Friday, December 28, 2018

"Mes Cinquantes Sous (My Fifty Cents)" - Eddie Shuler

UPDATED! The Reveliers were a backup band for former Hackberry Ramblers guitarist and record producer, Eddie Shuler.  In the late 1940s, he had several fiddle players such as Johnny Porter, Norris Savoie, and Charlie Broussard.  Two other musicians that rounded out his group were steel guitarist Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons and bassist Johnny Babb.  For this session, Shuler's vocalist was Frankie "Tee Tee" Mailhes, a local musician in the Lake Charles area who had formerly recorded with his friends, the Alley Boys of Abbeville.  By the late 1940s, Shuler's first French music release was an attempt to capture the local Cajun music market.

Moi et ma belle on a été au bal,
C'était un samedi soir,
On en a revenu c’était lendemain,
Lendemain matin z- au jour,
J'ai demandé si elle avait pas faim pour quelqu'chose,
Elle m'a répondu (qu') elle avait pas faim,
Mais elle aurait mangé quand même.
Moi je pensais aller ordonner un lunch de quinze sous,
Moi je pensais aller ordonner un lunch de quinze sous,
Elle a ordonné un poulet rôti, une demie douzaine de z"huitres,
Elle a ordonné un poulet rôti, une demie douzaine de z"huitres.

Moi, j"avais faim, mais j'avais pas le cœur de manger,
Moi, j"avais faim, mais j'avais pas le cœur de manger,
Et quand je pensais que j'avais juste cinquante sous dans ma poche,
Et quand je pensais que j'avais juste cinquante sous dans ma poche.
Et quand j'ai mis mon cinquante sous dessus le comptoir,
Et quand j'ai mis mon cinquante sous dessus le comptoir,
Il m'a foutu un coup de poing, il m'a tiré dans la fenêtre,
Il m'a foutu un coup de pied, il m'a tiré dans le chemin,
Écoutez ici, mes amis, ne vas jamais au restaurant,
Il faut jamais que tu vas dans le restaurant de cinquante sous dans ta poche.

Eddie Shuler's Reveliers
KPLC in Lake Charles
Eddie Shuler, unknown, possibly Eldrige "Coon" Guidry,
Amos Comeaux, Johnny Babb, Jimmy Webster, unknown

Recorded in mid 1946, "Mes Cinquantes Sous" (#1012) is a unique country-Cajun cover of the song "I Had But Fifty Cents", originally written as a poem in 1881 by Sam Devere and published in 1885.  It was later recorded by Riley Puckett in 1925 and the Binkley Brothers Dixie Clodhoppers in 1928.   Frankie had originally recorded the tune in 1939 as "Moi Et Ma Belle" with the Alley Boys and by 1946, brought the song to Shuler's group. It has been a well known song for years, even recorded by Ricky Skaggs, Jo-El Sonnier, and Beausoleil.

Me and my wife, we went to the ball,
It was a Saturday night,
We came back the next day,
Next morning, during the day,
I asked if she wasn't hungry for something,
She told me that she was not hungry,
But, she'd eat anyways.
I thought I was going to order a fifteen cent lunch,
I thought I was going to order a fifteen cent lunch,
She ordered a roast chicken, half a dozen oysters,
She ordered a roast chicken, half a dozen oysters.

I was hungry, but I did not have the heart to eat,
I was hungry, but I did not have the heart to eat,
And when I realized I had just fifty cents in my pocket,
And when I realized I had just fifty cents in my pocket,
And when I put my fifty cents on top of the counter,
And when I put my fifty cents on top of the counter,
He punched me, he threw me into the window,
He kicked me, he pulled me into the road,
Listen here, my friends, never go to the restaurant,
You must never go to the restaurant (with only) fifty cents in your pocket.

During the early 1950s, Louis Spell and his French Serenaders would copy Shuler's recording and record "The Fifty Cent Song" for J.D. Miller in Crowley.  
By 1957, the Ethnic Folkways Library recorded the tune with Madame Marion Dugadet from Avery Island entitled "La Chanson De Cinquante Sous".

