Monday, March 29, 2021

"What's The Use" - Harry Choates

In 1947, Charles D Henry and Macy Lela Henry opened up a shop to distribute music to people of south east Texas.   In downtown Houston, they hired a young Steve Poncio to help stock their shelves with records at their new facility United Record Wholesalers.2  But once wartime shellac was no longer rationed, independent record companies began to pop-up, taking advantage of the talent in their local regions.  Soon, Steve and Macy decided to create their own label with Steve as general manager.   By 1949, the label took off as Macy's Recordings. 

It was April of that year when he got word that Macy wanted him to record for her.  He was already contracted to Bill Quinn, but that never was a consideration for Cajun fiddler Harry Choates.  He jumped in his vehicle and headed to the ACA studio to meet other musicians lined up such as Earl Rebert on steel guitar, possibly Sue Romero on bass, and possibly Louis Oltremari on piano accordion.   There, he recorded the poignant "What's The Use" (#134), a fatalistic predetermination that he was killing himself with every drink he took.1 

Toi t'après m'a laissé,
Avec une autre tu m'a quitté,
Oh, moi, j'connais mérite pas ça, haha.

Oh, quoi ta fais, mais, ça ta fais
Moi, j'connais, mais, chère 'tite fille,
Moi, j'espoire, mais, quelle espoire, mais, chère mignonne.
Il y a pas longtemps, tu voir tu regret,
Chère 'tite fille, pour quoi ta fais,
Oh, moi, j'connais t'as fait de la peine.

Liberty Vindicator
Oct 19, 1950

According to Port Arthur musician, Roland "R.A." Faulk, he remembered the Macy sessions with Harry. On the way to Houston, Harry was driving and was pulled over in Liberty, TX for speeding in a school zone. Harry told the officer that he had bad brakes and would have them fixed as soon as possible.  The police officer told Harry to drive to the nearest repair shop and have the brakes tended to, and he would follow along in his patrol car.  When the officer was content that Harry had made arrangements to have his brakes repaired, he drove away leaving Harry and R.A. parked in the front of the brake shop.  As soon as the police was out of sight, Harry started up his Ford and drove through the back door of the shop on his way for his recording date at Macy's.1  

You, you are leaving me,
With another, you left me, 
Oh, I know I don't deserve that, haha.

Oh, what you've done, well, that you've done,
I know, well, dear little girl,
I hope, well, what hope is there, well, dear little cutie,
There it won't be long, you'll see you'll regret,
Dear little girl, for what you've done,
Oh, I know you hurt me.

Undecided on the song title, ACA ledger notes show the alternate French title "C'est pas la peine", misspelled as "Sapala Pan".3  Poncio and Macy's most notable recordings came that same year with her experimental zydeco recording of Clarence Garlow's "Bon Ton Roula" and Lester Williams's "Wintertime Blues".  Macy took advantage of the industry's "double payola" where during this period, deejays were paid to play a Macy's record and then paid extra not to plug the competition.  Once Steve left to create United Recording Distributing Co. a year later and her husband's health began to fail, Macy closed her business.

  1. Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates, a Cajun Legend by Tim Knight
  2. Roadkill on the Three-chord Highway: Art and Trash in American Popular Music By Colin Escott
  3. Audio Company of America, Master Book, 1950-1951

Release Info:
ACA-1556 Louisiana Boogie | Macy's 134-A
ACA-1560 What's The Use | Macy's 134-B

Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)

Monday, March 22, 2021

"Vien A La Maison Avec Moi" - Percy Babineaux & Bixy Guidry

"You'll Come Home With Me!" Adolph "Bixy" Guidry was born in the rural area around Cankton, Louisiana.  He showed a strong affinity for music from an early age. According to music researcher Ron Brown, "one day he nailed a strap to each end of a board for his thumb and fingers respectively and hammered nails along the middle portion to simulate accordion notes."  A few years later he mother bought him his own accordion which he quickly mastered and by his late teens, Bixy was playing house dances. Before long, he teamed up with Carencro musician Percy Babineaux.1   

(Moi) j'connais pas tu mérite,
Ça t'as fait avec mon chère,
Moi j'connais, t'prends ça dur,
Chère 'tite fille, chère, t'as fait (ça).

Moi, j'connais,
Tu mérite pas, d'être (........)
Mais, tu, tu ne plus tu va venir,
Avec ton nègre à la maison.

Tu jamais,
D'être malheureuse,
C'est pas la peine que tu veins,
Tu pleures quand t'ai ton nègre, 
Chère 'tite fille, rappelle-toi les misères,
Tu m'a fait, j'mon aller.

