Monday, September 18, 2017

"Paper In My Shoe" - Boozoo Chavis

As we delve into the influences of modern Cajun music, we must take note that these same influences came together to create a uniquely different sound among the same Cajun prairies, referred to as 'zydeco'.   Its root origins come from the earliest recordings of Afro-Creoles before WWII, however, with the advent of R&B, soul, and pop music, the mixture of Louisiana instruments popular among Afro-Creoles and the French language blended together to create today's zydeco genre.   

However, if you ask a group of people which song was the first zydeco song, you may get a slew of answers.   Was it the 1929 recording of Douglas Bellard?  How about the 1930 recordings of Amede Ardoin? Aurally, their music is considered by most people too primitive to be contenders.  As far as it's usage in music, it's commonly believed that the first occurance was by Clarence Garlow in 1949 in the lyrics of his song "Bon Ton Roula".   Even though Garlow's sound was closer to zydeco than Ardoin or Bellard, it contained a lot of elements more closely aligned with brass bands that march along the streets of New Orleans.   Today, many researchers and experts agree that it's not until Wilson Anthony "Boozoo" Chavis enters the studio with Eddie Shuler in 1954 when we hear the earliest beginnings of zydeco's modern form in his recording of "Paper In My Shoe" (#1197).  The song put zydeco music on the map.
Boozoo Chavis

Chavis was heavily influenced by his great-uncle Sidney Babineaux, a famed accordionist.  Babineaux was one of the earliest Creole musicians to play the piano accordion.  Even Joe Falcon cited Sidney as the origins of some of his tunes, such as the famed "Ils La Volet Mon Trancas".  In 1954, Lake Charles record producer Eddie Shuler wanted to record a Creole musician for his Goldband label. Cajun accordionist and instrument builder Sidney Brown told Shuler about Chavis. Shuler recalled:
He said there's a little black boy out there that's got a real good song.  So I said, "Well, bring him in."10

Shuler auditioned Chavis, and then hired Classie Ballou’s rhythm and blues (R&B) band to accompany him on the record after Guitar Gable suggested the band.3,9  According to Shuler:
I came into contact with one Boozoo Chavis, a colorful character, to put it mildly.  He talked in short, clipped sentences and was a natural-born clown.  Boozoo played a German button accordion in a style known in this part of the country as zydeco and had no band of his own.  I decided to record him and went out and found Classie Ballou, who then had the best R&B band in the area.5
Classie Ballou

Lake Charles had a rich R&B scene at the time, and young Classie was soon playing with Shelton Dunaway and Ernest Jacobs (later of Cookie & the Cupcakes of Mathilda and I'm Twisted fame), and then formed his first band-- Classie Ballou and the Tempo Kings which featured Dunaway on sax and vocals, another sax player known simply as Biscuit, and eventually Cookie Thierry himself joined the group.11  Chavis' song contains strong sexual innuendo, common for Chavis who was known for his "danceable tunes and risqué sense of humor."3    Another of the most interesting items of the song is the fact that many of musicians are playing in different keys.  Shuler had met with Ballou before the session.
So I told him I got a boy down there that plays this black Cajun music.  I said "Can you play this stuff?" "Oh yeah".  Well, he was lying, because he couldn't.  In the studio, the styles of the accordion player -- who had previously only played with a rubboard or by hitting his foot on a Coke box -- and the Ballou's band collided head-on.10 
The resulting session was chaotic. The band did not know how to back Chavis, who was well known for “breaking time.” The resulting tracks reveal an unresolved tension between Chavis’s accordion style and the band’s spirited R&B style.3  Allegedly, he would tell his band members "If it's wrong, do it wrong, with me, if I'm wrong, you wrong, too!"1   According to Shuler:
I didn't know it, but Ballou's band had never heard of zydeco music, let alone played it, and after eight hours in the studio no mentionable results were forthcoming.  Ballou's boys just couldn't dig Boozoo's music and Boozoo didn't know that they weren't with him!5
According to Shuler he had to give him something to drink.  He told author John Broven:
At last someone decided to give Boozoo something stronger than water to help things along and we got a little jug and carried on rolling the tapes.  The door to my studio was just an ordinary front door with no glass, so I couldn't see in from the control room, but I knew Boozoo was getting saturated.  Suddenly there was a colossal crash in the studio, but as the take was the best so far I didn't check what had happened until the number was finished.  When I opened the door there, before me, lay Boozoo.  He had fallen off his stool but managed to keep his accordion in the air and play on without missing a note!  We laughed until we were hysterical.  It was about the most comical sight anyone could hope to see!.5
Shuler also told a similar story to author Michael Tisserand:
It kept going downhill, and on the third day it was worse off than it was when we started.  So I said, "Boozoo, do you drink any at all?"  He said "Yes sir." So I went out and got a pint of Seagram's Seven, and after about halfway into that jug of whiskey, it started to sound better".10 
Eddie Shuler

