Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"La Valse A Tidom Hanks" - Angelas Lejeune & Ernest Fruge

One the most impassioned stories in Cajun folklore that has been mostly lost to time is that of Adam "Tit 'Dom" Hanks and Alice Royer: The Cajun Romeo and Juliet.3  Angelas Lejeune and Ernest Fruge teamed up together to tell the legend of Hanks and Royer.  It involved a horse named Henri.2 According to columnist William Thibodeaux of Lafayette:
It's an Amercian love story, not unlike a lot of others. Adam "Tee Dom" Hanks and Alice Royer were sweethearts, but Alice's papa didn't approve of Tee Dom. Figured he wouldn't make a good son-in-law and so they disapproved of their engagement. They obeyed Alice's papa. Alice soon married someone else and left Tee Dom with a broken heart.1  

Oh, chère, malheureuse, chère, petite.

Oh, chère, criminelle, oh, quoi t'as fait z'ave(c) moi aujourd'hui.

Oh, Alice 'garde Adam, il est après venir,
Oui prépare toi moi j'veux voir il est apres venir, aujourd'hui.

Ça qui fait j'te dis ça, moi j'le vois il est après venir, (sur) le grand wrack* sur Henri,
Moi, j'le connais pas tu vu ton vieux nég'.

Oh chère, 'garde ton neg' qu'est après arriver, pour toi aujourd'hui.,
Quoi faire que tu m'fais tout ça, toi tu m'fais.

'Garde, tu m'fais plus d'mal à moi,
Dis (à) 'ton nég' que t’écoutes les conseils que les autres t'en mal.

Chère, tu connais si tu voudrais observer pour toi-même, 
Tu peux te sauver des misères à pas écouter les conseils.

Adam "Tee Dom" Hanks
Courtesy of Pierre Daigle

Researcher Pierre Daigle uncovered the true story in the early 1970s.  In the original tune, Tee Dom sang "Il a la jogg au plombeau, et le chapeau sur une coté". The reason for their disapproval was that Tee Dom loved to ride his horse Grand Henri while drinking from a whiskey jug.  He would ride with his chapeau (hat) cocked to one side, meaning, he didn't give a hoot about a thing.  The heartbreaking story of Tee Dom and Alice spread throughout the land, and a beautiful waltz was created.   Finally, Tee Dom relented an married Armena Thibodeaux, and together they raised seven children.  Years went by, but time didn't mend Tee Don's broken heart. He was still in love with Alice.  According to Pierre,  
Despite being married, whenever Tee Dom went to house dances he would sing and play his accordion to the melody of "La Valse a Tee Dom" as tears flowed down his cheeks.1,2  

Alice eventually married Edmond Miller and the family moved around the Scott/Judice area of Lafayette.  In 1930, Angelas was given permission by Tee Dom to use the lyrics of his song when he recorded "La Valse a Tidom Hanks" (#511) in New Orleans.  Pierre searched for Angelas Lejeune and he explained,
It's true.  The night before I went to cut the record, I talked to Tee Dom and asked him if I could use his words.  He said I could.2   
Angelas Lejeune

Oh, dear, oh my, dear little one.

Oh, dear, it's criminal, oh, what you've done with me today.

Oh, Alice, look at Adam, he's coming back,
Yeah, prepare yourself, I want to see, he's coming back, today.

That, which I've done told you that, I see he's coming back, on the big horse* Henri,
I don't know if you see your old man.

Oh, dear, look at your man who is arriving, for you, today,
What you've done to me, all of that, you've done to me.

Look, you've hurt me the most,
Tell your man that you listening to the advice of others has hurt you.

Dear, you know if you'd like to see for yourself,
You can save yourself from misery by not listening to advice.  

Alice Royer Miller
Courtesy of Pierre Daigle

When he arrived home, while playing a dance in Duson, a woman approached Angelas. Angelas explained,
A woman came to the bandstand.  "Are you Angelas Lejeune?" she asked. "Yes," I answered. "Are you the one that recorded 'La Valse a Tidom Hanks'?"  "Yes, I am".  "Would you play it and sing it as you did on the record?" she asked. So I played it.  And all that time that I played she stood behind me on the band stand.  When the song ended, she walked away.  She looked... well, moved.2  

Pierre eventually found Alice living in Judice.  She claims that one night at a dance near Bosco, Tee Dom told the late Lawrence Walker the words to the song.  The legend would carry on into Walker's "Chere Alice", referring to the sweet Alice Royer, a melody borrowed from his earlier "Country Waltz".  The melody can also be found earlier in Leo Soileau's "Valse de Josephine" and later in Austin Pitre's "Rainbow Waltz".  Alice eventually confessed to Pierre,
[Tee Dom] is the man I would have married had it not been for Papa.2  

