Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Two Step De La Prarie Soileau" - Amede Ardoin

The second recorded Afro-Creole artist, Amédé Ardoin, placed his high-pitched 1920s wails on "Two Step De La Prarie Soileau" (#40515) in the midst of sizzling encounters between his own accordion and Dennis McGee’s masterful fiddle — merging the sounds so well that it can be hard to hear where one ends and the other begins. Old-style Creole joints like this, typically performed with a fiddle as the lead instrument, derived from traditional French folk, but the tone and content were closer to blues.3 

This music (referred to variously among black Creoles as “French music,” “French la la,” as well as just “la la”) had introduced the diatonic one-row accordion as lead instrument.  In the early years, it was often the sole instrument backing the human voice, as well as played solo or accompanied by a fiddle. Author Roger Wood claims la la was undoubtedly influenced by Cajun music in which both accordion and fiddle were already established as alternating lead instruments.1  Black Creoles like Ardoin used the same style as the white Creoles, making their sound quite indistinguishable.  According to Roger Wood:

To my ears, the recordings of Amédé Ardoin did not sound all that different from . . . Cajun accordionists I had heard on records.”1
However, Jeremy Simien, a 19th century Louisiana portraiture expert and collector of Creole material culture, states it's more likely white Creoles and well off Creoles of color mirrored each other in style and in most aspects of culture.  Researchers like Simien believe it's impossible to say that Creole la la was undoubtedly influenced by Cajun music. Cajun/Creole were indistinguishable at some points in time.5

Comment donc, je vas faire, Joline?

Ta mom m’a pas voulu, comment je vas faire, chère?

Ayou c’est je vas aller, Joline? Ayou c’est je vas aller?

C’est toi toujours, t’étais, t’étais pas là, yaille,

Comment tu veux que je vas à ma maison?

Oh yaille, ma chère, tu m’as abandonné, yaille,

Comment tu veux que je vivre, Joline, c’est pas ma faute, catin,
Comment tu veux ton pop et mom a dit tout le temps, "Joline,
Vient donc avec moi." Je peux pas te revoir
C’est rapport à tu jolie, mignonne.

Hé, bonsoir, bonsoir catin,
Comment tu veux que je peux faire donc, m’en aller, mignonne, Joline,
Et te quitte-toi en arrière, ye yaille,
Il faut que tu t’en aller par rapport à ta mom, chère,
"T’après venir avec moi, mais, toi, Joline."
Amede Ardoin

Many of Ardoin’s recorded performances featured accompaniment by legendary Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee in a biracial collaboration that was, and has to this day remained, fairly rare in the history of black Creole music. Moreover, Ardoin sang in a tense, high-pitched voice with a strong, pleading tone in the manner of the classic Cajun singers (as opposed to the open-throated technique more common in African-American vocalizing). His instrument was the traditional single-row diatonic accordion, and his music was based mainly on the popular Cajun waltzes, one-steps, and two-steps.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. At this historic session, Ardoin and McGee waxed six Cajun waltzes and two steps, with the accordion and fiddle sharing the lead, including the now classic "Two Step de La Prairie Soileau".  It was an ode to one of the many prairies of Louisiana, this one settled by the Soileau family of Louisiana, located in today's Allen parish.  Today, the community of Soileau is situated between Oberlin and Elton.4

So how will I handle this, Joline?

Your mom didn't want me, how will I handle this, dear?

Where is it that I'll go, Joline? Where is it that I'll go?

It's you always, you were, you were not there, yaille,

How you want me to go back home?

Oh yaille, my dear, you have abandoned me, yaille,

How do you want me to live, Joline, it' snot my fault, pretty doll,
How you want your dad and mom who've always said "Joline,
Come with me."  I can't see you again,
It's because you're so pretty, my cutie. 

