Tuesday, December 22, 2020

"Big Woods" - Harry Choates

Popularized by the Hackberry Ramblers in 1947 as "Dans Le Gran Bois" for DeLuxe, Cajun fiddler Harry Choates sang of leaving the grande bois as a waltz, a melody sometimes associated with "Quel Étoile".  Many of these old tunes were picked up when Harry played around the Lake Charles area with other Cajun string bands such as Leo Soileau's Rhythm Boys. According to fiddler Wilson Granger,
I've seen him on the radio.  He was playing the guitar with Leo Soileau.  Sometimes he'd take Leo's place and play one on the fiddle.  On KPLC at the old Majestic Hotel. On the guitar, he was exceptional, but he played fiddle real good. He was a musician-and-a-half.1  

Allons, s'en aller dans les grand bois,
C'est pour voir ma belle, petite, chérie,
Tout mon misère, ma chère petite fille,
Quoi faire tu m'laisses comme tu laisses, mais, quoi t'as fait?

Malheureurse, mais, pas fais bien,
Tu m'as laissé, mais, moi tout seul,
Dans la grand bois, mais, chère tit fille,
Ça fais du mal quoi t'as fais ton pauvre vieux chien.

Oh, mais, malheureurse,
Chère 'tit fille, mais, se quand meme,
Tu faire ça, mais, quoi t'as fais,
Ça tu prends, malheureurse, ça fais du mal.

Eh, cherie, oh, petite,
Quoi t'as fais, chère, ça m'fais de la peine.

Church Point News
Aug 17, 1948

The area in Louisiana known as Big Woods resides between Sulphur and Vinton.  "Big Woods" (#1011) represents the last recording containing Harry's original 1946 Melody Boys.  For unknown reasons, record producer Bill Quinn chose to shelve the recording; eventually having it sold to and pressed by Hummingbird Records of Waco, TX after 1955.   Soon after this session, Joe Manuel would leave the group and join his brother Abe Manuel playing under different names in Corpus Christi.  Porkchop Roy, who worked with Harry during those early years remembered all of the Quinn sessions,
Harry played Cajun music with a western swing. We recorded Jole Blon in 1946 and it was Choates version of the popular French song which first became a big hit. The recording sold over a million copies. We got $800 for making it. We cut 10 more songs for Quinn after making the Jole Blon record and all we got for that was a Mexican supper.2  

Come on, let's go to the big woods,
It's to see my beauty, my little dearie,
All of my miseries, my dear little girl,
Why you left me, the way you left me, well, what have you done?

Naughty woman, well, up to no good,
You left me, well, i'm all alone,
In the big woods, well, dear little girl, 
That was terrible what you've done to your poor old dog.

Oh, well, naughty woman,
Dear little girl, well, even still,
You did that, well, what you've done,
You can have it, naughty woman, that was wrong.

Hey, dearie, oh, little one,
What you've done, dear, it hurts me.

By 1958, Quinn sold out his remaining sides to Pappy Daily's Starday and D Records who reissued much of the catalog in 1961 on 45 RPM.  It seems Hummingbird must have done the same. 


  1. Wilson Granger interview.  Andrew Brown. 2005.
  2. "Cajun Musician Curzey Roy Recalls the Robust Rhythms".  Fannie Genin. DW. Sep 1984. 
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
HB-1011-A Big Woods | Humming Bird 1011-A
HB-1012-B Big Mamou | Humming Bird 1011-B

The Complete D Singles Collection, Volume 3 (Bear, 2006)

Monday, December 14, 2020

"Chere Eci Et Cher Laba" - Lee Sonnier

"Sweetie Here And Sweetie There".  J.D. Miller had recently left a recording session at Cosimo Matassa's studio in New Orleans and decided to build his own around 1948.  Logically, perhaps, the first person to be recorded at the new studio was Miller's father-in-law, a highly respected accordionist, Lee Sonnier.  Born near Rayne, he had no musical training but was from a musical family.  Lee was a welder by trade working up to an through WWII in defense plants.  After the war he opened his own welding business.  J.D. Miller married the youngest of this three daughters.1 

