Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Noir Chaussette's Two Step (Black Sox Two Step)" - Sidney Brown

After the death of Iry Lejeune, Eddie Shuler scrambled to find other artists with such popularity as he had.   In 1956, a Cajun dancehall accordionist in Lake Charles became Shuler's next big thing.   For the remaining decade, Sidney Brown and his Traveler Playboys played to crowds around the region alongside other players such as Lawrence Walker showing off lively tunes such as "Noir Chaussette's Two Step" (#1061).
C'est les veuve de bayou qui est parti au village 

Pour achete les chaussons noir à la boutique 

Pour aller oui au bal pour un tas de  beau temps 

Ça aller, oui, toute seul, dedans chagrin.

C'est la veuve de bayou (elle est) venu au village 
Tout l'monde est content de la voir
On connait chere catin elle est belle et si migonne 
Quoi faire (elle est) comme ça, on connais pas.

Crowley Daily Signal
July 2, 1959
Black Socks Two Step takes on the same melody as Happy Fats' 1942 recording of "La Veuve De La Coulee". The 1958 song would be masked in popularity by the record's flipside "Pestauche Ah Tante Nana".  It featured Sidney Brown on accordion, Vinus Lejeune on fiddle, Bill Matte on drums, Wallace Ogea on guitar and Tilford McClelland on steel guitar.  

It's the widows of the bayou who left to go to the village,

To buy some black socks at the shop,
To go to the dance for there will be good times,
She's going to that, yes, all alone, in sorrow.

It is the widow of the bayou, she came back to town,
Everyone is happy to see her,
We understand, dear doll, she is beautiful and she is so cute,
Why is she like that, we don't know.

By the late 1960s, Eddie Shuler of Goldband records re-released the recording on 45 RPM giving it the name "Chico Two Step" yet keeping the same #1061.   Like many of Shuler's later recordings, it's believed the electric bass guitar was overdubbed, possibly by Robert Bertrand.

  1. Lyrics by Jerry M, Herman M, and Bryan L
Cajun Dance Tunes Vol.2 (Goldband, 1989)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Bayou Man" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc & Al Terry

In the heart of Cajun music came local musicians singing of the Cajun countryside for English country music labels.   The Southerners were a group led by Allison Joseph Theriot on vocals with his brother Charles Edward "Bob" Theriot on steel guitar.  They were better known as Al Terry and Bob Terry.  Al was among the first musicians of Cajun ancestry to succeed in both country and rockabilly music.  The group performed live on KVOL in Lafayette, Louisiana where Terry also worked as an announcer.  It would be people like Happy Fats who would help steer their careers.

By 1952, Happy used Al's band and the song "Bayou Man" (#2) was released on a California label called Bella. The label was run by John Pusateri, a native of Franklin, Louisiana and a good friend of Hank Williams. That same year, Al and Bob was touring with Hank Williams.  After his release of "Good Deal, Lucille" in 1954, he made an appearance on the Louisiana Hayride show; co-billed with Elvis Presley.

Southerners, 1950
Sexton Trahan (guitar), Danny Boulet (piano),
Alton Bernard (drums), Al Terry (vocals),
Bob Terry (steel guitar), Rufus Alleman (bass)

Bayou man, bayou man,
Wild and free to roam, bayou man.
Row, row, r-o-w, row,
Just going along.

Going to the swamps
Setting traps today,
'Cause the possum trail is moving far away,
And the coons are coming up from the across the bay,
Tra-la-la, tra-la-la,
Just rowing along.

Bayou man, bayou man, 
Bold and gay, a loving bayou man,
Row, row, r-o-w, row,
Just singing along.

When the season's over,
This racoon trapping man,
Will serenade his gal,
And ask her for her hand,
In the church he'll wed, 
The fairest dame in the land.
Tra-la-la, tra-la-la,
Just rowing along.

Church Point News
Aug 17, 1948

The Bella session was one of Happy's last Cajun recording attempts.   He recorded a session with Alex Broussard and Doc Guidry in 1964 for Swallow Records but two years later, focused his efforts in a different direction.

By 1966, with race relations making the news, Happy, along with local record producer J.D. Miller, used his musical abilities to bring controversial attention to the changes he saw happening.  Miller created the label Red Rebel Records specifically for segregationist music which Happy used to record roughly 20 songs between 1966 and 1972, including one called "Dear Mr. President". 

"Dear Mr. President" was a spoken word condemnation of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights policies that sold over 200,000 copies despite its appalling racism. 