Hey, goodnight, goodnight pretty doll,
How do you want me to handle this? I'm going away, cute Joline,
And leaving you behind, ye yaille,
It's necessary that you leave because of your mom, dear,
"You're coming with me, well, you Joline."
With Dennis McGee backing him up on fiddle, they created a rhythmic, repetative verse that continues from start to finish.  It featured his common lament about a woman named Joline.  But not all of Ardoin's performances named names.  Goldman Thibodeaux claims to be the last living person to have seen Ardoin perform when Thibodeaux was 8 years old:

He was coming for a Sunday afternoon house party, and for three hours he sat in a corner and played, making up songs on the spot. Amede, he could put the words in a way, the girl knew he was talking about her, the man knew he was talking about him, but he wouldn't name anybody's name.2

  1. Southeast Texas: Hot House of Zydeco by R. Wood.
  4. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music edited by Diane Pecknold
  5. Disucssions with Jeremy K. Simien
  6. Lyrics by Jordy A

Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Cajun Origins (Catfish, 2001)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Jolie Blonde" - Eddie Shuler

The murky early days of the Goldband have always been the least documented. Goldband initially served mostly as a vanity label for Eddie Shuler and his western band, the Reveliers -- an excellent group that went toe-to-toe with Cliff Bruner, Leo Soileau, Harry Choates, the Hackberry Ramblers, and the other top Gulf Coast swing bands of the time. Many of Eddie's singles are solid western swing, Cajun, and country efforts comparable to anything else coming out in those genres at the time.1

Shuler's western swing band would play at the same Louisiana dance halls that popular Cajun musicians frequented every night.  It wouldn't be long after the popularization of regional Cajun music he would realize it was time to capitalize on the market.  Watching the success of Harry Choates' "Jole Blon" in 1946, Eddie used the opportunity to get his band to cover the song "Jolie Blonde" (#1012) with his 3rd pressing in either very late 1946 or 1947.  According to author Ryan Brasseaux, Shuler and his All-Star Reveliers recorded the first post-Choates Cajun adaptation of "Jole Blon".2 

Jolie blonde, si tu croyais, 

I(l) y avait juste toi dedans le pays. 

I(l) y a pas juste toi dedans le pays, oui, 
Jolie blonde, mais moi, je peux avoir?
I(l) y a juste toi, moi je voudrais pour me marier.

Jolie blonde, moi j'connais,
Oui, mourir c’était pas rien,
J'ai quitté dedans la terre,
Aussi longtemps, oui, mais, jolie fille, 
Quel espoir et quel avenir j'peux avoir?
Crowley Daily Signal
Aug 16, 1949

Eddie Shuler's vocalist was Frankie Mailhes who sang the song as close to the Choates recording as possible.  Eddie had fond thoughts of Harry's song and his early recording:
Harry Choates was one of them overnight sensations. He went and cut that “Jole Blon” thing... I thought Choates was a real good fiddle player. He had a charisma about him that was outstanding.1 

Pretty blond, if you believe,
It was just you over there in the countryside,
It's not just you over there in the countryside, yeh,
Pretty blonde, well, what can I have?
It's just you over there, I would like to marry.

Pretty blond, I know,
Yeh, dying, it's nothing,
I'm left in the dirt,
So long, yeh, well, pretty girl,
What hope and what future can I have?

Most of the Cajun songs that Eddie Shuler could record with his Reveliers ended up going nowhere.  He struggled getting his group to gain any popular traction. Eddie's #1012 label used the same label and plant as maroon version of #1011.  It would be the last logo with the motto "Everyone A Treat".

  2. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
Jole Blon - 23 Artists One Theme (Bear, 2002)

Monday, October 9, 2017

"Easy Rider Blues" - Moise Robin & Leo Soileau

During 1929, Paramount had gained enough interest in Cajun music to bring in fiddler Leo Soileau and his new accordion player Moise Robin to the Gennett Recording Studio, Starr Piano Company Building, Whitewater Gorge Park in Richmond, Indiana.  The two were carrying on the earlier work that Soileau had begun with his late friend, Mayuse Lafleur.  

