Monday, May 16, 2022

"Amadie Two Step" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

Before there was zydeco music, early French-speaking musicians in Southwest Louisiana were creating French-Creole music. And, one of the earliest recording artists of this style was accordion player Amede Ardoin, whose life on the Creole music trail went from stardom to tragedy. Ardoin was a virtuoso on the accordion, and he wrote and recorded a series of songs from 1929 to 1934.  According to author Darrell Bourque:

He was kind of like a rock star of his own day and time.  The most repeated a line in his songs, other than wanting a girl to pay attention to him, ... this thing about not having a home, you know, being exiled.1

Oh, bonsoir, catin, ouais, je m'en va, jolie,

Moi, je m'en va, donc, moi tout seul, droite à la maison,

Moi, je voudrais si vous-autres peuvent faire,

Ouais, pour toi, qu'es aussi mal,

Tu t'en va à ta maison, toi, tu me quittes derrière.

Oh, bonsoir, catin, quoi tu veux (que) je peux faire?

Moi, je te vois, mais, t'en aller, ouais, ça me fait du mal,

Si tu vas, comment je peux faire quand je jongle à toi?

Toi, peut-être j’aurais le courage, ouais, de m’en aller.

Oh, bonsoir, catin, peur tout le temps fait ça,

C’est pour faire plaisir, catin, pourqoui à tes parents,

Quand ton neg’ radotte sur moi, je crois, toi, tu me fais ça,

Tu me fais du mal, c’est toi, catin, (qu'es) assez pour moi pleurer.

Daily Advertiser
Aug 13, 1931
It had been almost a year since Dennis Mcgee and Amede Ardoin had made their ground-breaking recordings for Columbia, which were co-pressed on Okeh. The Great Depression had taken a toll on the recording industry. November of 1930 was quite late into the Depression for recording labels to attempt marketing new Cajun music, but Brunswick decided to try one last time.  They gathered Dennis and Ardoin together and recorded a song that reflected the pain in which Ardoin was so familiar with... the loss of a lover.  While he attempts to blame her parents, he also passes blame on her as well.  Unlike Columbia and Okeh, Brunswick did not employ a special numberical series for its Cajun records.  Instead, the firm released all of these titles, which consisted of waltzes, one-steps, two-steps and blues, under the bill of McGee and Ardoin in its "Songs from Dixie" series.3  He continued to play with McGee and his black Creole neighbor Douglas Bellard into the early 1930s. 

Oh, goodnight my pretty doll, yeah, I'm leaving, my pretty,

I'm leaving, so, all alone, straight to the house,

I'd like it if you could do this,

Yeah, for you, who's also sad,

You have gone to your house, you've left me behind.

Oh, goodnight my pretty doll, what do you want (that) I can do?

I see you, well, you're going, yeah, it makes me feel sad,

If you're going, how will I handle this when I'm thinking about you?

You, maybe I'll have the courage, yeah, to go away.

Oh, goodnight my pretty doll, always scared to do that,

Trying to please, pretty doll, your parents,

When your father rambles on about me, I believe you've done that to me,

You've made me sad, it's you, pretty doll, (who did) enough to make me cry. 

The popularity of the song gave way to Happy Fats' 1935 "Les Fille De St. Martin" and Nathan Abshire's 1950 "Choupique Two Step" and his 1960 "Jolie Catin".  In the 1980s, Marc Savoy recorded a different melody giving it the same name. Because of the confusion it caused, he explains:

In the 1980s the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band recorded Arhoolie CD #316 entitled "Two-Step Amédé." Initially, the title song, which I had composed out of love and admiration of Amédé Ardoin's music, was supposed to be called "Tribute to Amédé Ardoin." Even though the submitted track list clearly described the title correctly, the producer went to press having changed it to "Two-Step Amédé" not realizing that there was already a completely different song entitled "Amédé Two-Step" by Amédé Ardoin recorded in the 1930s. My recording of "Two-Step Amédé" was never meant to be a version of Amédé's wonderful song. Instead it was my feeble attempt to compose a tune to honor his contribution to Cajun/Creole Music.2 

  3. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold

Release Info:
NO-6717-A Amadie Two Step | Brunswick 576 

NO-6718-A La Valse A Austin Ardoin | Brunswick 576

NO-6717-A Amadie Two Step | Melotone M18050
NO-6718-A La Valse A Austin Ardoin | Melotone M18050

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)

Monday, May 2, 2022

"Se Mallereux" - Happy Fats

Records had been available regionally since the late 1920s and a few of them got played elsewhere from time to time, but it was in 1939 that Leroy "Happy" Fats LeBlanc and the Rayne-Bo Ramblers became the first band from south Louisiana to play on a radio show broadcast nationally over the CBS network. Old-timers will recall that Fats and his band were regular performers at the OST Club in Rayne and Tee Maurice Club near Vatican.1 

T'as quitté hier au soir,
Avec un gros en or,
T'as revenu à ce matin,
Tu sentais le vin blanc.

C'est malheureux, (c'est malheureux,) 
C'est malheureux tu m'fais comme ça,
C'est malheureux tu m'as quitté, 
Quoi faire tu veux venir.

Quoi faire donc, pitié, 
Tu fais ça z-avec moi,
T'es après faire du mal,
À ton pauvre nègre.

C'est malheureux, (c'est malheureux,)
C'est malheureux tu m'fais comme ça. 
C'est malheureux tu m'as quitté, 
Quoi faire tu veux venir.

Happy Fats
Fats was reared on a rice farm near Rayne, Louisiana and got his first guitar by trading a sack of rice for it. He was working in a rice mill for $1.50 a day when he started his band as a way to earn a little bit of money during the Depression. "We'd play dances for ten dollars for the whole band," he said in an interview some years ago. "That was two dollars apiece and two dollars for traveling expenses."1  

By 1938, after having many musicians in and out of his band, he regrouped with the Guidry's, Roy "Blackie" Romero and a talented 17-yr-old pianist from the St. Martinville area named Robert Thibodeaux.  Together, they formed a western swing outfit for a recording session at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans and recorded a French version of Deep Elem Blues entitled "Se Mallereux" (#2089).

You left last night,
With a big man in wealth,
You've returned this morning,
You smelled of white wine.

That's terrible, that's terrible,
That's terrible, you did like that,
That's terrible, you left me,
How you want to come back.

So, what's done, pitiful,
You did that with me,
You're going to hurt,
Your poor old man.

That's terrible, that's terrible,
That's terrible, you did like that,
That's terrible, you left me,
How you want to come back.

  1. Jim Bradshaw. "Happy Fats Heard Nationwide". The Abbeville Meridional, published in Abbeville, Louisiana on Sunday, January 29th, 2012
  2. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
BS-022035-1 Ma belle Mellina | Bluebird B-2046-A
BS-022036-1 Se Mallereux | Bluebird B-2046-B

BS-022036-1 Se Mallereux | Bluebird B-2089-A
BS-022023-1 Cherie a you toi te? [Hackberry Ramblers] | Bluebird B-2089-B

HAPPY FATS & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (BACM, 2009)