Monday, January 22, 2018

"Taunt Aline" - Amede Ardoin

In the 1920s and '30s, Amédé Ardoin was the zipper of Cajun and Creole music. While he was performing, the two genres - though distinct - came together in a groove that shared his repertoire and style.  Breaking Jim Crow era barriers, he routinely played with Cajun musicians.6  After witnessing his friend Douglas Bellard record in New Orleans, Amede Ardoin got an opportunity to pursue his first recording session with Columbia that same year. Along with Dennis McGee as his accompanying fiddle player, the song would be the first listing of an Ardoin recording for Columbia known as "Taunt Aline" (#40514).  The duo cut their first recordings together in 1929 at a joint Columbia/Okeh field session in New Orleans under the direction of the Okeh A&R man and talent scout Polk C. Brockman.7

Born in 1898, Ardoin lost his father in an accident when he was nine months old. His mother and seven brothers eked out a living as sharecroppers in Eunice in St. Landry Parish. As a teenager, Ardoin acquired an accordion and taught himself to play it. Illiterate, he also “wrote” songs that seemed to vary with every rendition.1 Poet Darrell Bourque states:

He never sang a song the same way twice. He’d change the lyrics. He made up the songs. It’s all in the oral tradition.1
He, chère catin, malheureuse,
Tu connais moi j't'aime avec tout mon coeur, malheureuse,
Tu devrais, mais, pas fair ce ça, mais, t'après faire, mais, malheureuse,
C'est pour ça, chèr 'tit monde, tu fais du mal à mon coeur.

Malheureuse, tu connais, chère 'tit fille, tu vas pleurer,
Pour ça tou t'es après faire, tu m'as dit, chère 'tit fille, mais criminelle,
Malheureuse, tu connais tu vas pleurer, mais, malheureuse.
Amede Ardoin

This song is something the Cajuns call a 'valse à deux temps', or a 'two-step waltz', as it has two dotted quarter notes per measure for rhythm guitar.2  Sometimes referred to as a 'waltz in two beats', the pattern was made popular in France during the 1840s and involved the gentleman beginning with his left foot and the lady with her right, and together they'd take one step forward and then one step back.3 Joshua Caffery makes note of songs with this particular rhythm.
A 'valse à deux temps' originally referred to a dance step rather than a song type.  Although the notion of a "two-step waltz" seems counterintuitive, as waltzes and two-steps are generally considered two discrete, even opposite, steps, particularly in Louisiana and Texas, the 'valse à deux temps' is simply another style of dancing to a triple meter.5 

According to Dr. Barry Ancelet, it was a style already familiar to Cajuns before Americans had migrated into the area.

From their Anglo-American neighbors, [Cajuns] learned jigs, hoedowns, and Virginia reels to enrich their growing repertoire which already included polkas and contredanses, varsoviennes and valses à deux temps.4 

Hey, dear little doll, oh my,

You know I love you with all my heart oh my,

You shouldn't, well, do what you're doing, well, on my,

That's why, dear little one, you hurt my heart.

Oh my, you know, dear little girl, you'll cry,
For what you're doing, you told me dear little girl, well, it's criminal,
Oh my, you know you'll cry, well, oh my.
Soon Ardoin was in great demand to play and sing—in a voice that has been described as haunting and unearthly—at house parties and little country honky-tonks. Ardoin reworked his "La Valse A Austin Ardoin" into this more well known song, "Taunt Aline".  It would later become Iry Lejeune's 1954 recording "Viens me Chercher" and the Balfa's 1974 recording "J'Sus Orphelin".

  2. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  4. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  5. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  7. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold
  8. Photo by Jeremy S
Release Info:
W111384-2 Taunt Aline Columbia 40514-F, OKeh 90014
W111385-2 Two Step De Mama Columbia 40514-F, OKeh 90014


Amadé Ardoin – Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 6 : Amadé Ardoin – The First Black Zydeco Recording Artist (1928–1938) (Old Timey)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994) 
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie)" - Cleoma Breaux

Much of recorded Cajun music had converted from accordion-led bands to Cajun string bands by 1935.   In fact, the Falcons were the last Cajun recording artists to still use the accordion in their sessions.   Almost all others had either converted over to the contemporary style or retired from recording all together.   Given their unique position and popularity, Cleoma and Joe not only adopted regional folk songs into their string band sound, but also covered popular radio tunes of the day. 