Shuler wasn't sure what to do with all the tapes and found himself broke after paying for the long session.  He says he paid the band $250 and figured it for a loss.10
Afterwards I played the tapes back to see if there was anything there worth all the trouble and expense.  The number where Boozoo fell on the floor was still the best, so I thought I would edit it and then release it as a feeler to test public reaction.  The song was "Paper In My Shoe" and it was just one of those natural hits that seldom come along.  I am used to surprises, but that was amazing!  I had a friend called Johnny who was a salesman for A-1 Distributors out of New Orleans and I got him to handle the record.  He took it to Lew Chudd of Imperial, who leased it from me.  It sold over 100,000 copies and at that time you had a hit if you sold 25,000.  This was the biggest seller I had had so far!5

It was released on the Folk-Star label, a subsidiary of Goldband, before being reissued by Imperial Records. The record was a regional hit, subsequently acknowledged as a zydeco standard, but Chavis was convinced that it was more successful than the record companies claimed, later saying: 
I got gypped out of my record. I get frustrated, sometimes. I love to play, but, when I get to thinking about 1955... They stole my record. They said that it only sold 150,000 copies. But, my cousin, who used to live in Boston, checked it out. It sold over a million copies. I was supposed to have a gold record.1,2

Chavis continued with Shuler for several years, recording a handful of tunes, but soon tired of hectic touring and what he felt were unfair business practices in the music industry.   Chavis continued to deny the details in Shuler's drunken story, telling author Ben Sandmel "Shit! How the hell you gonna keep playing like that? They made that up."6   In the 60s, after Chavis' brother convinced him that Shuler wasn't paying him the correct royalties, he left the professional music field and returned to training racehorses.3  Chavis was a prolific writer of zydeco songs, some including references to his friends and acquaintances and others too raunchy to be sold openly.4

I got a paper in my shoe,
I got a paper in my shoe,
Oh what your mama don't know,
And what your papa don't mind,
Oh what your mama don't know,
And what your papa don't mind,
I got a paper in my shoe.

J'ai un papier dans mon soulier,
J'ai un papier dans mon soulier,
Pour ça ta maman connaît pas,
Et ça ton père veut pas,
Pour ça ta maman connaît pas,
Et ça ton père veut pas,
J'ai un papier dans mon soulier.

I got a paper in my shoe,
I got a paper in my shoe,
Oh what your mama don't know,
And what your papa don't mind,
Oh what your mama don't know,
And what your papa don't mind,
I got a paper in my shoe.

Oh don't you worry about your baby,
Oh don't you worry about your baby,
Oh don't you worry about your baby,
Oh don't you worry about your baby,
And what your mama don't know,
I got a paper in my shoe.

Today, his 1954 recording of “Paper in My Shoe” is generally cited as the first zydeco recording. So, what's the origin of the song title?  It's believed it came from the old folk tune "Pepper In My Shoe". Although Chavis was the first person to record the song in French, he acknowledges that he first heard it from Ambrose "Potatoe" Sam in the 1940s.10  Over time, it may have converted to the more popular title "Pebble In My Shoe", famously recorded by Ella Fitzgerald in 1938.   