  1. "The Legend of Tee Dom and Alice".  Discussions with William J. Thibodeaux.  The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) 13 Nov 2011
  2. Tears, Love and Laughter by Pierre Daigle
  3. "Du Chicot": A Collection of Essays by Randy Whatley
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
NO-6708 One Step Du Maraist Bouler | Brunswick 511
NO-6709 La Valse A Tidom Hanks | Brunswick 511

Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins, 2013)

Friday, August 23, 2019

"La Prison" - Virgil Bozman

John Hardin “Virgel” Bozman. He was a rustic singer/guitarist (born in Oklahoma) and part-time comedian who sometimes billed himself, with tongue-in-cheek, as “The Arkansas Sinatra“. He seemingly was also a house painter. He  had apparently been a staple on the San Antonio country and western music scene for some time.  Virgel Bozman was an eccentric Texas bandleader who became fascinated by Cajun music.1  

He had already recorded a Hillbilly record for Bill Quinn, "Griding For My Darling", which was virtually impossible to locate even when it was new. A 1945 contract for Bozman exists, so he may have had an unknown release on Quinn’s earlier Gulf label, or the sides could have become the later Gold Star release.1  However, once Quinn scored a huge success with Choates' "Jole Blon", Bozman couldn't help but take notice. 

Oklahoma Tornadoes, 1947
Floyd Leblanc, Iry Lejeune, Ben Oldeg,
Bennie Hess, Virgel Bozman

Bozman revamped up Bennie Hess' band as the Oklahoma Tornadoes in 1947 with new musicians of the caliber of Cajun fiddler Floyd LeBlanc. Together they came up with a viable French-English novelty "La Prison"(#1332). Somehow Quinn failed to see the potential of the song and buried it on the flip-side of "The Hokey Pokey" – a piece of pure corn by the Gold Star Trio. But the song still caught on as it was flipped over on the jukeboxes in several regions, and copies show up today with mint "A" sides and plowed "B" sides. With the right promotion, the record had the ingredients to become at least a regional hit in the hillbilly market. Bozman was not deterred and began to feature Cajun music more prominently, although he himself could not speak French outside the words that were scribbled on paper for "La Prison".1  Fiddler Wilson Granger stated:

He sang that "La Prison". He sung that in French, but what they did, it's just a few words, you see.  That's easy to say. But outside of that, he didn't speak French, no.2  

Well, I left for Louisiana about a year ago,
Started out through Texas while traveling with a show,
I landed in old Houston feeling mighty fine,
Until I met that woman and now I'm doing time.

Dans la prison, le "hell" avec ça,
Moi je m'en 'viens à la maison,
Dans la prison, le "hell" avec ça,
Moi je m'en 'viens dans vingt-quatre ans.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times
May 28, 1953

The significance of "La Prison" lies in understanding how Cajun music's impact on Texas musicians was starting to become apparent. After Texas-resident, Harry Choates, made "Jole Blon" so popular, people like Virgel and Floyd became aware of the music's marketability.   Cajun musicians didn't realize it but the genre was about to take off once more.  Recordings like this one sparked people like Virgel to pursue other Cajun artists to record and kicking off his interest to setup his own label.  So much so, that same year, he and Floyd convinced Bennie Hess to record Iry Lejeune's first session producing the monumental "Love Bridge Waltz" and eventually helped resurrect one man's career in 1949 by having him wax a well-known song on Virgel's fledgling O.T. record label:  Nathan Abshire and his "Pine Grove Blues".1    

In prison, to hell with that,

I'm going to return to my house,

In prison, to hell with that,

I'm going to return in twenty four years.

  2. Wilson Granger interview. Andrew Brown. 2005.
  3. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  4. Lyrics by Smith S


Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 4: From The 30s To The 50s (Old Timey, 1972)
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

Monday, August 19, 2019

"The Swallows" - John Bertrand

John Bertrand was born near Opelousas, more in the mainstream heart of the Cajun landscape, and the same can be said of his music, with its highly rhythmic accordion accompaniment.  In terms of repertoire, though, the common factor is that several of his songs, many of which he appears to have learnt from his mother, would also seem to show Old World origins.1    

Oh, ouais, partout que j’aime, ces lis donc me conviennent pas,

La seule que mon cœur aime, elle est si loin de moi,

Et si j’aurais des ailes, comme tous ces hirondelles, 
Aupres de toi la belle, j’irais me reposer.

