Sunday, May 24, 2020

"Bosco Stomp" - Lawrence Walker

Oh, c'est ça fait du mal!  It's one of the most recognized tunes in all of Lawrence Walker's discography: the Bosco Stomp.  Transcending both Cajun and Zydeco music, musicians since the 1950s have been playing and recording this tune.  Named after the community of Bosco, which in turn was named after a store owner, Fernest "Bosco" Prejean, it was located between Lafayette and Church Point.  The melody was originally recorded by Delin T. Guillory and Lewis Lafleur as the song "Quelqun est Jalous" ( or "Quelqu'un est Jaloux") for Victor in 1929.   According to writer Neal Pomea:

Bosco Stomp, a remake of Delin T. Guillory and Lewis Lafleur's "Quelq'un est Jaloux", is a well-loved standard showpiece, common to the repertoire of Walker's contemporary and rival, Octa Clark.2   

Crowley Daily Signal, Oct 1949

Ça, ça m'fait du mal.

Oh, bébé, ça m'fait du mal.

Oh, haha!

(Il) y a des 'tites blondes,
(il) y en a des 'tites brunes.
Il y en qu'est assez noires que moi j'peux pas aimer,
I(ls) vont t'faire des accroires,
I(ls) vont faire des promesses,
I(ls) vont t'faire ouais t'aimer et là ça te tourne le dos.

Ah, U.J., yeah, alright.
Ah yeah, oh, come on baby.

Ça, ça m'fait du mal.

Petite, rappelle-toi,
Tous les misères tu m'as fait,
Tu mens tout ce qui peux,
Que moi je peux p(l)us t'aimer.

Uray Jules "U.J." Meaux

Working with Lake Charles record producer, George Khoury, Lawrence gathered up his band Valmont "Jr." Benoit on steel guitar, Demus Comeaux on rhythm guitar, Lawrence Trahan on drums, and Uray Jules "U.J" Meaux on fiddle.  Together, they recorded "Bosco Stomp" (#616) in 1951.    A lively piece, you can clearly hear Lawrence call out "U.J." midway through the song.  A popular tune with his contemporary Aldus Roger, store owner Bosco Prejean was Aldus' wife's step-grandfather.  The entire family grew up in the area and recalled the drunken brawls and bloody fights that locals encountered in the rough and tumble Marais Bouleur side of Bosco. 

What's done is terrible.

Oh, baby, what's done is terrible.

Oh, haha.

There are little blondes,
There are little brunettes,
There are some dark haired ones, that I don't like,
They're going to make you believe falsely,
They will make promises,
They will make you, yeah, love them, and like that, turn on your back.

Ah, U.J. yeah, alright.
Ah yeah, oh, come on baby.

What's done is terrible.

Little one, remember,
All the miserable things you've done to me,
You lie all that you can,
Therefore, I can't love you anymore. 

As WWII wound down, Walker was one of the first accordionists to return the instrument to prominence--but not in the old style. His band, the Wandering Aces, fused the string band format with a heavy steel guitar sound with the drive of the accordion.  The result was a brash new sound that came to be labeled "dance-hall".2,3   Once Walker's recording his the jukeboxes, the popularity took off.  For decades, Cajun and zydeco bands found ways to incorporate the song into their repertoire in order to keep the audience dancing.  In 1963, Doug Kershaw reworked the melody into the "Cajun Stripper".  

  1. Francois (Yé Yaille Chère!), 1990; pgs. 346-347
  2. Discussion with Neal P
  3. "Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader" by Ron Brown, Ryan A. Brasseaux, and Kevin S. Fontenot 
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
Waltz Of Sorrow | Khoury's KH 616-A
Bosco Stomp | Khoury's KH 616-B

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Champs (Arhoolie, 2005)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

"Port Arthur Waltz" - Harry Choates

Harry Choates was born in either Rayne or New Iberia, Louisiana, yet early on, he moved with his mother, Tave Manard, to Port Arthur, Texas, during the 1930s.  By the time he reached the age of twelve he had learned to play a fiddle and performed for tips in Port Arthur barbershops.  The Melody Boys, originally formed with Joe Manuel, Eddie Pursley, and local swing musicians around Lake Charles, were in desperate need of a fiddle player.   Harry was quickly added to the mix and eventually became the band's front man. 

