Sunday, May 30, 2021

"La Valse De Jennings" - John Oliver

One of the more obscure Cajun accordion players of the post-war honky-tonk era was John Oliver.  Born north of Crowley, he spent his time playing house dances with his brothers around the area.  Soon, afterwards, he formed his own band, the Louisiana Playboys.

Although originally from Jennings, he played in places east of Jeff Davis Parish such as Fruge's Bar in Midland, the Welcome Club in Crowley and the Martinez Bar in Morse.    His performing career lasted from 1949 to 1952, which during this time, he traveled to New Orleans to recording for Meladee Records with the song "La Valse De Jennings" (#116).  The melody caries some similarities to Nathan Abshire's "New Orleans Waltz".  The Meladee label was owned and operated by Mel and Lou Mallory in New Orleans, where the famous Cosimo Matassa served as his studio producer.

Crowley Daily Signal
Oct 6, 1949
His band consisted of several musicians throughout the years, including Buddy Myles on fiddle, Jake Mier on steel guitar, and Thomas Langley on drums. Soon after, band members such as Jake and Thomas joined the Pine Grove Boys with Nathan Abshire and his guitarist August Broussard left to form his own accordion-led band.   By the 1970s, John eventually made his way to Eddie Shuler's Goldband studios in Lake Charles and continued his recording career alongside Robert Bertrand.

  1. "Cajun Dancehall Heyday" by Ron Yule

Release Info:
John Oliver Special | Meladee DB115
La Valse de Jennings | Meladee DB116

Monday, May 24, 2021

"One Step Des McGee" - Dennis McGee & Ernest Fruge

Fiddler Dennis McGee was born in Bayou Marron to John McGee, of Irish descent, and Amelia Lafleur, of French and Seminole Indian ancestry.2  Dennis first began learning the fiddle from his father, his favorite tune being "Valse de Pop."  In his youth, he went to live with his grandmother, where he was surrounded by fiddle players. As with many other rural fiddlers, music was a family affair with Dennis--listening to the playing of his uncles, Ulysses and Joseph McGee, and a cousin, Oscar McGee.1   

'Garde-le mourir, c'est trop dur, 
Eh, moi tout seul, eh, malheureuse la belle,
Eh, 'gardez-donc, oh, mais, ça t'as fais,
Moi, j'connais t'as fais, malheureuse.

Malheureuse, jolie 'tit cœur,
Regarde (ce que) t'as fais dés (que) tu passes la porte, 
T’étais là bas, c’est tout t’as fait,
Mais, malheureuse, mais, malheureuse.

Ler-der-de, 'garde-donc, r'garde belle,
Mais, 'tit galop pour aller (à) la maison,
Mais, cours toujours, mais, t'en aller,
Mais, nous tous seul, mais-là, gallop.

Theodore McGee

After working with a cousin, Ben Courville on his farm, he moved and began living with another cousin, Theodore McGee.   Theodore took him to Ville Platte to buy a fiddle and withing six months he was attracting the attention of neighbors who would come to hear him play.1  He received his first shiny red fiddle when he was 15 years old.4  According to Dennis, 
I stayed with Theodore McGee and one day he said, "Well Mac, I believe I'll buy a violin for you.  I'm going to Ville Platte."  No strings!  There was nothing on it. He bought some strings and the pegs. He knew how to play a little. He tuned it up and played "Tout Les Deux Pour La Meme".  He said, "Now, you're on your own."3  
He started out playing for square dances with eight or ten couples in country homes for the grand sum of $1 a night.4   By 1929, he scored a contract to record with Vocalion records with Sady Courville and later, with Amede Ardoin with Colombia records.  By 1930, he and fiddler Ernest Fruge teamed up and headed to New Orleans where they recorded "One Step Des McGee" (#590) for Brunswick records, in honor of his McGee musical family.  Similar to his "One Step De Chupic", Dennis introduces the verses with nonsensical phrasing.  This style of singing could be used to evoke emotions or even memories in listeners that couldn't be put into words or ones that weren't terribly specific. It allows the listener's mind to wander where it will, guided by the singer, but not forced into a specific narrative. 

