226-1 Jai Pres Parley | Bluebird B-2013-B


Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003) Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Les Cajuns Best Of 2002 Les Triomphes De La Country Volume 12 (Habana, 2002)

Friday, August 24, 2018

"Louisiana Boogie (Honky Tonk Boogie)" - Harry Choates

Raised in a Cajun household at a time when many young Cajuns didn’t learn English until they reached adulthood, those who knew Harry Choates have often stated that he spoke very little French, if any at all. When it came to singing it convincingly, however, he was a natural, and in the wake of “Jole Blon’s” success, most of the music he recorded was in the French style. For this reason, Choates is remembered primarily as a Cajun musician, when in fact, the music that he featured on dance jobs was almost exclusively western swing.1 

Choates’ blending of styles reached its apex with “Louisiana Boogie” shortly after 16-year-old steel guitarist Carrol Broussard began playing with him. Broussard remembers the song being born on the bandstand at the Rendezvous Club in Lake Charles.  A Cajun rice farmer approached the bandstand and requested a boogie-woogie selection.  Harry at first ignored the request.6
A guy came up and he was talking French and I know how to talk French. Harry very seldom spoke French—believe it or not, I never talked in French to Harry. This guy wanted to know if we could play a French boogie. And Harry says ‘Well, I don’t know any words to that.’ So I told Harry, well look, just make some up as you go along. So he come up and started with the song, so we recorded that.1
The band traveled to Houston to record in mid 1949 and recorded "Louisiana Boogie" (#1380) at Bill Quinn's studio.  What started as a chance suggestion turned out to be one of Harry Choates' finest fiddle performances.6 

Te m'as quitte, pour t'en aller,

T'en aller, mais chere, si loin,

Ses pour faire le boogie-woogie,

(faire le boogie-woogie),

Apres faire le boogie-woogie,

(faire le boogie-woogie),

Apres faire le boogie-woogie,

J'connais par rapport à longtemps.

Honky tonk ici, honky tonk là-bas,

Honky tonk, tu honky tonk, tu honky tonk tout le temps,
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
(Faire le boogie-woogie),
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
(Faire le boogie-woogie),
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
J'connais par rapport à longtemps.

Une jambe ici, une jambe là-bas,
Chere petite, tu fais ca tout t'en,
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
(Faire le boogie-woogie),
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
(Faire le boogie-woogie),
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
J'connais par rapport à longtemps.

Honky tonk ici, honky tonk là-bas,
Honky tonk, tu honky tonk, tu honky tonk tout le temps,
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
(Faire le boogie-woogie),
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
(Faire le boogie-woogie),
Apres faire le boogie-woogie,
J'connais par rapport à longtemps.
Milton "Pee Wee" Calhoun

Not to be confused with Harry's 1950 recording of "Louisiana Boogie" for Macy's, Harry recycled his old theme of his lover leaving him, but this time, he inserted lyrics having to do with dancing the boogie-woogie.  With Carrol on steel, Harry rounded off the group with Bill Boyd on guitar, B.D. Williams on bass, Milton "Pee Wee" Calhoun on piano accordion and Harold Broussard on piano.   Lake Charles native Pee Wee Calhoun was a staple among east Texas musicians.  He had worked closely with Moon Mullican and Clyde Brewer the year before Choates' recording.  In later years, he would work with the Brazos Valley Boys, Arkansas fiddler Bill Kirkpatrick, and one of earliest studio bands for Patsy Cline led by Leon McAuliffe. 2,3,4,5

You have left me, for you have gone away,

You've gone, well dear, so far,

Let's do the boogie-woogie,

(Do the boogie-woogie),

You're doing the boogie-woogie,

(Do the boogie-woogie),

You're doing the boogie-woogie,

I know it's been a long time.

Honky tonk here, honky tonk there,

Honky tonk, you honky tonk, you honky tonk all the time,
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
(Do the boogie-woogie),
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
(Do the boogie-woogie),
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
I know it's been a long time.

One leg here, one leg there,
Dear little one, that's all you have to do,
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
(Do the boogie-woogie),
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
(Do the boogie-woogie),
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
I know it's been a long time.

Honky tonk here, honky tonk there,
Honky tonk, you honky tonk, you honky tonk all the time,
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
(Do the boogie-woogie),
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
(Do the boogie-woogie),
You're doing the boogie-woogie,
I know it's been a long time.

