Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Rise And Fall … And Redemption of Cajun Musician Moise Robin

In the 1920s, some of the most talented accordion players to rise among the ranks of Cajun musicians were born and raised along the Bayou Teche.   Artists such as the Segura Brothers, Didier Hebert, Columbus “Boy” Fruge, the Guidry Brothers, Artelus Mistric, Berthmost Montet and Joswell Dupuis were some of the lucky few to score recording contracts with major recording labels.   But none of them had become as infamous and garnered such wild notoriety in later years as Arnaudville-native Moise Robin.   His life and early success was followed by self-inflicted tragedy and regret that affected not only his family, but the whole community.  

Joseph Moise Robin was born January 4th, 1911 in Point Claire, a small community between Leonville, Louisiana and Arnaudville, Louisiana.  His father, Joseph, was a talented accordion player in his own right.  “He played all over, around the territory Ville Platte and everywhere, play dances, for many years”, Robin told Chris Stratchwitz in 1980. “My daddy was born in 1886 … And he started play when he was young.”  Moise began borrowing his father’s accordion and by the age of nine, he was assisting him at dances.  “He would make me play a few dances for the people that took those great, big, red accordions, old time, and just my head would show up on top of the accordion.”  Moise struggled to keep up and his vocals could never attain the sound that he desired.  “I didn't have a good voice,” recalled Robin.  “It was too low and I never had a good voice up to this day. One of my friends advised me to drink raw eggs and that would cause me to have a beautiful voice.  So, I started watching the chicken house and looking for eggs.”


By his late teens, Robin had a chance to make it big.  In 1929, Ville Platte fiddler Leo Soileau lost his accordion playing partner Mayuse Lafleur in a brawl outside a bar room.   By the time Leo was ready to resume his professional career, he contacted Moise.  “He heard about me”, said Robin. “So he came home with my daddy and seen me that’s when he got me to play with him.  So, I replaced [Lafleur].  And the first place we went, we played all around in clubs.”    Paramount Records heard that scouts for RCA and Columbia were scoring big regional hits with Cajun musicians and their executives wanted a piece of the action.  By July, they were in contractual discussions with Opelousas sewing machine seller and record dealer, Winter Lemoine.  

Lemoine was a native of Leonville and a distributor for Paramount records in the region.  Along with Leo’s history of recording, Lemoine arranged the duo to travel to the Starr Piano Company Building in Whitewater Gorge Park in Richmond, Indiana where the Gennett Recording company had constructed a studio.  “So we met in Richmond, Indiana and made two records there,” recalled Robin.  “It was all steam trains …They would pay all expenses, and the year was, in that time, money, it was Depression, $25 each, to make that first record. And it was great for us to $25.”

The duo recorded six sides for the label and the future was looking good for the young Robin.   Soon after, RCA contacted Leo in September for another session, however, this time, Robin tagged along.  “We was called to Memphis, Tennessee, me and Leo, and made again two records there.”  RCA record scout Ralph Peer was in charge and had previously worked with Opelousas merchant and agent for Leo named Frank Deitlein.  Frank had paid for the duo’s travel and brought along Columbus “Boy” Fruge.  “In the grand ballroom in the Claridge Hotel, where the Victor company did their recording, the four of us entered and were greeted by a fellow by the name of Ralph Peer,” recalled Frank. “I believe that he was president of the Southern Music Publishing Co., which specialized in recording Southern folk songs.”  Leo and Moise recorded four songs followed by Columbus who recorded another four tunes.  

The sessions made huge impacts on southern record scouts causing executives at Brunswick Recording Company to take note.  Richard Voynow, orchestra director and Vocalion recording scout, traveled down to the Evangeline countryside and found several area musicians interested in a local recording session.  Voynow lined up Leo and Moise, along with Dennis McGee, Ernest Fruge, Douglas Bellard, Kirby Riley, and the Guidry Brothers.  Each musician was sponsored by a local area Vocalion record dealer.  “We was called to New Orleans, Louisiana, at the Roosevelt Hotel and we made again two records,” said Robin. 

