Friday, April 20, 2018

"Vingt Et Un Ans (Twenty One Years)" - Louisiana Rounders

Growing up, multi-talented musician and entertainer, Joe Werner, dazzled the local audiences in Crowley with his abilities to sing, whistle, play guitar, and the harmonica as a kid on stage.   Before long, his name as a local entertainer would reach neighboring cities. Throughout the 20s and 30s, he learned the popular tunes of the day and converted the lyrics to his native Cajun French language.  By 1936, Joe worked alongside the Hackberry Ramblers before forming a small group for his own recording session with Decca to record some popular American cover songs.  Still considered an amateur musician, he continued to perform in many talent contests, winning awards and garnering more fame. 
Rayne Tribune
May 8 1936

Le juge dit "Lève-toi debout garçon et sèche tes larmes,
T'es condamné a Nashville pour vingt et un ans",
Embrasse-moi bye-bye, chère, et dis tu seras pour moi,
Parce que vingt et un ans, chère, c'est bien longtemps.

Pas le loin du chemin d'fer, chère, aussi loin tu peux voir,
Et continue à m'faire bye-bye, chère, a "farewell" a moi,
Alors, embrasse-moi bye-bye, chère, et dis tu seras pour moi,
Parce que vingt et un ans, chère, c'est bien longtemps.

Werner teamed up with Julius "Papa Cairo" Lamperez and Wayne Perry, who were both Crowley residents.   By the end of 1937, they were in Dallas, TX at the Adolphus Hotel for their first Decca session.  The trio covered a popular 1930 Bob Miller tune called "Vingt Et Un Ans (Twenty One Years)" (#17046) in a Cajun string band style.   Werner's harmonica mimic'd the accordion sound that had been so popular 10 years earlier.  
The judge said "Stand up boy and dry your tears,
You've been condemned to Nashville for twenty one years,"
Kiss me bye-bye, dear, and say you'll be mine,
Because twenty one years, dear, it's a very long time.

Not far from the railroad, dear, as far as you can see,
And continue waving bye-bye, dear, wishing farewell to me,
So, kiss me bye-bye, dear, and say you'll be mine,
Because twenty one years, dear, it's a very long time.
Bob Miller
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame

The original song writer, Bob Miller, was among the pioneering professional songwriters who specialized in what was then called hillbilly music. He worked for Irving Berlin Music, formed his own publishing company in 1933, and also worked as an A&R man and record producer for the Columbia and Okeh labels. His biggest early hit was the prison song "Twenty-One Years." During the Depression, this song was so popular and was sung by so many artists that Miller wrote a number of follow-up songs to it, including "Twenty-One Years, Part Two," "New Twenty-One Years," "Answer to Twenty-One Years," "Woman's Answer to Twenty-One Years," "After Twenty-One Years," "The End of Twenty-One Years" and "The Last of the Twenty-One Year Prisoner."1    

  2. Lyrics by Stephane F

Release Info:
L05 63075 Le Vieux Arbe De Pin (They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree) 17046 A Decca
L08 63078 Vingt Et Un Ans (Twenty One Years) 17046 B Decca

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All" - Lawrence Walker

Cajun accordion player Lawrence Walker grew up listening to the great players around south Louisiana.  Although he grew up in Orange, TX, he was born in Duson, LA and was bilingual enough to sing both French and English tunes throughout the 1920s and 1930s.   He played music with his siblings and eventually recorded with RCA in the 1930s before declining a recording career in 1936.   Walker wouldn't enter the studio again until 1950.

After the war, according to author Dr. Barry Ancelet,
Cajuns began to show signs of learning to better negotiate the American mainstream in a way that would allow them to preserve their own cultural identity.  Musicians were among the first to announce the change by returning to traditional sounds.1

Eh, ton papa et ta mama m'a jeté dehors,

M'a jeté dehors d'm'a maison, m'a maison que j'aime tout l'temps.

