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 »
Howdy folks! This is maybe the last fortnight I’ll be posting before mid-February, as I am moving; so all CDs and material are stored. ’till then, another batch of goodies.
Who came first? I’d assume JOHNNY BOND, who penned « Drink Up And Go Home » along with Joe Maphis – whose version was untraceable. Instead I found 1955-56 FREDDIE HART‘s, the demo by CARL PERKINS (cut 1957, with brother Jay B. on duet vocal, unissued until the ’80s), then a ’60s version by the Human Jukebox, SLEEPY LA BEFF. Hear them 3 versions, whose I include the lyrics below of.
You sit there a-crying, crying in your beer
You say you’ve got troubles, my friend listen here
Don’t tell me your troubles got enough of my own
Be thankful you’re living, drink up and go home
I’m fresh out of prison, six years in the pen
Lost my wife and family, no one to call friend
Don’t tell me your troubles, got enough of my own
Be thankful you’re living, drink up and go home
Back there sets a blind man, so blind he can’t see
Yet he’s not complaining, why should you or me?
Don’t tell me your troubles, got enough of my own
Be thankful you’re living, drink up and go home
Then we go to a certain HAROLD ZAHNER, backed by Johnny Smith and the Missouri Two, on the Missouri Smith label, who offers a good version of « Shake Baby Shake« . Is this the Rock’n'Roll classic (Johnny O’Keefe, Jesse Lee Turner or the Killer), I don’t know. Full of rural energy anyhow. BILL CHAMBERS do come with the good « She’s Treatin’ Me Bad » on the Sun-Nell label (a RCA custom pressing of 1958), and we come to an end with VIRGEL BOZMAN (also BOZEMAN) for the fine little classic « Blues For Oklahoma » on his own O.T. label (# 109).
This O.T. label was originally based in Westlake, a small town on Highway 10 in the Southwestern corner of Louisiana. The initials O.T. stood for Oklahoma Tornadoes, a group run by Virgel that had recorded for Bill Quinn’s Gold Star label. Among the members of this short lived, but important band, were Bennie Hess, and Cajun fiddler extraordinaire Floyd Le Blanc. . His brother, Harmon recorded Rockabilly on the Texas Sarg label. Another Bozman O.T. release, when the label was relocated to San Antonio, is the fine, more Western Swing in style, « Troubles, Troubles » (# 113), backed by the Circle C Boys. It’s driven along by a bass player who enjoys himself enormously.
The collector CDs of the Dutchman do contain vintage gems. Here we have Arvis McRae & the Texas Keys for the marvelous « Me And My Love« . Fine fiddle and guitar solos. Echo on vocal. Great rural Hillbilly Bop! It comes from Texarkana on the Ranger label.
Then in Virginia for a rare instrumental on mandolin by Phebel Wright, « Lint Head Stomp« . Cut for Essex Records in 1946. It’s a tour de force: who influenced Bill Monroe? Wright appeared later (gospel recordings) on a Bryte EP.
On the Yolk label (Indianapolis), we are now turning to Rockabilly with Lloyd Harp and « Slow Boogie Rock« .
Less and less known now are Earl Wright and « Married Man Blues« or Sid Triplett’s « Married Life Blues » – surely two songs aimed at married men!
Finally on the Louisiana Big Howdy label (1960′s?), the Weems Brothers and Billy Still for « Don’t Turn God Away« .
Many rare selections this time. I hope you enjoy every tune. Comments welcome!
Howdy, folks! I didn’t have a particular « theme » chosing the selections this time (as I did sometimes in the past): just a few songs I like at the moment.
Early September I posted something about the ubiquitous Mr. DIXON. Since then, I did not find something new on him, be it at hillbilly-music.com or with google, under his 3 aliases (Walter, Mason, or Ted). There is even on Youtube a bishop named Walter Dixon, and I wonder if this is the same person! I even found a Mason Dixon Country 45 on ebay. This time you will be exposed to a 1961 rendition for the Alabama based REED label, and a great shuffle by MASON DIXON, « Hello Memphis« .
Staying in the South with a minor classic by SPECK & DOYLE , the Wright Brothers, « Music to my ear » on the Columbus, Georgia based strangely named SYRUP BUCKET label. A nice guitar, a medium beat for this relaxed Rockabilly/Hillbilly Bop from 1959.