Moise’s career had reached a pinnacle point.  However, dark times loomed ahead.  He and Leo’s professional relationship was starting to sour, and their personalities were showing signs of conflict.  Both men seemed to disagree on each other’s technique and the New Orleans session would be Robin’s  last.  When folklorist Ralph Rinzler asked Robin why they split, he explained their performances were suffering. “It's the same D, G, C,” exclaimed Robin.  “There's no chorus in that son of a gun (Cajun music)... accordion and fiddle, it's just you got to pap.  You just can't stop.”  Their split wasn’t the only reason the recording opportunities ceased.  The end of 1929 signaled the Great Depression and all southern scouts declined to record Cajun music for another five years. 

Throughout the mid-1930s, Leo would continue recording and playing in regional dancehalls throughout the southwestern part of the state, recording for other labels such as Bluebird and Decca, while Robin found himself content playing music in small bars around Arnaudville. These bars rarely were places hosting grand cosmopolitan events.  They catered to rural folks, generally farmers, that were looking for an escape from the daily grind.  With the economic effects still lingering from the Depression, alcohol consumption increased, and with it, the pension for violence in bars did too. On July 24th, 1937, while playing late night at Forest Dupuis’ Dance Hall outside of Leonville, five men approached Robin and attacked him with knives.   When officers arrived, Robin was found slashed across his abdomen and he remained in critical condition at his home.  All five assailants were arrested however, Robin’s problems were only beginning.


Moise’s rough and tumble livelihood spilled out into his relationship with his wife Louise.  The couple married in 1934 at the Leonville church and had a daughter Erilda soon afterwards. But their relationship was never stable.   In 1949, everything came crashing down.  Late at night on September 12th, 1949, Louise and Moise had gotten into another dispute.  They had been quarrelling over a week, however, this time, Louise wasn’t interested in arguing anymore.  She made it clear that she was leaving him.  To top it off, she threatened to take custody of both of their daughters.  Angry, Moise threatened her life if she ever left him but she had already made up her mind.  Louise packed her things, grabbed their two daughters, fled their house in Leonville and headed to her father Ovide Richard’s house in Paccaniere.   

In a fit of rage, Moise jumped into his car and headed to her father Ovide’s home.   Not to alarm the family of his presence, he parked his car a considerable distance from the Richard home, walked through the fields and entered the home from the back door.  Quietly, he walked into the house, hoping to not alarm the other family members. 

Louise, who was busy talking to her father, noticed Robin enter the adjacent room.  Immediately, she screamed and ran toward her father.  Suddenly, Robin revealed a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun, loaded with buckshot.  He fired directly at her face and after she fell to the ground, he vengefully fired a second shot into her back.   According to Robin's daughter Erilda, “I did not see [Moise] come in but I saw him when he was at the door and when he shot. Then I ran to the bathroom and then into the front room where my mother was.”  Louise’s mother lay on the ground, cradling her daughter’s head.  

Several pellets from the shot missed his intended target and lodged in Ovide’s foot.  Knowing that Moise had used all the shells in his gun, Ovide tried to prevent Moise’s escape.  Ovide explained during the hearing, “I jumped over my daughter and ran in the back room, the same room that Moise had shot from.  I grabbed my shot gun and went after him but he had gone out in the dark and I did not see him after that.”  

Robin fled the scene.  He arrived at his sister Alfreda’s house where he explained to her that he killed his wife and was going to kill himself.   Robin's nephew, after hearing the news, jumped in a car, attempting to chase him.  Robin left Alfreda's home and ended up finding a pistol at his father's house.  Before anyone could stop him, Robin fired a round into his own head and another one that entered the left side of his face.  Amazingly, Robin survived.  He was taken to the Arnaudville sanitarium, surrounded by security guards.  

The shock from the event rippled across Cajun communities.  Newspapers across the state were suddenly covering the case and all the gruesome details.  The coroner labeled her death from “shock and hemorrhage from a gunshot would into the abdomen and liver inflicted by Moise Robin.”   He stayed in an Opelousas hospital until he could recover enough to be moved to the St. Landry parish jail at Opelousas. Later that month, a grand jury was formed where they indicted him on murder charges for the slaying of his wife.  They transported him to Angola State Penitentiary where he awaited the results of the investigations. 

