Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Rou Li Aie" - Cliff Lemaire

Rôdailler!  A native of Cow Island, George Clifford "Cliff" Lemaire led a group called the Kaplan Swingmasters during the late 1940s, playing Cajun music in the western swing style.  Cliff worked as a car salesman during the day but led the Swingmasters at night from the town of Kaplan, Louisiana. 

"Bye bye," jolie blonde et "bye bye," jolie brune,

C’est tout pour la blonde et ina rien pour la brune,

J’arrive à la prairie, mon cheval est bien là,

J’ai soif et j’ai faim et j’sus si loin de ma famille.

Je demande à mama, "Si je fais ça, si c’est dur?"
Elle a répondu, "C’est rôdailler les chemins."

C’est rôdailler les chemins,
Avec le jogue au plombeau,
Et avec les patates dans la poche,
Et la bouteille dans la main.

C’est rôdailler les chemins,
Avec le jogue au plombeau,
Et avec les patates dans la poche,
Et la bouteille dans la main.

Cliff Lemaire

"Rôdailler", from the French verb "rôder" directly translates to "roaming around".  Having a certain dialect from the area, Neal Pomea explains:

The song's French title should have been spelled "Roulailler", but he definitely sings "Rôdailler" as they would have in Vermilion parish.1  

The song features a lively performance with one of the musicians clapping loudly in the background, maybe to represent the feel of a honky-tonk crowd.  The fiddle leads the tune with the background filled with slide steel guitar and electric lead guitar.  These backup musicians were three Romero brothers of New Iberia.  "The Swingsters" comprised of Harold Romero on fiddle, Johnny Romero on drums, and Louis "Bee" Romero on bass.  With record producer Virgil Bozman at the helm, the Cliff and the Romeros recorded the songs around 1950 at the Romero Music Store.  The place was one of the first in the state to have access to magnetic tape medium and a tape recorder.2     

Bye bye, pretty blonde and bye bye pretty brunette,

It's all for the blonde and nothing for the brunette,

I arrived at the prairie, my horse is there,

I'm thirsty and hungry and I'm so far from my family.

I asked mama, "If I do this, is it hard?"
She replied, "It's like roaming the roads."

It's like roaming the roads,
With a whiskey pommel jug,
And with potatoes in the pocket, 
And a bottle in hand.

It's like roaming the roads,
With a whiskey pommel jug,
And with potatoes in the pocket, 
And a bottle in hand.

  1. Discussions with Neal P
  2. Discussions with Lyle F
  3. Lyrics by Smith S
Release Info:
Rou Li Aie | Hot Rod 104
Cow Island Special | Hot Rod 104

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

"The Waltz Of Our Little Town" - Adam Trahan

Joe Falcon's breakthrough recording of "Lafayette" for Columbia records in 1928 spawned other players to take up the challenge.  By the time Joe arrived back from his second session, Cow Island native Adam Trahan had challenged Joe Falcon to an accordion contest, convinced he, himself, was a better player.  His denouncement of Joe's abilities at best garnered him the attention of a local furniture store owner and the Columbia executives.  At 19 years old, Adam received a telegram from Columbia Record Company representative, F. Mackey.  It directed him to "hop on the next train to New Orleans" where he would meet with the Columbia record contacts.1

He arrived in New Orleans in December of 1928 where he waxed the song "The Waltz Of Our Little Town" (#40501). The accordion melody has some similarity with Angelas Lejeune's 1929 recording of "Bayou Pon Pon", played as a waltz instead of a one-step, however, the lyrical melody resembles Joe Falcon's 1928 recording of "Osson".  It borrowed some similarities from an old fiddle melody called "Rubber Dolly". By 1934, Amede Ardoin traveled to NYC and recorded the song for Decca with many similarities, giving it the title "Tortope d'Osrun".   After the war, Austin Pitre sped up the tempo and created his "High Point Two Step" and "Janot Special". 

Si 't'avais écouter ton papa et ta maman, 

Aujourd'hui toi tu serais avec moi à la maison, 

J'ai courtaillé, j'ai roulayé, pour essayer, 
De t'avoir, malheureuse, j'ai pas pu.