Peut-être c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimais,

C’est un péché de dire une menterie,
Une million de cœur qu’a été cassé,
Par la parole a été parlée,
"Ouais je t’aime, ouais que je t’aime
Tu connais que je t’aime",
Si tu casses mon cœur, ça va me tuer,
T’es sûr que c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimes?
C’est un péché de dire une menterie.

Peut-être c’est vrai quand tu dis que tu m’aimais,
C’est un péché de dire une menterie,
Une million de cœur qu’a été cassé,
Par la parole a été parlée,
"Ouais, je t’aime, tu connais que j't’aime, chère",
Si tu casses mon cœur, ça va me tuer,
T’es sûr que c’est vrai quand tu dis ouais tu m’aimes?
C’est un péché de dire une menterie.

Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon

"It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" is a popular 1936 Fats Waller song originally created by Billy Mayhew.2   Billy was featured on singer Kate Smith's popular Washington D.C. radio show where the tune was introduced to the world.1  Waller's rendition was produced early that year on records with many dance bands including Dick Robertson.2  By 1937, Cleoma, probably along with her brother Clifford, was covering Waller's "Lulu's Back In Town" and as well as this classic "C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie)" for Decca (#17028)

Maybe it's true when you say you loved me,

It is a sin to tell a lie,
One million hearts that have been broken,
By the words that were spoken,
"Yes, I love you, yes, I love you,
You know I love you",
If you break my heart, it will kill me,
Are you sure it's true when you say you love me?
It is a sin to tell a lie.

Maybe it's true when you say you loved me,
It is a sin to tell a lie,
One million hearts that have been broken,
By the words that were spoken,
"Yes, I love you, you know that I love you, dear",
If you break my heart, it will kill me,
Are you sure it's true when you say you love me?
It is a sin to tell a lie.

A version by Somethin Smith and the Redheads reached #7 on Billboard's 1955 listings.1  Other artists who have recorded versions include Billie Holiday, The Ink Spots, and Tony Bennett.2  

  1. Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era By Don Tyler
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A

61910-A C'est Mauvais De Dire Un Mensonge (It's A Sin To Tell A Lie) DE 17028 A
61906-A Prairie De Pin (Pine Prairie) DE 17028 B

Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Widows Of The Village" - Aldus Roger

Aldus Roger was one of the most influential Cajun performers during the era when the musical genre was little known outside of the French Triangle in southwest Louisiana. The leader and frontman of the Lafayette Playboys Rogers reached his largest audience, in the 1950s and '60s, as host of a Saturday afternoon show on Lafayette's KLFY Channel 10. The Lafayette Playboys, which Roger formed in the mid-'40s, featured many Cajun musicians who went on to influence the musical genre including Johnnie Allen, Rodney Miller, Fernice "Man" Abshire, Raymond Cormier, Belton Richard, and Doc Guidry.  According to Marc Savoy:
Before that, [Cajun music] was too segregated in small places, it was too isolated. It didn't really take off like it did until Roger got on television and presented it to the masses. That legitimized it for so many people - the fact that they saw it on television, 'It's ok to be Cajun, because look, it's on television.'2
Aldus Roger and the Lafayette Playboys
Tit Maurice in Bosco
(top) Aldus "Popeye" Broussard, Ellis Richard,
Aldus Roger, Paul Baque, unknown
(bottom) Claude Sonnier, Roy Morgan
Johnnie Allan Collection,
Center for Louisiana Studies,
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

C’est les veuves de la ville,

Ils sont partis chez ‘Tit Maurice,

Ils sont partis pour avoir un bon temps,

Moi, je connais c’est les belles,

C’est les veuves de la ville,
Ils ont nous joint, c’est là-bas, chez ‘tit Maurice.

