Tuesday, April 23, 2024

"Blues de Basille" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

With songs like "Two Step de Eunice" and "Blues De Basille," (#531) accordionist Amede Ardoin, helped by his fiddle player and traveling companion Dennis McGee, became one of the first musicians to record Louisiana's Cajun music. Ardoin was an accordion virtuoso who, by all accounts, had an uncanny knack for improvising French lyrics with his strange high voice.1  Named after the town of Basile, Ardoin was no stranger to the "blues" that this town offered him,
One time they had a dance hall in Basile, and what saved him was some white guy who was learning how to play the guitar.  Somebody threw a big ol' rock--whoever done it wanted to hurt him bad--and the rock went through the guitar.4  

Oh comment je vas faire, catin,
Mais, ouais, ’tite fille je m’en vas à la maison tout seul,
Comment tu veux, dis, ouais, je peux faire, ’tite fille,
Si tes parents veulent pas, je te demanderais pas,
Dis, ouais, c’est toi, éou c’est tu veux je peux aller,
Mais, ouais, mon nèg, chaque fois que je vas pas c’ez toi.

Oh, mais, oui, catin; comment,
Si vous-autres peuvent faire m’en aller de toi, ’tite fille,
Moi, je te vois pas, c’est beaucoup rarement,
Je serais contente te rejoindre, te rejoindre, ’tite fille.

Oh, comment je vas faire, catin,
Dis ouais, je vas tout seul éoù c’est je vas aller,
Que tes parents veulent pas, comment je vas faire, tite fille.
Daily Advertiser
May 1, 1931

It's unlikely we'll ever know for certain what became of Ardoin. By some accounts, he wound up in a mental institution in Pineville, Louisiana. The only concrete evidence of this, however, is a death certificate issued May 30, 1941 from Pineville for a person named "Amelie Ardoin." And the certificate lists Ardoin as being 20 years older than he actually was at the time. Others say Ardoin eventually left Pineville and headed home.1  Music writer Tom Schnabel compares the song to his life and death,
Listening to it, I was reminded of a much more famous singer, the blues great Robert Johnson, who himself died of mysterious circumstances at age 27.  There is a great deal of myth surrounding Johnson’s life, as it’s been rumored that he was poisoned by a jealous girlfriend. Others say that he sold his soul to the devil in a faustian deal to become the greatest blues singer of all time. The latter story involved Johnson taking his guitar to Dockery Plantation at midnight to seal the deal, which turned out to be a meeting at the crossroads. The music of Ardoin and Johnson has a certain edge that captures the energy of their youth. Songs like Ardoin’s “Blues de Basile,” parallel the same piercing, exhortatory urgency of Johnson’s “Preaching Blues.”2  

Oh, how will I do this, pretty doll,

Well, yeah, little girl, I'm going to go home all alone,
What do you want, tell me, yeah, I can do this, little girl,
If your parents don't want, I won't demand,
Tell me, yeah, it's you, wherever you want, I can go,
Well, yeah, my friend, every time that I'm not going to you.

Oh, well, yes, pretty doll, how?
If you all can make me leave you, little girl,
I don't see you, it's very rarely,
I'll be happy to join you, to join you, little girl.

Oh, how will I do this, pretty doll,
Say yeah, I will go all by myself, where ever can I go,
That your parents do not want me, how will I do this, little girl.

Amede Ardoin

The common, accepted story is: While playing his accordion at a local farmhouse in Eunice, Louisiana, in the late 1930s, Creole musician Amede Ardoin wiped his brow with a handkerchief given to him by a white woman. Two white men angered by the exchange between Ardoin and the woman followed him outside, where they beat him, backed over him with a Ford Model A truck and threw him in a ditch. He woke up crippled, with permanent brain damage.1  Fellow musician Canray Fontenot remembers how that night changed his friend:

After that, "he didn't know whether he was hungry or not.... He was plumb crazy."1
In 2014, "Blues de Basille" crossed over, making it's appearance into the mainstream when it was recorded by jazz violinist Regina Carter on her album "Southern Comfort".3   

  1. http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2011/03/amede-ardoin-cajun-zydeco-mardi-gras
  2. https://www.kcrw.com/music/articles/the-zydeco-legend-of-amede-ardoin
  3. https://www.newsounds.org/story/regina-carter-in-studio/
  4. The Kingdom of Zydeco By Michael Tisserand
Release Info:
NO-6719 Blues De Basille | Brunswick 531
NO-6720 La Valse A Thomas Ardoin | Brunswick 531

Pioneers of the Cajun Accordion (Arhoolie, 1989)
I'm Never Comin' Back: The Roots of Zydeco (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)

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