Boozoo Chavis

So why did Boozoo change the title to "Paper"?  Some believe the paper is a sacramental record such as a marriage record between the lover and the love interest.  Jokingly, the phrase "Papal In My Shoe" is either a reference to a time when Acadians secretly carried a tiny picture of the pope in their shoes or a sly way to refer to the Catholic church documents themselves.    According to  L. C. Donatto of the Zydeco Slippers, he confirms it's about a "marriage license in his shoe that the parents do not know about", given that rural people used to keep their valuables in their shoes .   Other rumors suggest that he's putting a paper with a ladies phone number in his shoe to hide from his wife.  Hence the "what your mama don't know, your papa don't lie" line suggests he's talking to his kid that catches sight of the paper when he takes off his shoe. 

Yet, others argue that it has nothing to do with church documents.  Rather, the title is deeply rooted in African hoodoo practice.   According to legend, when a hoodoo practitioner puts a paper in their shoe, the name of their enemy is written on the paper. The paper is then put in the shoe to keep the enemy under the foot. Every time the hoodoo steps down, the enemy is ground beneath the heel. It's very basic and very effective magic. Hence the line "Don't you worry about your baby." In other words, "the situation is being handled. I got a paper in my shoe."8

Musician Larry English, who asked Boozoo this very question, confirms the more popular belief: a lover that is so embarrassed because he is so poor, he has to put paper in his shoes to cover the holes; wanting to impress the girl and her parents.   According to English: 
[Boozoo] explained that it means he was so poor, his shoes had holes and he put paper in the shoe so his feet wouldn't be on the dirt.7
He even stated something similar to author Michael Tisserand, inferring the paper was to keep his feet warm:
If you got some socks, well you'd rather keep it for on the weekends, for going to church.  But in them days, it was just rough for everybody.10

Regardless of the truth behind the title, the song's popularity eventually took off once other zydeco artists such as Clifton Chenier recorded it and performed it live all over the world. According to Shuler, who was shocked with Boozoo's denial:
He's always denied falling off that stool, but that's the best commercial he could ever have.  You couldn't even dream up something that valuable.10

  2. Biography by Craig Harris,
  4.  Jon Pareles, "Boozoo Chavis, 70, Accordionist Who Spread the Zydeco Sound", New York Times, May 7, 2001
  5. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  6. Zydeco! By Ben Sandmel
  8. Paper in My Shoe: Name Papers, Petition Papers, and Prayer Papers in Hoodoo, Rootwork, and Conjure by catherine yronwode
  10. The Kingdom of Zydeco By Michael Tisserand
  12. NOTE:  Contrary to popular information on the internet, there is no early reference to zydeco in 1929.  Gid Tanner's band was never called the Zydeco Skillet Lickers.   

Rural Blues Vol 2: Saturday Night Function (Liberty, 1969)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"Pine Grove Boogie" - Nathan Abshire

Marking the height of Nathan Abshire's second music career, he and Virgil Bozeman teamed up with a band of musicians to lay down some of Nathan's favorite type of music... the blues!  Nathan's accordion, full of "blue" notes of tonal purity, was outstanding behind Roy Broussard's vocals.  

Bozeman worked both as a musician and as a house painter.  But then found himself in San Antonio stationed in the military. After the war, he joined Bennie Hess' Oklahoma Torndados band as a rhythm guitarist.  He was in Lake Charles, pushing his cowhorn sales when he gained an interest in what record producer Eddie Shuler was doing.  Originally, Bozeman had met with Eddie Shuler during one of his radio programs, trying to get into the recording business.   Virgil figured he'd work alongside Shuler to get Nathan to record a batch of songs, including a 1949 follow up to his Pine Grove Blues entitled "Pine Grove Boogie" (#111).   By this time, he, Will Kegley and Ernest Thibodeaux formed a new group with Nathan and added Atlas Fruge and Jim Baker.  Ron Broussard joined in for this particular session.  But Eddie referred Bozeman to a record salesman named George Khoury.  According to Eddie:

He came by, I still had a radio show at the time he came by. Well, first he came to me and I didn't want him. That's because I wasn't too enthused about what he was doing because he was singing and all that stuff.  He came and he got affiliated with George Khoury.5

Nathan Abshire

Oh, ayou toi t'as passé, ma chère petite négresse, que toi(?)
T’es partie avec un autre que moi,
Mais moi, je connais qu’il t’aime pas mieux, ouais, petite négresse.