Once Pappy Daily bought the rights to "Louisiana Boogie" in 1959, he re-titled the song "Honky Tonk Boogie" (#224) for his Starday label. 

  1. http://www.offbeat.com/articles/harry-choates/
  2. Billboard Magazine. Jul 20, 1959
  3. Billboard Magazine. Apr 9, 1949
  4. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
  5. Patsy Cline: The Making of an Icon By Douglas Gomery
  6. Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates, a Cajun Legend by Tim Knight
  7. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
1380A Louisiana Boogie | Goldstar 1380-A
1380B Sidewalk Waltz | Goldstar 1380-B

ST-2318 Louisiana Boogie | Starday 224
ST-2296 Port Arthur Waltz | Starday 224

Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"The Lafayette Playboy Waltz" - Aldus Roger

Aldus Roger was considered by many as one of the few remaining true artists of the French accordion during the 1950s.  Roger began playing the accordion at age 10 and for 20 years, had his own band, The Lafayette Playboys.1  For many, his weekly television show was their first exposure to traditional Cajun music.  Starting on June 3rd, 1955, the show lasted for over a decade on KLFY in Lafayette.  Roger was a gifted accordion player, keeping the music hard and traditional, with the only English being spoken a brief "Thank you" at the end of the broadcast.  He was a carpenter by day and leader of the Lafayette Playboys by night.2
When KLFY was first opened in Lafayette, I was playing dances at 'Tit Maurice and at the Midway Club between Lafayette and Breaux Bridge. Ellis Richard and Norris Breaux sponsored our band, The Lafayette Playboys, to advertise their dance halls. I announced the advertisements for the dance hall schedules and Dixie and Blatz beer.3   

Tu m'as dit, bébé, tu m'aimais,

'Gardez-donc, jolie, comment moi je vas faire,

J'ai p'us personne, tit monde, pour m'aimer, chère,

Tu connais ça c'est dur pour m'endurer.

Oh bébé, 'garde-donc quoi j'ai fait, chère,

C'est pour toi j'ai rimé toutes ces paroles,

Aujourd'hui, bébé, t'après m'quitter, chère,

Pour t'en aller aussi loin avec un autre.

Phillip Alleman, Aldus "Popeye" Broussard,
Aldus Roger

He claimed that Lawrence Walker was his inspiration, which is no surprise that both bands played at many of the same dance halls throughout the 1950s.  Roger remembers watching Lawrence play and imitating his style. He quickly moved from the simple fingering style to "playing double" (two notes at the same time).  Walker's earlier career in the 30s were well known to Aldus as a teenager.  Aldus states:
At the age of sixteen, when I started playing house dances, the hat was passed around to collect money for the musicians. We usually picked up a dollar and a half, two dollars.  That was a lot of money then; cotton sold for one and a half or two cents a pound. It took a large bale of cotton to bring in twenty-five dollars.  Now you know it was rough, eh?3 

Having made a name for himself on television, it was no surprise he would eventually be invited by J.D. Miller to record some of his signature tunes in the studio.  One of those tunes was simply titled after his band, "The Lafayette Playboy Waltz".   It was a rendition of Cleoma Breaux's "La Valse Crowley" sung by fiddle player Aldus "Popeye" Broussard.  
Crowley Daily Signal, 1954

You told me, baby, you loved me,

So, look, my pretty, how can you do that to me?

I have no one, my little everything, to love me, dear,

You know that it's hard for me to bare.

Oh baby, so look what you've done, dear,

It's for you that I rhyme all of these words,

Today, baby, I've left, dear,

To go away so far with another.

His Lafayette Playboys were the first Cajun band to have a consistent run on television throughout south Louisiana.  