Eh, chère tit fille, mais, pour quoi donc, mais, tu m'fait ça?
Moi, j'connais j'mérite pas, mais, tout ça que t'es après faire.

Eh, malheureuse, moi, j'connais une jour à venir,
Tu vas revenir pour pardonner à ton vieux nègre, il y a pas longtemps.
Crowley Daily Signal, August 1949

They were able to do so in large part because record company officials were more interested in expanding markets than in regulating minority cultures.1  Walker resurrected his recording career in 1950 with a series of recordings in Lake Charles with George Khoury.  There, with the help of vocalist Mitch David, they covered the classic 1928 tune: Leo Soileau and Mayuse Lafleur's "Your Daddy Threw Me Out".  The phrase shown here "sta da all" in Khoury's title "Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All" (#607) is the corrupted spelling of "jeté dehors".

His work on KPLC radio station in Lake Charles with what got Khoury's attention. According to Shelton Manuel:
We'd do the broadcast at the same time that we had a dance in the vicinity. The broadcast was on the route to the dance.2  

Hey, your dad and your mom tossed me out,
Tossed me out of my house, my house which I've always loved.

Hey, dear little girl, well, so why, well, have you done that to me?
I know I don't deserve this, well, all that you've done.

Hey, oh my, I know one day in the future,
You will return for forgiveness from your old man, over there not long ago.

  1. Southern Music/American Music By Bill C. Malone
  2. "Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader" by Ron Brown, Ryan A. Brasseaux, and Kevin S. Fontenot
  3. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephane F
Release Info:
A Tu Le Du Po La Mam 607-A Khoury's 
B Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All 607-B Khoury's

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Drunkard Waltz" - Jimmy Durbin

Chuck Guillory's band was a very successful Cajun string group in the early 1950s.  Having a slew of musicians in his band, many went off to create their own solo careers, with Jimmy Newman becoming the most successful.   At some point, in 1949, Jimmy decided to leave the group, possibly due to Chuck's drinking but also because of his passion to have his own recording career.   Either way, Newman gathered some of Chuck's members in recording one of his earliest vocal performances, the "Drunkard's Waltz" (#1008).

The band was most of Chuck Guillory's backup band with Jimmy Newman on vocals and guitar, Shelton Manuel on fiddle, Francis "Red" Fabacher on steel, possibly Howard Thibodeaux on bass, Curzey "Pork Chop" Roy on drums, and Farrel "Benny" Fruge on piano.   The band recorded the session at Benny's Fruge Piano House in Eunice about 1949 after Miller decided to try out his new tape recorder for a remote session.  Author and producer of the Acadian All-Star box set, Lyle Ferbache explains:  
The name could be a combination of Newman's first name and the amp he might have been using at the time, which was a Durbin brand.1

Eh, malheureuse, toi t'après m'quitté,
Eh, chère 'tit monde, quoi tu vas brailler?
Quoi tu m'a dis, tu voulais plus m'aimer,
Eh, malheureuse, mon j'suis parti m'soûler.  

Eh, jolie monde, toi jolie coeur,
Eh, malheurse, toi te m'fais du mal.
Quoi tu m'a dis, tu voulais plus m'aimer?
Eh, malheureuse, mon j'suis parti m'soûler.

Herman Durbin, Jimmy Newman,
Murphy "Chuck" Guillory

Another theory could be that Chuck's former piano player, Herman Durbin, could have influenced the name.  Maybe it was a combination of Jimmy Newman and Herman together?   Maybe Durbin is actually on the recording and was nicknamed "Jimmy"?  The source remains unknown.   It's most likely Miller's attempt to label the group as "Jimmy & Durbin". 

Hey, it's terrible, you have left me,
Hey, dear little everything, why are you crying?
Why didn't you say, you didn't love me anymore,
Hey, it's terrible, I left to get drunk.

Hey, pretty everything, you pretty sweetheart,
Hey, it's terrible, you made me sad,
Why didn't you say, you didn't love me anymore,
Hey, it's terrible, I left to get drunk.

