Saturday, October 8, 2022

"Grand Mamou" - Nathan Abshire

While he mirrored the midcentury infatuation with country-flavored honky-tonk music—fiddle-driven and slide-guitar-embellished—Nathan Abshire later helped lead a resurgence of more traditionally crafted Cajun music with the sound of the old-time button accordion reinstalled at its center. This was the music that had fueled both bals des maisons (house parties) and fais do-dos (weekend dances) in the old days.2   

After the war, Nathan's big break came when Ernest Thibodeaux and Wilson Granger convinced the Avalon Club owner, Quincy Davis, that the band needed an accordion player.   Wilson recalled:
That’s where I met him, when I started playing with him. I had heard of him. I know he was from Riceville. Nathan didn’t know much of anything. When they (Quincy Davis) went and got him to play music, he was fixing stoves. Cooking stoves. You know, there’s not a big business in fixing stoves.  Davis had him on the radio five days a week. He got very popular.1   

Eh, mais, t'en aller à grand Mamou,
C'est pour voir les belles 'tites blondes, mais, malheureux.

Eh, jolie 'tite fille, criminelle,
M'a quitte pour t'en aller z-avec vaurien,
Moi je te souhaite tout le malheur que tu peux avoir,
Tu connais j'mérite pas ça, mais, t'après faire. 

It wouldn't be long before Quincy found record label owner Virgil Bozman and convinced him to record Nathan and his band to help promote his Pine Grove Club near Jennings.  Bozman took advantage of this agreement and recorded at least ten songs for his Oklahoma Tornadoes label, starting in May of 1949 at the local KPLC radio station in Lake Charles.  One of these songs was the popular 1935 Leo Soileau tune called "Grand Mamou" (#106). It was a song that Leo had recorded earlier as "Basile" with Mayuse Lafleur in 1928.
Nathan Abshire
Trent Oubre Studio

His band during this recording is believed to have consisted of Will Kegley on fiddle, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Jim Baker on bass, and special vocalist Roy Broussard.  After the OT recordings were produced, many musicians began comparing his style to the more popular  Cajun accordionist Iry Lejeune.  When Nathan's first fiddler, Wilson Granger, was asked to compare his style against Iry Lejeune, he stated:
Nathan played the smoothest accordion, in my opinion, than anybody else.  Iry was a hell of an accordion player.   He could play two-steps like nobody else. But Nathan was easier to follow than Iry, put it that way.1  

Hey, well, you're going to big Mamou,
It's to see the pretty little blondes, well, oh my.

Hey, pretty little girl, it's terrible,
I'm leaving for you went away with a scoundrel,
I wish you all the misfortune you can have,
You know I didn't deserve that, well, what you're doing.

Nathan continued to record, and travel, into his later years.  In 1970, he and the Balfa Brothers performed "Grand Mamou" during a Cajun concert in New York City. 

  1. Wilson Granger interview. Andrew Brown. 2005.
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
106-A Grand Mamou | OT 106-A
106-B Lake Charles Two Step | OT 106-B

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

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