I played ten years on television.  We had a full hour on Saturdays from noon till one o'clock to advertise and play. Our band wasn't paid for this. We just announced where we were playing every night. We played dances seven days a week for almost three years. Everyone who had a television set would turn it on and listen.  Even those without sets would visit their neighbor and listen to us. Oh, that was something in those days!  I was the first Cajun band to play on Channel 10.3  

Roger was an unassuming man, not at all flashy, playing it right and consistently right for decades.  He was a vehement critic of modern trends in Cajun music, stating that you could not play authentic Cajun music with "a rock and roll".2   By 1960, he retired but his retirement was short lived for in 1962, he was chosen by the State of Louisiana in the National Folklore Festival in Washington, DC.   As a result of the honor, Roger was persuaded to reorganize his band.  He would continue to record and play into the 1970s.1

KLFY in Lafayette
Phillip Alleman, Gerald Touchet(?), Aldus Roger,
Harry Lee Bart, Doc Guidry, Louis Foreman, Clarence Alleman

  1. Rayne Tribune. May 16, 1976
  2. Gravesites of Southern Musicians: A Guide to Over 300 Jazz, Blues, Country ... By Edward Amos
  3. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  4. Lyrics by Jordy A and Stephane F
  5. Photo identification by Michael Dupuy
Release Info:
-A The Lafayette Playboy Waltz | Feature F-1028-A
-B Hix Wagon Wheel Special | Feature F-1028-B

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Madame Atchen" - Amede Ardoin

Another iconic duo of Cajun music was Amede Ardoin and Dennis McGee.  The duo cut their first recordings together in 1929 at a joint Columbia/Okeh field session in New Orleans under the direction of the Okeh A&R man and talent scout Polk C. Brockman.  All of these sides, credited on the record labels only to Ardoin, were released in both Columbia's and Okeh's small special series of Acadian French, or Cajun, records.3  

It’s hard to say what stands out more in his music, his singing or playing. The former is his real audio signature, a pleading tone, almost the edge of a cry that emerges from the accordion-fiddle flurry and grips the ears right from the the waltz "Madame Atchen" (#40515).  Torn between anguish, threat, plea and regret he queries his “chere ‘tite femme” in Creole French: “I’m going away, oh little woman / But what did you do with your little heart?” Confused, desperate, ultimately defeated—it’s heartbreaking whether you understand the words or not.2  Recorded at the end of 1929 for Columbia records in New Orleans, the alleged origins of Mrs. Atchen are explained by the Savoy family:
A pure old Cajun waltz written about the daughter of Marc's great grandfather's French yardman. She would wear a striped dress and was very tall, so at the dance a song was written about her, Grande Barree (Tall Woman in Stripes) Amede Ardoin later recorded it and called it Madame Atchen as a tribute to Marc's grandmother's housekeeper of this name.4  

The song would later become "Ta Robe Barre" by Bois Sec Ardoin and the Carriere Brothers

Malheureuse, quoi t'a fait. Ouis, avec moi?

Ca me fais du mal chaque fois je tu regarde, ouais malheureuse.

Quoi t'as fait? Chere Jouline, ca me fait du mal,

Quoi faire t'as fait mais tout ca, t'as fait si long (temps) avec moi?

Je vas m'en aller, je vas m'en aller, a la maison,

Je vas me'en aller, ouais, a la maison, sans tu Jouline.

Malheureuse, quoi t'as fait a ton petite coeur,
Moi j'ai pas pu juger ton histore rapport a tu,
Ta bonne histoire est aussi bonne que tesparoles,
Ca tu m'as dit, ma belle Jouline, ca m'a fait du mal,
Je suis pas sur d'etre capable de m'en aller,
Mon coeur fait mat juste assez, chere pour moi pleurer.
Amede Ardoin

"Madame Atchen" was covered by Leo Soileau as "Embrace Moi Encore" Milton Vanicor recalled playing with Amede Ardoin in his earlier years.  On certain occasions, they would host a dance.  In fact, Milton points out they had built a big living room in the house, in part, so they could host dances.  Probably the first consideration would be to get the right musicians for the dance.  Only the best accordion player would be right for the job.  In the Vanicor's case, that musicians was Amede Ardoin.  According to Milton's interview with Ron Yule, Amede always brought a big crowd.  Amede's presence would mean a successful dance.  Other accordionists played at the Vanicors off and on, but Amede was the favorite.1

Oh my, why did you do this, yes, with me?

It makes me feel bad every time I look at you, yeah, oh my,

What did you do, dear Joline? It makes me sad,

What you've done, well, all of that, you've done for a longtime with me,

I am going to go, I'm going to go, to my house,

I am going to go, yeah, to my home, without you Joline.

