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