Adolph "Bixy" Guidry

The waltz, "Vien A La Maison Avec Moi (You'll Come Home With Me)", was recorded during a RCA Victor session in New Orleans in 1929 (#22210).  Adolph "Bixy" Guidry and Percy Babineaux, an accordion-fiddle duo, cut eight sides in one session for the Victor company.  In some listings, he's known as "Dixie" Guidry. 

I don't know you deserve,
All that you've done to your dear sweetheart,
I know, you take it hard,
Dear little girl, dearie, you have done that.

I, myself, know,
You don't deserve to be miserable
Well, you, you won't return again,
To your man at the house.

You (should) never,
Be miserable,
It's not worth it that you return,
You cry when you have your man,
Dear little girl, remember all the miseries,
You did to me, I'm going.

Recordings such as this are based on much older melodies that inspired other songs, such as Angelas Lejeune's "Valse De Pointe Noire", Fawvor Brother's "La Valse De Creole", and Amede Ardoin's "La Valse Du Ballard".  Several post-war recordings contain the melody such as Floyd Leblanc's "Brow Bridge Waltz", Abe Manuel's "Ville Platte Waltz" and most notably Nathan Abshire's "Kaplan Waltz".

  1. Let Me Play This For You : Rare Cajun Recordings.  Ron Brown.  Liner notes.
  2. Lyrics by Herman M

Release Info:
BVE-56494-2 Vien A La Maison Avec Moi (You'll Come Home With Me) | Victor 22210
BVE-56495-2 J'vai Jouer Celea Pour Toi (I'll Play This For You) | Victor 22210

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

Monday, March 15, 2021

"Just Because" - Pal Thibodeaux

Elie Daise "Pal" Thibodeaux grew up in the Port Arthur area. His childhood friends remember him speaking French and English very well. Even at a young age, Pal was known to be singing all the time.

After serving in the Navy, Pal was playing the piano with Bill Nettles from Natchitoches. Bill had been recording since 1934 in various groups. By 1950, he married Bill's daughter, Loyce. Together they played in Bill's group; The Dixie Blue Boys and would play on KMLB in Monroe.

Around 1950, Pal and Loyce moved to back to Pal's hometown in Port Arthur. Back home Pal had assembled a group and were playing locally on the radio. There Pal was playing piano with his group, but he could play any stringed instrument.

Juste parce que tu crois (que) t'es si jolie,
Juste parce que tu crois (que) t'es si belle,
Juste parce que tu crois (que) t'avais quelque chose,
Quelque chose qui n'va pas bien.

Tu as ri et tes dépense mon argent, 
Tu as ri et t'appelé mon vielle,
Moi, je te dis, c'est tout fini,
Parce que, juste parce que.

Eh, pas bon.

Oh, mais, villaines manières.

Il va venir un temps quand ton tout seul,
Il va venir un temps quand t'es chagrins,

Bill Nettles and the Dixie Blue Boys

In 1951, Pal cut his his first solo record for 4 Star Records. 4 Star Records was founded after World War Two and based in California. They were home to country acts such as the Maddox Brothers and Rose as well as Webb Pierce. The label had previously dabbled in recording Cajun music when they recorded Austin Pitre. More than likely the session was recorded at KMLB in Monroe. It was there Pal recorded "Just Because" (X-19) with his father in law, Bill, backing him on mandolin.

"Just Because" was originally recorded by Nelstone's Hawaiians in 1929. Over the years the song was recorded by The Rayne Bo Ramblers as "Jus Pasque" and Joe Falcon and Cleoma Breaux as "Jeuste Parcque". The song was made popular by the Shelton Brothers in the mid 1930's. With the popularity of radio, such stations as KWKH broadcasting out of Shreveport gave way to cultural mixing between Cajun music, Western swing and hillbilly.

Just because you think that you're so pretty,
Just because you think that you're so beautiful,
Just because you think that you have something,
Something that isn't doing well.

You laughed and you spent my money,
You laughed and you called me old,
I tell you, it's all over,
Because, just because.

Eh, no good.

Oh, well, naughty ways.

There's going to come a time when you're all alone,
There's going to come a time when you are sad,

Pal had to pause his recording career as he was shipped to Korea to serve again. But by 1954 he was recording again, this time for the Imperial label. He would finish out the 1950's recording for Louisiana labels such as Sky Line and Ann. A truly gifted artist, he died fairly young.

  1. Contributed by Jeremy R
  4. "Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music" by Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  5. Lyrics by Herman M and Stephane F
Release Info:
4081 Just Because | 4 Star X19
4082 It's All Over Now | 4 Star X19


Monday, March 8, 2021

"Lafayette" - Hackberry Ramblers

The biggest Cajun cover band in the 1930s was the Hackberry Ramblers.  Their pre-war career stretched from 1935 to 1938 covering some of the most iconic songs of the Cajun prairies until RCA's recording activity in south Louisiana began to diminish.  By 1940s, the group had disbanded but reformed again under Luderin's leadership in 1946.  