On to, probably, Texas, with a fast romper by JIMMY STONE on the IMPERIAL label from 1951, « Midnight Boogie« . I’ve never heard Stone had another record, but what’s this one? Entertaining lyrics, and most of all, a wild bluesy Rockabilly guitar! Who may the player be? Fine piano and even a short fiddle solo, Texas style. We are pursuing the musical journey to Indiana with a very young GAYLE GRIFFITH (he was fourteen when he cut his solitary record) and the out-and-out romper « Rockin’ And A Knockin’ » for the EMERALD label, from 1954. Griffith was at one time associated with WFBM Indiana Hoedown, although despite this promising first platter, he seems to have soon disappeared from the music scene.
Billboard 1951 advert for "Drifting Texas Sand"
Now to California for the Louisiana-born EDDIE KIRK (1919-1997), who was consistently working with the Los Angeles musicians’ cream for CAPITOL records. Here he delivers a fine rendering of the 1936 Tune Wranglers‘ classic (also cut around the same time as Kirk by Webb Pierce) « Drifting Texas Sand » (Capitol F 1591). The backing is sympathetic, although ordinary. Harmonica player could be George Bamby, who cut with, among others, Johnny Bond.
As a bonus, we go to an end in Chicago with the underrated LITTLE MAC SIMMONS, singer-harmonica player (altho’ no harp heard here) and the frantic (great piano throughout, with usual Honking saxes, and a nice guitar) « Drivin’ Wheel » (PALOS label) from 1961.
I hope you enjoy the selections. Don’t miss the other « regular » posts: recently Bopping had had Jack Bradshaw story, the Daffan label, Roy Hall and Riley Crabtree, to name just a few. Not to mention in the « hillbilly profile » section, Chuck Murphy. Till then, bye!
As usual, pictures from various sources. Excellent Terry E. Gordon’s Rockin’ Country Style site, or ebay. Sounds from my collection, or various compilations. I can name for every track who provided me! BUT you CAN download everything!
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…
The Lonesome Drifter was born Thomas Johnson. His recording of « Eager Boy » on Mira Smith’s K record label is one of the most sought-after records among Rockabilly fans.
In tbe late 50s, Thomas, an established Hillbilly performer, got word of a new recording company, Ram records, that had just opened for business in Shreveport, 70 miles from his home in Monroe, Louisiana. Johnson recalls that first release for Ram: « I had been to Mira Smith’s studio to record and she asked me what name I wanted on the rcord. I didn’t want Thomas Johnson. As I was driving back to Monroe tbat night I thought about one of my idols, Hank Williams, and he had made records as ‘Luke The Drifter’. I was sort of a rambling man in those days, so when I got to Minden, it came to me, I got out of the car and phoned Mira and said « Call me the Lonesome Drifter ».
« Eager Boy » and « Teardrop Valley » were released in 1958 on K records, a subsidiary of Ram, named after Mira’s sister. On « Eager Boy » Thomas’ friend Tom Bonnet, who had accompanied him to the studio, plays the lead guitar. The success of the flip, « Teardrop Valley », featuring Shreveport musician George Mercer on lead guitar, secured the Lonesome Drifter his wish to appear on the Louisiana Hayride.
Johnson was born on 6 December 1931 on a cotton farm in Bastrop,Louisiana. As a youth he worked as a water boy for the cotton pickers on the pantation and recalls hearing his first blues music while watching on old black man playing a slack string guitar outside a Bastrop general store. Other influences included Jimmie Rodgers and Bill Monroe,and bluegrass music was the foundation of his style.
Johnson was not a professional musician and worked in the steel business as an erector and welder and this took him as far afield as Chicago and Kansas City. Today Johnson lives quietly in Monroe where he owns a small recording studio in which he records artists in the gospel music field.
Collector LP (NL)
Notes by Ray Topping to Ace 818 CD « Shreveport High Steppers »
He was, after Iry LeJeune, too soon deceased (in 1955), the pope of traditional Cajun accordion, and, today, he remains a reference for numerous artists such as Jo-El Sonnier or, even more recently, Wilson Savoy, lead accordionist for the Pine Leaf Boys. He held a dominating position in the 70’s during the big revival of Cajun music, due to his very long association with the Balfa Brothers (Dewey, Rodney and Will). His most-widely known track, « Pine grove blues », first put on wax in 1949, and re-recorded several times later on, was a big regional hit, and even made a mark on people such as Steve Cropper and on the debuts of Memphis soul music : « Last night » by the Markeys is directly inspired from it. Read the rest of this entry »