Thursday, October 20, 2022

"Chinaball Special" - Veteran Playboys

Hailing form the same Pointe Noire area west of Church Point that produced the remarkable Lejeune clan of singers and musicians, Alphée Bergeron had played before the war (including alongside Amede Ardoin and Mayuse Lafleur), but like many of his contemporaries, he had put aside his accordion for two reasons: first, because he felt he should tend to the serious business of raising his family and second, because accordion driven Cajun music had faded from the scene.  In the years following WWII, many were growing uncomfortable with the widespread loss of ethnic identity caused by social stigmatization.  Legendary Cajun musicians such as Iry Lejeune, Lawrence Walker, Austin Pitre and Aldus Roger launched a renaissance of Cajun music culture.  Another of these pioneers was Alphée Bergeron.2 

Hé, jolie petite blonde, j'aimais tant, 
Oh, petite mignonne pour moi, 
Hé, pour faire donc toi t'as eu pour me quitter moi comme ça.

Hé, 'tite fille, mais gardez donc de ma maison, 
Hé, mignonne,(je) m'ennuie de toi, 
Hé, pour faire donc je pourrai pas te revoir une fois encore.

Hé, petite, moi j'voudrais, mais, te demander, 
Oh, c'est bien éyou t'as été?, 
Ouais, parce que moi je suis misérable quand je vais à Duralde asteure.  

Shirley Bergeron, Bill Matte, Adam Hebert,
Raymond Lafleur, Alphee Bergeron,
Wallace Lafleur
In 1947, the musical climate had changed. He dusted off his instrument and formed his aplty-named Veteran Playboys.  He teamed up with fiddler Adam Hebert, a veteran himself, in 1948 in which they recorded the "Chinaball Special" (#1012), named after a dance-hall they frequented called the Chinaball Club in Bristol, Louisiana.  It featured a melody commonly associated with the song "B.O. Sparkle" by Leroy Broussard.  According to author and collector, Lyle Ferbrache,
This is truly one of the great post-war records. It was the first super group of Cajun music.  Adam Hebert sings and plays fiddle with  Alphée Bergeron playing accordion.  Alphée's son, Shirley Bergeron, Bill Matte and Raymond Lafleur played in this great band as well.  In time, all the members went on to their own successes.1   


Alphee Bergeron

Hey, pretty little blond, I loved so much,
Oh, little cutie for me,
Hey, so what's done, you had to leave me like that.

Hey, little girl, well, so look, I'm home,
Hey, cutie, I miss you.
Hey, so what's done, I won't be able to see you again.

Hey, little one, I would like, well, to ask you,
Oh, it's good wherever you are?
Yeah, because I am miserable when I go to Duralde, right now. 

Alphée gave up farming after Hurricane Audrey wiped out his crops in 1957.  However, he was still able to make a living as a musician and continued to play music alongside Adam Hebert and Bill Matte.  

Adam Hebert
Hebert was a gifted song writer whose music is at the center of traditional Cajun repertoire.  Adam constructed his first fiddle as a child out of a chocolate box and screen wire, later progressing to one his brother made out of a cigar box and horse hair. When his father overheard him playing for his sister and her beau in the parlor, he realized Adam's talent and ordered a real violin out of the Montgomery Ward catalog.  Adam, then began playing hose dances at age 13 and later recalled how he approached singing,

Some musicians just count from their mouth when they sing, they just speak. I approach my music not from my mouth, it comes straight from my heart.3  

Alphée continued to play in bands until the the 1970s and quit when he got sick.  His son Shirley, who was also an accomplished musician, stated,
Daddy was a very comical fellow and very serious at his work as a farmer. He was a hard working accordion player at the dance jobs. He played until he got physically unable to keep up But his music lives on through the records.  His music is still popular.4  

  1. Post War Cajun 78 RPM Nuggets – Lyle Ferbrache
  2. Barry J. Ancelet.  The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) 17 Sep 1997
  3. Adam Hebert.  The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) 12 Oct 2010
  4. Daily World (Opelousas, Louisiana ) 12 Apr 1991
  5. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
Eunice Waltz | Fais-Do-Do F1012
Chinaball Special| Fais-Do-Do F1012

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

Saturday, October 8, 2022

"Grand Mamou" - Nathan Abshire

While he mirrored the midcentury infatuation with country-flavored honky-tonk music—fiddle-driven and slide-guitar-embellished—Nathan Abshire later helped lead a resurgence of more traditionally crafted Cajun music with the sound of the old-time button accordion reinstalled at its center. This was the music that had fueled both bals des maisons (house parties) and fais do-dos (weekend dances) in the old days.2   

After the war, Nathan's big break came when Ernest Thibodeaux and Wilson Granger convinced the Avalon Club owner, Quincy Davis, that the band needed an accordion player.   Wilson recalled:
That’s where I met him, when I started playing with him. I had heard of him. I know he was from Riceville. Nathan didn’t know much of anything. When they (Quincy Davis) went and got him to play music, he was fixing stoves. Cooking stoves. You know, there’s not a big business in fixing stoves.  Davis had him on the radio five days a week. He got very popular.1   

Eh, mais, t'en aller à grand Mamou,
C'est pour voir les belles 'tites blondes, mais, malheureux.

Eh, jolie 'tite fille, criminelle,
M'a quitte pour t'en aller z-avec vaurien,
Moi je te souhaite tout le malheur que tu peux avoir,
Tu connais j'mérite pas ça, mais, t'après faire. 

It wouldn't be long before Quincy found record label owner Virgil Bozman and convinced him to record Nathan and his band to help promote his Pine Grove Club near Jennings.  Bozman took advantage of this agreement and recorded at least ten songs for his Oklahoma Tornadoes label, starting in May of 1949 at the local KPLC radio station in Lake Charles.  One of these songs was the popular 1935 Leo Soileau tune called "Grand Mamou" (#106). It was a song that Leo had recorded earlier as "Basile" with Mayuse Lafleur in 1928.
Nathan Abshire
Trent Oubre Studio

His band during this recording is believed to have consisted of Will Kegley on fiddle, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Jim Baker on bass, and special vocalist Roy Broussard.  After the OT recordings were produced, many musicians began comparing his style to the more popular  Cajun accordionist Iry Lejeune.  When Nathan's first fiddler, Wilson Granger, was asked to compare his style against Iry Lejeune, he stated:
Nathan played the smoothest accordion, in my opinion, than anybody else.  Iry was a hell of an accordion player.   He could play two-steps like nobody else. But Nathan was easier to follow than Iry, put it that way.1  

Hey, well, you're going to big Mamou,
It's to see the pretty little blondes, well, oh my.

Hey, pretty little girl, it's terrible,
I'm leaving for you went away with a scoundrel,
I wish you all the misfortune you can have,
You know I didn't deserve that, well, what you're doing.

Nathan continued to record, and travel, into his later years.  In 1970, he and the Balfa Brothers performed "Grand Mamou" during a Cajun concert in New York City. 

  1. Wilson Granger interview. Andrew Brown. 2005.
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
Release Info:
106-A Grand Mamou | OT 106-A
106-B Lake Charles Two Step | OT 106-B

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie, 2013)