The Soileau-Robin recordings are interesting for their tension filled playing, particularly Soileau's "special", the "Easy Rider Blues", which indicated a debt to the Texas blues-man Blind Lemon Jefferson.  While the words borrow from Jefferson's iconic song, the melody follows closer to his "Black Snake Moan" released in 1927.  Leo's lyrics are more of a mesmerizing chant with English vocal calls surrounding the word "rider", "woman" and "mama".   
Starr Piano Company

According to author Ryan Brasseaux:
Soileau's English-language lament "Easy Rider Blues" featured the intricate interplay between the fiddle and accordion voices.  Moise kept time with his left hand on the accordion's two bass chords, while interjecting syncopated riffs between Soileau's crying fiddle runs.  The fiddler's experimental composition represented the collision of conflicting instrumental styles.  Their bluesy interplay sounded like a tense debate between the fiddle and Robin's aggressive accordion rebuttals.4  

Goodbye ride, my soul rider,

Goodbye ride, my soul rider, rider, rider, rider, rider,

Woman, woman, if you flag my train, woman,

I'm sure gonna let you ride.

Mama, mama, there's trouble around my bed,

Mama, malheurse, mama.
Moise Robin

Early Cajun music and early Mississippi Delta blues recordings often collided into what is known as "Cajun blues".  According to John Broven, "their Paramount version of 'Easy Rider Blues' was a remarkable Cajun-blues performance."5  After their return to Arnaudville, Louisiana, the duo moved to Opelousas and hired a manager, Elton Doucet. Robin played more dances and recorded two more times with Soileau before he wanted a break from the musician’s life and quit.  However, according to Soileau, the duo never hit off.  Tension stemmed from artistic differences.  Robin recalled the tension as well:
Leo always wanted to take the lead when we played.  He kept the lead and I had to follow him.  It's bothersome to always follow a violin, you see.  It's difficult. I had to play below his violin's volume.  We didn't play too long together, about one year.1
Blues melodies like this one influenced early Cajun tunes such as Dennis McGee and Ernest Fruge's "Les Blues Du Texas".  In 1934, Alan Lomax traveled to Louisiana to record Wayne Perry in which he covered the tune, simply listed as "Cajun Two Step" on the session notes.3  Perry's version speeds and swings the melody.   The same basic melody appears in the Balfa's "Les Blues De Cadien" and the Musical Four Plus One's "Tran La Ezy".  

  1. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  2. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings By Joshua Clegg Caffery
  4. "Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music" by Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  5. "South To Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous" by John Broven


Louisiana Cajun Music Vol. 5: The Early Years 1928-1938 (Old Timey/Arhoolie, 1973)
Down In The Basement: Joe Bussard's Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s 1926-1937 (Old Hat, 2003)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Early Recordings of Leo Soileau (Yazoo, 2006)
The Beginner's Guide to Cajun Music (Primo, 2008)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Le Two Step De Villeplatte" - Elise Deshotel

The Deshotels lived near Basile and were involved with many bands and line-ups from that area for their dances.  Elise, his wife Ester, and Cleveland "Cat" Deshotel all played with Nathan Abshire at the Avalon Club.  The Dehotels and his band were like most bands of the era; people came and went depending on work obligations. 

Meanwhile, record producer George Khoury knew how to spot successful Cajun musicians.  After working closely with Nathan Abshire, he gathered one of Nathan's biggest fan bands, led by Elise Deshotel. The two groups worked closely during the early 50s playing in the same dance halls around Evangeline parish, not far from the small town of Ville Platte.  They made their recording debut in 1951 with an instrumental called "Le Two Step de Villeplatte" (#618), which was captured on a home recorder and released as a 78 RPM single.  It featured Dewey Balfa on fiddle, Atlas Fruge on steel guitar, Elise Deshotel on rhythm guitar and Ester Deshotel on drums.

