A unique window into the world of Cajun music between 1928 and 1965. Compiled histories from websites, books, news articles, liner notes, and interviews. Most come from my personal 78 collection. Also covering Creole, Cajun-Country, and Cajun swing.
The mid-1930s saw a dramatic change for Cajun musicians, one that had the largest effect on traditional accordion players. The old-fashioned sound of the 20s was gone and American pop songs, mainly driven by string bands, were all the rage. Slowly, groups like Leo Soileau and the Falcons had to adapt to these growing changes to meet the demand in the dance-halls of the South. One of Joe and Cleoma Falcon's favorite places to play was at Catahoula Lake near the Atchafalaya Basin in St. Martin Parish. The "lake" is actually a wide section of water at the junction of Bayou Mersier and Bayou Berard Canal. The town of Catahoula was established here and by 1928, dance-halls popped up such as the large Catahoula Inn and Noe Lasseigne's dance-hall. The Catahoula Inn boasted a large gathering room for 2500 dancers and became a popular spot for area musicians to perform.
Cleoma Breaux Falcon
Once I loved a darling seaman,
Oh, and he thought this world of me,
Until another girl persuaded,
And now he cares no more for me.
I don't want your greenback dollar,
I don't want your watch and chain,
Yes, all I want is your heart, darling,
Won't you take me back again?
Oh, many a strolls we took together,
Oh, down beside the deep blue sea,
But in your heart, you love another,
But in my grave I'd rather be.
I don't want your greenback dollar,
Oh, I don't want your watch and chain,
Yes, all I want is your 22-20,
Just to shoot out your dirty brain.
Papa says we cannot marry,
Oh mama says it'll never do,
But if you ever learn to love me,
I will run away with you.
Catahoula Inn, 1928
In 1936, fiddler Moise Morgan tagged along with Joe and Cleoma to create their own unique string band sound. In New Orleans, the trio covered their rendition of the old traditional "I Don't Want Your Greenback Dollar" which is slightly based on a song called "East Virginia Blues". Leo Soileau used a similar melody in his English hillbilly recording of "Little Darling Pal of Mine". Maybe fearing royalty conflicts or legal action by other labels, RCA had the trio change the title. Being a frequent performer at Lasseigne's dance-hall hot spot along the lake, the song became the "Catahoula Stomp" (#2186). To increase sales in the Cajun market, the record company pressed the song on the flip-side of a Hackberry Ramblers tune. This cover of a beloved English radio tune foreshadowed the style which the Falcons soon found themselves accustomed.
Lyrics by Jimmy Walker
Release Info: BS-99231-1 Catahoula Stomp | Bluebird B-2186-A BS 99213-1 Leave Me If You Wish (Hackberry Ramblers) | Bluebird B-2186-B
In 1933, when Luderin Darbone was 19, he joined Edwin Duhon to form a two-member band and named it the Hackberry Ramblers. However, There was a change even before the band got its first job. Duhon, accomplished on both the accordion and guitar, had planned to play the accordion to accompany Darbone’s fiddle. But the accordion was battered and wheezy. A new one would cost $20 — more than either young man had.1By the time the Ramblers were hitting their stride and Eli Oberstein contacted them to record, the accordion was no longer the popular instrument in Cajun bands.
Et là, heir au soir,
Mais, t'as été dans l'amour,
Elle m'avait dit elle voulait pas m'voir,
Mais ça, ça m'fait du mal.
J'ai quitté la maison,
Pour m'en aller dans le Texas,
J'ai quitté ma vieille mère,
Parce que mon cœur était cassé,
J'aimerais être avec toi,
Mais, je connais tu veux pas m'voir,
Je vas rester à Houston,
Parce que je connais tu me veux.
By 1935, according to Luderin, "no band had an accordion". Duhon put down his ailing instrument and picked up his guitar. However, Darbone and Duhon did have a radio. They tuned to every station they could find that played country and western music. The Hackberry Ramblers started with a fiddle and guitar.1
The first accordion record was released about in 28 or 29. At this period, when we moved to Crowley, it was about 1935. Then RCA Victor got this fellow, Leo Soileau, to come in and make some of these Acadian records and they went over pretty big. Then the next time they came down, or before they came down, I wrote to them and told them that we could play that type music too. Then we started practicing up on these.2
By 1937, the group consisted of Lennis Sonnier on vocals and guitar, Floyd Shreve on guitar, Claude "Pete" Duhon on bass and Luderin Darbonne on fiddle. At the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, the ensemble recorded "Quitter La Maison" (#2021).
And there, last night,
Well, you were in love,
She told me she didn't want to see me,
Well that, that's terrible.
I left home,
To go away to Texas,
I went to my old mother's place,
Because my heart was broken,
I'd like to be with you,
But I know you don't want to see me,
I'm going to stay in Houston,
Because I know you want me to.
