The story of Oswald entered into the local repertoire and the song's importance highlights one of the "few event songs" in the early Cajun music era. It seems that in December of 1934, Cecilia native Oswald Devillier Jr. was killed by a beating after attending a dance near his home.1,2 According to records, Oswald was "beaten with posts" by the six accused men.3 Articles tell of the grand jury action which found a true bill against three of the men and a no-true bill against the other three who were allegedly involved in May of 1935. Three men, Eugene Dupuis, Bennett Talley and Simon Guidry were sentenced to hard labor in Angola.3
I once had a true pal named Oswald,A boy with a heart made of gold,Whenever his honor was at stake,He fought like a man brave and bold.One evening he took out his sweetheart,A wagon club dance was his goal,But fate had a point in Nina’s Grand Point,A tragedy cruel and cold.A mug pulled a long white new saber,Caused trouble among friends and foes,He somehow perceived the danger,For home he decided to go.Three hostile men prompted by liquor,They lay in wait for their prey,I closed my eyes to the slaughter and cried,Was far too atrocious to say.For long weeks and cold in deep slumber,You, neither mother nor friend,His sweetheart at his bedside kept praying,Good God, won't you please save my man.His eyes fast and firmly towards heaven,His hands became stiffen and cold,He passed with a sigh to his maker on high,He fought like a man brave and bold.What alcohol do to good people,In pain it will leave you torn,A good man of fortune may bolster,And wake up behind prison bars.Dear Oswald, in your place in heaven,Down as to where your killers now hide,May they be forgiven by God and by man,They were friends of yours and of mine.
May 20, 1936
The following year, the Dixie Ramblers began advertising their new song. As Lalonde's song became increasingly popular, word reached the accused murderers upon their release from prison. However, the three inmates didn't take to kindly to the song written about their exploits and any future publicity was quickly extinguished. Fiddler and Rambler front man Hector Duhon explained to folklorist Nicholas Spitzer,
They had got out of the pen and they came to the dance one night and told us, "Don't play that number if you want to stay here tonight!"4
Both Hector Stutes and Lester Lalonde would leave the band and join Clovis Bailey's Southern Serenaders in the late 1930s.
- Teche News (St. Martinville, Louisiana) 22 Dec 1934
- Teche News (St. Martinville, Louisiana) 10 Oct 1984
- The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) 23 May 1935
- Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
- Lyrics by Jeremy R
BS-99220-1 The Death Of Oswald | Bluebird B-2181-A
BS-99218-1 Lalita | Bluebird B-2181-B