En te contant mes peines, et ensuite mes amities.
En te contant mes peines, et ensuite mes amities.

Apportez-moi une verre, que je boive à la santé,
Ina-t-une bouteille que j’aime, que je boive sans la nommer,
Il y’en à qui aime la blonde, et d’autre qui aime la brune,
Mais moi j’sus pas comme çà, j’aime bien mais tout les deux.

Comment tu veux je fais, pour aller bien tout les deux?
Comment tu veux je fais, pour aller bien tout les deux?

Crowley Daily Signal
Mar 15, 1929

In 1929, Bertrand and his guitarist Milton Pitre traveled to Chicago and recorded "The Swallows" (#12730).  But by the time the recordings had arrived on the shelves, Pitre had been shot and killed in a dispute over a woman.  According to Ray Templton,
The Swallows, for all its English title, is surely an old traditional French song.  Bertrand’s records all featured guitar accompaniment by one Milton Pitre.  His playing is rather odd – he seems to be repetitively plucking single or double strings rather than playing chords.  He doesn’t always hit the right harmony, but that may just have been recording session nerves, and most of the time it’s quite effective.1  
John H. Bertrand

Oh, yeah, everywhere I like (to be), I don't find comfort in the beds,

The only one that I love in my heart, she is so far from me,

And if I had wings like all these swallows,
Beside you, beautiful one, I would go and rest.

Tell you my sorrows, and then my friendships,
Tell you my sorrows, and then my friendships.

Bring me a drink, that I'll drink to health,
There's a bottle that I like, that I'll drink without saying her name,
There are some who love blondes, and others who love brunettes,
Well, me, I'm not like that, I love, well, both of them.

How do you want me to go with both of them?
How do you want me to go with both of them?

Known as "Oh, Si J'aurais des Ailes", it was recorded in 1934 by Alan Lomax by Sansey Bonnet of Crowley.   Later, in 1977, Loricia Guillory also recorded the song for Gerard Dole in Mamou. 

  2. Lyrics by Smith S and Stephane F
Release Info:
21077-5 The Swallows | Paramount 12730-A
21074-1 The Rabbit Stole The Pumpkin | Paramount 12730-B

John Bertrand / Blind Uncle Gaspard / Delma Lachney Early American Cajun Music (Yazoo, 1999)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"Le Vieux Arbe De Pin (They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree)" - Louisiana Rounders

The Louisiana Rounders were formed from several Acadia Parish musicians, one being the popular entertainer Joe Werner.  After his big break with "Wondering" recorded with the Hackberry Ramblers, he went on to follow up with a mildly successful recording career.  In the early 1930s, country music from Texas began it's large scale influence on local Cajun music in Louisiana.  Several bands from west Louisiana and east Texas popped up using country music instruments and sang Cajun French lyrics. Joe Werner had alot of success with Happy Fat's early band and made a name for himself.  It wouldn't be long before Decca would ask him to travel to Dallas for a recording session where he invited Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez to come along and record with Wayne Perry as the Louisiana Rounders.

Ils ont coupé le vieux arbre de pin,
Ils l'ont halé loin au moulin,
Pour faire un cercueil de pin pour le cher cœur a moi,
Quand ils ont coupé le vieux arbre de pin.

Elle a pas une fleur* dans sa poche ce soir,
Où, là, mon cœur va toujours être,
Ils ont coupé mon cœur quand ils ont séparés,
Quand ils ont coupé le vieux arbre de pin.
Daily Advertiser
Aug 18, 1938

In 1937, Werner, fiddler Wayne Perry and steel guitar player Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez traveled to Dallas, TX and recorded the old tune "Le Vieux Arbe De Pin (They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree)" for Decca records (#17046).  The song was an old American folk tune, first recorded in 1929 by George Brown, Edward Eliscu, William Raskin and Albert Barbelle and then later by the Carson Robison Trio and Dick Robertson.  It would eventually become a staple of western music.  In his line, "elle a pas une fleur dans sa poche ce soir", he could be referencing the line "elle a pas seule dans sa tombe ce soir" which speaks of the love interest buried in the grave but never really alone.

Papa Cairo

They cut the old pine tree,
They hauled it away to the mill,
To make a pine coffin for my dear sweetheart of mine,
When they cut the old pine tree.

