Friday, August 28, 2020

"Jolie Jou Rose" - Austin Pitre

"My Pretty, Rosy Cheeks".  Cajun musician Austin Pitre was surrounded by house parties and the emerging dancehall scene growing up.  All of the area's musicians had a profound influence on Austin's sound.  Austin's fiddle-playing father gave him an accordion in hopes that his six-year-old son would learn to accompany him at the local house dances.  In his spare time he made himself a fiddle from a cigar box and at the age of ten, he won a real child size fiddle by selling flower and vegetable seeds from a catalog.1   

Malheureuse, chère joue rose, 
Fais pas ça, malheureuse, tu me fais du mal.

Chère joue rose, ça t'as fait (a)vec moi, malheureuse, 
Tu m'as pris de la maison, comme un pauvre orphelin,

Malheureuse, ça fait d'la peine de pour toi.
Parce que toi, ouais, changé, malheureuse, un grand vaurien.

Austin Pitre

During WWII, when the accordion popularity slacked off, he formed a string band to please the out-of-state soldiers who floodied the area's bars and dancehalls on the "leave" nights from Fort Polk.  By 1948, it is believed that Crowley record producer, J.D. Miller setup Austin with the a recording session.  That taped session may have been sent to Bill McCall in Los Angelas producing the record containing "Jolie Jou Rose" (#1341).    According to his wife Dorothy, his fiddle mentor, besides his father, was the brilliant Leo Soiileau of Ville Platte.  Austin kept a box of well-used 78RPM records of Amede Ardoin, Douglas Bellard, and Leo Soileau.1  Given his love for Leo's songs, it's no surprise that "Jolie Jou Rose" (referred to as "Chere Joues Rose") was just an adaptation of Leo's "Quand Je Suis Bleu".

Miserable woman, dear rosy cheeks,
Don't do that, miserable woman, you're hurting me.

Dear rosy cheeks, what you've done to me, miserable woman,
You took me away from home like a poor orphan,

Miserable woman, it's painful for you,
Because you, yeah, changed, miserable woman, into a big scoundrel. 

By the early 1950s,  Austin was forming a new band and asked a young insurance salesman and his brothers to come play with him.  That young man was Dewey Balfa.  According to Dorothy, Austin showed Dewey his style and Dewey learned "Chere Joues Rose" from Austin.1  It wouldn't be long before Dewey changed the lyrical theme based on Dennis McGee's "Les Blues Du Texas" and re-titled the melody as "La Valse Du Bambocheur".  in 1971, Austin re-recorded the song as "Cheres Joues Rose" with Alan Ardoin, Preston Manuel and James Pitre at Pitre's Garage. 

  1. Austin Pitre CD liner notes.
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:

3196 Jolie Jou Rose | 4-Star 1341
3197 Gueydan Two Step | 4-Star 1341

Saturday, August 22, 2020

"Tell Me If You Love Me" - Virgil Bozman

Part-time guitarist and part-time comedian, showman John Hardin "Virgil" Bozman eventually found his way into the Lake Charles area after finishing up his military leave in San Antonio.  There, he teamed up with Floyd Leblanc when he joined the Oklahoma Tornadoes.  Carefully watching the lead member Bennie Hess produce independent records, (and with the financial backing of Lake Charles record store owner George Khoury), Virgil kicked off his label with his own recordings—one a reworked version of Amede Ardoin's 1929 "Eunice Two Step", called "Tell Me If You Love Me” (#101). 

Tu m'as quitté, malheureuse,
Pour t'en aller avec un autre,
'Gardez-donc, chère jolie, mais,
Quoi t'as fais?

Quoi t'as fais, malheureuse,
Avec ton nègre, il y a pas longtemps,
'Gardez-donc, chère jolie, 
Te va pleurer.

Plus trop tard, pour ça t'as fais,
Z-avec ton nègre, 'gardez-donc,
'Gardez-donc, malheureuse, mais, jolie cœur.

'Gardez-donc, ça t'as fais,
Jolie fille, il y a pas longtemps,
(Il y a) pas longtemps, malheureuse, avec ton nègre.

'Gardez-donc, malheureuse, 
Ça t'as fais, il y a pas longtemps,
Tu m'a quitté, jolie cœur, mais, c'est trop tard.

C'est trop tard, pour t'en aller,
Z-avec ton nègre, malheureuse,
'Gardez-donc, ça t'as fais j'mérite (pas), 'tite monde.