Joe knew Harry and his talent from playing together in Leo Soileau's group in 1941 and by 1946, they teamed up for his famous "Jole Blon" recording.  The following recording session, Joe convinced Harry to have Johnnie play piano in the group. The group could become Harry first consistent band for many of the early Gold Star releases. 
Daily Advertiser
May 31, 1947

He, mignonne.

"I know I'm leaving Port Arthur", jolie fille, chérie,
Oh, chère, mais, moi j'connais, j'mérite pas ça.

He, petite, mais, moi j'connais, mignonne,
Oh, pourquoi t'as fais, moi j'connais, tu voir, t'es regret,

Eh, chérie, moi j'connais, mignonne,
Oh, il y a pas longtemps, mais, malheureuse, ça fait d'la peinne.

Ooh, petite, malheureuse, chere, cherie,
Eh, chère, mais, moi j'connais, t'as m'fais pitié. 

Harry Choates, Johnnie Ruth Manuel, Joe Manuel,
Eddie Pursley, B.D. Williams
Speedy's Broken Mirror, Sulphur, LA, 1947
Image by Tim Knight

With the runaway success of "Jole Blon" apparent by the fall of 1946, Quinn quickly brought Choates back to his studio for a follow-up release.  Suddenly Cajun music was commercial, and, for the time being, Quinn would insist that Harry exclusively record traditional material.   "Port Arthur Waltz" (#1319) may have been a traditional piece of material, although Choates claimed authorship.4  According to good friend Levan Meyers, he and Harry were returning from a gig in Sulpher, Louisiana.
Before leaving to return to Port Arthur, Harry purchased a fifth of Jack Daniel's whiskey and by the time they reached Orange Bridge, Harry had consumed the entire fifth, all the while singing what he called the "Port Arthur Waltz".  He was making up the entire song as they drove along.2  

Lake Charles American Press
Feb 27, 1947

The band consisted of Edmond Pursley on guitar, Abe Manuel on guitar, Joe Manuel on banjo, B.D.Williams on bass, Curzy "Porkchop" Roy on drums, and a honky-tonk pianist by the name of Johnnie Manuel.  According to author Tim Knight, his band recorded the "Port Arthur Waltz", which along with "Jole Blon" were hot sellers in the Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Orange County market.2  

Hey cutie.

I know I'm leaving Port Arthur, my pretty girl, dearie,
Oh, dear, well, I know, I don't deserve that,

Hey, little one, well, I know, cutie,
Oh, what you've done, I know, you'll see, you'll be sorry.

Hey, dearie, I know, cutie,
Oh, over there it won't be long, well, oh my , that's painful.

Oooh, little one, oh my, dear, dearie,
Hey, dear, well, I know, you've made me pitiful. 

Released on the flip-side of another traditional tune, "Allons A Lafayette", "Port Arthur Waltz" would not become the national hit that "Jole Blon" was.  In fact, neither Quinn nor Choates would ever had another one of those. But it did sell well in Louisiana and Texas, and that market was large enough to justify Quinn's continuing interest.4   After 1959, Starday purchased most of the rights to the Gold Star records, re-releasing some of Harry's tunes.


  2. Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates, a Cajun Legend by Tim Knight
  3. Image by Museum of the Gulf Coast
  4. Devil In The Bayou by Andrew Brown.  Liner notes.

Release Info:
Allons A Lafayette | Gold Star 1319-A
Port Arthur Waltz | Gold Star 1319-B

ST 2318 Louisiana Boogie | Starday 224
ST 2296 Port Arthur Waltz | Starday 224

Harry Choates ‎– The Fiddle King Of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982, 1993)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

"M&S Special" - Pee Wee Broussard

Joseph Denton "Jay" Miller, owner of M & S Music Store of Crowley got his start as a store owner early on. In 1945, while associated with his father in electrical contracting, he began selling records as a side line.  Around 1946, he traveled to New Orleans with Happy Fats and got introduced to the world of music recording first hand by none other than record producer Cosimo Matassa.  By 1948, he converted his shop into a music store and had two new labels which attracted the attention of Cajun musicians. 