Not to be confused with the Balfa's "Drunkard's Waltz" or Louis Cormier's "Drunkards Blues", it would find it's way into Belton Richard's version of "Drunkard's Waltz" around 1967.

  1. Discussions with Lyle F
  2. Lyrics by Jerry M and Jesse L
Release Info:

-A Drunkard Waltz F1008-A Fais Do Do
-B Fais Do Do Two Step F1008-B Fais Do Do

Jimmy C NEWMAN - The Original Cry, Cry, Darling (Jasmine, 2009)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Redell Breakdown" - J.B. Fuselier

During the 1930s, a tenor banjo player named Beethoven Miller created the band called Miller's Merrymakers and they recorded in New Orleans. After Beethoven left the group, a Cajun fiddle player named Jean Baptiste Fuselier took over as bandleader and changed it's name to J.B. and the Merrymakers.

Live radio broadcasts propelled Fuselier's huge success. His early band, including Miller on drums, Preston Manuel on guitar and Atlas Fruge on steel, would work live radio shows during the day and then play dances at night.1  

The song "Redell Breakdown" was an ode to the small Louisiana town of Redell located north of Mamou.  It familiar similarities with Joe Falcon's "Au Revoir Cherie".  Melodies such as this one would go on to influence Iry Lejeune's "Evangeline Special" in 1947.   After WWII, the band was composed of J.B. on accordion, Manuel on guitar, Norris "T-Boy" Courville on drums, and Elius Soileau on fiddle.1

Quitter toujour, tit fille chere, avec ton neg, aujourd'hui.
Tit monde, m'en aller toujour, jamais te 'joindre, me t'veux encore.

(You're) leaving forever, dear little girl, with your old man, today.
Little everything, I'm leaving forever, never returning to you, yet still want you.

In Sam Tarleton's interview, J.B. states:

When we'd go to New Orleans to make some records, part of the road was gravel, part of the road was dirt.  The last time I went to make records in New Orleans, I had a Model A.  We went in a a Model A; four of us.

  1. The Encyclopedia of Country Music.  Ann Savoy

Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"La Valse Da Courage" - Elise Deshotel

During World War II, a 16-year-old Dewey Balfa left home to work in a Texas shipyard followed by a stint in the Merchant Marines. He maintained his chops with Texas swing, containing a heavy swing influence, and maybe it was here, being away from home where he felt the missing connection with his cultural music. In 1948, he returned to Louisiana and formed the Musical Brothers, a popular string dance band, with brothers Harry, Will and Rodney. By then Dewey had blossomed into a virtuoso with his accurate, flowing style and was often requested to gig with other musicians.1 

Ton papa et ta maman m’a toujours dit, chère,

Pas te quitte, ouais, notre amour d'être gouverné,

Quoi faire donc, ‘tit monde, t’après faire ça, chère, 

Tu connais je mérite pas tous ces misères.

Quoi faire donc, ‘tit monde, toi, tu fais ça, chère,

T’après m'quitter, mon tout seul dans les misères,

Tu connais, ‘tite fille, avant longtemps, chère, 

Tu voudras t’en revenir, découragé.

Atlas Fruge, Will Kegley, Nathan Abshire, 
Cleveland "Cat" Deshotel, Elise Deshotel

During this early period, Dewey met musician Elise Deshotel.   Elise Deshotel and fellow accordion player, Maurice Barzas, teamed up with the young fiddle player named Dewey Balfa in a makeshift recording studio in Opelousas.   One the Dewey's earliest releases with Elise Deshotel, "La Valse De Courage", (#619), recorded in 1951 was Dewey's take on the well-known 1928 Joe and Cleoma Falcon tune "Waltz That Carried Me To My Grave".  The tune manifests itself in other original forms such as Bixy Guidry's "La Valse Du Bayou" and the Breaux Brothers "La Valse des Pins".  It has a melody that seems to borrow from Nathan's "La Valse de Bayou Teche" but steers itself in a slightly different direction.  Meant to be "La Valse Découragée", it tells of a love interest who has left, leaving the lover discouraged.  The recording had Dewey's brother Rodney Balfa on guitar, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, and Ester Deshotel on drums.  In 1953, Iry borrowed Cleoma's tune for his better known "La Valse de Grand Chemin".