Daily Advertiser
Sep 16, 1947

The 1949 rare Oklahoma Tornadoes record is shrouded in mystery that reflects his initial indecision. The two songs were first recorded in English by Bozman but were cancelled and instead released with un-credited French vocals. The singer’s identity is still subject to much speculation.2  According to fiddler Wilson Granger, he recalled the song:
It’s my song.  I’m the one that introduced Virgil to that song, but when we made that at KPLC, he sang that. And on that record, I don’t know who that it is singing. They’re singing in French. That’s not Virgil singing.1
I tell you what, [Bozman] started playing some music with some boys from Sulphur, Earl Reed. It might be him, I’m not sure. I don’t know what happened there. He liked that tune, and he made them words for it, but I don’t know what made him change his mind and have somebody sing on it (in French).1  

You're leaving me, miserable woman,
To go away with another,
So look, dear pretty one, well,
What have you done?

What have you done, miserable woman,
With your man, it won't be long,
So look, dear pretty one,
You're going to cry.

Way too late, because what you've done,
With your man, so look,
So look, miserable woman, well, pretty sweetheart.

So look, what you've done,
Pretty girl, it won't be long,
It won't be long, miserable woman, with your man.

So look, miserable woman,
What you've done, it won't be long,
You're leaving, pretty sweetheart, well, it's too late.

It's too late, you're going away,
With your man, miserable woman,
So look, what you've done, I don't deserve this, my little everything. 

After his recordings, Virgil suddenly needed a new car to go to the dances.  According to fiddler Wilson Granger:
So he bought him a hearse. He got it cheap. He was coming home from Opelousas one night and he stopped in Eunice. And when he'd get sleepy on the way back (from a dance), he'd pull over and go to sleep.

I wasn't playing with him that night. He pulled over and stopped in front of a Catholic church on a Saturday night. And all them boys (the band) were sleeping in the back of that hearse. The next morning, people started coming into church, look in there... Boy, they had some funny things about old Virgil.

  1. Wilsong Granger interview.  Andrew Brown. 2005.
Release Notes:
The Cameron Waltz | O.T. 101
Tell Me If You Love Me | O.T. 101

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)

Friday, August 14, 2020

"Hackberry Hop" - Harry Choates

Perhaps the name most linked with the Cajun swing sound was Harry Choates.  He was an outstanding fiddle player, equally at home with traditional Cajun material or western swing.  He was also a wild and eccentric character, a heavy drinker who would appear on stage in a formerly white cowboy hat, which, in the words of a band member, "looked like a hundred horses had stomped on it when it had been stuck in a grease barrel".   

As well as being a great fiddler, he also played guitar, accordion, and steel guitar, yet probably never owned an instrument, preferring to borrow whatever he needed.3    Not to interfere with his Gold Star contract, he quietly traveled to Paris, TX in 1947 and recorded an old Leo Soileau tune called "Hackberry Hop" (#1007) for Jimmy Mercer's label.  

Hé le Hip et Taïau, ouais, 

Qu’a volé mon traineau, chérie,

Quand ç’a vu j’étais chaud, ouais, 

Il a ramené mon traîneau.

C'est le Pitre et Bosco, ouais,
Qu'a volé mon gilet, chérie,
Quand il a vu j'suis d'venu chaud, ouais,
T'as ramené mon gilet.

Hé le Hip et Taïau, ouais, 
Qu’a volé mon chariot, chérie,
Quand il a vu j’étais devenu chaud, ouais,
Il a ramené mon chariot.

C'est le Pitre et Bosco, ouais,
Qu'a volé mon gilet, chérie,
Quand il a vu j'suis d'venu chaud, ouais,
T'as ramené mon gilet.

Amos Comeaux, Harry Choates, Wally Bryant
Courtesy Andrew Brown4

Since Harry had played with Leo, covering his version of "Hackberry Hop" for quite some time in the 1930s and 40s, it's probably where he got the title for this tune.   Sung by his banjo player Joe Manuel, it was a cover of the well-known Cleoma Breaux song "Ils La Volet Mon Trancas", better known as "Hippy Ti Yo".  Manuel and Choates was backed by Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons on steel guitar, Eddie Pursley on guitar, B.D. Williams on bass, Johnnie Ruth Manuel, and Curzy "Pork Chop" Roy on drums.  

It's Hip and Taïaut, yeah,

That stole my sled, dearie,

When they saw I had become hot, yeah,

They brought my sled back.

