Wednesday, November 27, 2019

"Boora Rhumba" - Nathan Abshire

It's the Cajun version of "La Cucaracha" with the famous Dewey Balfa on vocals singing this Tex-Mex standard.   Although the term 'rhumba' began to be used by American record companies to label all kinds of Latin music between 1913 and 1915, the history of rhumba as a specific form of ballroom music can be traced back to May 1930, when Don Azpiazú and his Havana Casino Orchestra recorded their song "El manisero" (The Peanut Vendor) in New York.  The film "Rumba", released in 1935, brought the style to the attention of the general public.

Between 1954 and 1957, southern bands were getting introduced to sounds of Cuba,  creating a short lived "country mambo" sub-genre.  With artists such as Tex Williams, Hanks Snow and Bob Wills, they recorded tunes such as "They Were Doin' The Mambo ", "That Crazy Mambo Thing ", and "Too Much Mambo".2   

La cucaracha, la cucaracha, 'gardez-donc les cheveux de cet animal là. 

J'aurais jamais cru, j'aurais jamais vu que sa maman l'avait jamais peigné.

La cucaracha, la cucaracha, 'gardez-donc la gueule à cet animal là. 

J'aurais jamais cru, j'aurais jamais vu que sa maman l'avait jamais lavé.

Altas Fruge, J.B. Fuselier, Nathan Abshire,
Jim Baker, Preston Manuel

By the beginning of 1956, the rhumba was all the rage around Nashville.  Several artist wrote songs about the tango, including Jimmie Rodgers' and Hank Snow's "The Rhumba Boogie" and Ernest Tubb & Red Foley's "Too Old To Tango".3   In July of 1957, Nathan's "Boora Rhumba" (#649) hit the market, attempting to jump into the rhumba craze that swept through country music.  It didn't last long and neither did the interest in this song, making this one of the most obscure recordings by Abshire.   

Abshire's band at the time consisted of Dewey Balfa on vocals and fiddle and Jake Mier or Darius Leblanc on steel guitar, Junior Benoit on guitar, and  Thomas Langley on percussion. The "animal" referred to here as "la cucaracha" by Balfa could be a euphemism for an unkempt woman.     

La cucaracha, la cucaracha, look at the hair of this animal over there,

I can't believe that I've ever seen that her mom ever combed it.

La cucaracha, la cucaracha, look at the mouth of this animal over there,

I can't believe that I've ever seen that her mom ever washed it.

Why a would the term 'rhumba' have anything to do with this traditional Spanish-Mexican folk ballad?    It was clear the band wasn't versed in the culture to know the difference.  It probably didn't matter to Khoury either who was only interested in selling records, waiting to capitalize on this short lived market.  It was pressed very late in his Cajun discography and done in such a rush, the labels on each side of #649 are reversed.  He even used a different label color, most likely signifying he used a different pressing plant.

  4. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
K-649-A Boora Rhumba | Khoury's 649-A  (label reversed on 78)
K-649-B Carolina Blues | Khoury's 649-B (label reversed on 78)


Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)
Bayou Two-Step - Cajun Hits From Louisiana 1929-1962 (Jasmine, 2015)

Friday, November 22, 2019

"La Valse De Louisiane" - Walker Brothers

Introducing Louisiana-based Cajun music to outsiders was a risky endeavor.  It could have gotten you boo-ed off stage or worse.  Texas-influenced string band music was all the rage in Louisiana and not much cultural exposure was headed the other way.  This didn't stop Lawrence Walker from trying. By 1935 he was recording Cajun tunes like "La Valse De Louisiane" (#2198) for Bluebird records in New Orleans and quite often playing Texas hillbilly music in Dallas. While Walker enjoyed entertaining his Texas audiences with hillbilly music, he was determined to try to introduce Cajun music.  He recalls his discussions with his father:
One night as we were packing our instruments to go play for a dance, I told daddy, "You know something. I want to bring my French accordion and play some old French music for those Texans."  But daddy was doubtful.  "They'll laugh at you" he told me.  But I said "Let them laugh".1
Lawrence Walker, 1936

Songs like "La Valse de Louisiane", a simple instrumental of the Cajun favorite "Jolie Blonde", was ideal for Lawrence and his brother Elton Walker to introduce Texans to Cajun music.  Backed by his brother, it's possible guitarists Junior Broussard and Norris Mire were at the session.  His early stage performance in Texas must have gone over fairly well. He continues:
During Intermission, I announced that at the next dance I would have a "surprise" for them.  A big crowd turned out that night and at 10 sharp, I strapped on my accordion and announced "I am going to play a French instrument and if you like it --applaud, and if you don't, I'll just change right back to my fiddle.  No hard feelings".  Well, they all clapped and clapped and hollered, too. And from then on I played straight French accordion.1   