Tous les soirs, ayou tu vas?
Il y a rien pour dur,
Tout je te demande, chère bébé, viens donc me rejoindre,
Tu m’as dit tu m’aimais,
Moi, je connais c’est pas vrai,
Je suis parti, c’est là-bas, chez ‘tit Maurice.
Crowley Daily Signal
Aug 3, 1950

It's possibly one of the only releases by record producer Eddie Shuler of Aldus before he began recording with J.D. Miller.  It's Roger's rendition of Happy Fats' classic "La Veuve De La Coulee" originally recorded in 1942.  However, the song gained moderate success with Happy's re-recording of it in 1946.  The band mostly likely had Aldus "Popeye" Broussard on fiddle and possibly Claude Sonnier steel guitar.  Aldus television spot garnered lots of local attention. According to music historian Pierre Daigle:
So far as music to dance by, there can be no better, but I find that he plays a cool music, and in my opinion it does not stir the heart. Yet, despite this, Roger had a devoted following among both dancers and musicians.1
Between 1953 and 1956, Aldus and Shuler recorded the tune as "Widows Of The Village" (#106) on the Bob Tanner's label "Tanner N Texas".  It was an ode to the women that frequented the dance hall famously known as the 'Tit Maurice, located near the community of Bosco.   It was owned by Ellis Richard who, like many dance-hall owners, had a betting horse racetrack in the back.  Happy recalls the place:
This old one, the dance floor was about 100 feet by 100 feet, so it was a pretty big dance floor. The bandstand was at one end with the bar at the other end.  They had chicken wire on the windows so they wouldn't come in, in some places they had chicken wire in front of the band.3

It's the widows of the village,

They are headed to the 'Tit Maurice,

They are headed to have a good time,

I know it's the beauties,

It's the widows of the village,
They have joined us, it's over there, at the 'Tit Maurice.

Every night, where do you go?
There's nothing that's too difficult,
All I ask of you, dear baby, is to come and join me,
You told me you loved me,
I know it's not true,
I left to go, it's over there, at the 'Tit Maurice. 

  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
TNT 106-1 Lifetime Waltz TNT 106
TNT 106-2 Widows Of The Village TNT 106

Sunday, January 7, 2018

"I've Got Your Heart Locked Up" - Abe Manuel

Abraham "Abe" Manuel provided some of the earliest fiddle playing recordings during the 1940s and 1950s.   Although never gaining the same popularity as Harry Choates, his imitation of the Cliff Bruner style carried him into the 1950s, allowing him to start his own band, the Louisiana Hillbillies.   By 1954, the group worked with J.D. Miller and his Feature label to record "I've Got Your Heart Locked Up" (#1086).

Ton petit cœur, il est barré dedans l’armoire,
Dans l’armoire de mon amour, mais, jolie fille,
Il y a pas longtemps, tu m’as promit de me soigner, 
Et m'aimer, mais, pour toujours, mais, jolie fille.

Ton petit cœur, il est barré dedans l’armoire,
Dans l’armoire de mon amour, mais, jolie fille,
Mais, moi, j'connais un jour avenir, t’auras du regret,
Pour ça t'as fait, mais, z-avec moi, il y a pas longtemps.

Lake Charles American Press
Jul 1, 1954

In the early 1940s, he played with Leo Soileau at the Avalon Club in Basile, follwed by playing with varios bands and country musicians during the 1940s, including Chuck Guillory, Carrol Broussard, Harry Choates, Ralph Richardson, Pee Wee Maples, and Ferrell Benny Fruge.  By the 1950s, he was playing alongside the Hackberry Ramblers at the Silver Star Club.  His 1954 lineup included  Jerome Stubbs or Dottie Vincent on guitar, Bradley Stutes or Dusty
Rhodes on steel guitar, Merton Thibodeaux on bass.

Your little heart, it's locked inside the closet,
In the closet of my heart, well, pretty girl,
Not long ago, you promised to look after me,
And love me, well, forever, well, pretty girl.

Your little heart, it's locked inside the closet,
In the closet of my heart, well, pretty girl,
Well, I know one day in the future, you'll regret this,
For what you've done, well, with me, not long ago.

Abe would go on to play with many country giants before settling in to play with his own family band later in life.  He periodically played on KWKH Shreveport "in the Louisiana Hayride days".1

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  2. Lyrics by Jordy A


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

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

"French Blues" - Nathan Abshire

While many remember Nathan Abshire after the war, helping create the resurgence of Cajun music, most are unaware his start began much earlier in the 1930s. By 1935, Abshire teamed up with guitarist Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc and his Rayne-Bo Ramblers, whose line-up was a fluctuating one and began to record with them, as an accordionist – vocalist on 4 songs.  

