Description : 78s recorded from the collections of Joe Bussard, Ron Brown, and others...; Early American Cajun Music, Yazoo cd 2042
The 1920s and 30s were a period of unequalled recording of the musical heritage of our country! The phonograph was finding its way into many homes, and people wanted to hear local music. With nothing more than the scant, vague promise that a furniture store, for example, could sell a few hundred copies of a local musician's songs, recording companies like Victor, Vocalion, Brunswick, Columbia, Bluebird, and Paramount sent engineers and recording equipment to outposts like New Orleans, San Antonio, Memphis, and Atlanta, or a bus ticket north to headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, Chicago, Richmond, Indiana, Grafton, Wisconsin, etc., and Cajun musicians were among the bunch to record alongside commercial artists like Jimmie Rodgers, jazz greats like Johnny Dodds, ragtime guitarists like Blind Blake, ladies of the blues like Bessie Smith, etc. And the Library of Congress had a mandate to go everywhere and record the story of the music people made when it looked to some like the world was going to end in the Great Depression, dust storms at home, and a world war brewing abroad! It was in that kind of setting that the recordings above were made, and they constitute a windfall. A fortunate, unique record of cultural history, with songs of joy and pride and common woes. A time of great music whose influence we cannot forget. Alright already, back to the roots!
Included : Wayne Perry's astonishing fiddle! Segura Brothers tearing it up on accordion and vocal, from a December 16, 1928 session in New Orleans! Haunting, uncommonly tender folk music from fiddler Delma Lachney, vocalist Blind Uncle Gaspard, and accordion player John Bertrand.
Douglas Bellard, a black fiddler, was the playing partner of the great Amédé Ardoin before Ardoin decided to go with fiddler Dennis McGee, a white man who could offer him more protection when playing before crowds in those racially segregated days. Rumors and myths abound...Here Douglas is accompanied by Kirby Riley, accordion. These songs by Bellard and Riley are extremely rare! They are the basis of songs done by people like Austin Pitre, Bois Sec and Canray, Iry Lejeune, and others.
Angelas LeJeune was one of the most influential of the early Cajun accordion players. His repertoire passed down to his younger cousin Iry LeJeune, who made big hits with his reworkings of tunes by Angelas and Amédé Ardoin in the late 1940s, early 1950s. One listen to the Vieille Valse de la Louisiane, especially the bridge or "turn," will show what a powerful player he was. Brilliant! His Valse de la Veuve (aka La Fille de la Veuve) is the same tune as Jolie Blonde but with a different story. It looks like in the 20s and 30s, the "standards" were still "under construction," with lots of songs having multiple titles and alternate lyrics.
See Recording Activity in New Orleans in the 'Twenties for an interesting rundown of the diversity captured at just one of the outposts recording music at that time. I would like to hear Harrington, Landry and Steward, T'auras du Regret, and the Creole Stomp, from the December 1929 Columbia/Okeh sessions recorded in New Orleans!
Lomax made a field trip to southwest Louisiana in 1934, where he recorded Wayne Perry. He also recorded Edier Segura's playful tune, Joe Feraille, sung with a fiddle accompaniment, c'est tout! It seems petit Joe Feraille is a hustler who trades his wife for a barrel of pecans, only to have her return to him soon after the bargain for a repeat con on another poor soul. He trades her again for corn, peanuts next time, and so on. C'est ca il a dit dans la chanson!
Oscar "Slim" Doucet, the accordion player, does two songs here with a man named Chester Hawkins on guitar: Waxia (Wauksha) Special (reprised in splendid fashion by Les Freres Michot on their new CD La Roue qui Pend!); and Chere Yeux Noirs, not to be confused with 'Tit Yeux Noirs by Lawrence Walker. Guidry Brothers do La Valse du Mariage (also reprised by Les Freres Michot!).
Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc of the Rayne community led a little string band called the Rayne Bo Ramblers through Les Filles de St. Martin, an early version of the popular Choupique Two Step associated with Nathan Abshire.