According to Happy in an interview:
"We didn't have any problems with that, not at all," Fats maintained. "There wasn't anything violent about it -- it was just a joke. I had a car of black people run me down on the highway one time coming in Lafayette, and they said, 'Are you the fellow that made " Dear Mr. President"?' I said I was, and they said, 'We'd like to buy some records.' They bought about 15 records. There was a big van full of black people and they loved it . . . Either side at that time, they didn't want integration very much. They wanted to go each their own way."3

In his songs, he made clear his confusion on the civil rights legislation that was being passed as well as his discontent for race integration.  Some songs vehemently and overtly express hatred such as "Looking For A Handout" and "Kajun Ku Klux Klan".  Others weren't so direct.  Similar to his promotion of Dudley Leblanc years earlier, he used his recording outlet to promote politics in songs such as "Dear Daddybird (From A Plow Mule To A Politican)" and "Vote Wallace in 72".   Other songs dealt with the growing discontent with the war overseas such as "Birthday Thank You Tommy , From Viet Nam" and "Veteran’s Plea".  

By 1976, Happy's output was on the decline.  He helped record a few singles that year on some obscure labels with only a handful of songs in the years to come.  Although his later years tarnished his name, he was a colorful character that helped promote Cajun music and musicians themselves in his earlier years.

  1. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Discussions with Billy D
Al Terry featuring Bob Terry & "Happy Fats": Better Late Than Never (BACM, )

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Sunset" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

Accordion player Amede Ardoin recorded 22 songs in New Orleans and San Antonio with Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee, some of which would become Cajun standards.  Author Darrell Bourque described Amédé as bringing the white Cajun and black Creole traditions together in a society that policed racial boundaries so rigidly that it ultimately brought about his death. 

"His music", Mr. Bourque said, represented “a little pocket of possibility that didn’t get replicated in the larger culture.”2

His music streamed into the open air fields of the prairies and the closed rooms of house dances in rural areas.  McGee recalls:
Every once in a while, we would play for a dance in the neighborhood. Then, Oscar [the sharecropping boss] went broke and quite farming.  Amede left to come live in Eunice, and I came to live here, too.  That's when we really started playing seriously. We started playing all over the area. We would go as far as old Mr. Leleux's dance hall in Bayou Queue de Tortue. And for Dumas Herpin.  We brought so many people to Dumas' place that they climbed up on the little fence that they had put to protect the musicians from the crowd and they broke it. They came rolling in like balls. It was really funny to see.1 

Oh mon nèg', moi j'men vas aller, ce soir,
Moi j'connais pas ayou j'vas aller,
Moi j'crois pas arriver ayou t'es, eh.

Oh, je relate pas à mes parents, 
Pleure pas fille, où j'peux aller,
On dirait y a toujours quelqu'un qui m'fait de la misère pour rien.

Oh, mon nègre, donne-moi ton adresse,
Donne-moi j'suis capable d'écrite à toi, parce (que),
Parce (que) j'ai pas capable aller à ta maison,
Et ta mom et ton papa, veux pas de moi, j'vas ce soir.

Oh, j'ai arrivé à la maison,
Maman est assis dans son lit,
Qui est après pleurer rapport à moi,
Oh, maman, des mots mal faut pas dire ça, priez pour moi,
Moi j'ai été voir ma catin hier soir,
Elle m'a dit c'est plus la peine de me retour,
J'vas jamais retourner chez elle,
Parce sa maman m'a mis dehors.

Oh moi nèg, j'ai cru qu'elle-même m'aimait,
J'm'a aperçu que c'est pas vrai,
C'est ses parents qu'on fait tout ça.
Amede Ardoin

Recorded at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio, with Eli Oberstein directing, the 1934 Bluebird recording of "Sunset" (#2192) wasn't particularly influential however, it was a lively tune.  Most likely, the title was an ode to the small community of Sunset in south Louisiana.  The town is not far from many of the homes which Dennis and Amede played at.  
McGee recalls:
The people wanted to come to us.  We were making good music in those days. I sang well and played the fiddle well and Amede played and sang well too.  Joe Falcon came to dance to our music. And we'd play just us two, fiddle and accordion.1 
Ardoin's lyrics can be very difficult to understand.  In certain lines, he may be stating different things.   Instead of "le relate pas à mes parents, Pleure pas fille, où j'peux aller", it could be "ça m'fait d'la peine, mes parents, J'sais pas c'eyou j'peux aller", meaning "it hurts me and my parents, I don't know where I can go".

Oh, my friend, I'm leaving to go, tonight,

I don't know where you're going,

I don't think I can get to where you are, ehhh.