In October, he began another attempt to kill himself.  For nine days, he went on a starvation diet.  He eventually regained his awareness after being admitted to the prison hospital where they injected fluids and nourishment.  Superintendent Lawrence believed he had “somewhat improved but remained in pretty bad shape.”  In November, a panel of specialists were assigned to judge Robin’s mental condition in order to determine if he was fit to stand trial.  Although Angola physicians believed he was improving physically, they claimed “he is so mentally confused and incompetent that he is unable to care for himself, has to be fed, bathed, and have his bodily needs attended to”.  They also claimed, in the presence of witnesses and a Catholic priest, Robin said he had “just seen the Blessed Virgin and spoken to her” and that “he would perform miracles” before he died.  His attorneys contended that such delusions and irrational statements question Robin’s sanity. 

By December, the judgement arrived from Judge Lessley Gardiner.   Moise Robin was declared “insane, incapable of understanding proceedings against him or of entering into his own defense” by Dr. Magruder and Dr. Robards.   Robin was transferred from Angola to the East Louisiana State Hospital’s criminal insane department in Jackson in early January of 1950.

He remained at the sanitarium as a mental patient for 17 years until October of 1966.  He decided to plead guilty to the charge of manslaughter in order to receive a five-year suspended sentence.  The medical staff notified the district attorney that Robin was “capable of taking part in his own defense”.  He was returned to the St. Landry Parish jail where he awaited his fate.   Judge Gardiner placed Robin on five-year active supervised probation by a psychiatrist. 


By 1968, Robin believed he was a changed man.  Like many ex-convicts, Robin was convinced that he was in the midst of a "religious awakening".  The time he spent in confinement would be used to redeem himself and move into a more familiar lifestyle.  He met Marie Artigue, a companion that he remained with, although they never married.  Robin even considered performing music again.  He formed a small group called the Opelousas Playboys, playing at small venues such as Richard’s Casino in Lewisburg.  Both record producers, J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler, took chances and recorded Robin in their respective studios, releasing several singles on 45 RPM records.  

By 1983, the guilt of his offenses began to weigh on him and he spent time writing religious laments claiming, “he was led by a spirit" to write a book by the name of ‘The Golden Gate’.  In it, he attempts to redeem himself in the eyes of the public and loosely writes about premonitions and future predictions, all with a spiritual flare. He took out ads in the paper to sell his book, making exorbitant claims, hoping his public perception about him would change. 

In the end, he would freely admit his falling from grace.  He told others in documentaries, such as Gerard Dole, Chris Strachwitz and Marc Savoy, of the things that had happened, although, after much time had passed, details were missing from his recollection.  He performed for the 1984 Festival Acadian with his Arnaudville Playboys and continued selling his book in small shops.  He often teamed up with Doc Guidry and Faren Serrette, playing at places such as Pat’s Waterfront Restaurant, Eunice’s Liberty Theater and area festivals.  Gerard Dole recorded Robin playing one last time in 1989 for his CD release of “Le Légendaire Moise Robin”.  It seems Robin never used his music to hide from his time during incarceration and thought others should take note of his spiritual prophecies.   According to Robin, 

“And why should we believe a prisoner?  Let me remind you that the 'Old Man' has always and always will choose a prisoner to do his spiritual work.”

  1. https://arhoolie.org/moise-robin/
  2. Clarion-News (Opelousas, Louisiana) 15 Sep 1949
  3. Clarion-News (Opelousas, Louisiana) 22 Sep 1949
  4. Clarion-News (Opelousas, Louisiana) 24 Nov 1949
  5. Daily World (Opelousas, Louisiana) 20 Dec 1949
  6. Daily World (Opelousas, Louisiana) 16 Oct 1966
  7. The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) 06 Nov 1983
  8. Daily World (Opelousas, Louisiana) 26 Feb 1984

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

"Prison Two Step" - Austin Pitre

Born in Ville Platte, Louisiana, Austin Pitre, he was surrounded by house parties and the emerging dance-hall scene.  All of the area's musicians had a profound influence on Austin's sound, just as his life of hard work added a unique rough edge to his style.  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.1  

"Prison Two Step" (#500) was Pitre's version of Amede Ardoin's "Les Blues De La Prison", originally recorded in 1934.   Austin was known to have several of Ardoin's original 78 RPM records and there's little doubt he learned the song from endless days of listening to them.  His group between 1954 and 1956 is possibly Cliff Fontenot on fiddle, Floyd Fontenot and Pee Wee McCoullough on guitar.  The session, recorded in Crowley, would be his last one with J.D. Miller.   From that point on, he would work almost exclusively with a new up-and-coming local record giant, Floyd Soileau. 