  1. Interview by Mona Mel Mouton.  Jan 18, 1968
Release Info:
BS-87612-1 La Valse De Louisiane | Bluebird B-2198-A
BS-87613-1 Pourquois Vous Etes Si Cannai | Bluebird B-2198-B

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"La Valse Du Grande Chemin (The Waltz Of The Big Road)" - Iry Lejeune

By the late 1940s, almost all commercially recorded Cajun music was little more than Texas swing music sing in French.  But in 1948, Iry Lejeune recorded the "Love Bridge Waltz" and the pendulum began to swing back again. His cousin Angelas Lejeune, who had an accordion, recalled there was no money to buy Iry and accordion, so almost each day, Iry would come. Iry would play all morning while Angelas worked in his fields. His first accordion was a give from his uncle Stephen Lejuene.6   

During Eddie Shuler's first session at Iry Lejeune's home, Eddie picked up his guitar and with Milton Vanicor on fiddle, they belted out six tunes in a session that lasted into the night. One of those tunes was "La Valse Du Grande Chemin (Waltz Of The Big Road)" for Shuler's Goldband records in 1952 (#103).  The melody is essentially the same tune as "The Waltz That Carried Me To My Grave" recorded by Joe Falcon and Cleoma Breaux in 1928.

Oh, chère.

Dis "bye-bye" à ton pop,
Et ta mom, chère,
Pour t'en revenir à la maison,
Pour me rejoindre,
'Gardez-donc, quoi t'as fait,
Fait souffert, chère,
Un petit cœur qui t'aimaint,

Oh, bebe!

'Gardez-donc, chère 'tite fille,
Toi, t'es là, chère,
Après m'espérer,
Dans la porte de ma maison,
Moi, je croyais, chère 'tite fille,
Donc, jamais, chère, 
'Garde voir mon cercueil là, après m'espérer.

Oh yé yaie, chère c'est dur, c'est dur.

Asa Vanicor, Iry Lejeune, Milton Vanicor

The husband or lover who has been abandoned is a common figure in Cajun music, and he often uses the image of the empty house to refer to his unhappy state, complaining that he is left alone there, suffering, as he hopes for his wife's return. His request for reconciliation likewise takes the form of asking her to return to his house, as Iry LeJeune suggestion in "La Valse De Grande Chemin". According to Linus Bertrand,
Every Saturday morning, Iry would walk the half-mile from his house out to the gravel road with accordion in a sack.  From there, he would catch any ride he could, no matter where it was going., and go play his accordion for whomever would listen.  Often he would sit in with Alphee Bergeron and the Veteran Playboys during their dances at the popular Dixie Club in Eunice.6  

Milton was one of the Vanicor family members that played with Iry after his success with the Oklahoma Tornados.  During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Vanicor and his brothers, Ellis and Ivy, along with nephew Orsy Vanicor and brother-in-law Asa Lejeune and Iry Lejeune, performed as the Lacassine Playboys.  Vanicor recorded on many of Lejeune’s albums and hits, including "La Valse Du Grande Chemin". According to musician D.L. Menard: 
"[Milton's] music and the way he played, it was one-of-a-kind...he played his own style."

Oh, dear.

Say "bye bye" to your dad,
And your mom, dear,
You're coming home,
To join me,
So, look what you've done,
Suffered, dear,
A little sweetheart that love you,
Oh my.

Oh, baby!

So, look, dear little girl, 
You, you're there, dear,
Expecting me,
In the door of my home,
I couldn't believe it, dear little girl,
Never, dear,
See my coffin here, waiting for me.

Oh, ye yaille, dear, it's hard, it's hard.