Miller's Cajun label called Feature Records was gaining ground in the early 1950s.  During this period, Cajun music was just holding its own on Feature with occasional releases from Chester "Pee Wee" Broussard and his Melody Boys. Ned Guilbeau, a DJ on a New Iberia radio station, arranged Pee Wee's first session at J.D. Miller's studio at the old M&S Electrical Shop on North Parkerson Street in Crowley, as he liked Pee Wee's playing.1  

Crowley Post Signal
 Jan 14, 1947

Eh, petite, moi j’connais j’ai pris ça dur,

Quoi faire tu m’as dit que tu pouvais, mais, p’us m’aimer?

Eh, bébé, quand t'en quitté, pour t'en aller,

Eh, si loin, z-avec un autre, mais, quelq'un pas mieux*.

Daily Advertiser
Dec 19, 1952

Pee Wee recorded two sessions with Miller during the 1950s.  The second session, which showed that the first two 78s must have sold well enough to please both Miller and Pee Wee, produced "La Valse du Bayou Blanc" and a tribute to Miller's little shop/studio, "M&S Special" (#1064).  For this 1952 session, Pee Wee's Melody Boys comprised of himself on accordion, Jean "Kaiser" Perez on fiddle, Walter Guidry on steel guitar, Andy Johnson on rhythm guitar, and Nathan Latiolais on drums.1  

Hey, little girl, I know I took it hard,

Why did you tell me that you could, well, love me better?

Hey, baby, when you left, to go away,

Hey, so far with another, well, who's not much better.
Located at 218 N. Parkerson, Miller converted his entire business into a music shop. He quickly outgrew his M&S warehouse and over the next several decades, moved his business into bigger and better locations downtown. 

Joseph Denton "Jay" Miller
M&S Music Shop, 1953

  1. Flyright 610, Acadian Two Step, 1988. Notes by Bruce Bastin
  2. Lyrics by Smith S

Release Info:
La Valse De Bayou Blanc | Feature F-1064-A
M&S Special | Feature F-1064-B


Acadian Two Step (Flyright, 1987)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

"La Valse De Boutte Dechuminen" - Nathan Abshire & Rayne-Bo Ramblers

End Of The Road Waltz!   It's one of Happy Fats and Nathan Abshire's very first recordings.  Happy was always interested in music from the earliest years.  It all started in the early 20's when Happy was earning his summer spending money by shining shoes of Rayne businessmen.  He recalls getting his first guitar through a pharmacy in Rayne owned by Walter McBride:
I made a deal with Mac, though. I traded him a sack of rough rice that Mama gave me for the guitar.1  
In those days, rice sold for approximately per sack, so Happy Fats felt he got the better of the bargain.

Ma 'tite fille ça t'as fait avec moi,

Tu m'a quitté, mais, aujourd'hui,

Fallait écouter tous les conseils de nous autre.

Malheureuse, tu peux voir, que mon j'suis tout seul,

Aujourd'hui dans la misère,
Et les chagrins par rapport à tes manières.

Malheureuse, mais, quoi tu veux?

Happy Fats

By 1935, he had teamed up with accordion player Nathan Abshire to record for Bluebird records creating some of the earliest Cajun-country music. Happy and Nathan were backed by Warnest "Tee Neg" Schexnyder on guitar and Norris Savoy on fiddle. They recorded "La Valse De Boutte Dechuminen" (#2178), a corrupted spelling of bout du chemin or "end of the road".   It was Happy and Nathan's version of the Breaux Brother's "Ma Blonde Est Partie".   It would become one of many recordings using this familiar melody, one that Abshire had been playing since at an early age.  He recalled:
I was six years old when I started to play French music.  I put [the accordion] on my lap and I started playing with it.  It was my uncle's.2    

My little girl, what you've done to me,

You left me, well, today,

Should have listened to the all the advice of others.

Oh my, you can see, that I'm all alone,

Today, I'm in misery,
And suffering because of your nasty ways.

Oh my, well, what do you want?