Oh, ayou toi t’as passé avec un autre qui t’aime pas mieux, ouais, que moi?
Avec un autre qui t’aime pas mieux que moi,
Mais moi je connais t’auras du regret ’tite fille, ma négresse, (mais fait pas ça avec moi!)?

Although moderately successful, the recording was unable to duplicate the success of "Pine Grove Blues".  Bozman was running out of money and Khoury was no longer financially supporting him.  His meager band income was supplemented by an unusual profession: cowhorn salesman. According to Ernest Thibodeaux:
Virgel Bozman

Bozman tried to make a living any way he could.  He would walk around fields looking for the old Brahma bull horns.  He would take them, clean them up real nice and put a finish on them.  He didn't have any trouble selling them.  People would mount them in their house to hang their hats or coats.  I can bet they still might be in use.

Oh, where have you gone, my dear little woman, you,

You have left with someone other than me,

Well, I know he loves you no better, yeh, little woman.

Oh, where have you gone with another who loves you no better, yeh, than me,
With another one who loves you no better than me,
Well, I know you will have regrets, my woman. (Well, don't do that to me!)

It would be Virgel's last release near Lake Charles.  Realizing his business wasn't successful, he moved back to San Antonio.  He continued his O.T. label alongside Bob Tanner's facility by mailing his masters to Stephen Shaw and George Weitlauf in Cincinatti, OH.  His last Cajun release was Abshire's "Step It Fast".

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. The Encyclopedia of Country Music
  4. Louisiana Music, Vol. 1 by Lyle F
  6. Lyrics by Jordy A
French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

Monday, September 11, 2017

"The Old Ice Man" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc

One of Harry Choates's more colorful musician companions was Harold "Popeye" Broussard.  Broussard by all accounts was an excellent piano man and singer.  His specialty was his rendition of the dance hall favorite "How Would You Like To Be The Old Ice Man".  Harry's fiddle and Broussard's piano complimented each other at times.  Other times, Harry and Popeye at times appeared to be in competition with each other to see who could raise the most hell.1 

Together, along with Happy Fats' Rayne-Bo Ramblers band, recorded the tune as "The Old Ice Man" (#8537) in Dallas, Texas in 1940.  They drew crowds and complimented any band they performed with.1 With Harry on fiddle and Popeye on vocals, their group consisted of Sandy Lormand on guitar, Pee Wee Broussard on banjo, Ray Clark on steel, and Happy Fats on bass.

How'd you like to be that old ice man,

Sell the coldest stuff in town,
How'd you like to be that old ice man,
I mean to turn you down,
Since bacon went up to a dollar a pound,
I ate so many rabbits I've been jumping around,
How'd you like to be that old ice man,
Sell the coldest stuff in town.

How'd you like to be that old ice man,
Sell the coldest stuff in town,
How'd you like to be that old ice man,
I mean to turn you down,
Now, I'm sitting in the parlor, mingling around,
I wasn't too dumb to hear the back door slam,
How'd you like to be that old ice man,
Sell the coldest stuff in town.

Eventually Harry went on his way, leaving Broussard to his own devices in the Lake Charles musical scene.   Without Harry, Broussard left and started a family.  According to author Tim Knight:
They were companions in deliquent behavior. If one was hired, both had to be hired; they were a matched set.1    

  1. Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates, a Cajun Legend by Tim Knight
  2. Lyrics by Jerry M
Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

"Courville and McGee Waltz" - Sady Courville & Dennis McGee

The main instrument of the 19th century Cajun musician was the fiddle.   Traditional old-time Cajun bands often included a lead and a second fiddle. An excellent representation of this style was the early recordings of Dennis McGee and Sady Courville.  Dennis and Sady met in the mid-twenties. As it happens, they had much in common, starting with Gladys, Sady’s sister and Dennis’ wife. Both men were well-known musicians of the time, along with Amadee Ardoin, Angelais Lejeune, and Ernest Fruge, to name a few. Certainly they were among the most important and respected Cajun fiddlers of the day. For the next several years they played dances regularly, as had Sady’s predecessors, the Courville Brothers, before them.1
Eraste Courville (Sady's uncle) & 
Arville Couville (Sady's dad)
1900, Chataignier, LA