Shuler re-issued the tune on 45RPM twice, once listed as G-1024 and then much later as G-1024-2 in which he labeled the pressing a "Collector's Item". The recording would become "Dis Bye Bye à Ton Pap" by Allie J. Young in 1975 for Gerard Dole.  Eddie, who produced almost every recording he ever made, never understood Iry's popularity.  He recalled,
He could go out-I've seen him do this-he'd go out there, get drunk, and start cussing all the people out in the club.  Of course, it would be late at night and they're all half-looped anyway. They'd all get mad, go home, and threaten that they're never gonna come to his dances again.  The next time they came to play, two weeks later, there they all were, right back in there. I didn't understand that at all. But that's the kind of following he had.  He was bigger after that than he was before.7  

  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 15.  2015 Regular Session.  Notes to commend Milton Vanicor for his passion, devotion, and his nearly eighty-year commitment to Cajun music.
  3. Image by Linda M
  6. The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) 29 Dec 1998
  7. Louisiana Music by Lyle Ferbrache and Andrew Brown

Release Info:
Grande Nuit Especial (Big Night Special) | Goldband G-F103-A
La Valse Du Grande Chemin (The Waltz Of The Big Road) | Goldband G-F103-B

The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2003)
Les Cajuns Best Of 2002 Les Triomphes De La Country Volume 12 (Habana, 2002)
J'ai Ete Au Bal - Vol. 1 (I Went To The Dance) (Arhoolie, 2011)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Chuck's Waltz" - Chuck Guillory

Murphy "Chuck" Guillory learned to play from his father, Mady Guillory. He first picked up the instrument at the age of seven in the 1930s.3  
I picked up his violin when I was 7 and I was too little to tune it. He tuned it for me, and I started playing with one finger--I learned to play it own my own.3  

Starting out small, like most Cajun musicians, he played in local establishments, country dances, and local musical contests.  According to Guillory,
I'd rather play music than eat.2  

Hé, p'tite fille, un jour à venir, mais, malheureuse, 
Moi, j'connais tu vas pleurer tu sera trop tard,
Hé, un jour à venir chérie, 
Moi, j'connais tu vas venir, mais, malheureuse.

Hé, mais, tu connais, chérie, 
Tu connais, t'es jamais dernière* pour ça t'as fait.

Herman Durbin, Jimmy Newman, Chuck Guillory,
Curzy "Pork Chop" Roy, R.R. Sagg (emcee),
Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez

After the breakup of Harry Choates' Melody Boys, Guillory attracted two of his biggest sidemen in the industry, fiddler Curzy "Porkchop" Roy and steel guitar player Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez.   Porkchop grew up learning from his father, in which he recalls "could play anything, accordion, fiddle, guitar, piano...".1   He explained his nickname from childhood,
When I was a kid, I chewed gum all the time. As soon as the flavor was gone, I'd spit the gum out and pop in another piece. So my father called me "cochon" (pig).1  

Daily World
May 2, 1950

At sixteen years old, Porkchop cut his teeth early on, playing the drums with Harry Choates and the Melody Boys and by the time Papa was filling in, the band, the two musicians found themselves in Eunice working alongside Guillory's group. Together, in 1950, they recorded a tune called "Chuck's Waltz" (#1015).   It's a song most likely introduced to Guillory by his early sideman, Preston Manuel. Preston, who played with Chuck shortly after the war, had helped popularize this tune in the 1930s as "Chere Tu Tu" with J.B. Fuselier.  Preston recalled playing with Guillory,
I had quite playing with J.B. for a few years, right after WWII, and we organized a band, me and Chuck, The Rhythm Boys.   My main man is Chuck .  I like to play with him and he's such a nice guy.  He's a good fiddler too!4   

Hey, little girl, one day will come, well, oh my,
I know you are going to cry, you'll be too late, 
Hey, one day will come, dearie, 
I know you're going to return, well, oh my.

Hey, well, you know, dearie,
You know, you'll never last*, for what you've done.

After working in the grocery business in Mamou for years, he brought back Preston and Porkchop for something he called a "re-comeback" in 1982, re-recording many of his old tunes including "Chuck's Waltz".   Porkchop reminisced a harrowing night with the band and Papa Cairo,
One night, we played a dance at Tee Maurice. Afterward, we went riding around Bosco with Papa Cairo...just looking around. The fella driving the car jumped a canal and we ended up in the water. I came up with my hair hanging all over my face. Papa Cairo was laughing at me, but he changed his tune when he saw his six string steel-guitar floating down the canal.  He started hollering for someone to grab it quick.   He didn't mind being in the canal near as much as losing that steel.1  

  1. "Cajun Musician Curzey Roy Recalls the Robust Rhythms".  Fannie Genin. DW. Sep 1984.
  2. "Guillory Nominated". Candace Riley. VPG. Mar 5, 1989
  3. "Fiddler Stands By Old Time Music". Robin Miller. TT Sep 26, 1993.
  4. "Ye Yaille Chere" by Raymond Francois 
  5. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
Chuck's Waltz | Feature F-1015-A
Teiyut Two Step | Feature F-1015-B