"Hackberry Ramblers Making music since 1933". DON KINGERY. American Press, Friday, September 24, 2004
Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info: BS 14000-1 Quitter La Maison (Leaving Home Blues) | Bluebird B-2021-A BS 14007-1 Pas Aller Vite (Step It Fast) | Bluebird B-2021-B Find: Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 3: The String Bands Of The 1930s (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1971) Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Murphy "Chuck" Guillory was one of Evangeline Parishes most popular Cajun string band fiddlers of the 1950s. Backed by Jimmy Newman and Papa Cairo, he teamed up with local accordion player Milton Molitor for a 1950 session for record producer J.D. Miller in Crowley and recorded the song "Oakdale Waltz" (#1014). It was named after the Oakdale Club in Oakdale, Louisiana but for researchers, there's some mystery to why Chuck's name is so prominent on the label. According to Dorothy Pitre, wife of Austin Pitre:
There were members of the Chuck Guillory band on the recording, but Chuck Guillory did not play on that record. It was my husband Austin. Austin and Milton often played together in the late 40s and early 50s.1
Hé, moi, depuis je m'là envoyer,
Hé, à ma maison, moi, tout seul, bébé.
Oh, yaille, yaille, bébé,
Hé, ma jolie, mon seulement, chère.
Oh, yaille, petite, tu casse le cœur,
Hé, quoi je connais, (qui) peut croire s-en tout ça, chère
Ah, t'as fait aujourd’hui z-avec moi,
Hé, quitte-moi m'en aller à maison aller mourir.
Hé toi, comment m'en aller à ma maison,
Hé, quoi j'vas dire à pap et mam, yaille,
Ay yaille, yaille, quoi t'as fait,
Hé, moi j'connais tu vas m'faire mourir, bébé.
Oakdale Journal Mar 18, 1948
Dorothy also thinks that the record was recorded by someone other than J.D. Miller, perhaps by a traveling record company. According to author Lyle Ferbrache:
Our best guess is that Milton Molitor is playing with Chuck Guillory's band without Guillory. Was Guillory's name used by mistake?1
Later, Austin would re-record the tune with his own band, calling it the "New Oakdale Waltz" and Leroy Broussard changed the lyrics in his well-known "B.O. Sparkle". Yet, Chuck admitted to record producer Chris Strachwitz that he actually did record with Milton. If Chuck truly is on this recording, one should ask, "Where's the fiddle?" Sadly, Milton didn't leave much of a recording legacy.
Hey, since I was sent over there,
Hey, to my house, I'm all alone, baby.
Oh, yaille, yaille, baby,
Hey, my pretty one, I'm lonely, dear.
Oh, yaille, little one, you broke my heart,
Hey, what I know, who can believe all that, dear,
Ah, what you've done today to me,
Hey, let me go home to go die.
Hey, how am I going to go to my home?
Hey, what am I going to tell my dad and mom?
Ay, yaille, yaille, what have you done?
Hey, I know you are going to kill me, baby.
Lyle Ferbrache. Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller. Liner notes.
Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info: -A Oakdale Waltz | Feature F-1014-A -B Walfus Two Step | Feature F-1014-B Find: Grand Texas (Arhoolie, 1998) Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)
"Seven Candles". In the late 1940s, Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc and Oran "Doc" Guidry teamed up together with Louis Noel and Jack Leblanc and headed to New Orleans to record at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studio. Fais Do Do Records producer J.D. Miller had heard about Matassa's studio and grabbed the musicians for his very first recording session. Miller recalls the trip down old Highway 90 to New Orleans and their time there:
Doc had a friend who was a custodian of a private school in New Orleans. He and his family lived on the top floor of the school and we were invited to stay overnight. With this recording session being what we thought to be one of the highlights of our lives we did a little celebrating, Cajun style. There was plenty of food, plenty of drink, and plenty of music (which) lasted nearly all night--at least as long as the participants were able to celebrate. The next day is when the records were cut.1
T’as parti un an passé,
J’espérais, belle coeur, cassé,
La grande rêve, t’as plus, chérie,
C’a cassé mon cœur en deux.
La bataille t’avais clamée,
Sur la table t'as sont vidée*,
Les paroles, les derniers dit,
Ramenez-moi dan mon pays.
Poussez-moi près de mom et pop,
Pour toujours et près d’elle,
Sept chandelles étaient petite peu,
Pour montrer mon aime était.
Tout ma vie j’ai coursaillé,
J’ai roulé et j’ai traîné,
Là, asteure, j’après mourir,
Un jeune homme de vingt année.
Dans pays j’après mourir,
Prends entend ça, je serai préservé*,
Rêve pas pour moi, j’sus satisfié,
Dans le ciel j’apres t’espérer.