Look at him dying, it's too hard,
Hey, i'm all alone, hey, naughty beauty,
Hey, so look, oh, well, at that you've done,
I know what you've done, naughty woman.

Naughty woman, pretty little sweetheart,
Look what you did as soon as you walked through the door,
You were there, it's all due to you,
Well, naughty woman, well, naughty woman.

Ler-der-de, so look, look at that beauty,
Well, galloping to the house,
Well, always running, well, I'm going,
Well, we're all alone, well there, (let's) gallop.

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule, Bill Burge
  3. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  4. The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) 12 Sep 1982
  5. Lyrics by Stephane F and Herman M
Release Info:
NO-6731 La Valse De Rosalie | Brunswick 590
NO-6732 One Step Des McGee | Brunswick 590

Dennis McGee ‎– The Complete Early Recordings (Yazoo, 2006)

Monday, May 17, 2021

"Eunice Waltz" - Veteran Playboys

When the Second World War finally came to a close, the returning veterans of southwest Louisiana wanted to hear the music of their youth.  One of the leading bands of that era was Alphée Bergeron and the Original Veteran Playboys.  They played traditional Cajun music every night of the week for three years straight.  Alphée was a sharecropper by day and accordion player by night. He was from the community of Pointe Noir, near Church Point in Acadia Parish.1  

Moi j'm'en va d'la maison, 
J’suis parti en larme, mais, tu vas voir encore,
Toi, 'tite fille, toi, tes ma pardonné, 
C'est de la peine que j'ai (pour) toi pour toujours.

J’suis parti en larme, mais, tu vas voir encore,
J'suis condamné par les paroles de ma catin
Te condamné pour quatre-vingt-dix neuf ans,
Dans les bals*, chere-là, m'joindre pas jamais.

T'as jonglé tout mes parents,
(Je) pense à toi, c'est des mauvaises paroles, catin,
Faudra je prends mes chagrin pour mourir,
Toi, tite fille, t’es peut remercier ton papa et ta maman.

Shirley and Alphee Bergeron
At the age of eight he, he started playing the accordion and at the age of twelve, he was playing house dances.  He played his first house dance with Joe Cormier in the Tasso community.  He was a close neighbor with accordion player Angelas Lejeune.4 

Alphée son, Shirley, was a quick study and soon joined his father’s band while still in school.  Shirley was eager to learn and soon began singing in his father’s band.  He also learned to play the electric steel guitar—his favorite instrument.  The typical week would start Tuesday nights with a short performance at KSLO radio, then to the Deuce Club in Lewisburg.  Shirley recalled,
"The second night, Wednesday, was the Rose Garden Club in Nuba. Thursday night, we'd perform at the Side Inn in Church Point.  Friday night's performance was at Jake's Place in Church Point, and on Saturday, there's so many places. I was going through high school at the time. Man it was rough. "2  
In 1948, Alphée and fiddler/vocalist Adam Hebert formed a band called the Veteran Playboys because of two of the group members were veterans.3  They recorded one pressing on J.D. Miller's Fais Do Do label including song "Eunice Waltz" (#1012), a version of Amede Ardoin's 1929 recording "La Valse Ah Abe".  The rest of band included Raymond Lafleur on guitar, Wallace Lafleur on guitar, Bill Matt on drums and possibly Willard Matt.

Daily World
Mar 23, 1951

I'm going back home,
I left in tears, well, you will eventually see,
You, little girl, you've forgiven me,
It's because of the pain that you've given me forever.

I left in tears, well, you will eventually see,
I'm condemned by the words you said, pretty doll?
You've condemned me for ninety-nine years,
Good riddance, dearest, never join me again.