In 1956, Dr. Harry Oster recorded Austin again during a field session, this time calling the tune "Prison Song".  Later in life, Austin was invited to travel and play for the Library of Congress in 1973.   Guitarist Preston Manuel recalled,
A group I played with a long time ago was Austin Pitre.  Yes, we played many dances--me, and Austin, his son, Jimmy, [James Williams] "J.W." Pelsia, the steel player, and Roy Tate. We went to Washington, D.C. for nine days. We played in Arlington, Virginia, for that big fair.2  

  1. Austin Pitre "Opelousas Waltz".  Liner notes.
  2. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois

Release Info:
Prison Two Step | French Hits F-500
La Valse De Chagrin | French Hits F-500

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 4: From The 30s To The 50s (Old Timey, 1972)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Confession D'Amour (Confessions Of Love)" - Sydney Landry

Sydney Landry was one of the last Cajun recording artists of the pre-Depression era.    Better known as "Syd", the Landry's grew up in the small community of Henry, Louisiana outside of Erath.  He started in music when he was nine years old as a drummer, like his dad Louis Landry, who played for local dances. Sydney often entertained friends singing with his guitar.

Mais, il est temps pour moi j'avance, moi faire sans toi,

Tout ça que š'apprendre pour* moi et toi,

Tous les langueurs, j'ai passé pour essayer de faire m'aimer,

Faudra s'assoir, tous les jours, oublier, t'as jamais voulu m'aimer. 


J'ai pris mon pistolet, un jour, et j'ai parti pour me tirer,

Quand j'ai pensé à ma promesse, je m'ai donc dû bouger.


J'ai tout mon linge dedans ma malle, avec mon cœur qui me fait bien mal, 

Avec l'idée juste à partir, mais, m'en aller bien loin dedans le noir.


Sydney Joseph Landry

Sydney's family moved westward to Ged, Louisiana in Calcaseiu parish. There, he worked alongside Lawrence Walker's band.  By 1929, Columbia records offered him a chance to record two songs in New Orleans, one which was a Jimmie Rodgers-style recording entitled "Confession D'Amour" (#40516), later co-pressed by Okeh. He arrived in early December along with Amede Ardoin, the Segura Brothers, and Didier Hebert. 

Well, it is time for me to move on, without you,

All of that I learned about* me and you,

All the languor I have spent trying to make you love me,

Have to sit, every day, forgetting (that) you never wanted to love me.


I took my pistol, one day, and I left to go shoot myself,

But, when I though about my promise, I had to move on,


I have all of my clothes in my trunk, with my heart that aches,

With the idea of just leaving, well, to go far into the darkness.


Sydney moved to Texas, living in different areas of southeast part of the state, until finally retiring in Columbus, Texas.   Sydney's recordings remained obscure and his music career never materialized.  According to his son Grady,

"He had a very bad automobile accident in the 30's. He lost his voice and ended up breaking all his records."1  

  1. Discussions with Grady L
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
111382-2 Confession D'Amour (Confessions Of Love) | Columbia 40516-F |  Okeh 90016
111383-2 La Blouse Francaise (French Blues) | Columbia 40516-F |  Okeh 90016

CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)

Monday, October 18, 2021

"Chere Catan" - Lee Sonnier

Accordionist Lee Sonnier and his contemporaries were attuned to, and profoundly affected by, the ever-changing musical landscape that sustained their art.  They were not only products of their environment, but also cultural actors who intervened by adapting the diatonic accordion into a Cajun swing framework, a context they knew intimately well.1 But it would take his son-in-law JD Miller to bring him into the studio to shine.