By 1929, the duo headed to New Orleans and recorded some of the earliest Cajun fiddle-led tunes, one of them being a self-entitled waltz simply called "Courville and McGee Waltz" (#315). Many professionals learned quite about bit about Cajun fiddling from this duo.  According to fiddler Tracy Schwarz:
The striking differences heard in Cajun fiddling from other U.S. folk styles can be traced primarily to the use of the following noting hand techniques: drones, octaves, unisons, open strings with a lower tuning, slides, trills, and lack of vibrata. Briefly, these can be described this way: Cajun fiddling abounds in a ringing, sustained treble tone achieved by wide separation of notes played in harmony on adjacent strings.1
In waltzes, the most strikingly different bowing technique is the marking of rhythm. Where country fiddlers will bow one continuous stroke to sustain a note, Cajun fiddlers change direction with each waltz beat, thereby providing rhythm alongside the melody. It must be cautioned here that this is a general discussion and that personal observation of Dennis McGee and Sady Courville leads to the conclusion that older bowing styles were more complicated than this, and also that there are a number of different bowing sub-styles under the general title of “Cajun fiddling.”1

The uniqueness about this recording is the fact that it's the only pressing that lists Courville's name on the label.  In fact at the time of the recording sessions, Sady requested of the company that his name be omitted from the labels when the records were released. And omitted it was: only “Dennis McGee” appears. It was the stigma: since the music embodied “Cajun” more dramatically than any other cultural form (except perhaps the language), it bore that stigma most directly.1 

The Complete Early Recordings of Dennis McGee (Yazoo, 1994)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"I Made A Big Mistake" - Iry Lejeune

"J'ai Fai Une Grosse Erreur".  In the 1940s and ‘50s, Iry LeJeune, a nearly blind accordionist who only lived 26 years, recorded Cajun songs that are still being imitated today.  Born near Church Point, Louisiana to a farming family, Iry, near blind from birth, turned to music as a young child. It was his cousin, Angeles LeJeune, who first introduced him to the accordion. But it was the records of Amedee Ardoin that most inspired him, influencing both his Cajun-French style and his recording future.5  Yet, the growing popularity of local country music stars during the 1950s also had impact on his creativity. Known for his soulful music, many consider LeJeune to be the greatest Cajun accordion player and recording artist of all time.

In the recording, Iry had Alfred Cormier playing rhythm guitar and Wilson Granger playing fiddle.  Wilson's first stint with Iry was around 1948 when Earl Demary occasionally would hire Iry to join his Musical Aces for dances around Lake Charles and southeast Texas.   Besides playing with Iry in the Musical Aces, he played with Iry for two stints in the 1950s, one where they recorded "I Made A Big Mistake" (#1057) on Eddie Shuler's Goldband label. Allegedly, written by record producer J. D. Miller, Iry chose to cover this song in 1954 after Jimmy Newman failed to garner any success with it in 1951.   
Quand j'ai quitté de la maison,
Moi, je croyais j'avais raison,
J'avais dit j'aurais jamais revenu,
Ça a pas été si longtemps,
Je t'ai eu te besoin z-à mon côté,
C'est là j'ai vu j'avais fait une grosse erreur.

Moi, je t'ai rejoint dessus la rue,
Avec un autre à ton côté,
Tu ressemblais si contente et aussi heureuse,
Avec des larmes dedans mes yeux,
Et mon cher cœur aussi cassé,
Moi je savais j'avais fait une grosse erreur.

Dans la clarté du soleil,
Et la lumière de la lune,
Moi j'ai vu personne qu'est si heureuse,
Avec des larmes dedans mes yeux,
Et mon cher cœur aussi cassé,
C'est là j'ai vu j'avais fait,
Une grosse erreur.
Robert Bertrand, Wilson Granger,
Iry Lejeune, Alfred Cormier

"I Made A Big Mistake" was recorded at Iry's house along with Wilson on fiddle. Wilson stated that many people thought that J. B. Fuselier played on this record because Wilson left the group soon after the recording and J. B. jumped in until the his death. Eddie would later release the song on 45 RPM, first using the maroon Folk-Star label and later on using his yellow Goldband label.
When I left home,
I believed I had a reason,
I said I'd never return,
It wasn't for very long,
I needed you by my side,
It's then I saw I had made a big mistake.