Your dad and your mom always told me, dear,

Don't you let, yeah, our love be controlled,

Why did you do, my little everything, all that you've done, dear,

You know I do not deserve all of this misery.

Why did you do, my little everything, what you have done, dear,

You have left me, all alone in misery,

You know, little girl, before long, dear,

You'll want to come back, discouraged

In the ’50s, Dewey’s notoriety was reaching new heights. Around the same time, he began his lifetime association with Nathan Abshire, the jovial, soulful accordionist who rightfully has his own place in the annals of Cajun music. But just as music was making a come back, the Balfas considered it be a celebratory past-time, not taken seriously as a profession. In order to support a growing family, at various times Dewey worked as a farmer, an insurance salesman, a school bus driver, a disc jockey and a furniture store owner.1  It wouldn't be until the 1960s when Dewey would try to revitalize his recording career with Floyd Soileau. 

  2. Discussions with Lyle F.
  3. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
A Two Step de Avalon KH-619-A Khoury's
B La Valse de Courage KH-619-B Khoury's

Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

"O.S.T. Gal" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc

Like Western swing, Cajun swing helped redefine the rural Southern experience, an experience based on interaction and exchange. Varied cultural currents flowed freely throughout the Bayou Country. Individuals only had to reach out to access the cultural innovations and mass culture available at their fingertips.1 Happy Fats and his swinging fiddler, Harry Choates, were keenly aware of the music's popularity and had no problem performing throughout south Louisiana and Texas. The duo recorded an upbeat tune in 1940 entitled "O.S.T. Gal" (#8537) for Bluebird records.  His group had Sandy Lormand on guitar, Joseph "Pee Wee" Broussard on banjo, Ray Clark on steel guitar, and Harold "Popeye" Broussard on piano.  Harry's fiddle rides, Sandy's electric guitar slides and Popeye's honky-tonk piano sound really made this recording shine. It was a familiar melody used in other recordings such as the Jolly Boys of Lafayette's "Old Man Crip".  
1924 Travel Log

Met me a girl at the O.S.T.,
Thought sure was a hum-dinger,
I soon asked her to put a ring,
Upon her little finger.

Chaste and pure, she assured be true,
She'd would wed me soon,
We'd go down to my old town,
And spend our honeymoon.

Bought me a ring and bought me a cow,
And I bought me a Model T Ford,
Saved nineteen dollars and twenty cents,
Just to pay our board.

Barely clothed, up bright and early,
My gal, I went home to bring (her),
She stepped up with a dozen children,
Hanging on her apron string.

Says "Hello daddy, we're glad to see you,
Mama sure is due,
We can't see how she ever fell,
For a guy with a mug like you."

Puttin my Ford in reverse,
Sure was nothing could stop her,
Now I know I'll never be,
That dozen children's papa.

Says "Hello daddy, we're glad to see you,
Mama sure is due,
We can't see how she ever fell,
For a guy with a mug like you."

Puttin my Ford in reverse,
Sure was nothing could stop her,
Now I know I'll never be,
That dozen children's papa.

O.S.T. is most likely referencing the O.S.T. Dancehall located in Rayne, LA.   Many Cajun bands played there with many Cajun "gals" arriving to enjoy a good time.  The name O.S.T. is shortened for the Old Spanish Trail, named so after a colonial Spanish highway that connected San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL.  The old route, now mostly made of HWY 90, passed through New Orleans, Lafayette, Crowley, and Rayne.  Happy recalled: 
The club I played longest at was the old O.S.T. club here in Rayne.3  
O.S.T. Nite Club
Courtesy Lisa Smith Soileaux and Tony Olinger