Quand ton nègre avec toi,
C'est "chère ici, chère là bas",
Quand ton nègre n'il ya à coté,
Toi tu fais trop la canaille,

'Gardez-donc, malheureuse,
Pour pas bien ton vieux nègre,
Tu vas voir pour toi même,
Petite, tu vas faire pitié,

Criminelle, petite,
Pour faire bien, malheureuse,
Tu vas voir, mignonne,
Ah, je mérite pas ça,
Daily Advertiser
Apr 25, 1952

In  J.D Miller's new studio in Crowley, they recorded an old traditional melody, first recorded Amede Ardoin as "Eunice Two Step" in 1929 and later in 1934 by Joe Falcon as "Vous Etes Si Doux".  Joe and Lee played together in the same dance-halls after the war, giving way to Lee's version which he called "Chere Eci Et Cher Laba" (#1010).   Miller brought in fiddler and vocalist Aldus "Popeye" Broussard to sing the tune.  Aldus was already well known fiddler who previously played with Norris Mire and Happy Fats throughout the 30s and 40s. The phrase "c'est un chere ici, cher la-bas" has an underlying meaning.  It's a Cajun idiom used to describe a couple who make a show of affection in public, but who fight frequently in private.  

When your man's with you,
It's "dearie here, dearie there",
When your man's not around,
You act too mischievous,

So look, miserable one,
It's hasn't been good for your old man,
You will see for yourself,
Little girl, you'll be pitiful,

Naughty, little girl,
It's been good, miserable one,
You will see, cutie, 
Ah, I don't deserve all of this,
Lee Sonnier

The labels showed the difficulty of getting Cajun spellings printed accurately away from home.  "Chere Eci Et Cher Laba" reflect it no less obviously than the artist credits to Lee "Snownier".1  Sonnier's lyrics would have little to do with "Eunice Two Step", a melody in which he borrowed from black Creole accordionist Amede Ardoin.   Later, Iry Lejeune would also take it and turn it into his "Jolie Catin". Lee carried on playing in south Louisiana clubs in to the 1950s.1  

  1. Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's (Flyright, 1986).   Liner notes.
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
La Blues De Cajin | Fais Do Do F-1010-A
Chere Eci Et Chere Laba | Fais Do Do F-1010-B

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)

Monday, December 7, 2020

"La Valse A Thomas Ardoin" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

Amede Ardoin became the most influential Creole singer and accordionist, whose music provided roots for modern Cajun and Zydeco music.  In his earliest years his family played a large part of the influence.  According to Amede's nephew Milton Ardoin,
My daddy [Beaudoin Ardoin] bought an accordion to start.  He was not able to learn. Amede, you know, he was the baby one, and he gave the accordion to him.  When Amede started to play, he was on a chair and he was so small his foot was not touching to the floor.  But he learned that over and over and over, until he caught it.2  

Ardoin couldn't read and write and spoke no English.  Amede's parents, Thomas and Aurelia, were brought up during Reconstruction and became one of many land holding former slaves in south Louisiana.  Thomas Ardoin's mother, Marie Tom, was a slave, and Thomas was also born into slavery. Yet, by the time Amede was born, Thomas had acquired 157 acres of land on Bayou Nezpique.2   However, Milton recalled the tragedy that struck him as a child, 
St. Landry Clarion
Feb 4, 1899

My grandfather [Thomas Ardoin] got killed when Amede was small.  He was on the road. They reached a bridge, and they had some beef to haul.  It was old wood, and it broke, and my grandfather had his neck broken.2  

Oh, ye yaie, moi, j'ai pas de femme,

Oui, ses parents ça veut pas je se vois, malheureuse.

Oh, ye yaie, mes parents, eou je vas aller?
Moi, j'suis tout seul, mon j'ai pas de place d'aller,
Oh, ye yaie, mon j'ai pas d'argent, moi, j'ai pas de maison,
Mes parents veulent pas me voir.