Tu m'as pris de la maison comme un pauvre orphelin,
Tu m'as promis de t'soigner jusqu'à le jour de ma mort.

Abbeville Meridional
Dec 15, 1928

Sadly, Adam's guitarist and Milton native Edney Broussard, improvised all the chord changes, causing his session to sound terribly dissonant.   Columbia Records invited Trahan back for a second recording session, but he declined, having already sold his accordion.1  But his reputation as an excellent accordion player lingered in the community.  According to the Abbeville Meridional in 1929,
Adam Trahan has made a few records for the Columbia Phonograph Company, and is considered a wicked key snapper.  His ability to coax seductive melodies from the ol' wind box borders on the marvelous.  With the first strains from Adam's accordion the puritanical toe shakes off its solemnity--acquires a new cunning and swings into line with the dictates of nature.2  

If you'd listened to your dad and your mom,

Today, you'd be with me at home,

I had courted, I had ran around, trying,
To have you, miserable one, I just couldn't.

You took me from the house like a poor orphan,
You promised to take care of me until the day I die. 

Crowley Daily Signal
Apr 18, 1929

  1. Accordions, fiddles, two step & swing: a Cajun music reader by Ryan A. Brasseaux, Kevin S. Fontenot
  2. Abbeville Meridional (Abbeville, Louisiana) 24 Aug 1929
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:

W147634-2 The Waltz Of Our Little Town | Columbia 40501-F
W147635-2 The Pretty Girls Don't Want Me | Columbia 40501-F

Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Friday, March 20, 2020

"Oh-Meon" - Harry Choates

By 1951, Cajun western swing fiddler Harry Choates' career was cut short.  After Choates' death, some of his obscure recordings were released on other Texas based labels.   Originally recorded for Bill Quinn's Gold Star Records in 1950, it seems it was released on Hummingbird afterwards.  Hummingbird Records out of Waco, TX and was managed by H.M. Crowe, a former executive for Decca Records and Houston record distributor for Gold Star.  "Oh-Meon" (#1011) seems to be a one of many un-released 1947 Gold Star recordings that labels such as Hummingbird, Starday, and D Records latched onto and began to issue.  Harry used the popular Cajun melody made famous by Leo Soileau and Mayuse Lafleur in their 1928 recording of "Your Father Put Me Out".  

Mon tout seul, pour t'en aller, pour t'en aller, petite,

Oh, cherie, moi j'connais, j'mérite pas ça.

Oh, mignonne, moi j'connais, il y a pas longtemps,
Oh, cherie, moi j'connais, ça me fais pitié.
Church Point News
Aug 17, 1948

"Meon" was a common phrase Harry used in his lyrics; the corrupted form of the French word "mignon", which in this reference means "cutie". While some of the un-released material were clearly done at Gold Star studios, others were recorded at an unknown location.   Even some of his tunes were later overdubbed by a backup band called Kentucky Slim and Southerners.  It's unknown if Hummingbird even used Gold Star's facilities to manufacturer their sides.  These mysteries leaves researchers with little knowledge of the recording's band members other than possibly Mateo Garza on bass and either Pietro Marchiando or Louis Oltremari on accordion.

I'm all alone, for you've left, for you've left, little one,

Oh, dearie, I know, I don't deserve that.

Oh, cutie, I know, it won't be long,
Oh, dearie, I know, that made me pitiful. 

After Daily of "D" Records purchased the Goldstar masters in 1955, he began re-releasing his music including on the "D" label in 1961. 

  1. House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios By Andy Bradley
  2. "Harry Choates: Devil in the Bayou".  Liner notes.