I'm reminiscing about all my parents,
Thinking of you, because of the terrible words, my pretty doll,
I have to keep my sorrows until I die,
You, little girl, you can thank your father and your mother. 

Shirley Ray Bergeron became one of the best singer-songwriters of Cajun Music.  Adam Hebert would continue on, forming a group called the Country Playboys. 


  1.  J’AI FAIT MON IDEE (I MADE-UP MY MIND) By William Thibodeaux 11/12/2013
  2. Daily World (Opelousas, Louisiana )12 Apr 1991
  3. The Ville Platte Gazette (Ville Platte, Louisiana) 10 Jun 1993
  5. Lyrics by Herman M and Stephane F
Release Info:
Eunice Waltz | Fais Do Do F-1012-A
Chinaball Special | Fais Do Do F-1012-B

Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Thursday, May 6, 2021

"La Valse De La Rosa" - Leo Soileau

Leo Soileau was one of the dominant Cajun musicians of the 1930s and early '40s. His more than 100 recordings included such influential tunes as "Hackberry Hop," "La Gran Mamou," La Valse De Gueydan," and his greatest hit, "Jolie Blonde." Taught the fiddle by influential Cajun fiddlers Dennis McGee and Sady Courville, Soileau made his recording debut, in 1928, when he joined with accordionist Mayeus Lafleur to record the second Cajun record ever, "He Mon." Following Lafleur's death, nine days later, he teamed with accordionist Moise Robin. He also recorded, in the late '20s, with the Soileau Couzens.2  

Oh chère, promets moi, mais, juste pour moi, jolie fille,
Jusqu'à jour de ta mort, bébé.

Oh chère, moi, j'connais, mais, toi pas venir jusqu'à moi,
Toi pas venir, mais, tu t'sauve* de ton nègre*, bébé.

Oh chère, promets moi de pas m'quitter jusqu'à la mort,
Jolie cœur, pour ton nègre, chère.

Oh chère, moi, j'connais, mais, moi, j'm'en va,
C'est pour te rejoindre, jolie cœur,
Pourquoi-donc tu veux pas d'moi, jolie?
Port Arthur News
Sep 20, 1946

Forming his own band, the Three Aces, with rhythm guitarists Floyd Shreve or Dewey Landry and bassist/drummer Tony Gonzalez in the early '30s, Soileau expanded the group into a quartet, the Four Aces, in 1934. They later became the Rhythm Boys by 1937, backed by piano player Harold "Popeye" Broussard and steel guitarist Julius ‘Papa Cairo’ Lamperez.
2  In his last session with the Four Aces, Leo recorded a version of Joe Falcon's "Aimer Et Perdre" entitled "La Valse De La Rosa" (#17047), a melody he had reworked earlier in his career as "Ce Pas La Pienne Tu Pleur".   It would be his last recorded Cajun piece ever.  Although this marked the end of Leo's recording career, he claimed the reason was because of the onset of WWII.
When the war declared, that's when my contract expired with Decca.1   

Oh dear, promise me, well, (you're) just for me, pretty girl,
Until the day you die, baby.

Oh dear, I know, well, you didn't come to me,
You didn't come, well, you stayed away from your man, baby.

Oh dear, promise me not to leave me until death,
Pretty sweetheart, for your man, dear.

Oh dear, I know, well, I'm leaving,
It's to join you, pretty sweetheart,
So, why do you not want me, pretty girl?

The group continued to perform at the Silver Star Club in Lake Charles for eight years. Shifting to the Showboat Club in Orange, TX and other places like the Harvest Club, the band continued to play together for another two years. Although Soileau and the group appeared frequently on the radio, they never recorded again. In the late '40s, Soileau left music to work with his brothers in a general contracting firm in Ville Platte. He died in August 1980.2  

  3. Lyrics by Martin S

Release Info:
63070-A Chere Liza | Decca 17047 A
63070-A La Valse De La Rosa | Decca 17047 B

Leo Soileau: Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 7 (Old Timey, 1982)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)