Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"La Valse De L'Amour" - Happy Fats

Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc turned into a musician as a young boy trying copy Jimmie Rodgers tunes.  His mother would feed and house traveling musicians with a deal to help her young son become a better player. One of those players was a black blues guitarist that he found playing music on the streets of Rayne. Happy remembered,
Sometimes when I'd bring those fellows home with me, momma would fuss a little, but she always took care of things for me.2  

With better instruction, now, Happy Fats took a job as night waiter in the old Farmer's Cafe in Rayne, and between customers, he'd spend the long night hours practicing his guitar.2  He recalled,
I worked 12 hours a night, but I had plenty of time to practice.  And once, while I was there, I met Gene Autry, who was passing through Rayne on his way to New Orleans.2  

Oh, chère, j’ai prié, ouais, pour t'avoir,
J'ai pas pu, oui, comment, moi j’vas faire.

Oh, chère, quelle espoir, moi j’peux t'nir, 
Pour t’avoir, jolie ‘tite fille, malheureuse.

Oh, chère, viens donc ‘oir la grosse erreur,
T’vas ‘oir, jolie ‘tit cœur, ça t’as fait.

Farmer's Cafe
Rayne, LA

In 1935, he scored his very first recording contract with RCA.  He rounded up band members Norris Savoy on fiddle and Warnes "Tee Neg" Schexnayder on guitar and recorded a familiar melody as "La Valse De L'Amour" (#2172).  It had similarities with Joe Falcon's 1929 "Poche Town", and almost identical in melody to Lawrence Walker's 1929 "La Vie Malheureuse", the Hackberry Ramblers' 1935 "Crowley Waltz", and Cleoma Falcon's 1936 "Ma Favori"   RCA's Bluebird A&R executive, Eli Oberstein was in charge of the session.  He had previously worked alongside Amede Ardoin and Joe and Cleoma Falcon in San Antonio the previous year.  Happy recalled the first recording session:

Eli Oberstein was in charge, he was a very jolly man, I'd call him a jolly giant.  I'd say he was a man about six feet, five inches tall, a Jewish man.  He could be a stormy type of fellow, though, if you didn't get things done right he'd get awful mad for a few seconds.  Then he'd come back and say, "let's cut a good one!"1  
The following year, Cleoma Falcon would record the song as "Ma Valse Favori", slowed down and shifted in key. 

Oh, dear, I prayed, yeah, to have you,
I couldn't, yes, how will I handle this?

Oh, dear, what hope can I hold onto?
To have you, pretty little girl, oh terrible woman.

Oh, dear, so come see your big mistake,
You'll see, pretty little sweetheart, what you've done. 

Happy Fats and
Clarence Locksey

For years, Happy kept the identity secret of this early guitar "teacher" that had kick-started his love for the instrument until 1979.  Author John Broven asked Happy how he got started,
I taught myself and if I'd see a hobo or something with a guitar, I'd go pick him up and bring him home, give him dinner, maybe learn a few chords with him.  Then there was a colored boy here in town that I learned a lot from, a fellow by the name of Clarence Locksey, he's still living. He knew some chords, he'd play this black blues stuff.1   

In 1979, during a celebration of his life and career, Happy introduced Rayne native Clarence Locksey to join him in the celebration and have him play some of the "mean blues" which he does so well.3  Born in 1910, Locksey lived his life as a sharecropper and his wife Adeline worked as a housekeeper in the landlord's house.  Many people recalled seeing Clarence walk up and down the streets of Rayne with a guitar, playing the blues.  In the 1950s, record producer J.D. Miller spotted the musician and invited him to record four songs for his label with Lazy Lester on percussion and lead guitar.  The tracks remained unreleased until Flyright Records issued them on LP in 1989.  Locksey lived to be over 100 years old. 

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Interview with John Uhler.  1954.  CDS
  3. The Rayne Acadian-Tribune (Rayne, Louisiana) 08 Nov 1979
  4. Lyrics by Smith S and Stephane F
Release Info:
BS-94402-1 La Fille De St Martin | Bluebird B-2172-A
BS-94403-1 La Valse De L'Amour | Bluebird B-2172-B

No comments:

Post a Comment

Got info? Pics? Feel free to submit.