Luderin's string band contemporary, Harry Choates, had just scored a huge hit with "Jole Blon".   Riding on the popular post-war recording wave, Luderin was contacted by DeLuxe records the following year where his group re-recorded their version of the song "Jole Blon".   During that same New Orleans session, they recorded several Cajun classics, including the original Cajun classic by Joe Falcon called "Lafayette" (#5031). 

The DeLuxe Record Company was formed in 1944 by David and Jules Braun in Linden, New Jersey. A subsidiary of King Records, the label recorded popular music, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel and country & western.2   In 1947, Luderin was contacted by their manager, Joseph Leibowitz.   Luderin Darbone recalls the DeLuxe encounter:

He came out and listened to us. He like the way we played, so he said he would record us. He wanted us to go to New Orleans one weekend.1 

Allons à Lafayette, c'est pour changer ton nom,
On va t’appeler Madame, Madame Canaille Comeaux,
Petite, t’es trop mignonne pour faire ta criminelle,
Comment tu crois que moi j'peux faire, mais, mon tout seul.

Eh, malheureux, aller avec un autre,
Comment m'j'va faire, seul a la maison,
Mais toi, mon petit coeur, 'garde, quoi t’as fait,

Luderin Darbone4

This time, the band added Chink Widcamp on bass, Edwin Duhon on accordion, Gary Major on tenor sax, Neil Roberts on trumpet, Grover Heard on guitar, Lennis Sonnier on vocals and guitar, and Lefty Boggs on drums.  The group was performing three nights a week in clubs around Lake Charles, frequently catering to soldiers from the Camp Claiborne station.3 

In 1947, Syd Nathan purchased a majority interest in the DeLuxe label, although it continued to be operated out of Linden by the Braun brothers until March, 1949, when the offices were moved to Cincinnati.2  It's believed that "Lafayette" was pressed during this turbulent time, and unfortunately, the copies produced suffered from dynamic range.  By 1951, the label was acquired by King Records.  

Let's go to Lafayette, in order to change your name,
We'll call you Mrs., Mrs. Canaille Comeaux,
Little one, you are too cute to be this bad,
How do you think that I'll handle this, well, all alone?

Hey, oh my, going away with another,
How am I going to handle this, alone at the house,
Well you, my little sweetheart, look at what you've done,

  3. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. National Endowment for the Arts
Release Info:
D 343 Lafayette | DeLuxe 5031 A
D 342 Crowley Waltz | DeLuxe 5031 B

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

"Sulphur Two Step" - Lacy Adaway

Of all the accordion led recordings of the late 1940s, one stands out as a curiosity.  It was a 1949 pressing by record producer Virgil Bozman on his own O.T. label.  Virgil's foray into country music and Cajun music simultaneously culminated into this obscure recording session with a local western swing outfit known as Lacy Adaway And His Ranch House Boys.   

Lacy was a native of Sulphur, Louisiana and fought in WWII.  When he returned, he got a job working as a pipe fitter in the oil industry and formed a group with his Ranch House Boys, possibly an ode to Johnny Gimble.  Around 1949, the band recorded two sides, one being an instrumental entitled the "Sulphur Two Step" (#108). 

The surprising element in the recording is that the instrumental is led purely by an accordion player.  Immediately, Nathan Abshire fans will recognize the sound of his old Monarch accordion, prominent on many other O.T. releases.   At several points throughout the song, a keen listener will notice Nathan's iconic yelp: "Hah!".  Is this a lost recording of Nathan Abshire?   If so, why did Virgil attempt to merge these two artists?  

Lacy Adaway

Clearly, artistic differences were at play.  The audio seems to suggest tension between Nathan and the other musicians in Lacy's band since there's no evidence they knew Cajun music.  Nathan repeats the same droning riff throughout the song, keeping Lacy's band from having to guess turns and chord changes.   The flip-side contains a country tune by The Ranch House Boys.  Although the accordion is present, Nathan's playing is barely audible—fading in and out occasionally.  

Although the mashup was a failure, Virgil didn't seem to care. By this point, Nathan's own group, the Pine Grove Boys, was gaining popularity and his recordings were taking off in the jukeboxes.  Lacy's career, however, never materialized much further than a few recordings produced around Lake Charles.  His band recorded again for George Khoury in the early 1950s and afterwards, it seems they disbanded.  In the 70s, Lacy carried around his "famous" guitar, one played by Hank Williams Sr. 

Release Info:
Louisiana King | OT 108-A
Sulphur Two-Step | OT 108-B