  1. Lyrics by Stephane F 
Release Info:
A Mes Cinquantes Sous (My Fifty Cents) | Goldband 1012
B Jolie Blonde (Pretty Blonde) | Goldband 1012

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"Jus Pasque" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc

Cajun swing was perhaps the most dynamic musical expression in the history of Cajun music.  Fiddlers, guitarists, steel guitarists, drummers, piano accordionists, and banjo and mandolin pickers all drew inspiration from the eclectic array of commercial musical styles available at local record stores, emitting from household battery-operated radios, and via the rouging groups and jazz orchestras that provided entertainment at local clubs and honky-tonks.1 Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc seems to have embraced it all throughout his recording years. 

C'est juste que tu crois que t'étais jolie,
C'est juste que tu crois t'es si douce,
C'est juste que tu crois que tu as quelque chose,
Moi j'ne sais pas.

J'ai donné tout mon argent,
(Je) croyais t'avez tout sur le col,
Oui, mais, sapristir, j'ai fini-z avec toi,
C'est juste parce que.

C'est juste que tu crois que t'es jolie,
C'est juste que tu crois t'es si douce,
C'est juste que tu crois que t'as quelque chose,
Mais, moi je ne sais pas.

J'ai dépensé tout mon argent,
Tu croyais j'étais vieux Santa Claus,
Bébé, sapristir, mais, j'ai fini avec toi,
C'est juste parce que.

Alex Broussard, , Happy Fats
"Just Because" was a prolific tune, earlier recorded by Nelston's Hawaiians, covered by many groups of the day including Cleoma Falcon as "Jeusté Parcqué".  The French word "sapristi", meaning "Oh heavens!", is still used in France but in a comical way because it's colorful and old-fashioned, so people have tenderness for this word. "Sapristi" is not vulgar, however, its a way to swear without being dirty or offending God. It's an expression of surprise, impatience, or hopelessness and may come across as sarcastic out of frustration. 

Oran "Doc" Guidry had been jazz fiddler for some time before Happy Fats replaced Louis Arceneaux with Doc in 1938.  According to Guidry, when they first met two years prior in 1936 at one of their first dance-hall shows, Happy asked him if he was interested in finishing school. 
He asked me, "You intend to get through school?"  I said "Yeah."  He asked, "What do you want to pick up?"  I said, "I want to pick up medicine."  He said, "You want to be a doctor?"  I said, "Yeah".  He introduced me that night..."Doc" Guidry!3  
It turns out that Happy had borrowed the nickname from Light Crust Doughboy's fiddle player Clifford "Doc" Gross and from that point on, Oran was known to everyone as "Doc" Guidry.   Many people throughout his life never knew his real name.3  

Doc Guidry

Just because you think you are pretty,
Just because you think you are sweet,
Just because you think you have something,
I don't know.

I gave you all my money,
Beleiving you had everything "on the collar",
Yeh, well, good heavens, I'm finished with you,
Just because.

Just because you think you are pretty,
Just because you think you are sweet,
Just because you think you have something,
Well, I don't know.

I spent all my money, 
You thought I was old Santa Claus,
Baby, good heavens, well, I'm finished with you,
Just because. 

Happy rounded out his group with Ray Guidry on banjo, Roy "Blackie" Romero on steel guitar, Nathan Guidry on bass, and Robert "Rat" Thibodeaux on piano. The release became popular enough with RCA that they released it on their "staff" label and on their "Dog 2" label.  After the war, Happy and Doc reunited as Happy, Doc And The Boys until 1953.  Happy Fats went on to become a major south Louisiana television personality in the 1950s after the first TV station opened in Lafayette.

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. Interview with Oran "Doc" Guidry.  Shane Bernard.  11-2-1991.
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
BS-022038-1 Jus Pasque | Bluebird B-2037
BS-022041-1 Te Jolie Te Petite | Bluebird B-2037

BS-022038-1 Jus Pasque | Bluebird B-2091
BS-022032-1 Les Escrivis Dan Platin | Bluebird B-2091

Friday, December 14, 2018

"Waxia Special" - Oscar "Slim" Doucet

Oscar "Slim" Doucet was a native of Opelousas who assembled a group of musicians known as the Accordion Playboys.  For years, he ran Slim Doucet's Garage during the day, working as a mechanic and played music for barn dance parties at night.  After meeting local town representative, Dr. Boudreaux, he jumped on an opportunity to bring his accordion to a 1929 Okeh session in Atlanta.  Alongside some contemporary musicians where he and guitarist Chester Hawkins recorded two songs, one which was the "Waxia Special" (#45333).

