Friday, April 26, 2019

"Homme Abondonne" - Guidry Brothers

In 1929, the sound of south Louisiana was taking shape. Cajun music was getting a foothold in the recording industry; getting discovered outside of south Louisiana for the very first time. By October, three brothers arrived in New Orleans for a recording session alongside some of the more well-known Cajun musicians of the time. Composed of an accordion player, fiddler and guitarist, the family trio waxed six songs for the major recording label Vocalion Records. Some of their melodies, the first to be found on commercial recordings, can be recognized as familiar tunes we hear today. But as quickly as they were discovered, they faded away.1

They were known as the Guidry Brothers of St. Martin Parish and for most people, their music and identities were almost lost to time.  The three musicians – Arthur, Isidore and Jean Dosete Guidry – were natives of Breaux Bridge. Sons of Alcide Guidry and Marie Louise Hebert, they lived a simple life as tenant farmers.1   

Tous les tracas moi j'ai eu dans ma vie,
C’était te faire venir, toi malheureuse,
Et aujourd'hui, mais, tu veux me pousser,
Un jour à venir, tu vas voir ton erreur.

Ouais, toi, mignonne, observe bien ça t'as fait,
Et tu vas voir, moi, je méritais pas ça,
Si loin de moi comme toi tu peux dire,
Toi, toujours content pour aller te joindre.

Moi connais bien t'as eu de conseiller,
C'est bien tu n'fais, moi je peux pas t'oublier.
T'aurais pas du écouter les conseils.

Si tu m'abandonnes, toi, malheureuse,
J'vas m'en aller où jamais tu vas me voir,
Tu dis toi même la mort c’est bien triste,
Mais, j'aime mieux de mourir, que autre qu'être m'abandonnes.
Arthur Guidry (accordion),
Dosete Guidry (fiddle), Isidore Guidry (guitar)

Arriving in New Orleans, and sponsored by Boudreaux's Music Shop, the trio recorded "Homme Abondonne" (#15849).   According to Dosete's grandson, Patrick Thibodeaux, 
Papa Dosete started putting this song together while working in the field. Got home and grabbed his fiddle, put the words to music... Jolie Blonde!1  

Although Amede Breaux holds the title to the original 1929 Jolie Blonde recording, the Guidrys’ take on the instrumentation was unique. Instead of singling out a “pretty blond,” Arthur attached his own lyrics to the popular melody, talking about a man abandoned by his lover.1  

Daily Advertiser
Oct 3, 1929

All the trouble I've had in my life,
It was to make you return, you bad woman,
And today, well, you want to drive me (crazy),
One day you'll return, you will see your mistake.

Yeah, you cutie, look at what you've done,
And you'll see, I did not deserve all of that,
So far from me as you are, you could say,
You, I'm always ready to go join you.

I know well, you've had advice,
It's good (that) you didn't, I cannot forget you,
You should not have listened to the advice.

If you abandon me, you bad woman,
I'm going to go where you're never going to see me,
You said yourself (that) death is very sad,
But, I'd rather die, other than to be abandoned.

  1. "Breaux Bridge At Center of 90-Year-Old Cajun Music Mystery". Wade Falcon. Teche News.  St. Martinville, La. - Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
NO-244 Le Garcon Negligent | Vocalion 15849
NO-245 Homme Abondonne | Vocalion 15849

CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Monday, April 22, 2019

"Valse A Pap" - Dennis McGee & Ernest Fruge

Born in 1893, Dennis McGee absorbed the repertoire of a man who was almost one hundred years old at that time.  This music, which pre-dated the accordion by at least one hundred and fifty years, was destined to undergo many changes until it finally resulted, through the hands of countless musicians, in the synthesized form we know today.2 By the time he reached his 30s, he was offered three different recording opportunities in New Orleans.  On his third and last trip, he traveled with his accompanist fiddler Ernest Fruge and togther they recorded "Valse A Pap" (#532)  Dennis remembered the song being a very early tune that his father loved to play, who learned it from his father.  According to McGee:
His father played it too, Eraste Courville and John McGee. They liked this waltz very much.1  
Dennis McGee
Dennis spent much of his early years living at his grandmother's home.  It was here where he was initially exposed to his father's fiddle playing.  Dennis recalls,
Ninety years ago, I'd hear my daddy play.  He'd tap his foot like this and I'd sit on the floor and listen.  I learned my first tune with my daddy, "La Valse A Pop."  I learned to hold my bow like my daddy and I learned to move it just like him, back and forth just like him.3  

Dis "Bye bye," malheureuse, malheureuse, tous les jour,
Malheureuse, 'gardez-donc ça t'as fait,
Malheureuse, Dieu connaît tu vas pleurer.

Malheureuse, si t'aurais, mais, jamais écoute,
Ton papa et maman, ça c'aurait jamais arrive,
Malheureuse, le le rai!

Gardez-donc, malheureuse, gardez-donc, tu connais,
J'f'rais pas ça avec toi ça t'as fait avec moi,
Par rapport a toi, malheureuse.

(vocal rambling)

Daily Advertiser
May 1, 1931

Dennis McGee's father, John McGee Sr, was an accomplished fiddler in his own right. John had learned from his father, Pierre Hugo McGee of Irish ancestry.    When asked why he named it after his father, Dennis cried:
 When my father was dying, I went over to see him and he asked me to play this waltz. Afterwards, I promised that I would never play this waltz for anybody dying. He started to cry, the old man. It broke my heart. I played the waltz for him and I said, "Pop, I can't play if you cry."   And he said, "It's alright. Play it.  I know that I'm not going to be here for long."1  

Say "Bye-bye", oh my, oh my, always,

Oh my, so look at what you've done,

Oh my, the Lord knows you have cried.

Oh my, if you had, well, ever listened,
To your father and mother, that would have never happened,
Oh my, le le rai!

So look, oh my, so look, you know, 
I will not do that to you, that you've done to me,
Because of you, oh my.

  1. "Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader" by Ron Brown, Ryan A. Brasseaux, and Kevin S. Fontenot
  2. The Eunice News (Eunice, Louisiana) 09 Nov 1989.  Marc Savoy.
  3. The Complete Early Recordings of Dennis McGee.  Liner notes. 

Release Info:
NO-6733 Valse A Pap | Brunswick 532
NO-6734 Two Step De Ville Platte | Brunswick 532

The Early Recordings Of Dennis McGee: Featuring Sady Courville & Ernest Fruge (Morning Star, 1977)
The Complete Early Recordings of Dennis McGee (Yazoo, 1994)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"Mabelle Tete Catin" - Happy Fats

During the 1930s and early 1940s, country music and Cajun music, which is also rurally based, engaged in a long-term fascination with each other.  It became popular for Cajun bands to adopt elements of Western swing, emphasizing fiddles and pedal steel guitars in lieu of the Cajun button accordion.   The result was the development of a viable style of Cajun swing, played by bands like the Hackberry Ramblers and Happy Fats' Rayne-Bo Ramblers.  

Allons, mais, priez quand je 'joins,

Chère, je t’auras, ma belle petite catin,

J'vais voir ses chères yeux brillent encore, 

Elle m'a promis de m'aimer toujour.

Mais la door était bien close,
Et avant l'hiver a passé,
Les anges a venu à ma porte,
Si je t’auras, ma belle petite catin.

