It has proved difficult to find something on Happy Fats Leroy LeBlanc, although he has been a very popular figure in Louisiana during an half-century. Below is a biography published on the net by All Music (Jason Ankeny). Little did Gilbert and Carrie LeBlanc know, when their baby boy was born on January 30, 1915, that their cheerfully named child would become one of Louisiana’s most recognized Cajun musicians. The music of Happy Fats remains instrumental in both of the preservation and celebration of his native Cajun culture, despite the damage inflicted by a series of race-baiting protest records cut at the peak of the civil rights movement. Born Leroy LeBlanc in Rayne, Acadia Parish, LA, on January 30, 1915, Fats was a self-taught musician who began his professional career at 17 when he began playing accordion in Cajun hillbilly bands led by Amédé Breaux and Joe Falcon. In 1935, he formed his own group, the Rayne-Bo Ramblers, which starred the talents of Eric Arceneaux among others. And regularly headlined the local OST Club. Fats signed to RCA Victor in 1936. In 1937, he played alongside Doc Guidry, and Uncle Ambrose Thibodeaux. Other associates were Luderin Darbonne, Pee Wee Broussard, Doc Guidry, « Papa Cairo » Lamperez, Rex Champagne, and Crawford J. Vincent. He was invited and spoke on many radio stations including: KANE, KEUN, KUOH, KROF, and others. In 1940 he scored his first significant hit, « La Veuve de la Coulee » which featured then-unknown fiddler Harry Choates. The Rayne-Bo Ramblers also served as a springboard for Cajun accordion legend Nathan Abshire in 1935 (« La valse de Riceville« ). Other popular Fats recordings include the traditional « Allons dance Colinda, » « La Vieux de Accordion, » and « Mon Bon Vieux Mari. » Few of his efforts earned national attention, but within south Louisiana he was a superstar, and in the early ’50s even hosted a weekday morning radio show on Lafayette station KVOL. In 1966, however, Fats was the subject of national controversy when he signed to producer Jay D. Miller’s segregationist Reb Rebel label to record the underground smash « Dear Mr. President, » a spoken word condemnation of Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights policies that sold over 200,000 copies despite its appalling racism. « We didn’t have any problems with that, not at all, » Fats maintained in an interview. « 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. » The commercial success of « Dear Mr. President » launched a series of similarly poisonous Fats efforts including « Birthday Thank You (Tommy from Viet Nam), » « A Victim of the Big Mess (Called the Great Society), » « The Story of the Po’ Folks and the New Dealers, » and « Vote Wallace » in ’72. » After a long battle with diabetes, Fats died on February 23, 1988. Read the rest of this entry »
Nadine Landry & Stephen « Sammy » Lind « Granddad’s Favorite» (2010)
A duet (Nadine on vocal and guitar, Stephen on banjo and fiddle) who offer a cajun pot-pourri of old, traditional songs as well as personal compositions. I like Nadine’s high-pitched vocal in « Parlez-nous A Boire » (Invite us to drink), or the good « Les Oiseaux Vont Chanter » (The birds are going to sing). I picked up « Un Ange Pour Toute La Louisiane» (An angel for all Louisiana) too, and the fine instrumental fiddle-led « Brown’s Dream ». Really don’t know if they are used musicians on CD, but felt it a bit monotonous in term of paces and rhythm guitar styling. Maybe a duet to look for in the future.
Eileen Jewell presents Butcher Holler « A Tribute To Loretta Lynn » Signature Sounds (2010)
This is a difficult task of paying tribute to an icon of Country music of the ’70s to the ’90s, but Eileen Jewell (vocal) does it fairly well. Actually her versions of Lynn’s songs may even sound better than the originals, according to Jack Dumery ! I believe him, me being not familiar with Loretta Lynn’s music. Anyway, I particularly liked « Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind »), with Eileen’s assured vocal over a crisp lead-guitar. Other goodies do include « I’m A Honky Tonk Girl », with love gone wrong lyrics which seem suited to Loretta’s image. Let’s also take a listen to the nice shuffler « A Man I Hardly Know » or the good « Deep As Your Pocket », and I’m ending with « You’re Lookin’ At Country », a great Honky tonk song in its own right. A very fine CD, you surely enjoy if you ever decide to pick it.