Oh my, what you did to your little sweetheart,
I have not been able to judge based on your information,
Your good story is as good as your words,
That you told me, my beautiful Joline, it hurt me,
I'm not sure I'll be able to go,
My heart hearts just enough, dear, to make me cry.

  1. When The Fiddle Was King by Ron Yule
  2. https://www.offbeat.com/music/amede-ardoin-mama-i%E2%80%99ll-be-long-gone-the-complete-recordings-of-amede-ardoin-tompkins-square-records/
  3. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold
  4. The Savoy Family Band - Turn Loose But Don't Let Go.  Liner notes.

Release Info:
W111386 -2 Madam Atchen | Columbia 40515-F | Okeh 40515
W111387 -1 Two Step De La Prairie Soileau | Columbia 40515-F | Okeh 40515


Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
J'ai Ete Au Bal - Vol. 1 (I Went To The Dance) (Arhoolie, 2011)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"Mes Yeux Bleu" - Cleoma Breaux Falcon

By 1934, the Great Depression forced major recording companies, such as Paramount and Columbia, to rethink their efforts in "French Arcadian" music.  No longer were scouts from these companies looking for regional music in the south.  It would be left to only three major companies, one of them known as Decca Records. That year, they would invite the Falcons, Joe and Cleoma, to record "Mes Yeux Bleus" (#17000) on their fledgling American label.  

J'ai jonglé, ouais, à toi, à mon yeux bleus,
J'va après, ouais, au dessus de la mer,
Moi j'suis après, ouais, jonglé a lui tout seul,
Et moi je jongle si jamais i(l) pense à moi. 
C'aurait été beaucoup mieux quand j'aurais jamais rejoint,
Dans ce pays, oui, si triste que aujourd’hui,
Pour le plaisir on à tant passé z-ensemble, 
Moi je suis sûr l'amitié (va) jamais oublié.

Il m'a dit, ouais, cher, que tu m'aimais, 
Et asteur, après t'en aller là bas,
Il y a une maille dans la chaine qu'as été cassée,
En me laissant avec une peine dans mon cœur.
Quelle espoir croire à toi, mais, toujours à moi, 
Est ce que tu viendrais pas, mais, avec une larme,
Et dire à les étrangers, ouais, tout autour de toi,
Que mon cœur z'avait cassé l'année passée.

Cleoma Breaux Falcon
Courtesy of Kelly Schafer

Former stockbroker Edward Lewis formed The Decca Record Company Limited in the United Kingdom in 1929. The company started releasing records under the Decca trademark.   A US branch, Decca Records, Inc., was launched in 1934. By persuading RCA and Columbia artists to jump ship onto their label, it was Decca's first attempt at releasing Cajun music.2  

"Mes Yeux Bleus" is a Cajun rendition of the Carter family's "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes".  Cleoma was known to be a huge fan of the their music, later covering their single "Bonnie Blue Eyes" and primping her hair in similar fashion as Sara Carter had done.  Unlike Columbia, who payed for train travel to New York, Decca provided round trip bus fare. 
Daily Advertiser
May 17, 1947

I am reminiscing, yeah, about you, about my blue eyes,
I am going, yeah, out to sea,
I'm, yeah, reminiscing all alone,
And I'm thinking if you ever think of me,
It would have been alot better if I'd never joined you,
In the country, yeah, so sad today,
For the pleasure, we spent so much time together,
I am sure the frienship will never be forgotten.

You told me, yeah, dear, that you loved me,
And now, you're going over there,
There is a stitch in the chain that has broken,
Leaving me with pain in my heart.
What hope to have believed you, well, would always be with me,
Did you not come back, well, with a tear?
And tell the strangers, yeah, all around you,
That my heart had broken last year.

"Mes Yeux Bleus" was one of Cleoma's first attempts at covering American hillbilly music in the early 30s.  The Falcons would have a long career with Decca, fulfilling recording contracts until 1937.  This Decca branch was sold off during World War II, but the UK & US companies continued to release each other’s recordings in their respective territories.