Nathan Abshire

When Nathan got a chance, he would sneak into his uncle's room and play the accordion, but the marks left on top of the furniture gave him away.  
He was working....and we have them old closets which we put clothes in, that's called an armoire.  And he hid it on top and it would mark.  He would put that accordion between the marks and I would not see that.  And when he would go to work, I would get the accordion and start playing. When he'd come back, he'd give me a good whip again.   I would never say a word.  When he'd go back to work, I'd go get the accordion and start playing again. That went on about two months and he'd whip me twice a day, but I never stopped.  He got mad at me and sold it to me for $3.50.2  

  1. Interview with John Uhler.  1954. CDS.
  2. "The Good Times Are Killing Me".  PBS, 1975.
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F and Jordy A
Release Info:
BS-94412-1 One Step De Laccissine | Bluebird B-2178-A
BS-94413-1 Le Valse De Boutte Dechuminen | Bluebird B-2178-B

Saturday, May 2, 2020

"Promise Me" - Leo Soileau

The earliest Cajun fiddler on the commercial recording scene was Ville Platte native Leo Soileau.  His career spanned for two decades in which he constantly reshaped his ensemble to satisfy the ever changing south Louisiana audience.   Although Soileau played primarily Cajun music, both over the radio and at dances, Leo recalled,
Often, we'd broadcast during the day and play a dance that night.  My band could really mix 'em up. We could play French, English or Mexican songs. I don't remember any requests that we couldn't do.3 

But by the end of the 30s, Leo's band grew weary of their professional relationship and they split.   With Shreve's Four Aces on their own, Leo regrouped with a renewed focus on his roots, reverting back to French vocals, and even covering some old Cajun standards.  With Leo on fiddle, his Rhythm Boys consisted of Johnny Baker on guitar, possibly Buel Hoffpauir on guitar, and possibly Tony Gonzales on drums.  "Promise Me" (#17058), or "Promets-Moi", speaks about his jolie brun leaving to go away—to the melody of the old Joe Falcon tune called "Poche Town".

Mais, promets-moi d'une bonne tite fille, mais, jolie brune,

Mais, moi je m’ennuie-donc pour toi,

Jolie brune, pour ton nègre.

Eh, mais, s'en aller,

Nous autres tous seuls à la Louisiane,

C'est pour voir nos parents, chérie.

Mais, c'est pour dire, mais, quoi on a fait, jolie,
Oh, toi, mon nègre, s'en aller z-aussi loin, jolie.

Eh, jolie tite fille, tu connais t'es pour moi ,
Pourquoi-donc tu fais ça, jolie?

Leo Soileau and his Rhythm Boys, 
(Top) Eddy Pursley,
Dalton W. Thibodeaux, 

Herbert Duhon,
(Bottom) Leo Soileau,
Crawford Vincent, Gene Navarre
By Lous Fairchild and Crawford Vincent

The Rhythm Boys recorded two final sessions in 1937 before retiring to a performing career in Cajun Country's honky-tonks, dance halls, and bars. Most of the songs waxed by the Boys were French translations of hillbilly tunes, jazz , and popular arrangements.2   The main two music venues that carried Leo through the war years were the Silver Star and the Showboat.  Crawford Vincent, who had teamed up with Leo and his Rhythm Boys during the war recalled,
We were coming through here, and we were playing music at these clubs around Port Arthur mostly.  Then this fellow here [a bartender at the Show Boat] said, "Boy, this is a booming town. You should move over here." So, we moved here and had this sit-down job [at the Show Boat].1  

Well, promise me to be a good little girl, well, pretty brunette,

Well, I'm concerned for you,

Pretty brunette, for your man.

Hey, well, going away,

We're all alone in Louisiana,

It's to see our parents, dearie,

Well, it's to say, well, that we did, pretty one,
Oh, you, my best friend, going away so far, pretty one.

Hey, pretty little girl, you know you're for me,
So why have you done that, pretty one?

  1. They Called It the War Effort: Oral Histories from World War II Orange, Texas By Louis Fairchild
  2. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. Times Picayune.  Leo Soileau interview. 1975.
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F and Smith S

Release Info:
61896-A La Blues De Port Arthur | 17058 A
61899-A Promise Me | Decca 17058 B

Leo Soileau: Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 7 (Old Timey, 1982)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)