Before Miller married into the Sonnier family, he had been a musician himself.  When Miller was 11 years of age, he played in the grade school band and his interest in music was born.  At the age of 15 Miller joined the Crowley High School band as a drummer. He recalled,
That band was the only formal music training I ever got, and I didn't pay any attention to the instructor even then.  I just played!3  

J.D. Miller, 1954

Oh, bébé, malheuruse, catin,
'Tite monde, quoi moi j'va faire, chère,
Ouais, quand mon j'vu là, 'tite fille,
(Pour toi m'écoute), malheuruse.

During his high school days, he began writing songs.  Though this period, he wrote 95 songs, but being convinced that they were not good, he destroyed them all and temporarily put the thought of a musical career behind him.2  However, by the 1930s, Miller was invited by steel guitarist Papa Cairo, and fiddler Irby Thibodeaux to form the band called Daylight Creepers.  J.D. Miller states:

You think the names of bands are strange now.  We used to play at night and it seemed that almost every time the old car we used broke down.  We'd have to push that car back home during the day and that's how we came up with the name.1

Lee Sonnier

Oh, baby, oh my, pretty doll,
Little everything, what you've done, dearie,
Yeah, when I saw you there, little girl,
You were listening (to me), naughty woman. 

By 1946, he was no longer in a band.  Instead, Miller gathered Sonnier's group into his new recording studio at M&S Electrical shop around 1948 and using a tape recorder, listened to Lee's band record a traditional tune called "Chere Catan" (#1002) with Calvin Holloway as vocalist, Lawrence "Blackie" Fruge on fiddle, Eula Mae Fruge on guitar, and Happy Fats on bass.  Sadly, Miller struggled with balancing the instruments and Calvin's vocals are hardly heard over the volume of Lee's accordion.

  1. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music by Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. JD Interview.  RT.  1953
  3. JD Interview  DA.  1954
Release Info:
Dans Les Grand Meche | Fais Do Do F-1002-A
Chere Catan | Fais Do Do F-1002-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)

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"Cajun Hop" - Harry Choates

Harry Choates, the earliest of post-war Cajun groups to record, had joined Leo Soileau's group around the late 1930s or early 1940s.   He had gained a reputation of an excellent fiddle player around southwest Louisiana.  While filling in, he would remember several of their signature tunes and later borrow them while recording with his Melody Boys by the mid 40s. 

Having played in Leo Soileau's band during the war years, "Cajun Hop" (#1326) was merely an updated version of Soileau's "Les Blues de Port Arthur".   It was recorded in 1947 at Bill Quinn's Gold Star studios and the "hop" is a generic name Bill Quinn usually gave to any fast Cajun tune.

Eh, 'tite fille, tu m'as lesse pour t'en aller,
Malheureuse, moi j'connais, mérite pas ça.
Eh, chere, jolie fille, jolie cœur,
Quoi t'as fais, mais, avec moi, (que misérable).

Eh, eh, eh, ha, ha.
Eh, 'tite fille, t'apres la peine.

Eh, chere, jolie fille, jolie cœur,
Eh, mais, moi j'connais m'aimer (...)
Eh, 'tite fille, eh villian moyens,
Moi j'connais, quoi t'as fais, t'as fais pas bien.

Hollywood Club
B.D. Williams, Curzey "Porkchop" Roy, Harry Choates
Johnnie Manuel, Joe Manuel, Eddie Pursley,
Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons

The "Cajun Hop" session is unique because Bill Quinn actually typed up a session sheet which the entire band signed, and, miraculously, this sheet actually survived and is now in the University of Texas archives. This is one of only two session sheets to survive for any Gold Star session, by anyone. It listed the band members: Joe Manuel on banjo, Eddie Pursley on guitar, Johnnie Manuel on piano, Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons on steel, and B.D. Williams on bass.

Gold Star session, 1947
Quinn's motivation was apparently to prove that he had paid the band for their services in case one of them tried to sue him later (as Jimmie Foster would do later that year for his non-credit on "Jole Blon"), though since he's only paying them $1.00 each, the contract is purely a formality. Either that, or the Melody Boys worked very cheap.  The song was the flip side of "Harry Choates Special" for Goldstar but the Bihari's released it on the other side of "Rubber Dolly".

Typically, though, his records show him as a Cajun Bob Wills, interspersing his singing and fiddling with cries of "eh,ha ha!".  It was a common phrase he used, especially when playing live, due to having a limited Cajun french vocabulary and constantly forgetting the lyrics mid-song.