Release Info:
HB-1011A Big Woods | Humming Bird 1011-A
HB-1011B Oh-Meon | Humming Bird 1011-B

Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)

Monday, March 16, 2020

"La Valse Du Mariage" - Guidry Brothers

When early Cajun music artists are discussed, rarely does the location of St. Martin parish come to mind.  However, it would take an obscure group from the Anse La Butte area to record one of the more amiable marriage songs in the Cajun bayou.  Shelton Devillier, grandson of Dosete Guidry, remembered asking his grandfather the name of their band. Dosete replied, “Guidry Brothers!”  All of the brothers in the Guidry band played multiple instruments. Shelton, stated, 
Dosete loved the violin. That was his favorite. He played the accordion. He played the mandolin.1 

C'est dans un petit village, j'ai rencontré une jolie brune,
J'ai commencé lui faire l'amour, elle m'a montré ses amitiés,
J'ai aussi parlé du mariage, elle m'a donné-z un contentements,
Cela m'a mis beaucoup content et remplit mon cœur de joie.


Chere amie, si t'es pareille, on va aller dedans l’église,
Se présenter devant l'autel et le prêtre nous mariera,
Le contrat sera passé, et le billet se signera,
Et ton cœur sera pour moi et mon cœur sera pour toi.


Arthur Guidry, Dosete Guidry, Isidore Guidry

Something wonderfully unique is their recording of "La Valse du Mariage" (#15864), an alternate take on a Cajun wedding march. Different from the more popular "La Marche de Mariés", it speaks of the joy of meeting a pretty girl and wishing to get married at the altar.  Unlike many Cajun songs that discuss the fears of leaving behind the single life, the Guidrys sing of a lover excited to marry his longtime love interest.  According to record producer Christopher King,
I like the marriage waltz. If I could travel back to the 1880s in southwest Louisiana, I could imagine having heard this at a common plantation wedding.1   

In a little village, I met a pretty brunette,
I started flirting, she shared with me her friendship,
I also talked about marriage, she gave me a commitment,
It made me very happy and filled my heart with joy.


Dear friend, if you'd like, we'll go inside the church,
Go to the altar and the priest will marry us,
The contract will be passed (around), and the record will be signed,
And your heart will be for me and my heart will be for you.


  1. "Breaux Bridge At Center of 90-Year-Old Cajun Music Mystery".  Wade Falcon.  Teche News.  2019. 
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A

Release Info:
NO-242 Le Garcon Chez Son Pere | Vocalion 15854
NO-243 La Valse Du Mariage | Vocalion 15854

Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

Sunday, March 8, 2020

"La Rille Cajen" - Dennis McGee & Ernest Fruge

The Cajun Reel!  Dennis McGee's Scots-Irish roots truly come to form in his renditions of old Appalachian reels.  From their Anglo-American neighbors, Cajun musicians learned jigs, hoedowns, and Virginia reels to enrich their growing repertoire which already included polkas, contredanses, varsoviennes and valses-à-deux-temps.3  Learning from his father John McGee, uncles Ulysses McGee and Joseph McGee, and his cousins Oscar McGee and Theodore McGee, Dennis played—and joined in—on many contra and square dances in his courting days.

Every week they would pass on horseback and knock on every door to tell the people where the dance was.  And, chère, I believed I danced!  When I danced, everyone left the floor because I was the best.  They couldn't dance like I could.2   

Dennis McGee

But not all reels were danced to in south Louisiana.  One genre of traditional songs provided a link between the dance band and home songs: the "reels a bouche," similar to Celtic "mouth music." These were tunes that were sung—in particularly by women—to accompany round dances during Lent when instrumental performances were not allowed. The verses and meters of these pieces are generally simpler than those of the home music, but they are still a more private mode of expression than the dance hall numbers.4  

At the makeshift studio, the duo was introduced to Cajun humorist Walter Coquille.  Walter was attending the Brunswick session to kick off his series of spoken word recordings and decided to introduce McGee and Fruge's song to the listening public as "genuine Cajun breakdown music".  His 1930 New Orleans recordings of "La Rille Cajen" (#512) and "Dance Caree" were both tunes used in square dances.   The reel required more movement than other dancing styles such as the contredanse français.  Dennis recalled, 
The reel was a difficult dance and it took good legs.  You had to jump around quite a bit.3  

You can hear Coquille calling out dance instructions: "Avancez!", "Famille tout le tour!",  "Tourne la dame!"  Dennis spent many of his later years playing these same reels at places such as weddings. Dennis recalls:

I remember an old Indian woman we called Ma Carreau who sang at all the wedding dances. She had blue eyes and frizzy hair. She was a midwife.  She knew all the wedding songs. Her husband played the violin.  We would play the reels for fancy stepping, "pour fair des pas".2     

Leleux Dancehall, 1938
Courtesy of LOC, Russell Lee Collection

Recorded in 1930 in New Orleans during the depth of the Great Depression, the recordings suffered from poor record sales and were mostly forgotten.   Not long afterwards, the accordion became the dominant instrument throughout much of Cajun music.  Author Barry Ancelet explains:

Dennis McGee was around when what we now call Cajun music was invented, or was developing.  Because of how he learned and who he learned from, he was one of the last living links to our musical past.  He performed in a style that went back before the accordion had affected Cajun music as much as it has today.1  

  1. "Cajun Fiddler Dead".  CPS. 1989.
  2. Dennis McGee ‎– The Complete Early Recordings.  Liner notes. 
  3. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  4. http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/creole_art_pub_priv_cajunm.html

Release Info:

NO-6713 La Rille Cajen | Brunswick 512
NO-6714 La Danse Carre | Brunswick 512 

The Early Recordings Of Dennis McGee: Featuring Sady Courville & Ernest Fruge (Morning Star, 1977)
Dennis McGee ‎– The Complete Early Recordings (Yazoo, 2006)

Monday, March 2, 2020

"Ma Petite Chere Ami" - Thibodeaux Boys

As music changed from accordion-led duos towards string bands in the mid 1930s, Joe Werner scored a series of recording sessions with both RCA Bluebird and Decca Records.  Joe Werner and the Ramblers, Joe's Acadians and the Thibodeaux Boys were Hackberry Rambler spin-offs, led by Joe himself, recording as often as he could with whomever he could find to play with at the time.  While the identity of these men, T.C Thibodeaux and Erby Thibodeaux, are fairly obscure, they produced a small sliver of Cajun-based string band tunes during the 1930s. 

Ça merit’ tourne à toi,
Ma petite chére est là,
Ma petite belle, ma petite belle est là.

Oh ouais, jouez donc pour moi,
Ma petite, ooh la-la,
Ma petite belle, ma petite belle est là. Oh, chére.

Oh, braillez pas pour moi,
Ma petite chère amie,
Ma petite chère, ma petite chère amie.

Ça merite tourner à toi,
Ma petite chère qu’est là,
Ma petite belle, ma petite belle est là.

Oh, jouez donc pour moi,
Ma petite chère est là,
Ma petite belle, ma petite belle est là.

Oh, braillez pas pour moi,
Ma petite chère amie,
Ma petite chère, ma petite chère amie.
Crowley Daily Signal
Mar 12 1949

The song "Ma Petite Chere Ami" (#2043), recorded for Bluebird in 1938, is a typical Texas influenced string band recording played in the dance halls of south Louisiana. Joe Werner's vocals and his harmonica backed up Erby Thibodeaux on fiddle and T.C. Thibodeaux on guitar.  Erby (sometimes spelled Irby) would eventually form his own band with fourteen year old Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez, known as the Daylight Creepers.   A young J.D. Miller, who would later create Feature Records, would fill in on guitar.
You're worth returning to,
My little darling is there,
My little beauty, my little beauty is there.

Oh yeh, playful with me,
My little ooh-la-la,
My little beauty, my little beauty is there.  Oh dear!

Oh, don't cry out for me,
My dear friend,
My dear little one, my dear little one is there.

You're worth returning to,
My dear little one is there,
My little beauty, my little beauty is there.

Oh, playful with me,
My little darling is there,
My little beauty, my little beauty is there.  Oh dear!

Oh, don't cry out for me,
My dear friend,
My dear little one, my dear little one is there.

Erby would later form the Round-Up Boys of Crowley in the 1940s, playing in small clubs such as the Beacon Club.   By 1952, he started Erby Thibodeaux Electrical company.

Release Info:
BS-022010-1 La Manvais Femme | Bluebird B-2043-A
BS-022011-1 Ma Petite Chere Ami | Bluebird B-2043-B

CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)