Oh, 'tite fille, mais, eou toi, tu vas,
Toi, t'es pas la seule qui est contraire à ta maman,
Oh, catin, ton coeur fait du mal,
Mon, je m'ai aperçu pour Ia maniere tu fais avec moi.
Daily Advertiser
May 1, 1931

In 1930, alongside fiddler Dennis McGee, Ardoin recorded the tune "La Valse A Thomas Ardoin" (#531) in New Orleans as an ode to his late father. According to author and poet laureate Darrell Bourque,

One of the things I find fascinating is the variety of stories that circulate about Amédé, and the way they reflect the culture of the time. So when I began to run across all this information, that was exactly the kind of story that I wanted to tell, because I didn’t want to tell a story that was an interesting pocket of information, but one that connected in many ways with what we continue to have to deal with in terms of race, migration and the meaning of home.1  

Oh, ye yaille, I don't have a wife,

Yes, her parents don't want to see me, oh my.

Oh, ye yaille, my parents, where can I go?
I'm all alone, I don't have a place to go,
Oh, ye yaille, I don't have money, I don't have a home,
My parents don't want to see me.

Oh, little girl, well, where are you, you went away,
You're not the only one who is contrary to your mother,
Oh, pretty doll, your heart hurts,
I noticed that by the way you've done (treated) me.

In 1957, accordion player Lawrence Walker re-worked Ardoin's tune into the "Midnite Waltz" for Swallow Records. 

  1. https://kreolmagazine.com/culture/features/amede-ardoin-and-his-legacy-a-discussion-with-darrell-bourque/#.XH_u-8BKhhE
  2. The Kingdom of Zydeco By Michael Tisserand
  3. NOTE: Cajun Country, Vol. 2 has song mis-titled

Release Info:
NO-6719 Blues De Basile | Brunswick 531
NO-6720 La Valse A Thomas Ardoin | Brunswick 531

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)

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

"Every Time I Pass Your Door" - Link Davis

American singer, fiddler, saxophonist, and songwriter, also known as Papa Link Davis, was born in Sunset, Texas.  He was involved in recordings of western swing, hillbilly, Cajun music, rockabilly, rock n' roll and blues, either as the main artist or a session musician.  One of eight children, he formed a trio with two of his brothers during the late '20s, playing local dances. A natural musician, Davis started out playing the fiddle and later took up the saxophone. He gravitated toward Western swing music when he turned professional and one of his earliest known steady gigs was as a member of the Crystal Springs Ramblers, a Fort Worth-based outfit with which he cut his first record in 1937.1  

Every time I pass your door,
I get a feeling in my heart,
That's when the tear drops start,
Every time I pass your door.

J'ai passe devant ta porte,
J’ai crie, “By-bye la belle.”
Y a personne qu’a pas repondu,
O ye yaille, mon coeur fait mal.

I know my love has died,
And she's gone gone forever more,
But the tears come down inside,
Every time I pass your door.

Link Davis

His 1954 recording of "Every Time I Pass Your Door" (#21431) for Columbia records was a country-western version of Cleoma Breaux's "Mon Coeur T'Appelle (My Heart Aches For You)".  Like many of Link Davis' country renditions of Cajun songs, he sung both in English and French.   Recorded at the ACA Studio in Houston, TX, Link Davis & His Bayou Billies consisted of Cameron Hill on guitar, Herb Remington on steel guitar, Buck Henson on bass and Doug Hudson on piano. 

Every time I pass your door,
I get a feeling in my heart,
That's when the tear drops start,
Every time I pass your door.

I passed in front of your door,
I cried, "Goodbye, my beautiful girl."
Yet no one responded,
Oh, how my heart aches.

I know my love has died,
And she's gone gone forever more,
But the tears come down inside,
Every time I pass your door.

Even into the 1960s, he occasionally made a foray into rock & roll with songs like "Rice and Gravy," but he failed to make a lasting impression in the field. He continued to be a top session musician and cut records in Western swing, Cajun, and blues style throughout the decade for different labels, mostly based in Houston, TX, until he was sidelined by a stroke late in the decade.1  

  1. https://www.allmusic.com/artist/link-davis-mn0000289593

Release Info:
CO 52833/ACA-3017 Every Time I Pass Your Door | Columbia 4-21431
CO 52834/ACA-3018 Cajun Love | Columbia 4-21431

The Very Best Of Link Davis (Emusic/Goldenlane, 2009)