She is not alone in her grave tonight,
There, where my heart will always be,
They cut my heart when they separated it,
When they cut the old pine tree. 
Joe Werner and Papa Cairo continued to work together throughout their careers.  The song's popularity continued for decades, recorded by artists such as Sons of the Pioneers, Jimmy Driftwood and George Fisher, Gene Autry, Black & White, Buck Wilson & His Rangers, Dan Parker w/Orch, Dick Robertson w/Orch, Frank Luther, Frankie Marvin, Gene Carroll - Glen Rowell, Hart & Ogle, Joe Rines & His Orch, Paul Mason, Redd Evans & His Billy Boys, Rice Brothers Gang, Tennessee Moonbeams, Tommy & Willie, and the Tune Wranglers.

  1. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
63075 Le Vieux Arbe De Pin (They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree) | Decca 17046 A
63078 Vingt Et Un Ans (Twenty One Years) | Decca 17046 B

JOE WERNER Early Cajun Artist (BACM, 2016)

Friday, August 9, 2019

"My Jolie" - Eddie Shuler

Before Edward "Eddie" Wayne Shuler Jr entered into the record business, he had played and wrote many of his own songs.  He played guitar with The Hackberry Ramblers before forming his own band, The All-Star "Reveliers", which performed on the radio station KPLC.   

By 1945, he figured having his own label would allow him to promote his Reveliers band and so he created the Goldband record label.  Most of Shuler's pressings were done by Buster Williams' "Plastic Products" out of Memphis, TN.  Eddie Shuler recalls selling his records of himself:
I’d sell ‘em out of the back of my car. See, what I’d do, I’d take my records and put ‘em in the back of my car and go call on all the jukebox operators. And they didn’t know who I was, ‘cause I’d just tell ‘em “Goldband.” I didn’t want ‘em to know that I was the artist, ‘cause the jukebox operator’s not gonna buy a record from the artist, ‘cause they never are any good, according to them.1   

Viens t'en donc dans la maison, mais, chère Joline,

Pour toujours, mais, moi j'connais, tu vas pleurer, 'tite fille.

Tu m’as dit, mais, tu m'aimais, mais, chère jolie,
Aujourd'hui, t'es après m'quitter, pour ton bon à rien, chérie.

C'est rapport à ta vieille maman que tu me fais ça,
Moi j'connais tu vas pleurer, mais, pour l'avenir,
Plus personne, mais, pour m'aimer, comment j'vas faire?
Tu connais, mais, chère mignonne, ça me fait du mal.

Ton bon à rien, moi j'connais, mais, tu comme ça,
Viens me rejoindre, petite, m'voir, que je mérite pas, chérie.
KPLC Radio inside Majestic Hotel
Eddie Shuler, Glenn Croker, Venola Brunker,
Nookie Martin, Charles Broussard

Living in Lake Charles, he was exposed to quite a bit of Cajun music; something he referred to as "French Folk" music from the local area.  In 1948, he recorded "My Jolie" (#1018).  It featured Eddie on guitar and Norris Savoy on vocals and fiddle, however, it's possible Hector Stutes played fiddle for this recording. It was a slow country version of Papa Cairo's "Allons Kooche Kooche" and "Gran Texas", similar to the Breaux Brother's "La Valse du Bayou Plaquemine".

His music didn't garner near the attention he had hoped for. In 1955 the Reveliers disbanded. Eddie commented: 
"Not only was I tired of all the long nights and travel but also it was wreaking havoc on my marriage. You know how musicians always tend to attract the girls," he always said with a wink.2,3  

So, come to the house, well, dear Joline,

Forever, well, I know you're going to cry, little girl.

You have said, well, you loved me, well, dear pretty one,
Today, you are leaving, you good-for-nothing, dearie.

It's because of your old mom that you've done this to me,
I know you're going to cry, well, eventually,
No one, well, to love me, how am I going to handle this?
You know, well, dear cutie, it hurts me so.

You good-for-nothing, I know, well, you're like that,
Come join me, little one, to see me, that I don't deserve (this), dearie. 


Release Info:

Friends Gather | Goldband G-1018-A
My Jolie | Goldband G-1018-B

Eddie Shuler & His All Star Reveliers: Grande Mamou (BACM, 2016)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

"Valse De Mon Vieux Village" - Amede Ardoin

While many refer to Cajun as the domain of the Canadian exiles' white descendants and zydeco as that of French-speaking black Creoles, it was an African-American accordion virtuoso named Amede Ardoin who pioneered the sound we recognize today as Cajun music.4  

Although today, people recall hearing the stories of Ardoin playing with fiddler Dennis McGee, many do not realize Cajun fiddler Leo Soileau got his start playing with Ardoin as a teenager at many of the local area dance halls.   On one particular night, at a dance hall in Chataignier, they performed for 200-300 people.1   Leo recalled,
I played with that man there.  Ardoin...I started with him. He lived right there in Eunice. You know, we'd meet, we'd hear each other.1  

Oh, bonsoir, moi, je m'en vas,

Je m'en vas à la maison,

Dis bonsoir, mouman, moi, je m'en vas, catin,

Oh, j'après m'en aller,

Moi, je m'en vas tout seul à la maison,

Je m'en vas, je m'en vas moi tout seul.