Grand Texas (Arhoolie, 1998)
Jimmy C NEWMAN - The Original Cry, Cry, Darling (Jasmine, 2009)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

"Silver Star Stomp" - Hackberry Ramblers

By the late 1940s the Hackberry Ramblers had evolved from a small string band into a large western swing ensemble, complete with a horn section. Edwin Duhon now played acoustic bass, piano, or accordion, as the moment demanded, all the while working in the oilfields. The group made some fine recordings with this configuration for the Deluxe label.1  Deluxe had recorded the group at a club across the street from the Silver Star dance hall in Sulphur, Louisiana one night after performing.  Luderin Darbone played fiddle and sang while Lennis Sonnier backed him up on rhythm guitar.

 Hired in 1946, the Silver Star was a place where the Ramblers often outplayed Cliff Bruner's group during battle-of-the-bands competitions.  Sometimes they'd win dance contests simply by striking up their French version of local favorite "Jole Blon".   Recalling performing opposite a number of popular musicians, including Moon Mullican and T. Texas Tyler, Edwin Duhon stated:

We'd play "Jole Blon".  They'd count how many dancers.  We'd win every time.  Cliff Bruner, same way. We just beat the shit out of him.2,4 

Tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller, pour t'en aller avec un autre,
Audjourd'hui, j'apres me braillier, 
J'apres me braillier, pour t'en venir, t'en venir avec un nègre, 
Audjourd'hui, j'apres me braillier. 

Lake Charles American Press
Sep 17, 1954

Places like the Silver Star dotted Hwy 90 during the 1940s.  The Star's "house band" during the late 1940s, led by guitarist Amos Comeaux, occasionally would broadcast live from the dancehall itself via KWSL.  Accordion to author and historian Nola Mae Ross:
Nearly every square foot along a 35 mile strip from Westlake (Louisiana) to Orange (Texas), called the "Silver Strip", was occupied by a dance hall or casino with back rooms where gambling was enjoyed by thousands of area citizens.5

Hackberry Ramblers, 1948
Lennis Sonnier, Neal Roberts, Lefty Boggs,
Luderin Darbone, Edwin Duhon

In order to compete with the "big band" crazy in the 1940s, the Hackberry Ramblers changed up their lineup in order to land performances in the same venues as big orchestras.  The 1948 tune "Silver Star Stomp" (#6038) is a swinging version of Papa Cairo's "Big Texas" with a brass accompaniment by Gary Major on saxophone and Neil Roberts on trumpet.  Throughout the song, Grover Heard fills in with a rocking guitar solo. The remaining band had Edwin Duhon on bass and Lefty Boggs on drums.  The whole session for DeLuxe was recorded live at a dance-hall across the street from the Silver Star.  According to Luderin:

We started at the Silver Star in 1946 and played until '56.  We built our home with the money from the dances I played. Each brick on our home represents one tune I played, during the 10 years of Saturday nights at the Silver Star on old Highway 90.3,7

You've left me to go away, to go away with another,
Today, I'm crying,
I'm crying, for you've come back, you've come back to your man,
Today, I'm crying. 

Lake Charles American Press
May 20, 1954

By the early 1960s, however, demand for the Ramblers’ sound dwindled, along with general interest in Cajun music. Luderin Darbone considered disbanding the group, but Chris Strachwitz—the guiding force behind Arhoolie Records, who has documented a wealth of Louisiana music—encouraged the Hackberry Ramblers to stay active. Strachwitz recorded the Ramblers in 1963 and also reissued some of their Bluebird classics.1    

According to author and Hackberry Ramblers drummer, Ben Sandmel,
I think "Silver Star Stomp" reflects southwest Louisiana's transition from a totally isolated rural agrarian French-speaking area to a far more industrialized (primarily oil) bilingual region where Cajun culture interacted significantly with mainstream America, in the context of vast changes in communication which made that interaction ever more far-reaching.  Some of the other DeLuxe sides are weak but this one, to my ear, is a gem.  And it really gives a sense of evolving music history.6  

  2. Crossroads: A Southern Culture Annual By Ted Olson
  4. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  5. Louisana Folklife Journal. Vol 37.  2013.  Ron Yule.
  6. Discussions with Ben S
  7. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule 
  8. Lyrics by Smith S
Release Info:
D 942 Dans Le Grand Bois | Deluxe 6038-A
D 944 Silver Star Stomp | Deluxe 6038-AA