"Waxia", is the name of a bayou near Opelousas, Louisiana, Hawkins home town.  Referred to on maps as "Bayou Wauksha", it's most likely the corrupted spelling of the Indian name "Ouachita" (not to be confused with the larger "Ouachita River" in northern Louisiana). Another source explains that a Alabamas tribe had settled there in the early 19th century from the region of Waxahatchee.  The word, meaning "crest of hair", may possibly be a Siouan word from the Catawba tribe, which spoke a Catawban dialect.1

Daily World
Jun 21, 1945

The bayou was home to the Waxia community not far from the historic town of Washington, LA.   The waterway flowed into the more well known Bayou Teche river which inspired many Cajun tunes.  In recent times, Creole people of the Waxia area were studied by Dr. Jay Edwards of LSU for their unique usage of the French language.2  

  1. Native American Placenames of the United States By William Bright
Release Info:
402382 Chere Yeux Noirs | Okeh 45333
402383 Waxia Special | Okeh 45333

Friday, December 7, 2018

"Jole Brun" - Harry Choates

The main catalyst for exposing interest in Cajun music after the war was fiddle player Harry Choates.  Choates had just recorded his hit song "Jole Blon" and was looking for any work he could find.  He and record producer Jimmy Mercer figured they could take his themed title, rename it, and make even more money on a different recording label.   He renamed the tune "Jole Brun (Pretty Brunette)" and changed some of the lyrics for the Cajun Classics label (#1009).

Still under contract with Bill Quinn's Gold Star label which he scored his hit "Jole Blon", he either recorded in a radio station in Lake Charles, or possibly ventured out to Paris, Texas where Jimmy Mercer had created his own pressing plant and recording studio. His makeshift studio located in the plant allowed the whole process to occur onsite.  Together with Harry, he brought along Esmond Pursley on guitar, Joe Manuel on banjo, Pee Wee Lyons on steel, B.D. Williams on bass, Curzy Roy on drums, and Johnnie Manuel on piano.

Oh, mais, jolie brune, mais, malheureuse, chère 'tite fille,

Oh, pourquoi t'as fais, mais, ça t'as fais à ton pauvre 'tit chien.

Oh, mais malheureuse, mais, jolie brun, t'as chagrin,
Oh, vilaines manières, malheureuse, ça fait pitié.

Oh, jolie brune, ma petite jolie cœur,
Eh, ha ha!  Eh, malheureuse.

Oh, mais, malheureuse, tu connais ça a pas fais bien,
Oh, pourquoi t'as fais, mais, avec moi, si mal, bébé,
Oh, j'connais, chère petite, tu va avoir du regret,
Tu vas venir un jour, jolie brune, oh, ça, (dans) pas longtemps.

The Paris News
Nov 24, 1946

In 1946, Jimmy Mercer had obtained a hydraulic record press from Chicago and had it shipped to Texas.  He started with his first label, Swing, and called his place Swing Record Manufacturing.   He boasted the machine could produce a record in 18 seconds and had the capacity of 2700 records a day.  According to Mercer:

We are engaged in manufacturing records for a number of well known companies and we also intend to put out two records under our own label, "Swing" and "Downbeat".   We hope to be able to give talent in Northeast Texas an opportunity to audition so that they might possibly become recording artists.3  

Oh, well, pretty brunette, well oh my, dear little girl,
Oh, why have you done this, well, that you've done to your old little dog.

Oh, well, oh my, well, pretty brunette, you're sad,
Oh, your terrible ways, oh my, made it pitiful.

Oh, pretty brunette, my little pretty sweetheart,
Eh , ha ha!  Eh, it's terrible.

Oh, well, oh my, you know that it's not been well,
Oh, why have you done that, well, with me, so bad, baby,
Oh, I know, dear little one, you're going to have regrets,
You will come back one day, pretty brunette, oh, it won't be that long.