Elise's wife Ester was more than likely the drummer on some recordings since she played live with them.  Her driving style kept the band's rhythm in tact.  With Ester playing drums with Nathan, she became one of three female drummers for the band.  The other two were Bernella Fruge and Will Kegley's sister, Ozide.  Cat played both bass and fiddle with Nathan until the Swallow-label recordings ended.
Atlas Fruge, Ester Deshotel, Wilson Granger,
Nathan Abshire, Elise Deshotel

In fact, these women join the ranks of the few females playing and singing Cajun music during the 1950s.      People such as Marie Solange Falcon, Theresa Meaux Falcon, Johnnie Ruth Smyrle Manuel, Laura Broussard, Corita Thibodeaux and Yvonne Leblanc highlight the rarity of Cajun women playing music in male-dominated industry.

  1. All Music Guide to Country: The Experts' Guide to the Best Country Recordings edited by Michael Erlewine
  3. Discussions with Lyle F

Cajun Music - The Early 50s (Arhoolie, 1969/1975)
Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings, Volume 1 (Arhoolie, 1995)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"Elton Two Step" - J.B. Fuselier

Jean Baptiste "J.B." Fuselier was a popular and innovative musician, recording a number of popular Cajun hits in the 1930s and 1940s, adding drums and steel guitar to his traditional Cajun ensemble.1  Fuselier was generally overshadowed by the less traditional Leo Soileau and Luderin Darbone – both of whom had their brands of Cajun string band music.1,2  In 1937, himself along with Preston Manuel and Beethoven Miller left for New Orleans to record "Elton Two Step" (#2016) for Bluebird records.

Eh, cherie

Moi, je m'en vas toujours, mais, moi tout seul,

Tu m'as quitte personne mais pour m'aimer,

Comment tu crois que moi je peux faire, jolie,
Toujours tout seul a ma maison.

He, petite mom, quoi moi je vas faire,
M'en aller si loin de toi, jolie,
Mais tu cois plus ces beaux yeux noirs, catin,
Comment t'aime ca, tu sais que moi j'aime tant.
J.B. Fuselier

The same melody appears even earlier in Amede Ardoin's 1929 recording "Two Step de Mama", not to be confused with Ardoin's "Two Step De Elton".    Eventually, in 1948, Iry Lejeune would make this into his well known "Lacassine Special".   Both Elton and Lacassine are small towns in the southwestern part of the state.

I'm going forver, well, all alone,

You left me, noone to love me,

How do you think that I will handle this, cutie,

Always alone at my home.

Hey, little moma, what will I do,
Went away so far from you, cutie,
But you want to see these pretty black eyes again, doll,
How do you like that, you know that I love you so.

In the late 1950s, Lawrence "Blackie" Fruge re-titled the Chester Pee Wee Broussard's "Creole Stomp" on Khoury's recordings as "Elton Two Step".  After WWII, Fuselier joined with Iry LeJeune and the Calcasieu Playboys and the two ruled the dance hall circuit until 1955 when LeJeune was killed and Fuselier severely injured when hit by a car while changing a tire at night on a dangerous South Louisiana highway. Despite his injuries, Fuselier never stopped playing and recorded a number of sides for Goldband in the 1960s.1


Louisiana Cajun Music, Vol. 3: The String Bands of the 1930's (Old Timey, 1971)
Cajun String Bands 1930's: Cajun Breakdown (Arhoolie, 1997)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Brow Bridge Waltz" - Floyd Leblanc

Floyd LeBlanc was born in Mermentau, Louisiana and his musical career began at an early age.  He had learned to play music from his father and grew up around music.  He had moved to Texas and after WWII, joined Bennie Hess' Houston-based Oklahoma Tornadoes as their fiddle player.1  Riding the wave of Cajun music resurgence, in 1947, Floyd recorded several of his own French fiddle tunes, one called "Brow Bridge Waltz" (#110) for Bennie Hess' Opera records in Houston, Texas. 

Moi, j'connais, t'es après me quitter, chère, 
Pour t'en aller dedans les chemins,
Pourquoi-donc mais tu me fais ça, chère, 
Moi, j'connais, jolie fille, tu vas pleurer.