Hey, little girl, you have left me to go away,
Naughty woman, I know, I don't deserve that,
Hey, dearie, pretty girl, pretty sweetheart,
What you've done, well, with me, (that's miserable).

Hey, hey, hey, hah, hah.
Hey, little girl, you're painful. 

Hey, dearie, pretty girl, pretty sweetheart,
Hey, well, I know I love (...),
Hey, little girl, hey, naughty ways,
I know, what you've done, you've not been good.

  1. Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost By Tony Russell
  2. http://wired-for-sound.blogspot.com/2010/08/harry-choates-on-gold-star-13261330.html
Release Info:
1326-A Cajun Hop | Gold Star 1326-A
1326-B Fa-De-Do Stomp | Gold Star 1326-B

1331 Rubber Dolly | Modern 20-528A
1326-A Cajun Hop | Modern 20-528B

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

Friday, August 13, 2021

"Blues Negres" - Cleoma Falcon

This article may contain potentially offensive language, including obscenities and ethnic or racial slurs. In the interest of making this material fully available to scholars, we have chosen not to censor this material.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Cajun musicians could not avoid the influence of the blues sound heard throughout the south.   So much so, many of them recorded at least one tune with some blues influence.   A great example is the tune by Cleoma Breaux Falcon entitled "Blues Negres (Niggar Blues)" on Decca (#17004).   According to Dr. Barry Ancelet, it would be the influence of Afro-Creole and Native American sounds that makes Cajun music sound so different than the Acadian music of Nova Scotia.  

Oh, pour tu m'aimer,
Tu connais j'mérite pas donc tout ça, toi t'après faire,
C’est pitié a la maison, moi tout seul, j'ai p'us personne, mais, p'us m'aimer,
Moi j'm'en va, moi tout seul, comme un pauvre malheureuse.

Écoute-moi tout les conseils de les autres,
Tu connais moi j't'aime, bon Dieu sait, chère 'tite fille,
Tu connais j'mérite pas tout ça toi t'après faire.
Moi j'm'en va, moi tout seul, à la maison, j'ai p'us personne, mais, p'us m'aimer,
Pourquoi moi j'ai des regrets quoi toi t'après faire?

Recorded in 1934 in New York City, "Blues Negres", i
t shares similarities with a song called "Bull Doze Blues" by Henry Thomas in 1928 for Vocalion.  It's loosely related to the old minstrel song, composed in 1912 by Leroy “Lasses” White entitled "Nigger Blues", which was one of the first blues songs published.  In addition to the importance of the "Nigger Blues" for being one of the first published blues songs and written by one of the first composers of twelve-bar blues, it was the first whose lyrics were in what would become the standard blues form used by the 1920s vaudeville performers and found in the folk blues songs collected and recorded in the 1930s.3  

Whoa, how you loved me,
You know, so I don't deserve all that you've done,
It's pitiful at home, I'm all alone, I have no one, well, no one to love me,
I'm going, all alone, like a poor miserable woman.

Listening to all the advice of others,
You know I love you, the good Lord knows, dear little girl,
You know I don't deserve all that you've done,
I am going, all alone, to the house, I have no one, well, no one to love me,
Why do i have such regret for what you are doing?

Blues arrangements and one-steps acted as a cultural weather vane indicating the direction of commercial Cajun music.  Cleoma would go on to record other bluesy tunes such as "Ouvrez Grand Ma Fenetre" and "En Route Chez Moi". 

  1. Against the Tide, the story of the Cajun people of Louisiana by Zachary Richard
  2. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigger_Blues
  4. Lyrics by Herman M
Release Info:
39208-A Soucis Quand J'Etais Gamin (Troubles When I Was A Boy) | Decca 17004 A
39207-A Blues Negres (Nigger Blues) | Decca 17004 B

Presents Hot Women Singers (Kein & Aber, 2003)

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

"Madame Donnez Moi Les" - Angelas Lejeune & Ernest Fruge

Petite Ou Gros!   The famous Creole melody that inspired so many covers, most notably "Les Flammes D'Enfer" in the later years of Cajun repertoire.   The original tune, "Adieu Rosa", would be covered in it's raw form by Dennis McGee.  Other musicians such as Joe Falcon, Leo Soileau, Moise Robin and Douglas Bellard all created their own renditions of this bye-gone song. It's about a love-interest begging a mother for either of her daughters' hands in marriage.  Either the skinny one or the large one—it doesn't matter. 