This is Pitre and Bosco, yeah,
That stole my vest, dearie,
When they saw I had become hot, yeah,
They brought my jacket back.

It's Hip and Taïaut, yeah,
That stole my cart, dearie,
When they saw I had become hot, yeah,
They brought my cart back.

This is Pitre and Bosco, yeah,
That stole my vest, dearie,
When they saw I had become hot, yeah,
They brought my jacket back.

Daily Advertiser
Sep 10, 1948

Although some speculate this session was done at a radio station in Lake Charles, it's quite possible, the recordings for this session were done at Mercer's studio located in his store called Melody Lane Record Shop.  According to collector Jared Mariconi:
I've looked into the Cajun Classics and Jimmy Mercer and it seems like he was pressing them in a small pressing facility that he built himself in Paris, Tx in 1947. He had a record store called Melody Lane, which he shut down at the end of '46 to open the factory. They said that he recorded [musicians] in the music shop.2
By 1950, Mercer had moved the location of the plant to Main St. and changed the name to Southern Plastics1.  Joe Manuel would eventually reform a new band in 1949 and re-record the tune as "Creole Hop" on Deluxe Records. 

  1. The Paris News, Sunday Nov 24th. 1946
  3. The Fiddle Handbook By Chris Haigh
  4. Devil In The Bayou by Andrew Brown.  Liner notes.
Release Info:
1005 Hackberry Hop | Series 1007 Cajun Classics
1009 Jole Brun | Series 1009 Cajun Classics

1005 Hackberry Hop | Cajun Classics CC1007
1010 Yes I Love You | Cajun Classics CC1010

Harry Choates ‎– The Fiddle King Of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982, 1993)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)

Monday, August 10, 2020

"Aux Bal Se Te Maurice" - Happy Fats

Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc and the Rayne-Bo Ramblers, the hottest Cajun string band and western swing group on the radio before the war. When he and his band cut their first record in 1935 for the Bluebird label, which was an affiliate of RCA records, they were paid $25 for the whole band, and, Fats said, "all the drinking whiskey we needed."1  That was it. The records helped bands get dance club gigs, at places such as the Te Maurice, located between Bristol and Bosco, and that was important.2  

Allons au bal, la-bas chez ‘tit Maurice,

La-bas chez ‘tit Maurice, la-bas chez ‘tit Maurice,

Allons au bal, la-bas chez ‘tit Maurice,

Pour voir les petites, boire d’la biere, et attendre la belle musique.

J'ai juste vingt cinq sous dedans ma vielle poche,
Dedans ma vielle poche, dedans ma vielle poche
J'ai juste vingt cinq sous dedans ma vielle poche,
Pour une bouteille, pour bien m’souler et tourner tout la nuit.

Demain matin un gros mal de tête,
Un gros mal de tête, un gros mal de tête,
Demain matin un gros mal de tête,
Je va commencer et bien m'soinger, 
Pour les bals dans les nuits qui viennent.

Demain matin un gros mal de tête,
Un gros mal de tête, un gros mal de tête,
Demain matin un gros mal de tête,
Je va commencer et bien m'soinger, 
Pour le bal l'samedi qui vient.

Daily Advertiser
Mar 25, 1939

By 1938, Happy's band had fully embraced the western swing sound emanating from Texas dance-halls.  At the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans where they recorded the song "Aux Bal Se Te Maurice" (#2074), Happy Fats' band included Ray Guidry on banjo, Willie Vincent on steel guitar, Nathan Guidry on bass, and Doc Guidry on fiddle.  Happy recalled,

The club I played longest at was the old O.S.T. club here in Rayne.  There was also the Club Rendezvous in Ville Platte and the Colonial Club in Mermentau, but I'd say Te Maurice was the club that had the biggest attendance of any for eight or ten years during the thirties.  One of the Rayne-Bo Ramblers records is called "Aux Bal Se Te Maurice".  I also had "La Valse De Te Maurice".1  

Originally built by Duplex Duplechin, his son-in-law Maurice "Te Maurice" Richard took ownership of the business in the 1930s, which later was run by his son Ellis Richard.  Happy recalled,
This old one, the dance floor was about 100 feet by 100 feet, so it was a pretty big dance floor. The bandstand was at one end with the bar at the other end.  They had chicken wire on the windows so they wouldn't come in, in some places they had chicken wire in front of the band.1  

Let's go to the ball, over there at Te Maurice's,

Over there at Te Maurice's, over there at Te Maurice's,

Let's go to the ball, over there at Te Maurice's,

To see the girls, drink the beer, and to wait for the beautiful music.