This New Orleans session was split between Fat’s Rayne-Bo Ramblers and the Hackberry Ramblers, giving, among others, "French Blues" (#2177).  An Abshire arrangement based on Amede Ardoin's "Les Blues De Crowley", the song would achieve classic status during the later years. An itinerant studio was set up by the technicians of Bluebird (whom misspelled his name "Nason Absher") in a time when the majors of the recording industry were showing an interest in ethnic music. 

Oh! tu m’a fait du mal tit monde


Tu pres ma quitté, j’vas tout temps aimé.

C’est malheurse de m'voir.

Avec deux mains j'pourrai pleurer.

Ah Haa!
Nathan Abshire

Abshire was especially taken with the spirited playing and singing of Creole accordionist/singer Amede Ardoin.  Ardoin’s influence was especially evident on Abshire’s first recording in 1935, "French Blues."  "French Blues" is a generic name Nathan gave to this lazy, swingy instrumental, with a few bluesy call-outs. While most won't recognize the song as traditional blues, it was what the Cajuns used to express the limited blue notes that the accordion could mimic. In this early version, you can hear Happy Fats and Simon "Warnest" Schexnyder on guitars and Norris Savoy on fiddle. It was a quasi-instrumental with Nathan interjecting different phrases throughout the song. According to author Ryan Brasseaux:
Like the Breaux family and Lawrence Walker, Nathan composed his blues numbers from the cross-cultural fodder that nourished Cajun music's evolutionary mechanisms.1

Little did he realize that his abilities would shine after the war when asked to bring the accordion back.  When the Pine Grove Boys needed an accordion player in the late 1940s, their memory of Nathan playing in these early years sealed their decision to invite him to join.  Nathan resurrected the tune he remembered and at the KPLC studio, Earl Demarcy and Nathan recorded his "French Blues" for George Khoury and Virgil Bozman's O.T. record label (#110).  The 1949 session would re-launch Abshire's music career. The group consisted of either Ernest Thibodeaux or Earl Demarcy on guitar, Atlas Fruge on steel, Jim Baker on bass, Oziet Kegley on drums, and either Will Kegley or Wilson Granger on fiddle.
Oh! you did me wrong, my little world.


You're leaving me, yet, i've always loved you.

It's so sad to see me.

I could cry with both hands.

Ah Haa!

Like his "Pine Grove Blues", he would re-record the tune a slew of times throughout the 60s and 70s.  The group recorded a live session at The Frontier Bar in Basile, Louisiana in 1966 with the Balfas backing him up.  By 1968, the crew entered the Swallow Studios in Ville Platte, Louisiana and re-recorded it again. By 1973, Carol Rachou grabbed a triangle and with Merlin Fontenot on fiddle, Rufus Thibodeaux on bass, Joe Thibodeaux on drums, and Bessyl Duhon on guitar, they re-recorded the tune once more, entitling it "Le Blues Francais" for Carol's La Louisianne Records label. 

French Blues - 1935

French Blues - 1949

  1. Cajun Breakdown : The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. Lyrics by Jerry M and Raymond Francois
Cajun Music - The Early 50s (Arhoolie, 1969)
Pioneers of the Cajun Accordion (Arhoolie, 1989)
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Welcome Club Waltz" - Lionel Cormier

Lionel Cormier began learning the accordion from his father, Arvilian, at an early age. By the age of 12 he was playing the accordion for family gatherings and house dances in the Acadia Parish region. After marriage and a move to Gueydan, in 1935, he settled in Elton where he continued to play the accordion, mainly at house parties and family gatherings. After playing a few dances following World War II, he joined Percy Fuselier in 1947 to form the Elton Playboys. Within a couple years he regrouped and headed the Sundown Playboys.2

Tu m'as quitte, pour t'en aller,
T'en aller avec un autre,
Moi, j'connais, merite pas ça,
Ça ta fais moi a pas longtemps.

Moi, j'ma va, mais, mon tout seul,
P'us personne, mais, pour m'maimer,
Moi, j'connais ça fais la peinne,
Moi, j'connais merite pas ça, mais, malheurese.