Pokey Lafarge & Soul City Three « River Boat Soul » Free Dirt Records (2010). Takoma Park, MD
This is entirely something else. Back to roots music and « jazz manouche ». Pokey and his band do offer a large amount of happy old-time music, be it traditional songs (« Claude Jones » or « Sweet Potato Blues ») or own compositions like « Daffodil Blues ». I felt like their sound of traditional instruments, like kazoo, mouth harp, banjo and acoustic guitar. All selections are taken at brisk tempos, even the blues songs. I noticed the slower « Bag Of Bones », full of laziness. A very nice record I recommend to old-time music lovers. But the other people will enjoy it too !
This is Jack Dumery’s new chronicle. Jack kindly chose the CDs and sent them , allowing me to review them with an open ear. And I found in the batch some real treasures in various styles, honky tonk, cajun or gospel hillbilly. Although I don’t have Jack’s writing abilities to English, I hope to pass round the pleasure I had discovering the CDs.
Jack left, Xavier (bopping editor) right - Attignat, 2008
Here we go…
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Douglas James « Doug » Kershaw was born on January 24 of 1936 on a houseboat near Tiel Ridge, Louisiana – a tiny island off the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Russell Lee « Rusty » Kershaw was born on 2 February 1938. Their childhood was difficult, and their father committed suicide when Doug was seven, soon after the family moved to Crowley. Their older brother Nelson « Pee Wee » Kershaw formed a band called the Continental Playboys, which the younger boys would later join. Rusty played rhythm guitar, while Doug began to excel on fiddle (he eventually claimed to have mastered 29 instruments). The band became popular and was appearing on KLPC-TV in 1953, alongside Jimmy Newman and Wiley Barkdull. Read the rest of this entry »
HARRY CHOATES (1922-1951)
Harry Choates’ musical career differs somewhat from most Cajun artists of the period due to his varied styles, notably that of Western swing and Honky tonk. All of his music was professionnally driven by a smooth fiddle (borrowed and never returned!) that cut through a unique musical home-grown output that is today highly sought after by collectors and listeners alike, who seek to find the music behind one of the originators of modern-day Cajun music.
Tibby Edwards (rn Edwin Thibodeaux) was born in Garland, Louisiana in March 29th, 1935. His thorough grip of cajun music, his native idiom, can be heard on « C’est Si Tout » which he composed with his longtime co-writer Leon Tassin. Read the rest of this entry »
Howdy folks! Beginnnig a New Year (and nearly two years of this site) with my Bopping wishes and a lot of good hillbilly music, here are BADEAUX (rn Ellas ) & THE LOUISIANA ACES. It’s Cajun cut during the ’80s, « I Can Live A Better Life« . Up onto North in Mississipi with MACK HAMILTON. He had records on Diamond and Feature out of Jackson. Here I’ve chosen the stomping medium tempo Honky tonk « Will You Will Or Will You Won’t« .
RICKY RIDDLE was a native of Rector, Arkansas (as Skeets McDonald), and as the former, moved with family during the ’30s to Detroit. Early ’50s saw him entertaining in Nashville, and recording his first sides (moderate success) for the Tennessee label (see elsewhere for the label’s story). In 1954, he had switched to M-G-M and cut « Steamboat Boogie« , with Don Helms, ex-Drifting Cowboys, on steel-guitar. The words « Steamboat boogie / Rock, rock » are contemporary to Bill Haley’s « Rock Around The Clock », and Riddle pursued in the same vein on Coral and Decca in 1955-56
Billboard advert, 1954
HAWKSHAW HAWKINS had several hits on King when he stopped in 1954 on RCA-Victor. As Riddle, he also used the new trend in « Waitin’ For My Baby (Rock, Rock) ». Nice uptempo Bopper, almost Rockabilly.
Now a real rarity by RED MOORE, about whom nothing is known. He revived on his own label, Red (located North in Iowa), the old traditional « Crawdad Song » during the late ’50s.
Finally way up North with Chester Burnett, aka HOWLING WOLF, for a classic Chicago Rocking Blues from 1961, « Little Baby » (Hubert Sumlin on lead guitar). Enjoy the selections!