Oh, I'm not telling my parents,

Do not cry girl, everywhere I go,
It seems like there's always someone who's making life miserable for nothing.

Oh, my friend, give me your address,
Give it to me, I am able to write to you, because,
Because I'm not able to go back to your house,
Because of your mom and your dad do not want me, I'm leaving tonight.

Oh, I got home,
Mom is sitting the bed, who's crying about me,
Oh, mom, don't say these bad things, pray for me,
I went to see my sweet doll last night,
She told me it would be painful if I returned,
I'm never going back to her home,
Because her mom kicked me out.

Oh, I thought she, herself, loved me,
I'm realizing that it's not true,
It is those parents who've done all of this.

According to music producer, Christopher King, who produced the CD compilation "Mama, I'll Be Long Gone", he states:
That one recording "Sunset" is one of the most sublime pieces of music I've ever heard and it bring me out of any great depression.  It's pure pleasure.3

  1. Cajun and Creole Music Makers By Barry Jean Ancelet
  3.   Chris travels at 78 RPM: “Eargasims”– Episode 7.   Radio show.
  4. Lyrics by Stephanie D and Stephane F
CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Mama I'll Be Long Gone: The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Grande Nuit Especial (Big Night Special)" - Iry Lejeune

Iry Lejeune, one of the greatest that ever lived in the Cajun French music field, was acclaimed by all for the way he could deliver the songs, singing and playing the accordion.  He never made a record that was not a big hit, and these many years after his untimely death, his records continue to sell like new releases.  One of the recordings was the "Grande Nuit Especial", also known as Saturday Night Special, for Ed Shuler's Goldband label in in Lake Charles around November of 1952.  Like many of Iry's tunes, he used a melody similar to an Amede Ardoin song.  In this case, it was "Si Dur D'etre Seul" originally recorded in 1934. Eddie Shuler, producer of Goldband records recalled trying to get Iry's music out in stores.   Not everyone was interested in doing so:
At one time I thought I would get me a distributor.  So I talked to the guy in New Orleans that was distributing for Mercury Records.  He said "Send me some samples; I'll let my salesman take them out on the road".  I waited about a month and a half and I never got any orders.5
Eddie managed to track down the salesman for the New Orleans distributors, William B. Allen Supply Co. at a record shop in Opelousas.
So I met him at the car and I said, "Do you have any Cajun records?"  He said "I got one of them lousy things in my car.  I can't stand that stuff. Man, that's the most horriblest thing I ever heard in my life.  I'm not gonna play that thing; I can't stand it."  So I called his boss. I said "Hey, just forget about this distributing thing, we got somebody else".  So I went back to work.5
From that point on, Eddie controlled his own distribution.
Oh ye yaille, chère ‘tit bébé,
Moi je connais, moi je m’ennuie de toi quand même.
Hey ‘tit coeur tu devrais pas oublier,
Tout ça toi tu m’avais parlé avant de t’en v’nir.

Oh tit coeur ça c'est dur à croire,
Ton pap et ta mam t’avaient dit j’étais pas bon.
Oh catin asteur toi t’as du regret,
C’est trop tard c'est pas la peine que tu t’lamentes à moi.

Hey ye yaille, aujourd'hui tu t’lamentes,
Oh bébé, j’peux pas comprendre le bien qu’ça t’fait.
Oh ma chère, tu fais des misères, ça ressemble mais qu’tu mérites,
J’ai du regret, tu mérites pas ça.
High Mount Club, 1954
Robert Bertrand, Wilson Granger
Iry Lejeune, Alfred Cormier

The word "asteur" is the corrupted form of a very old 16th-17th French phrase still used in Quebec, spelled "à cette heure", which translates to "now".  According to Milton Vanicor, he and Eddie Shuler are playing in the background at Iry's home.  According to Ron Yule's interviews with Milton, Eddie had used a session director in order to tell Iry when to start and stop, probably because he sat on the floor due to having a bad habit of tapping his feet. 

Oh ye yaille, dear little baby,
I know, I'll miss you anyway,
Hey little heart, you should not forget,
All that you told me before you came.

Oh little heart, that's hard to believe,
Your dad and your mom told you I was no good,
Oh you little doll, now you regret this,
It's too late, it's not worth you lamenting over me.

Hey ye yaille, today you lament,
Oh baby, I can not understand how you do it,
Oh dear, you're miserable, but it looks like you deserve it,
I regret that, you do not deserve this.

In an interview Eddie recalled the clash he had with the station manager of KPLC when he in 1948 invited a precocious twenty-year-old accordionist from Lacassine, LA, Iry LeJune, to play during his time slot. 