Wallace Touchet, Lesa Cormier, Lionel Cormier,
Orsy "R.C" Vanicor, Howard Mire

Named after a popular dancehall in Acadia Parish, the "Welcome Club Waltz" (#1037) recorded in 1952, was named after the Welcome Club located in Crowley, Louisiana.  Opened in the 1930s as the Delta Club, it hosted blues and jazz musicians throughout the 1940s.  The use of the club's name made sense, because it was one of many places Miller kept his jukeboxes playing his store's Feature records.    Lionel's recording contained a melody similar to a version of "La Valse de Grand Chenier" and the old Creole tune "T'es Petite et T'es Mignonne".   It's quite possible it also inspired Lawrence Walker's "Reno Waltz".  By the late 1950s, the popular place became Club L'Acadien and remained that way for years.

You left me, you went away,

You went away with another,

I know I don't deserve that,

That you've done not long ago.

I'm going, well, all alone,
Nobody, well, to love me,
I know that it hurts me,
I know I do not deserve that, well, oh my.

Crowley Daily Signal
May 13, 1955

The early band featured Lionel on accordion, Emory Lapoint on guitar and vocals, John Darbonne on drums, and Percy on fiddle. Darbonne played a short while and was replaced by Lionel’s son, Lesa. Also, Orsy Vanicor played the steel guitar for a while in late 1948, until he joined his family in Lacassine to play with Iry Lejeune and the Lacassine Playboys. Larry Miller from Iota replaced Vanicor on the steel guitar, and during 1949 Percy left the band and was replaced by Jake Bertrand.  As personnel changed, Lesa renamed the band, the Sundown Playboys.2  By the time the band was in Miller's studio, it featured Howard Mire on guitar and vocals, Wallace ‘Red’ Touchet on fiddle, Larry Miller on steel guitar, and Tan Benoit on drums. 

Lionel was successful in landing radio airplay including places like KPLC in Lake Charles, KSUL in Sulphur and KJEF in Jennings.    In 1971, KJEF announcer Jerry Dugas hosted a show at the Bamboo Club on Highway 14.  The highlight of the event was not the music, but an unforeseen event.  While Lionel Cormier and the Sundown Playboys were preparing to play, Lionel had a massive heart attack, fell to the bandstand, and died while Jerry was making announcements.2

  1. Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge By Martin Hawkins
  2. Cajun Dancehall Heyday by Ron Yule
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F

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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

"Waltz Of Regret" - Lawrence Walker

Lawrence Walker had built a recording career for 5 years under the direction of George Khoury, ending it during the mid 50s.  "Regret" seemed to be his last recording under Khoury's label.   After dabbling in country music the previous year, George reverted back to his original recording artists that he trusted and in 1955, released a string of tunes by Nathan Abshire and at least one session by Lawrence Walker's band.

Oh, promet-moi cher ‘tit cœur

De jamais m'avoir donner 
Comme t'as pris, oui, ton coeur

Tu m’as pris d’la maison, chèr ‘tit cœur
Tes bonnes paroles qui m’a fait
M’en aller (z) avec toi.
Crowley Daily Signal
Mar 31, 1956

Being a huge fan of Joe Falcon's music, he reworked Joe's "Poche Town" into what he called the "Waltz of Regret" (#648).  Sadly, Khoury's session notes were nonexistent.  Identifying Lawrence's band during the Khoury sessions is difficult.  It possibly featured Al Forman on guitar, possibly Demux Comeaux on guitar, possibly U.J. Meaux on fiddle, and possibly either Lawrence Trahan, Bhuel "Huffy" Hoffpauir or Shelton Manuel on drums.  

Oh, promise me, dear, little sweetheart,

Never have given to me,
How you've taken, yes, your heart.

You took me from home, dear little sweetheart,
Your good word which made me,
Go away with you.

By the end of 1955, the writing was on the wall.   The influence of rock and roll was taking a toll on Cajun music sales.   R&B and country music was on an up hill swing and Cajun music sales weren’t the same as they were almost 10 years earlier.   George began focusing on R&B and pop tunes, slowing moving away from Cajun all together.   The result was that Lawrence ceased recording completely, relegating himself to the dance hall circuit, until 1958, when he met record producer Floyd Soileau.

  1. Lyrics by Marc C and Stephane F


Cajun Honky Tonk: Khoury Recordings (Arhoolie, 1995)