Oh ma belle petite catin,
Ma fleur qu'a pas déflorer, 
Mon cœur est comme mon guitare, 
J’ai passé ma belle petite catin,
Mon cœur est comme mon guitare, 
J’ai passé ma belle petite catin.
Daily Advertiser
Feb 17, 1939

After learning to play the guitar as a child, Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc picked up several recording opportunities laid down by RCA Victor's chief R&A executive, Eli Oberstien. His group, containing Ray Guidry on banjo, Willie Vincent steel guitar, Nathan Guidry on bass and, Doc Guidry on fiddle, would leave for New Orleans and record "Mabelle Tete Catin" (#2072), a song about losing a lover who's heartbreak is expressed through his guitar.  But the money was not enough. During the 11 years that Happy recorded for RCA, he had many other jobs.
I worked in the rice mills during the day and used to play country dances at night.  And in the tomato season, I'd go over to the Rio Grande Valley and East Texas to work the harvest.1  

Church Point News
May 14, 1943

Going, well, praying (as to) when I can return,

Dear, I'll come get you, my beautiful little doll,

I have to see her dear eyes shine again,

She promised to love me forever.

Well, the door was closed,
And before the winter had passed,
The angles came to my door,
So, I'll come get you, my beautiful little doll.

Oh, my beautiful little doll,
My flower that never wilted,
My heartache is part of my guitar,
(As) I pass by my beautiful little doll,
My heartache is part of my guitar,
(As) I pass by my beautiful little doll.

This particular tune must have had some remarkable sales since Bluebird reissued the tune on #2087 later on.  By 1940, he expanded the group and got horn players and even a piano accordionist.  However, by the time WWII began, the invitations to record ceased and Happy relaxed into a career playing music on the radio. After the war, everything would change again, with his music launching him into his second musical career.  

  1. Interview by John Uhler. 1954.  CDS
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A

Release Info:
BS-028505-1 Mabelle Tete Catin | Bluebird B-2072
BS-028508-1 La Mellaige | Bluebird B-2072

BS-028505-1 Mabelle Tete Catin | Bluebird B-2087-A
BS-027887-1 My Little Cajun Girl | Bluebird B-2087-B

Thursday, April 11, 2019

"J'Vas Continue A' T'Aime (I'll Keep On Loving You)" - Sons Of Acadians

Sons of Acadians were formed by a team of Lafayette area musicians in 1939 to capture the sounds of the popular music emenating from the radio.  Made up of cousins, Oran "Doc" Guidry on fiddle, Nason Guidry on upright bass, and Sidney Guidry as guitarist and vocalist, they teamed up with either steel-guitarist Roscoe Whitlow or steel-guitarist Francis "Red" Fabacher and began playing night clubs in Rayne.

Si l’univers continue à tourner, comment on connait ça va faire, 
Là, j'vas continuer à t'aimer. 
Si le jour se casserait demain, comment on connait ça va faire, 
Là, j'vas continuer à t'aimer. 

Mais, si des choses tombent, le ciel tomberait, 
Le jour viendrait pas, l'univers s’arrêterait, 
Ça ferait pas rien, pas toi t'oublie,
Ça ferait pas rien à rien du tout,
Si les étoiles restent dans le ciel et la lune reste dans le bleu, 
Moi, j'vas continuer à t'aimer.

Clarion News
Jul 31, 1947

Together, the band recorded "J'Vas Continue A' T'Aime (I'll Keep On Loving You)" at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas.  Written by Floyd Tillman in 1939 and later recorded as "I'll Keep On Loving You".  It was later recorded in the 1950s by Ray Price and even later by Johnny Gimble. 

After the session, Doc left his day job working at a local drug store and headed to Baton Rouge.  With an offer from Gov. Jimmie Davis, he took a job working for the public safety department.  Nason Guidry took over the Sons of Acadians, playing alongside the likes of Al Terry, Uncle Ambrose Thibodeaux, and Stansbury's Colored Band at community center square dances and company picnics.

If the universe continues to turn, how do we know it will do it?
There, I will continue to love you,
If the day breaks tomorrow, how do we know it will do it?
There, I will continue to love you.

Well, if those things fall, the sky will fall,
The day wouldn't come, the universe would stop,
It wouldn't matter, don't you yourself forget,
It wouldn't matter to nothing at all,
If the stars stay in the sky and the moon stays blue,
I will continue to love you.