January 2nd. Someone did visit the site and gave me the link to RED MOORE. Here it is:http://www.rockabillyhall.com/RedMoore1.html
Hello folks, here I am again, back in wonderful Vallée du Rhône (where I lived for more than 40 years): Roman monuments, wines, goat cheeses, near Lyon, the second city of France (rivalling Marseille). Here in Vienne we have one of the foremost Jazz Festivals all around Europe (1rst fortnight of July), held in a marvelous Roman theater (fantastic acoustic!). Among all artists will be this year Joe Cocker – he’s not a Hillbilly yet, you know, but one of the truly Soulful artists ever. The show is booked…
All my records are still in boxes, and the library has yet to be set up, later this Summer. So this early July fortnite will be made up of tunes stored on my Macintosch for accidental use like this one. No label pictures, no spare time left to research in my files, only the music. After all, it’s only music we all love that got importance, isn’t?
Here we go.First from Indiana (Ruby label) comes WALTER SCOTT and the fine Hillbilly bop « I’m Walkin’ Out » (1956) complete with swirling fiddles and steel-guitar. Then to Texas, I think (I may be wrong!), with the great HYLO BROWN, whose career was firmly dept in Bluegrass but flirted with Hillbilly at times. I’ve chosen his 1951 rendition of « Lonesome Road Blues » (Four Star). Down in Louisiana, here comes the Pope of Cajun accordion, NATHAN ABSHIRE and one of his first records (although he had already recorded in 1939) under his name, the fine instrumental « Lu Lu Boogie » (Khoury’s label, 1947). On to Nashville, and JIMMY MARTIN, one of the founding members of the Bluegrass style (he’s been once guitar player for Bill Monroe). The song herein is Bluegrass, indeed, but Jimmy has hiccups in his voice…that predate (in my mind anyway) Rockabilly! « Hop, Skip and Wobble » (Decca) Complete with fiddle, banjo, string-bass. Back to the real roots of Hillbilly of the Thirties: (Tom) DARBY & (Jimmy) TARLTON – the haunting « Sweet Sarah Blues » (may be from 1928? 1931? I cannot verify at the moment). Great, strange vocal, and wild dobro.
We finished with two very different tunes, separated by at least 50 years. BIG MACEO (Merryweather) was a fine piano player and intimate vocalist of Chicago in the early 40s. Hear his « I Got The Blues » (backed by Tampa Red on the fluid electric guitar). Then MAURA O’CONNELL (late 1990′s) and the beautiful (both melody and lyrics) « It’s A Beautiful Day ». Enjoy, folks!
Howdy folks! I am moving on June 11th. So, before my entire library/computer is set up, I may be out ’till this end of June. I’ll do my best to give you some more music in the meantime.
We begin with JAMES O’ GWYNN, Star of the Louisiana Hayride, here in 1955 (Azalea label) with the fine, amusing « Ready for Freddy ». Great hillbilly phrasing. Go ahead with Cincinnati, Ohio, KING’s recording artist BOBBY GROVE. Fine « No parking Here » (double-entendre lyrics!) with the cream of Ohio musicians backing. Then down South. You are for a treat…BADEAUX & LOUISIANA ACES, 1962 (Swallow label) and the classic « The Back Door » – even for me, French speaker, the words aren’t easy to understand. Honky tonk life…Back to Texas with GLEN REEVES and « That’ll be love » (Decca), good Hillbilly bop/Honky Tonk from 1956. 1936, Dallas, LEON SELPH and « Swing Baby Swing » (Decca)(proto-Hillbilly Bop!). A real phenomenon: ROD MORRIS. Although he had had a recording career (Capitol among other labels – he came originally from Missouri), he was a songwriter. Here he is singing a song taken from Americana tradition about trains and drivers, « The Ghost of Casey Jones », a mix-up of Rockabilly/Rock’n'Roll (Ludwig label, 1958).
Leon Selph & Blue Ridge Playboys, 1936
Amos Milburn & Chickenshakers, 1956
As a bonus, a great wildie, AMOS MIBURN pounds the 88-keys on « Amo’s Boogie » (Aladdin, September 1946) – on the West Coast. Enjoy the music, comments welcome. Bye…