"When he first came to town he was like a hobo, real raggedy, and wearing this big floppy hat. He had his squeeze box in a flour sack under his arm," he said. But after the station was swamped with requests for an encore performance, the program director finally relented. "Iry was a persistent feller all right. But I always believed in giving a man a chance; otherwise, how would you discover what he could do?"6
In 1958, Lawrence Walker would take the fast paced two-step and create a waltz from it, calling it "Midnight's Waltz". 

  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Biography.  The Greatest.  Iry Le June.  GBLP7741.
  4. SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 15.  2015 Regular Session.  Notes to commend Milton Vanicor for his passion, devotion, and his nearly eighty-year commitment to Cajun music.
  5. Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers By John Broven
The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Goldband, 1992)
Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2004)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Ma Mauvaus Fille" - Moise Robin & Leo Soileau

The Troublesome Girl.  It was one of the many recordings during the traditional Cajun recording era covered by a unique accordion player named Moise Robin.   Robin himself had teamed up with Leo Soileau once Soileau had lost his first accordion player.   Robin had always wanted to record and Soileau gave him that chance.   On 3 of the songs, Leo sang, and the other 3, Robin took the vocal lead.  Robin learned by being in a musical family.  According to Robin:

My father was a great musician.  He played all over, around the territory [of] Ville Platte and everywhere, play dances, for many years.1

Ah, y'en a qui veut la plus vieille, y'en a qui veut la plus jeune,
Moi je suis pas comme ça, j'en veux pas du tout.

Ah, j'ai eu le malheur de me trouver une p'tite belle,
Mais elle était trop mauvaise mais j'ai eu pour la quitter.

Ah, comment tu voulais mais j'me rende à ta maison,
Tu fermais tout(es) les portes, dessus moi.

Oh, moi je connais qui qu’était après faire ça, 
Ta maman est après troubler ton idée.

Ah, j'ai eu le malheur de me trouver une p'tite,
Mais elle était trop mauvaise mais j'ai eu pour la quitter.

Moise Robin
by Chris Strachwitz

Moise's opportunity occurred once Leo began looking for a replacement accordion player.  After Leo's first accordionist was killed in a bar shootout, he found Moise:

When Mayeus Lafleur got killed, in 1928... right after, he heard about me, so he came home with my daddy and that's when he got me to play with him. And the first place we went, we played all around in clubs.1

Ah, there are ones who like the older women, there ones who like the younger girls,

I'm not like that, I'm not like that at all.

Ah, I went through the trouble to find a nice little girl,

But, she was too bad, well, I had to leave.

Ah, how you wanted things, well, I travelled to your house,
You shut all the doors, in front of me.

Oh I know who it was that made you do that,
Your mom was troubling your thoughts.

  2. Picture courtesy UL Lafayette Cajun & Creole collection
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"French Two Step" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers started with a fiddle and guitar, with Luderin Darbonne and Edwin Duhon, although Duhon played an accordion later.  The first job for the Ramblers was a house dance, without a fee but with permission to pass a hat for donations. They enlisted another Hackberry guitar player, Alvin Ellender, and played with two guitars and a fiddle. The dancers applauded, and put money in the hat when it was passed.2

Darbone ordered a $50 electric amplifier from Sears Roebuck & Co. Then he learned that their first nightclub appearance would be in a club that had no electricity.  Darbone parked his Model A Ford near the back door of the club, ran a line through the door to the bandstand, started the automobile and let the idling engine provide power for the sound system.  It worked, especially enhancing the fiddle played by Darbone.2

Floyd Shreve, Luderin Darbone,
Danny Shreve, Claude "Pete" Duhon

By 1938, the group had picked up Floyd and Danny Shreve on guitars and Claude "Pete" Duhon on bass.   Edwin had left the group by this point and they made their way to the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans to record "French Two Step" (#2059) for Bluebird records.  The tune is based on an earlier called "Charlie's Song" by Charlie Loola.  It was made well known by Bob Wills as "Spanish Two Step".   According to Wills' biographer Charles Townsend, Wills composed the tune in New Mexico in 1927 but didn't record it until 1935.1 

  1. The Crooked Stovepipe: Athapaskan Fiddle Music and Square Dancing in ... By Craig Mishler
  2. "Hackberry Ramblers Making music since 1933". DON KINGERY. American Press, Friday, September 24, 2004
Western Swing, Vol. 1 (Old Timey, 1966)
Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown (Arhoolie, 1997)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
The Best of Western Swing (Collector Sound) (Tsk Music, 2012)
Et La Bas (Black & Partners LLC, 2014)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Arcadian One Step" - Joseph Falcon