I only have twenty five cents in my old pocket,
In my old pocket, in my old pocket,
I only have twenty five cents in my old pocket,
For a bottle, to get me drunk and spin around all night long. 

Tomorrow morning, a big headache,
A big headache, a big headache,
Tomorrow morning, a big headache,
I'll get started, so treat me well,
For the dances in the nights to come.

Tomorrow morning, a big headache,
A big headache, a big headache,
Tomorrow morning, a big headache,
I'll get started, so, treat me well,
For the Saturday night dance that's coming up.

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Jim Bradshaw. "Happy Fats Heard Nationwide".  The  Abbeville Meridional, published in Abbeville, Louisiana on Sunday, January 29th, 2012
  3. Lyrics by Smith S and Stephane F and Jesse L

Release Info:

BS-028501-1 La Vieux Two Step Francais | Bluebird B-2074-A
BS-028504-1 Aux Bal Se Te Maurice | Bluebird B-2074-B


Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Happy Fats & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (BACM, 2009)

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

"Valse A Alcee Poulard" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

Although Creole accordion player Amede Ardoin played with many fiddlers in his lifetime, including the incomparable Douglas Bellard, his most enduring creative partnership was with Dennis McGee, an orphaned white sharecropper from Eunice, Louisiana, who is credited on twenty of Ardoin’s thirty-four sides. Such interracial alliances weren’t unprecedented, but it’s likely the relationship was socially fraught. McGee probably recommended Ardoin to Columbia Records, which would make him ultimately responsible for Ardoin existing outside of his time and place.2 

Oh, ye yaille, je m'en vas.

Moi, je me'en vas, malheureuse, moi, je m'en vas, catin,
Je m'en vas, mon tout seul à la maison.

Comment je vas faire, toi, 'tite fille, ayou je vas aller, jolie?
Pour moi être capable t'rejoindre, ouais, encore,
Moi, je connais tes parent, ça veut pas, catin,
Ayou, moi je vas aller pour t'rejoindre?

Toi, jolie, fait pas ça, ye yaille,
Comment moi je vas faire? C'est si dur.

Amede Ardoin

The Columbia session was short lived and the label closed the doors to any more Cajun sessions due to The Depression.  The only name in the Cajun recording game at the time was Brunswick Records of Chicago.  In late November of 1930, the recording team made one last trip to Louisiana where they recorded Dennis and Amede; kicking off with the performance of "Valse A Alcee Poulard" (#495); a melody more familiar as "Quel Étoile".  Alcee Poulard is believed to be the husband of Amede's aunt, Oline Ardoin Poulard, who is mentioned in the title of another Ardoin song called "Taunte Aline".  McGee's backing of Ardoin's tune provided unique support that seems to be noticed to musicologist Jared Snyder.
Only "Valse a Alcee Poulard," in the cross key of A, needs the fiddle to state the chord progression while the other waltzes, played in D, barely need McGee's contribution to work.3   

Oh, ye yaille, I'm leaving.

I'm leaving, naughty woman, I'm leaving, little doll,
I'm leaving, I'm all alone at home.

How will I do this, you little girl, where am I going to go, pretty girl,
In order for me to meet you, yeah, again?
I know your parents, don't want me to, little doll,
Where am I going to meet you?

You, pretty girl, don't do that, ye yaille,
How will I do this?  It's so hard.

Although the recording didn't hit the market until over a year, the duo continued to play house dances across south Louisiana. According to record producer Christopher King,
You would primarily go to a bal de maison, or a house party, where essentially, the owner of the plantation would go out and collect the musicians in a horse and carriage and bring them to the house. And then the whole community would show up, and they would roll up the carpets and hang the chairs up on the wall.

And then Dennis McGee and Amede Ardoin would take what would be a stage, which is a little platform, and just play from, say, 7 o'clock in the evening until the next morning, essentially. Back then, they were essentially sharecroppers, but they were valued by the plantation owner not for their work-work but for their ability to entertain and to keep the morale up of all the other workers.1   

  3. "I'm Never Com in' Back" Amede Ardoin.  Liner notes.

Release Info:
NO-6735 Valse A Alcee Poulard | Brunswick 495
NO-6736 One Step D'Oberlin | Brunswick 495

I'm Never Comin' Back: The Roots of Zydeco (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)