I met you on the street,
With another at your side,
You seemed so content and happy,
With tears in my eyes,
And my dear heart is also broken,
I knew I had made a big mistake.

In the clarity of the sun,
And the light of the moon,
I saw a person who was so happy,
With tears in my eyes,
And my dear heart so broken,
That's when I saw I had made,
A big mistake.

According to Walter Mouton, Iry was the only accordion player he ever saw in his life who could carry on a full conversation while playing.  

  1. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  3. Discussions with Sarah Dover Savoy Gonzales
  4. "Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style" by Ron Yule
Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2003)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Basile Waltz" - Leo Soileau and Mayuse Lafleur

One of most popular Cajun waltzes of all time, it still has a place in modern day recordings and live dance halls.   Created by Leo Soileau and Mayuse Lafleur, other musicians would take the tune and change it's name and it's lyrics; recording it for years to come.  The "Basile Waltz" (#21769) comes in at the top of the list for one of the most covered and recorded tunes throughout Cajun music history. It's the common Cajun lament about asking a lover to leave and go away with him, this time, to the small south Louisiana town of Basile.

The original was done in Atlanta, GA as the flip side to Soileau and Lafleur's famous "Mama Where You At?" recording in October 1928 for Victor.   Before the war, others recorded the melody as well.  Joe and Cleoma borrowed from the melody for their song "Aimer Et Perdre (To Love and Lose)".  After the Depression in 1934, Decca invited Joe and Cleoma Falcon to record in New Orleans in which she used the melody in her song "Ma Valse Preferé".  Even Leo would re-use the melody in his later recording of "La Bonne Valse". 

Oh, allons s'en aller dans grand Basile,

Oui, jolie petite fille.

Hé, toi malheureuse qu'est t'as fais,

Oh, moi je t'ai jamais fais rien pour toi faire ça 
Toi tite fille, t'auras du regret avant longtemps ça t'as fait.

Toi, jolie petit monde ça t'as fait,
Moi je connais tu vas pleurer, malheureuse, ye yaille,
Toi tite fille tu connais j'mérite pas ça toi t'as fait.

Oh, jolie fille, malheureuse, 
Si t'aurais voulu m’écouter chérie, 
Tu serais dans le grand Basile avec aujourd'hui, chère.

Oh, toi 'tite fille chérie,
Moi je connais c'est ça, j'm'en vas dans grand Basile,
Mais toi 'tite fille, tu peux pas venir me rejoindre, 
Et même si tu veux, malheureuse, je veux pas te voir.

Lafleur was an excellent singer and an expressive accordionist. The two men quickly reached simpatico in their playing.  It took five hours for the engineers to perfect the vocal levels for the session however, Lafleur's playing was brighter and more enthusiastic than Falcon's more traditional style.  The Victor session became infamous after the death of Mayuse nine days later.    By 1935, Soileau teamed up with Floyd Shreve, Bill Landry, and Tony Gonzales as the Three Aces.  Together, they traveled to New Orleans and re-recorded the tune in a string-band style as "Le Grand Mamou" on both the Bluebird label (#2194) and the Montgomery Ward label (#4880).  

Mayuse Lafleur
It wouldn't be until 1948 when Harry Choates used "Basile" as "Gra Mamou" (#124) for the Macy's label in Houston, even following up with "Answer to Gra Mamou" which was never released.  At some point, he recorded an alternate take pressed at the Humming Bird studio called "Big Mamou" (#1012) in 1951.  During Nathan Abshire's first session recording with Will Kegley and Atlas Fruge in 1950, they laid down the song "Grand Mamou" for Virgel Bozman's O.T. label (#106) however, due to a poor recording sound, his version never sold well and was almost lost to history.  Even record producer Eddie Shuler found favor in recording the song with his own group entitled "Grande Mamou".  However, it would be Link Davis' English version of "Big Mamou" in 1952 which solidified it's national popularity.
Oh, go, let's go to big Basile,
Yes, pretty little girl.