Miller traveled to New Orleans between 1946 and 1948 with Happy, Doc Guidry and Jack Leblanc. The three musicians each cut a record at the Cosimo Matassa recording studio, the only one then in the state. In typical Cajun fashion, they put down the excellent pairing to be heard, "Setre Chandelle" and "Allons Dance Colinda", with no evidence of the previous night's partying. "Setre Chandelle" (#1001) was Happy's rendition of the famous Cleoma Breaux song "Mon Coeur T'Appelle (My Heart Aches For You)" more popularly known as "J'ai Passe Devant Ta Porte". The song discusses the loneliness of losing a loved one who is laying in a coffin, surrounded by "sept chandelles". It's one of the finest recordings of Doc's smooth fiddle solos. According to Miller:
Each guy cut two sides of a 78. We didn't have 45s yet. The records had to be sent to the West Coast to be pressed. They weren't the best records, but they sold.1
Teche News Jun 8, 1951
You've left a year ago,
I was hoping, my beautiful heart, broken,
The big dream, you no longer have, dearie,
It broke my heart in two.
The fight had claimed you,
On the table feeling empty*,
The words, the last ones spoken,
Take me back to my countryside.
Gather me close to mom and pop,
Forever and close to her,
Seven candles were too little,
To show my love.
All my life I've been chasing around,
I had rolled around and dragged around,
Here, right now, I'm dying,
A young man of twenty years.
In the countryside, I'm dying,
Understand that, I'll be remembered*,
Don't dream of me, I'll be fine,
Up in the sky, I'm begging you.
Miller then decided to produce his own records of local musicians. He went to the Gates Record Company in Houston and purchased a portable recorder, a microphone, an amplifier and a speaker for about $3000. The Jay Miller Studio was founded.2
Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's. Liner notes.
Interview with J.D. Miller. By Stacey Courville. Crowley Post Signal. 1983.
Lyrics by Smith S
Release Info: Setre Chandelle | Fais Do Do F-1001-A Allons Dancer Colinda | Fais Do Do F-1001-B Find: Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's (Flyright, 1986) Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)
"All That Remains Is What I Have On". In the 1920s and '30s, Amédé Ardoin was the zipper of Cajun and Creole music. While he was performing, the two genres - though distinct - came together in a groove that shared his repertoire and style. After his death, they wandered apart, further and further as the two went along. Ardoin's influence on both genres is so formidable that he appears on both Cajun and zydeco compilations and is sometimes incorrectly listed as a Cajun. Breaking Jim Crow era barriers, he routinely played with Cajun musicians.1
Oh, oh Joline, (pour) moi d’être croyable avec tes parents,
Oh, petite, oh, j’ai passé à la porte,
Oh, mais, moi, je t’ai pas vue.
Oh, catin, tu devrais pas faire ça,
T’auras jamais bonheur, éyoù tu vas aller?
Oh catin, t’as écouté ta maman et ton papa, je vas partir.
Moi, je m’en vas, oh petite,
Oh, tous les dimanches et les samedis,
Au soir pour aller au bal*,
J'connais pas ça, éyoù j'vas te 'joindre,
J'jongle à toi, pour moi être capable aller 'vec toi.
Oh, moi, j'm'en vas, moi tout seul,
Oh, Joline, moi, je m’en va, oh, moi tout seul.
Oh, petite, c’est la manière, toi, t’as,
Toi comme ça, je peux pas t’empêcher,
T’auras pas bonheur pour tout ça t’après faire à moi Joline.
Daily Advertiser Aug 27, 1931
Ardoin along with his accompanying fiddler, Dennis McGee, left in 1934 to San Antonio and recorded "Tout Que Reste C'est Mon Linge" (#2192) at the Texas Hotel. Not only did Ardoin's life greatly influence Cajun and zydeco music, so did his death. The details surrounding Ardoin's death are the stuff of legend in every sense of the word. Accounts differ. It's almost too much to believe. Some versions only agree that he is dead.1 Author Ryan Brasseaux compares his death to Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix but speculates Ardoin would have made a comeback during the 1960s' folk revival:
I imagine Amédé's career following the same trajectory as, say, Mississippi John Hurt. I imagine that he would have faded into obscurity as musical tastes changed.1
Oh, oh Joline, to gain credibility with your parents,
Oh, little one, oh, I passed by your door,
Oh, well, I didn't see you.
Oh, pretty doll, you shouldn't have done that,
You will never have happiness, where will you go?
Oh, pretty doll, you heard your mom and your dad, I'm going.
I am leaving, oh, little one,
Oh, every Sunday and Saturday,
At night, going to the ball,
I don't know, all alone, I'm going to join you,
Reminiscing of you, of me being able to go with you.
Oh, I'm going away, I'm all alone,
Oh, Joline, I'm leaving, oh, I'm all alone.
Oh, little one, it's the way you, you are,
You're like that, I can't stop you,
You will not be happy because of all of this you're doing to me, Joline.
Author Nate Knaebel states it in a different way:
Cajun music never made it too far out of the swamps of Louisiana and certainly never touched the world like the blues. And even if the sounds that Ardoin recorded failed to capture the imaginations of a bunch of white British guys decades later, his career poses some interesting parallels to Robert Johnson’s. Neither man was the very first to play their respective genre of music, yet they provided primary texts to be studied by anyone wishing to play them going forward.2
In 2009, author Ryan Brasseaux used the record for the cover of his book "Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music".