Columbus "Boy" Fruge from Arnaudville was a contemporary and friend of Moise Robin. He recorded four songs: the famous Saute Crapaud (Jump Toad), not included here due to sound quality, and the three included here. The Point Claire Blues turns out to be an early version of a song I had previously associated with Nathan Abshire, The Lemonade Song.
One step, not two, by the great, great Amédé Ardoin, a black accordion player regarded as one of the fathers of the Creole music style, the roots of Zydeco! What intensity!
Cleoma Falcon with her brother Clifford Breaux are heard on a couple of "American" tunes, J'Suis Partis sur le Grand Chemin Tres Disatisfé (Going Down the Road Feeling Bad), and Continuez Sonner (Keep Knocking but You Can't Come In)! It just goes to show how Cajun music in the 20s and 30s was a real melting pot of styles and influences. For such an isolated group as the Cajuns, their musicians sure were tuned in to the popular music of the day. Clifford sings jazz-like scat on Continuez Sonner! But you could still hear really old sounds dating far back even while these modern influences were at work. And when Cajun musicians took from the popular culture of the day, you could be sure they'd put their own stamp on it and give it a unique twist, making it their own.
By the mid- to late 1930s a new wave made its way into Cajun music with a string band sound influenced by country and Western Swing music coming in from the influx of Texans, etc. coming to Louisiana for its first big oil boom! Early adopters represented here include Dudley and James Fawvor, J.B. Fusilier (Miller's Merrymakers), and Leo Soileau.
The lovely Creole Waltz done by the Favors has the lyrics associated later with Tout Les Deux Pour la Meme (Both for the Same) by Lawrence Walker. You can hear a great version of this tune on the Varise Conner cd mentioned up above. You are Little and You are Cute is of course the well-loved T'es Petite et T'es Mignonne.
J.B. Fusilier contributed some of the standards of the Cajun music repertoire. He was the first to record Chere Tout Toute under that title, though Angelas LeJeune also uses the tune in one of his recordings. He was the first to record the Lake Arthur Stomp under that title. Authorship of the Lake Arthur Stomp is ascribed to the remarkable fiddler Varise Conner, whose music is featured in a tribute earlier on this Web site. Parts of the tune also appear in the recordings of Dennis McGee. Fusilier moved to Lake Arthur so that he could play with Varise Conner, and they played dances during some of the leanest days of the Depression. J.B. played both fiddle and accordion. On a side note, it was J.B. Fusilier accompanying Iry LeJeune home from a dance when the two had a flat tire and pulled off the road to fix it. A passing car struck and killed Iry and put J.B. in the hospital! Varise Conner remembers his friendship with Fusilier in a touching interview on the Louisiana Folk Masters cd. Also, Miller' s Merrymakers were led by a guitarist named Beethoven Miller and another guitarist named Preston Manuel. Manuel is featured on this Web site with the KEUN Mamou Hour Cajun Band and also appears with Ambrose Thibodeaux. Small world!
The great fiddler Leo Soileau along with Maius (Mayeus?) Lafleur, later Moise Robin, on accordion is thought to be the second Cajun musician to record, just weeks following Joe Falcon and Cleoma Breaux. Those recordings are legendary! Here we feature some of his later recordings with his string bands the Rhythm Boys and the Four Aces. Frankie and Johnny, popularized by Jimmie Rodgers, gets an instrumental treatment with a lot of attitude! Hear the shouts of his band members telling him to "make it hot, Leo!" Louisiana Blues and La Bonne Valse epitomize Soileau's soulful, mournful sound. Then Bing Crosby's Little Dutch Mill and the sentimental Beautiful Mary show how pop tunes wove their way into the music. Soileau retired from music in the 1940s with the demise of the string band sound.
The Hackberry Ramblers were formed in the string band environment of the 1930s by Luderin Darbonne on fiddle and Edwin Duhon on guitar and various instruments, and an amazing vocalist named Lennis Sonnier. They were the first to record the song Jolie Blonde under that title, and they had an a remarkable run of popularity. They were the first Cajun band to play the bandstand standing up, first to use amplification in their dances. They ran their Model T Ford battery during the dance with cable into the hall to electrify the fais do-do!