Harold Broussard remembered traveling on the way to record with Happy Fats and Harry Choates.  When the band was offered a recording contract with RCA (Bluebird), they loaded up Happy Fats' 1934 Chevrolet with instruments. The stand-up bass was strapped to the car's roof.  The Rayne-Bo Ramblers triumphantly rolled into Dallas and performed a very successful recording session in the studios of the Jefferson Hotel.  On the return trip, a gust of wind blew the bass fiddle from the roof of Happy Fats' Chevrolet sending the instrument crashing into a dozen pieces to the highway between Dallas and Shreveport. Everyone bailed out of the car including Harry and retrieved the scattered pieces from the roadway. The instrument was returned to Rayne and miraculously repaired.  According to Broussard, the sounds it produced were better than ever.  "We must have had angels on our shoulders."2  

1929 Travel Log
By the late 1930s, RCA Victor and it's subsidiary label, Bluebird, were exhausted with the releases of Cajun-French songs and Happy used the opportunity to push more of his English speaking music to the masses.  It wouldn't be until over a year and a half before he would re-enter the Bluebird studios in Dallas, TX in October 1941.  In his last session in Dallas, he recorded 8 songs, half of them American hillbilly tunes and half of them Cajun French tunes.   However, by the time they were ready for release, Bluebird dumped all but one of the Cajun recordings in favor of the English ones. 

It didn't matter too much since not long after the 1941 recording session, the US entered WWII and Cajun music ceased to be recorded by any label for the next 4 years.

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  2. "Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates: A Cajun Legend" by Tim Knight
  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Lyrics by Jordy A
Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"La Valse De Amour (Waltz of Love)" - Sidney Brown

One of the most respected musicians in the business was Sidney Brown of Lake Charles, Louisiana.  His accordion music turned tunes like the Valse de Meche "La Pestauche Ah Tante Nana" or Sha Ba Ba" into hits of yesterday and classics of today.  Records such as these were fine examples of authentic French music at it's best.1

Oh, joues roses, quoi faire donc, ‘tit monde,

T’après m'quitter aujourd’hui dans les misères,
Tout je t'demande, joues roses, fais pas ça, bébé,
Moi j'connais t’auras du regret pour le restant d'ma vie,

Oh, joues roses, moi je vois pas, donc quoi,
Quoi tu fais pour toi-même, t’après m'quitter,
Dit-moi, c’est fait ye yaille, je m'rappelle pas, joues roses, 
Vient-toi donc, ouais, me donner une autre chance.
Crowley Daily Signal
July 16, 1959

Sidney loved accordion music at an early age; so much, in fact that he began to teach himself to play.  By the time he was 13, he had learned enough to play dances and fais do dos in his hometown of Church Point, Louisiana and was soon developing his own style and sound.  By the 1956, he teamed up with Eddie Shuler and his Goldband label to create "La Valse de Amour" (#1046).  The melody seems to be a mixture of Iry Lejeune's "Convict Waltz" and "Te Monde" but with a strong resemblance to his tune "Come And Get Me".

Oh, little rosy cheeks, what happened, my little world,
You have left me today in misery,
All I ask of you, little rosy cheeks, don't do that, baby,
I know you are going to regret this for the rest of my life.

Oh, little rosy cheeks, I don't see, so why,
Why have you done this to yourself, you left me,
Tell me, it's done, ye yaille, I don't remember, little rosy cheeks,
So come on, yeah, give me another chance.

As his record sales increased so did the offers of personal appearances and he formed a group called the Traveler Playboys to fill his many engagements.  They consisted of Vinus Lejeune and Nelson Young on fiddles, Wilus (Wallace) Ogea on guitar, Mervin Faul on steel guitar and Cliton Newman on drums.

  1. Sidney Brown LP.  Goldband Records.  Mike Leadbitter.  Liner notes.
  2. Lyrics by Jordy A
Release Info:
-A Highball Two Step G-1046-A Goldband
-B La Valse De Amour G-1046-B Goldband