The Paris News
March 29, 1949

By 1947, Choates was now in considerable demand and he had no qualms about contracts. Surprisingly at one point, Quinn narrowly stopped Choates from recording with Decca in violation of his contract. In February, Choates recorded for Jimmy Mercer’s Swing Records in Paris, Texas (author Andrew Brown states Lake Charles, Louisiana) on his new label, Cajun Classics, created just for Choates, including “Jole Brun.” Cajun Classics was part of a family of labels operated by Jimmy Mercer in Paris from 1946 to 1950. When the records went on sale, Quinn contacted Mercer, only to find Choates had signed a contract with him as well so he and Mercer settled on an arrangement.1

Mercer had many labels over his career including All Spice, Cajun Classics, Hillbilly Hit Parade, Personality, Royalty, Swing, Vox, Western Magic, Zest, and Zip labels.  However, Mercer had run into trouble in 1949 when he was "convicted of shipping obscene (party) records across state lines".  According to the FBI, a complaint was filed alleging that Mercer transported "obscene, lewd, lascivious matter of indecent character" to St. Louis.  He was arrested by a US deputy marshal at his home and was released on bond.  This spelled the end of all of Mercer's recording activities.2  

  2. "Shipping Obscene Records Charged".  Paris News. Mar 29, 1949
  3. The Paris News Nov 24, 1946.
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
1007 Hackberry Hop | Series 1007 Cajun Classics
1009 Jole Brun | Series 1009 Cajun Classics

1008 Poor Hobo | Cajun Classics Series 1008

1009 Jole Brun | Cajun Classics Series 1009

Harry Choates ‎– The Fiddle King Of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982, 1993)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)

Monday, December 3, 2018

"Tu Le Du Po La Mam" - Lawrence Walker

Melodies played in the cultural-plexes of Vermilion and Iberia parishes produced different themes and titles in the areas around Calcasieu and Evangeline parish.  While the Segura Brother's were singing about mosquitoes and their family's appearances, further north, Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee and his musical family were using the same melody to sing about chasing women.  The Fawvor brothers, natives of Calcasieu, had originally recorded the tune in 1929 as "Valse De Creole".  McGee recalls:
I stayed with Theodore McGee and one day he said, "Well Mac, I believe I'll buy a violin for you.  I'm going to Ville Platte."  No strings!  There was nothing on it. He bought some strings and the pegs. He knew how to play a little. He tuned it up and played "Tout Les Deux Pour La Meme".  He said, "Now, you're on your own."  I said, "Not really!".  "Yes, here!" he said, "Go! Go play!". I went to my little room. I had a little room in back. I sat on the side of my bed and you know what? Before nightfall I played the waltz, "Tout Les Deux Pour La Meme".  Oh yes, I learned it during the day.2  
Crowley Daily Signal
July 2, 1959

Tous les deux pour la même,
Ni moi ni toi qui l'aura,
Tous les deux pour la même,
Ni moi ni toi qui l'aura,
C'est pas la peine (que) tu me dis non,
T'auras toujours pour me dire oui,
C'est pas la peine (que) tu me chagrins,
T'auras toujours pour me marier.

J'ai parti de la maison,
Z-avec ma jogue au plombeau,
Le pistolet dans ma poche,
Et ma vie dans ma main,
J'ai parti pour te chercher,
T'amener-z-à la maison,
C'est pas la peine tu me dis non,
T'auras toujour pour me dire oui.

Lawrence Walker

Songs like this which influenced McGee were eventually picked up by Lawrence Walker in which he recorded the song for George Khoury in 1950.  The title was a corrupted form of the phrase "tous les deux pour la même" inferring that the singer and another are "both going after the same woman".  It's possible that Lawrence had Mitch David on fiddle, Valmont ‘Junior’ Benoit on steel guitar, and probably Simon Shexneider on drums. 

Both of us for the same,
Neither me nor you will have her,
Both of us for the same,
Neither me nor you will have her,
It's not worth you telling me no,
You have to say yes, forever,
It's not worth you hurting me,
You have to marry me, forever.

I left the house,
With my saddle horn jug,
The gun in my pocket,
And my life in my hands,
I left to come get you,
Take you to my house,
There's no need to tell me no,
You have to say yes, forever.

That same year, while Lawrence was using the Fawver song for his recording of "Tu Le Du Po La Mam", Nathan Abshire was using the Segura song for his own song "La Valse De Holly Beach".  According to musician Johnnie Allan:
Lawrence was a big factor in French music, he and Uncle Joe [Falcon] were playing music along about the same time. His songs were all the sad melodic type songs, he was a very good accordion player, very well known in this area. I remember I played steel guitar with him for six years and the crowds were just tremendous almost everywhere we played.1

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
Release Info:
A Tu Le Du Po La Mam | Khoury's 607-A
B Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All | Khoury's 607-B


Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)
A Tribute To The Late Great Lawrence Walker (La Louisiane, 1995)
A Legend At Last (Swallow, 1983)
Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow, 2010)