Hey, you're so unhappy, how you feel,
Oh, I never did anything for you to do that,
You little girl, you'll regret this before too long, all you've done.

You, pretty little world of mine, what you've done,
I know you're going to cry, oh my, ye yaille,
You little girl, you know I don't deserve what you've done.

Oh pretty girl, oh my,
If you wanted to listen to me, dear,
You'd be in big Basile with me today, dear.

Oh, you little girl, dear,
I know that's it, I'm going to big Basile,
Well, you little girl, you can not come with me,
And even if you want to, oh my, I don't want to see you.
Cajun music mural
Basile, LA

Since then, many musicians have taken this melody and have put their own spin providing countless recordings since the 50s such as Harry Choates, Ambrose Thibodeaux, Link Davis, Eddie Shuler, Pete Hanley, Ella Mae Morse, Dolores Gray, Jimmy Newman, Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Rod Bernard, and Clifton Chenier.  

Over time the song would be interchangeably known as both "Basile" and "Grand Mamou" in the Cajun music circles.   Today, however, most of the world knows the tune as "Big Mamou".

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  4. Label scan by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Cajun and Creole Music Collection - Special Collections
  5. Louisiana Music: A Journey From R&b To Zydeco, Jazz To Country, Blues To Gospel, Cajun Music To Swamp Pop To Carnival Music And Beyond by Rick Koster
  6. Lyrics by Stephane F
Le Gran Mamou: A Cajun Music Anthology -- The Historic Victor-Bluebird Sessions, 1928-1941 (Country Music Foundation, 1990)
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 1999)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)
The Return Of The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Yazoo, 2012)
The Missing Country & Blues Album (Magic Gold, 2014)
Down Home Blues (Goldenlane, 2014)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"La Valse De La Prison" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers were the first band in southern Louisiana to bring electronic amplification to area dancehalls. Many of these venues still did not have electricity, and the Ramblers powered their primitive Sears-Roebuck “P. A. system” from the battery of Darbone’s idling Model-T Ford. The advent of amplification profoundly changed the local music scene. Until then only the accordion could cut through the noise of a crowd. Stringed instruments such as fiddle and guitar were barely audible and thus relegated to simple accompanying roles playing rhythm parts. Once they could be heard clearly, however, musicians who played these instruments were inspired to take solos and generally improve their technique, thus elevating the prevailing standards of musicianship.1

Dans la prison, chérie, assis sur mon lit,
Comment, donc, je vas faire, chérie, sans ma ‘tite fille?
Sans ma ‘tite fille, chérie, avec les yeux bleus,
Comment, donc, je vas faire, chérie, depuis tu m’aime p’us?
Depuis tu m’aime p’us, chérie, je vas m’en aller,
Je vas m’en aller, chérie, dans le paradis.
Crowley Daily Signal
Dec 30, 1940

The 1938 session that produced "La Valse De La Prison" (#2066) would be the band's last Cajun recording stint before the war.  Floyd and Danny Shreve backed Luderin up on guitar, with Floyd belting out the French vocals.  Claude Duhon filled in on bass.  In 1939, they disbanded briefly when Luderin quit playing after the death of his father in an oil-field accident. Luderin formed a new group in the 1940s, teaming with Crawford Vincent and Jack Theriot. The new band kept the old name — Hackberry Ramblers.  However, the Ramblers broke up again when some musicians were drafted for World War II. Darbone reorganized, bringing back Edwin Duhon and adding Eddie Shuler.2

In prison, dear, sitting on my bed,
How, then, will I go on, dear, without my daughter?
Without my daughter, dear, with blue yes,
How, then, will I go on, dear, since you love me?
Since you love me, darling, I'm gonna go,
I'm gonna go, dear, to paradise.

  2. "Hackberry Ramblers Making music since 1933". DON KINGERY. American Press, Friday, September 24, 2004
Gran Prairie: Cajun Music Anthology, Vol. 3: The Historic Victor Bluebird Sessions (Country Music, 1994)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)