Joe Falcon recorded the earliest Cajun music during the 1920s.  Joe was one of the greatest accordion players and a pioneer artist of Cajun records. The first recording of authentic Cajun music was made in 1928 by  Falcon and his future wife Cleoma Breaux playing rhythm guitar. One of the song recorded that day  was “Allons à Lafayette” , who became a real Cajun classic. The record sold well and soon the big recording companies were on the hunt for other Cajun artists. One year later, they were in Atlanta, laying down some of the most traditional melodies floating around the countryside. In fact, contrary to popular belief, Joe and Cleoma were the first to ever record this old Creole melody.

Madame Entelle, rappelez-vous bien,

Quoi c'est m'as dit, mais, hiere au soir,

J'ai quitté là-bas, chez vous,

Ayou elle m'as dit,
Quitter là, chère, la dernière fois*.

Petite ou grosse*, c'est tout le même prix, 
Madame Eduard, donnez-moi les,
Votre fille, moi aller t'en dire,
Elle est mignonne, et 'tite, 
C'est moi, chère, 
Après t'en aller, ouais, 
En t'éloignant, si loin de moi.

Moi j'connais chère, 
mais, j'suis parti, belle, 
mais, m'en aller, 
mais, pour te voir. 
Eh oui, mon negre, chère, 
Mais, prends courage, chère, 
J'suis après finir, mais, tout mes mon tracas.

It's quite possible on the first verse, his last line is "Quitter là guerre, là guerre hier au soir" talking about leaving the argument that occurred the previous night.  In the second version, "Si tes voudras c'est tout le même prix" asks if you'd like, they're the same price, however, given this song became the well known "Petite ou Grosse" song, it's more likely he's talking about the small one or the big one.  

This 1929 Columbia recording is a great example of how many melodies would develop into different song titles.   The melody of "Les Flammes D'Enfer" would not only influence Douglas Bellard's Creole song "Mon Camon La Case Que Je Suis Cordane" but would also influence hard driving Cajun songs such as Joe Falcon's "Acadian One Step" (#40513).  It's major influence would extend to Angelas Lejeune's 1930 recording of "Madame Donnez Moi Les", keeping some of the lyrics and the melody. However, it reached other musicians and their recordings that year, such as Leo Soileau's "Demain C'Est Pas Dimanche" and Bixy Guidry's "Ella A Plurer Pour Revenir".  Leo would rework the song in the 1930s as "Petit Ou Gros", made famous by Joe Bonsall in the 1960s.  

Lake Charles American Press
Oct 2, 1928

"Acadian One Step" is an extremely energetic performance with classic Cajun instrumentation (accordion, guitar, fiddle). The accordion plays the melody line on the instrumental breaks, while the guitar plays the rhythm and the triangle keeps time. The fiddle is inaudible on the instrumental breaks (likely overpowered by the accordion), but it can be heard in the background during the vocal parts, when the accordion drops out. Although the fiddle can be heard on the recording, it was not listed among the instruments listed on the record label.1  Given they were recording alongside Cleoma's brothers in Atlanta, it's most likely Ophy Breaux on fiddle.  Unlike the old traditional tune "Adieu Rosa" where the love interest is thankful Rosa is leaving, Joe's version talks about a sad lover due to a particular "madame" leaving him. 

Mrs. Entelle, remember well,

What was said to me, well, last night,

I left that place, your house,

Where she told it was,
I left there, dear, for the last time.

The small or big one, it's all the same to me,
Mrs. Eduard, give her to me,
Your daughter, I'm going to tell you,
She's cute and small, 
It's me dear, 
You've gone away, yeah,
As far as you can, so far from me.

I know, dear,
Well, I have left, beautiful,
Well, I've gone,
Well, to see you,
Eh yeh, my friend, dear,
Well, take care, my dear,
I'm finished, well, with all my troubles.

After the war, his niece Marie Falcon teamed up with Shuk Richard and recorded "Madame Entelle Two Step" in 1952, based heavily on this version.  By 1959 Austin Pitre would take the Bellard song and convert it to his famous "Les Flammes D'Enfer".

Falcon continued to record into the late '30s, but his music was eclipsed in popularity by the emerging Country and Western genre and was soon considered old fashioned. He stopped recording after his final session in 1937.1

  2. Lyrics by Bryan L, Stephane F and Stephanie D
  3. Edits by Herman M

Les Cajuns Best Of 2002 Les Triomphes De La Country Volume 12 (Habana, 2002)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)