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.
- Lyrics by Stephane F
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)