Oh, ye yaille, je m'en vas, jolie,

Oh, j'suis après m'en aller,
Moi, j'ai été pour te voir à la maison, catin,
Toi, t'étais encore pas revenu.

Oh, t'es pas revenu, ye yaille,
Oh, toi, t'es pas revenu,
Quand j'étais te voir à ta maison, toi,
Ta mouman disait t'été pas là,
Quand j'ai arrêté, moi, j'ai demande pour toi,
Oh, pour toi, Caroline,
T'étais pas là, toi, Tante Carole, ye yaille,
Tante Carole, j'ai demande ayou tu t'es. 

Amede Ardoin

Leo's accordion partner Moise Robin recalled watching the duo early on.
When I was young, Amede Ardoin was playing with Leo Soileau at my brother-in-law's Pecaniere dance hall and he would bring crowds that the people couldn't come in.3  
In fact, Leo claims it was his invitation to Ardoin, enticing him to move from Columbia and RCA to the new Decca recording label in 1934, where Amede recorded "Valse De Mon Vieux Village (My Old Home Town Waltz) in New York City (#17003).   The session would be his last.  He spent the rest of his years inviting and avoiding trouble. According to Canary Fontenot, he was always composing new songs about what he'd observe.
Ardoin had a lot nerve.  Some of them fellas, them and their wife was in a feud or something and [he] would go sit there and play, and he'd sing about a certain thing the man done to his woman. And whoever it was, they knew what he was thinking about, and they didn't like it. Said he had a bad mouth.5,7   

The man who was the subject of the song, decided to do something about it. According to Canray Fontenot,
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 got mad, I guess. Threw a big ol' rock--whoever done it wanted to hurt him bad--and the guitar player put his guitar in front of Amede and the rock went through the guitar.  [The rock] broke that guitar to pieces. But Amede kept right on playing.6,7  

According to Wade Fruge, the songs he sang would cause Ardoin to have to flee the dance hall scene.
He'd leave the accordion and he'd run across the fields many a time.5   
Acadian Signal
Oct 5, 1933

Eventually, his troubles caught up to him.  In 1933, while playing alongside fiddler and friend, Douglas Bellard, at a festival in Mowata, LA, an argument broke out between the Bellard and two other gentlemen.   Either because of a recent jealous feud or a long bitter rivalry that finally came to head, John Abdalla and an unknown man named "Ogdell" waited patiently until Ardoin and Bellard began playing music. Abdalla walked around the outside of the building and fired several gunshots through the dance hall window, severely injuring Douglas and Amede in the back.    Luckily, both musician recovered and the culprits were captured by Acadia Parish sheriff Felix Lina.2   

Oh, goodnight, I'm leaving,

I'm going home,

Say goodnight, mama, I'm leaving, pretty doll,

Oh, I'm leaving to go,

I'm leaving all alone to the house,

I'm leaving to go, I'm leaving by myself, alone.

Oh, ye yaille, I'm leaving, pretty girl,

Oh, I'm leaving to go,
I have been (here in order) to see you at the house, pretty doll,
You hadn't returned.

Oh, you haven't returned, ye yaille,
Oh, you haven't returned,
When I had been (there) to see you at your house,
Your mama said you were't there,
When I stopped by, I aksed for you,
Oh, for you, Caroline,
You weren't there, you, Aunt Carole, ye yaille,
Aunt Carole, I asked where you were.

  1. Interview with Leo Soileau and Ralph Rinzler. CLS.
  2. Acadian Signal. Oct 5, 1933
  5. Searching For Amede Ardoin by Michael Tisserand.  "I'm Never Com in' Back". Liner notes.
  6. PBS's American Patchwork 'Don't Drop The Potato'.  Alan Lomax. 
  7. Mardi Gras, Gumbo, and Zydeco: Readings in Louisiana Culture edited by Marcia G. Gaudet, James C. McDonald

Release Info:
39196-B Le Midland Two Step (The Midland Two Step) | Decca 17003 A
39204-A Valse De Mon Vieux Village (My Old Home Town Waltz) | Decca 17003 B


I'm Never Comin' Back: The Roots of Zydeco (Arhoolie, 1995)
CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)