Ah, ye yaille, la malheureuse.

Aye, ye yaille. 

Madame donnez-moi les, ouais, 
La petite ou bien la grosse, 
La petite elle est mignonne, 
La grosse, elle est si belle.

Aye ye yaille, petite.

Madame donnez-moi les, ouais, 
La petite ou bien la grosse à cause, 
Si j'en ai une, 
C'est tout que moi je voudrais.

Quitte-moi, vous dire, 
Comment j'veux t'croire,
J'en aurais pas une,
Ni la petite ni bien la grosse,

Falloir dire, ouais madame, 
Moi j'vas voler la grosse, 
Vas pas la garde la belle,
Ça m'lesse tout seul.

Ah, ye yaille, la malheureuse.


Richard Voynow

Angelas' first session was produced by Brunswick's A&R representative Richard Voynow.   A jazz pianist and composer for The Wolverine Orchestra, Voynow dabbled in finding artists for the record label.  During a lengthy expedition into the south, he supervised Lejeune, Fruge and McGee's 1929 session with several area musicians from the Opelousas area.  By November of 1930, the label held their final session in New Orleans in which Angelas and Ernest were waxing another set of songs to disc.  For this recording, "Madame Donnez Moi Les" (#527), Angelas put down his accordion and let his vocals ride along Ernest's fiddle melody.  It's one of the few recordings that allow listeners to hear Fruge's fiddling talent dominate and it would be the duo's very last recording ever. 

Oh, ye yaille, miserable woman.

Oh, ye yaille.

Madam, give them to me, yeah, 
The little one or the big one,
The little one, she is cute,
The big one, she is so beautiful.

Oh, ye yaille, little one.

Madam, give them to me, yeah,
The little one or the big one because,
I have to have one, 
That's all I want.

Leave me, you said, 
How I wanted to believe you,
(Now), I won't get one,
Neither the small one nor the big one.

Have to say, yeah madam,
I'm going to steal the big one,
Don't protect the beauty,
It hurts me to be alone.

Oh, ye yaille, miserable woman.

The melody influenced many other pre-war Cajun tunes such as Joe Falcon's "Acadian One Step", Leo Soileau's "Demain C'Est Pas Dimanche" and Bixy Guidry's "Ella A Plurer Pour Revenir". Leo would rework the song in the 1930s as "Petit Ou Gros", made famous by Joe Bonsall in the 1960s.  

  1. Lyrics by Stephane F and Herman M
Release Info:
NO-6727 Valse A Aristil Creduer | Brunswick 577
NO-6728 Madame Donnez Moi Les | Brunswick 577

Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins, 2013)

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

Thursday, July 22, 2021

"Chere Petite" - Jimmy Newman

Jimmy Yves "C" Newman was born in High Point, Louisiana, near Big Mamou, and raised in a bilingual family with parents who delighted in the cowboy sounds of Gene Autry and the country music of Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. Mr. Newman's father died when he was a teenager, and he left school after six years of education, to work on a farm. During World War II, Mr. Newman worked in a defense plant as a welder's helper, and there he met an electrician and music aficionado named J.D. Miller.1,2  

Eh, chère petite, 
Moi j'm'en vas, moi tout seul,
Et pour ça, quoi t'as fait, 
Avec moi, il y a, pas longtemps,
Eh, mon cœur fait mal,
De te voir t'en aller,
Aussi loin avec un autre, 
Si j'connais je donne pas mieux.

Après ma mort, tu vas veiller,
Tu vas mendier pour tes mêmes choses,
Quoi t'as fait avec moi,
Il y a, pas longtemps, chère petite.