Pic of Wayne Perry, Indian Bayou, LA, recorded by John Lomax for Library of Congress. Look how he holds his bow! Is he into it? (Source: LOC American Memory)
Description : enregistrements 78 tours des collections de Joe Bussard, Ron Brown, et autres… ; Early American Cajun Music, CD 2042 de Yazoo
(se reporter au répertoire des chansons ci-dessus)
Les années 20 et 30 étaient une période d'enregistrement incomparable pour l'héritage musical de notre pays ! Le phonographe entrait dans beaucoup de maisons, et les gens voulaient entendre de la musique locale. Avec la vague promesse aussi limitée qu'un marchand de meubles, par exemple, de vendre quelques centaines d’exemplaires des chansons d'un musicien du pays, enregistrant avec des compagnies comme Victor, Vocalion, Brunswick, Colombia, Bluebird (L’oiseau bleu), et Paramount qui envoyaient des ingénieurs et des appareils de contrôle aux avant-postes comme en Nouvelle-Orléans, à San Antonio, Memphis, et Atlanta, ou un ticket d'autobus aux sièges sociaux à Camden, New Jersey, Chicago, Richmond, Indiana, Grafton, Wisconsin, etc., les musiciens Cajuns étaient parmi le groupe à enregistrer à côté des créateurs publicitaires comme Jimmie Rodgers, des grands du jazz comme Johnny Dodds, des guitaristes de ragtime comme Blind Blake (Blake aveugle), des Dames du blues comme Bessie Smith, etc. La bibliothèque du Congrès avait un mandat pour aller partout enregistrer l'histoire des musiciens au moment où certains regardaient comment le monde allait finir dans la grande dépression, qui allait emporter la maison, et dans une guerre mondiale se passant à l'étranger ! C’est dans cette aimable ambiance que les enregistrements ci-dessus ont été faits. Ils constituent autant de témoignages d’une époque. C’est une chance unique d’avoir des disques retraçant l'histoire culturelle d’une époque à travers des chansons où l’on retrouve la joie, la fierté et les soucis communs. Une période de grande musique qui exerce toujours son influence, comme un retour aux racines.
Inclus : L’étonnant violon de Wayne Perry ! Les Frères Segura aux déchirants accents de l'accordéon et des voix, d'une session du 16 décembre 1928 à la Nouvelle-Orléans ! Envoutement inhabituel d’une musique folklorique qu'offre le violoniste Delma Lachney, le chanteur aveugle Oncle Gaspard, et l’accordéoniste John Bertrand.
Douglas Bellard, un violoniste noir, était le partenaire du grand Amédé Ardoin avant qu'Ardoin ait décidé de s’associer au violoniste Dennis McGee, un homme blanc qui pourrait lui offrir plus de protection en jouant devant des foules, en présence de tensions raciales isolées. Les rumeurs et les mythes abondent… ici Douglas est accompagné de Kirby Riley à l’accordéon. Les chansons interprétées par Bellard et Riley sont extrêmement rares ! Ils sont la base des chansons faites par des personnes comme Austin Pitre, Bois sec et Canray, Iry Lejeune, et d'autres.
Angelas LeJeune était un des plus influents et des tous premiers joueurs d'accordéon Cajun. Son répertoire a été transmis à son plus jeune cousin Iry LeJeune, qui a emporté des succès avec ses variations sur des airs d’Angelas et d'Amédé Ardoin vers la fin des années 40 et le début des années 50. L’écoute de Vieilles Valses de la Louisiane, en particulier le « pont » ou le « tour, » montrera ce qu'était un joueur puissant et brillant ! Sa Valse de la Veuve (Aka, La Fille de la Veuve) est le même air que la Jolie blonde, mais avec une histoire différente. Il ressemble aux années 20 et 30, les « normes » étaient toujours « en construction » avec un bon nombre de chansons ayant des titres multiples et un lyrisme alternatif.