Rappelles-toi tout ça t'as dit, chère, 
I(l) y pas longtemps de ton papa,
Si jamais que j'vas te revoir, chère, 
Moi, j'connais, jolie fille, tu vas pleurer.
Floyd Leblanc

Here, Floyd gave it the name of a small Cajun town called Breaux Bridge, misspelled as 'Brow' Bridge.  It was a key town settled by Firmin Pierre Breaux, a son of a Acadian settlers.  Born in Acadie, Firmin acquired land along the busy commercial waterway known as the Bayou Teche in 1771.  He and his son built a footbridge in 1799 across the Bayou Teche and maintained it in order to ease the passage of his family and neighbors across the Teche.2  Being one of the few crossing points along the Teche river, a town grew around the location and was named after the bridge.   

I know, you have left me, dear, 
Headed along the road,
Why, well, did you do that, dear, 
I know, pretty girl, you'll going to cry.

Remember, all that you've said, dear, 
Not long ago with your dad,
If I ever see you again, dear,
I know, pretty girl, you're going to cry.
The melody was an extremely popular one among musicians in the region stemming from Angelas Lejeune's 1929 version of "La Valse de Pointe Noir" which would become more popularly known as Nathan Abshire's "Kaplan Waltz" in 1949.  Even Abe Manuel used the same melody for his "Ville Platte Waltz" when he played with Jelly Elliot.   The melody can be found in the recording of Bixy Guidry & Percy Babineaux as "Vien A La Maison Avec Moi" and even earlier by Dudley and James Fawvor as "La Valse De Creole" in 1928.  Amede Ardoin's "Valse De Ballard" carried some similarities.

  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
Cajun Music - The Early 50's (Arhoolie, 1975)

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Saute Crapaud (Jump, Frog)" - Columbus Fruge

In September 1929, Moise Robin and Leo Soileau left the prairies of Cajun country to record again, this time with accordionist Columbus "Boy" Fruge in tow.  The three musicians traveled to Victor's Memphis, TN field session with the promise of $50 per record.1  

Fruge recorded four sides, including a solo performance of the popular folk song "Saute Crapaud (Jump, Frog)" (#22184), during which he accompanied himself by stomping on a wooden Coca-Cola crate.1  

The accordionist earned $100 for his services, and specifically asked for his fee to be paid in $1 bills.  Upon his return, Columbus' wife, who according to Robin did not understand money, stared in awe at the wad of cash, believing the sum to be an enormous fortune.1  

Saute crapaud!
Ta queue va brûler!
Mais, prends courage,
Elle va repousser.

Va y donc, crapaud!

L'hiver après prendre!

Saute crapaud!
Ta queue va brûler!
Mettre chère Pauline,
Une tasse de café.

Oh, crapaud,
Qui q'as fait ton gilet?
C'est Rose Martin,
La fille à maman.

It's an extremely old song in south Louisiana, with possible origins in Acadie or France. As a children's tune, many Cajun recall hearing the song sang by their parents for fun.  Others remember the song while attending grade school.   Today, if you ask the older generation about it, you'll hear the common response: "I remember my grandfather singing this song to me when I was little."  The lyrics, however, contain a double entendre, with the "tail" signifying the male sexual organ. According to Moise Robin:

Yes, me and "Boy" Fruge went to Memphis, Tennessee to make some records.  "Boy" had no musicians with him.  When we arrived there, he found a pop bottle case made of wood and turned it upside down and stomped on that for his drum effect while recording.  The first song he recorded was Saute, Crapaud.4

Jump, frog,

Your tail will burn,

But take heart,
It will grow back.

So get going, frog.

It's winter, soon.

Jump, frog,
Your tail will burn,
Pour dear Pauline,
A cup of coffee.

Oh, frog.
Who has made your vest?
It is Rose Martin,
Mom's little girl.

  1. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  4. Ye Yaille Chere by Raymond Francois
  5. Lyrics by Neal P


Anthology Of American Folk Music Volume Two: Social Music (Folkways, 1967)
Les Cajuns Best Of 2002 Les Triomphes De La Country Volume 12 (Habana, 2002)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
The Best Of Cajun & Zydeco (Not Now, 2010)
The Very Best of Cajun: La Stomp Creole, Vol. 1 (Viper, 2016)