Jimmy "C" Newman

Jimmy first stint was with Murphy "Chuck" Guillory's billing in 1948.   The Bihari brothers of Modern records had previously helped release Harry Choates' Jole Blon two years earlier and they were scouting other Cajun music in Louisiana.  They had spotted Chuck's band playing Eunice and had them record the song, possibly in New Orleans.  Chuck and J.D. Miller kicked off Jimmy's musical career with his first vocal recording entitled "Chere Petite" (#20-612). The flip-side was "Gran Texas", sung by Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez, made famous later by Hank Williams.  However, Miller had struggled to gain commercial awareness.   Even Iry Lejeune in 1954 covered one of his tunes "I Made A Big Mistake", after Newman failed to garner success with it in 1953. His stint didn't last long with Chuck, leaving Chuck's group in 1950 to carry his on his own.

Hey, dear little one,
I'm going, all alone,
And for that, what you've done,
To me, over there, not long ago,
Hey, my heart is broken,
To see you go,
So far away with another,
I know, I won't get better.

After my death, you will watch over me,
You will cry about all the same things,
What have you done to me,
Over there, not long ago, dear little one.

"Chere Petite" featured fiddler Murphy "Chuck" Guillory, pianist Herman Durbin, drummer Curzy "Porkchop" Roy, steel guitarist Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez, and bassist Claude "Pete" Duhon.  It wouldn't be until Miller convinced Fred Rose to record Jimmy's "Cry, Cry, Darling" at Rose's Nashville home on Woodmont Ave that Newman became a fixture in the country music scene.  He climbed to the heights of country stardom but he never forgot his roots. He was a tremendous ambassador of our Cajun music and became the first performer on the Grand Ole Opry to sing Cajun French music.

  1. https://www.tennessean.com/story/entertainment/music/2014/06/22/jimmy-c-newman-obituary/11232265/
  2. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2014/06/22/jimmy-c-newman-opry/11237203/
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
A Big Texas 20-612A Modern
B Chere Petite 20-612B Modern

Grand Texas (Arhoolie, 1998)
Jimmy C NEWMAN - The Original Cry, Cry, Darling (Jasmine, 2009)

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

"The LeGrange Waltz" - Floyd Leblanc

Influenced first by Luderin Darbone of the Hackberry Ramblers, Cajun fiddler Floyd Leblanc adopted the same western swing style popularized by Texas fiddlers in the late 1940s.   Before long, he was the lead fiddler in Benny Hess' Oklahoma Tornadoes band where they recorded several sides for his Houston-based label Opera.

Aujourd'hui, chère, t'es après m'quitter,
Pour t'en aller dedans les chemins,
Aussi loin, chère, comment tu crois?,
Mais, pourquoi-donc, mais, tu me fais ça?.

Rappelle-toi, ouais, mais, quand tu m'as dit,
Mais, moi je pouvais, mais, plu(s) t'aimer,
Malheureuse, chère, mais, je (ne) veux plus,
Pour ça t'as fait à ton p'tit chien.

Rappelle-toi, ouais, tout ça t'as fait,
Il y a pas longtemps, mais, dis donc "bye-bye",
Moi j'connais, chère, tu vas pleurer,
mais, un jour à venir, mais, malheureuse.

Daily World
Oct 28, 1949

Named after prominent family in the area, Leblanc entitled this 1948 recording "The LaGrange Waltz". His song was a familiar melody that inspired J.B. Fuselier's  Chere Tout Tout and later, Papa Cairo's Chere Poulette.  His group is largely unknown at this time, but it's possible Bennie Hess and Virgil Bozman are on guitars, and B.D. Williams is on bass.  The LaGrange family settled in Calcasieu and notably donated money for a school.  The school was opened in 1929 and remained the primary school in the area until 1954 when the larger high school was built.1    

Today, dear, you've left me,
To go down the country roads,
So far away, dear, how do you think?
Well, so why, well, have you done that to me?

Remember, yeah, well, when you told me,
Well, I cannot, well, love you anymore,
Naughty woman, dear, well, I don't want anymore,
For what you've done to your little man.

Remember, yeah, all you've done,
Over there not long ago, well, so say "bye-bye",
I know, dear, you're going to cry,
Well, to return one day, well, naughty woman. 

  1. http://www.cpsb.org/Page/1019
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
111-A (638) You Musn’t Cry | Opera 111
111-B (638) The LeGrange Waltz | Opera 111