  1. http://www.knowla.org/audio-file/90/&view=summary
  2. http://www.bigboppa.co.uk/45-sleeves/DE/decca/decc-de.htm
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
  4. Illustration by Kelly Schafer

Release Info:

39185-A La Valse De Madam Sosten | Decca 17000 A
39186-A Mes Yeux Blues | Decca 17000 B

Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

"Diggy Liggy Lo" - Terry Clement

From the deep heart of Louisiana, The "Clement Brothers," Terry on accordion, Purvis on violin and vocals, and Grant on guitar, started playing music at a very early age. They organized their first band in 1949. The brothers' interest in Cajun French music came from their father, mother, and uncles who were all musicians. In the early 1900s their father, Laurent, played the fiddle at many house dances. The band members fell in love with the music of the late Cajun French musician, Nathan Abshire, and patterned their music after his. They found his music exciting, smooth and very different from any others.1 

C´est ma soeur, Diggy Liggy La,
T'en marié avec Diggy Liggy Lo,
Pour ça reste dans la village,
Diggy Liggy La et Diggy Liggy Lo.

Diggy Liggy Lo, attrappe Popo,
Diggy Liggy La, monte 'sus le plombeau,
Pour s'en va, tout partout,
Diggy Liggy La et Diggy Liggy Lo.

Purvis Clement, Terry Clement, Grant Clement

In 1952, on their way to play for a dance in Holly Beach, the brothers began playing around with a few Cajun French words with a catchy little sound, which became "Diggy Liggy Lo." (#1090)  It was very similar to the melody Amar Devillier used for his "Durald Two Step" that year. The song is about two lovers, the sister named Diggy Liggy La and her husband, Diggy Liggy Lo.  They get married in the town, one grabs the horse named "Popo" and the other grabs the "plombeau" (saddle horn).   

Daily World
Mar 18, 1955

According to their niece Beverly Mire, they were going to play somewhere and in the car, they decided to write it; nothing serious.  They were just out of high school when they wrote it.  They took the song to Jay Miller's Crowley studio in 1954 and in less than a month, "Diggy Liggy Lo" was being played on jukeboxes from Houston to Florida.1  The band featured Terry on accordion; Purvis Clément on fiddle, Marshall Arceneaux on vocals and guitar, Ronnie Goudreaux on drums and Jerry Dugas on steel guitar.  Producer J.D. Miller of Feature records locked in the recording under his name with BMI, but all evidence points to the Clement Brothers as the actual creators. According to Terry Clement:
Purvis couldn't speak French all that well so during some passages, he would sing 'diggy, diggy, diggy, do, do' or something to that effect.  The crowd loved it.  We were coming home from a show one night with my mother and father.  My father had a pickup and the band would ride in the back with the equipment.  I told my brother that I was going to write a song around his 'diggy, diggy, diggy' words.  I told JD Miller that I had written this song.  He asked me to play it, which I did, on the accordion.  He soon had us recording it.  Here I was in high school with a hit record on the radio!"2

It's my sister, Diggy Liggy La,

You married Diggy Liggy Lo,

So they stay in the village,

Diggy Diggy La and Diggy Liggy Lo.

Diggy Liggy Lo, grab "Popo",

Diggy Liggy La, mount the saddle horn,

In order to leave, anywhere,

Diggy Liggy La and Diggy Liggy Lo.
The Clement Brothers played Cajun French music all over Southwest Louisiana, Southeast Texas, and Mississippi.  During the late 1950s and early 1960s when Cajun French music lost its popularity, the Clement brothers and a brother-in-law, Ronald Goodreau, were joined by pianist, Everett Daigle. During that time they played country and rhythm and blues music until Cajun French music regained popularity.1 Terry claims that Miller wouldn't let anyone else sell the record. You had to go to Crowley and buy it at Miller's store. Although the song did give the band the boost it needed to get better bookings and better wages, they never received credit on subsequent recordings nor did they receive any royalties.2 It wouldn't be until Jimmy Newman and Rufus Thibodeaux popularized the tune during a Nashville session in 1954 which made it a national hit.  It would be covered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Buck Owens' Buckaroos, and Doug Kershaw.

  1. louisianafolklife.nsula.edu
  2. Cajun Dancehall Heyday.  Louisiana Folklife Journal Vol 37. (2013).  Ron Yule.
  3. "Acadian All Star Special" by Bear Records
Release Info:
-A La Valse de Te Maurice | Feature 1090-A
-B Diggy Liggy Lo | Feature 1090-B

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