  1. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
66403 Aux Belle Chez Te Maurice | Decca 17054 A
66414 J'Vas Continue A' T'Aime (I'll Keep On Loving You) | Decca 17054 B

Sunday, April 7, 2019

"La Fille La Vove (The Widow's Daughter)" - Iry Lejeune

One would be hard pressed today to find a Cajun band without an accordionist at its head.  But if it hadn't been for a nearly blind musician from Point Noire, the accordion would be only a museum piece in south Louisiana and Acadian music itself might be as extinct as the dinosaurs.  This style of music is still going strong years after Iry Lejuene made his recordings.1 

Eh, criminelle, 
Misérable, la malheureuse.

Oh, la fille de la veuve,
Cette-là là elle si belle et aussi aimable,
Avec toupet qui'tait aussi bien taillé,
Blâme-donc voir ta pauvre vieille maman avant ton negre

Oh, Tchic et Phine, 
T'en aller chez Madame Do Doon,
Voler les prunes dans les pruniers,
Et c'etait voir la chère fille de la veuve.

Iry Lejeune

"La Fille La Vove (The Widow's Daughter)", (#1219) followed the same traditional melody that once made "Jolie Blonde" a hit.   A cover of his cousin Angelas Lejeune's recording of "La Valse de La Veuve", it was recorded during a session with just Iry singing and playing alone.  With no band backing him up, one can hear his playing style uninhibited.  During an interview, Angelas was asked who the fille de la veuve (daughter of the widow) was.  He recalls:
She was the daughter of a man we called "Doo Doo" Matte.  She later became Mrs. Dave Ledoux (Emma Matte). But at the time the words were composed, she lived with her mother. Her father was dead. They lived in Pointe Noir.13   

Hey, it's criminal,

Miserable, terrible woman.

Oh, the widow's daughter,
That she's so beautiful and so kind,
With a forelock that was also cut well,
So, blame your poor old mother before your old man.

Oh, Tchic and Phine,
You're going to Madame Do Doon's house,
To steal the plums in the plum trees,
And that was in order to see the dear widow's daughter.

Daily Advertiser
Feb 26, 1950

After Iry's death, the interest in his music grew.   Eddie Shuler, Goldband producer, decided to start re-releasing his music on LPs throughout the 60s. However, Eddie felt necessary to modify the recordings.  He had Robert Bertrand overdub both fiddle and guitar on songs like "Vove" as well as other Goldband recordings.  Interestingly enough, if you listen carefully at around the 40s mark, you'll hear Robert Bertrand miss a note in which he startlingly exclaims "Bullshit!"

Chris Strachwitz, of Arhoolie records, regretted the day when he told Shuler that the Goldband recordings lacked "bottom" due to the primitive studio conditions.  Thereupon, Eddie proceeded to reissue many of his pristine 1950s recordings, sacrilegiously, with plodding bass guitar overdubs.2  The bass track overdubs were allegedly done by Jo-El Sonnier, and remained that way until Ace Records, re-released all of Iry's material using the original 78 RPM transfers.  According to Jo-El Sonnier,
I also played rhythm guitar and upright bass behind some Iry LeJeune recordings as well.  Again I thought I yelled loud over Iry playing and singing but I had no control to tell Eddie to [turn] my instrument's volume down as I was overdubbing over the pre-recorded tracks.  There was no bass guitar [on] the original recorded tracks but later I was asked to add my guitar rhythms and bass guitar [on] one take.4   

  1. "Iry Lejeune rescued traditional Cajun music" by Gene Thibodeaux. The Church Point News.  Oct 11, 2008.  
  2. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
  3. Tears, Love, and Laughter: The Story of the Acadians by Pierre Daigle
  4. Discussions with Jo-El Sonnier by Jeremy R.  
Release Info:
-1 La Fille La Vove | Goldband G-1219-1
-2 Convict Waltz | Goldband G-1219-2

Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2003)