BEAR FAMILY IN CAJUN COUNTRY
Historic Recordings Restored
With the release of its 3 cd box set Acadian All Star Special, Bear Family Records not only draws attention to an often overlooked area of country music , Cajun, but also spotlights the work of one of its iconic figures, J. D. Miller.
VARIOUS ARTISTS ACADIAN ALL STAR SPECIAL
The Pioneering Cajun Recordings of J. D. Miller
(Bear Family BCD 17206 CK)
This box set, featuring 78 tracks, is another Bear Family ground-breaking release that brings together some of the rarest Cajun recordings ever made – so rare, in fact, that only a few copies exist of most of them! And very few of them ever saw the light of day on 45, EP or LP. This collection presents the dawn of modern Cajun music.
Joseph Delton ‘J.D.’ Miller – born in Iota, Louisiana – was hooked on music when his father gave him a guitar and a Gene Autry songbook in his early teens and, winning a local talent contest, earned himself a 15 minute radio show every Saturday on KPLC in Lake Charles. Then, when the family moved to Crowley in 1937, he soon became caught in the local music scene and played his first dance with the Breaux Brothers. Next he joined forces with Hank Redlich (later to become his brother-in-law) and created a trio called The Musical Aces before moving on to join the Daylight Creepers band. He first recorded, in 1938, as a member of the Four Aces (a Cajun band, not the post-war pop vocal group), later renamed as the Original Aces who further increased their popularity when their took over daily KPLC radio show from western swing band Cliff Bruner and the Texas Wanderers. Miller acknowledges Bruner as probably his greatest influence.
After the war Miller married Georgia Sonnier, the daughter of accordion player Livaudais ‘Lee’ Sonnier, and diversified his business interests by joining forces with his father-in-law in an electrical contracting business, becoming a housing director for the city of Crowley and ownership of the El Toro Club on the outskirts of town. He had his own radio show, Stairway To The Stars on KSIG and involvement with a live, locally networked show Louisiana Jamboree. He also moved into recording artists and believed that he owned the first tape recorder sold in the state of Louisiana.
Although J. D. Miller recorded at many of the studios that he had built in the Crowley area, most of the tracks in this collection were recorded in studio at his home and, with business acumen, set up his own publishing company and label. As he explains, a small independent record label couldn’t support the advertising and distribution necessary to create a hit record, so he “hoped that the songs and records would be picked up by the major companies”. Of course things changed when he write one of country music’s all-time classics It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, the chart-topping hit for Kitty Wells in 1952.
Acadian All Star Special concentrates on Miller’s early recordings and his historic appearance as an independent record producer after World War II with releases on his Feature and Fais Do Do labels. From 1946 to 1959, J.D. Miller released all forms of French language records, from the beautiful fiddle and guitar records of Oran ‘Doc’ Guidry and Leroy ‘Happy Fats’ Leblanc to the raucous recordings of Robert Bertrand and the Lake Charles Playboys. There’s also the first recordings of Jimmy C. Newman alongside music by Happy, Doc & The Boys, Lee Sonnier & His Acadian All Stars, Jimmy Choates & His Melody Boys, Pee Wee Broussard & His Melody Boys, Amidie Breaux & The Acadian Aces, Louie Spell & His French Serenaders, Abe Manuel & His Louisiana Hillbillies and Austin Pete & The Louisiana Rhythmaires and others. Among the songs, besides the familiar Jolie Blond, there’s Terry Clement‘s original version of Diggy Liggy Lo, and Papa Cairo‘s Big Texas, the song that Hank Williams adapted into the one Cajun song everyone knows, Jambalaya. (Complete track details are listed below).
This is a box set that’s been years in the making. According to Bear Family Records founder Richard Weize, “it took ages to figure out exactly how many classic Cajun recordings had been made by legendary record producer J.D. Miller in the 1940s and ’50s, and then it took even longer to find them and painstakingly restore the sound.” Finally, Cajun music expert Lyle Ferbrache tried to track down as many of the survivors and relatives as possible, coming up with information for the accompanying 80 page, hardcover book that provides artist biographical and recording sessions details alongside articles on Miller and the music as well as photographs that are as rare as the recordings themselves
This is a classic roots collection that only Bear Family Records can create and has already won the acclaim of the Cajun community. As Lyle Ferbrache reported back to Bear Family: “I wanted to let you know that the Cajun people that have got a free box set have called and raved about the beauty of the set. A few of them have broke down and cried, saying they have never seen anything about Cajuns being so beautiful. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking a chance on someone you never heard of and giving me the chance to finish (earlier Cajun researcher) Bruce Bastin’s legacy. Bear Family with this box set has saved a whole catalog of music that was about ready to fall off a cliff.”
Other Bear Family Cajun releases:
HARRY CHOATES: Devil In The Bayou (Gold Star recordings) (2 cd digipac) – BCD 16355 BH
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Jole Blon (cd digipac) – BCD 16618 AJ
VARIOUS ARTISTS – ACADIAN ALL STAR SPECIAL (track details):
Disc One – HAPPY, DOC & THE BOYS: La Cravat • Gabriel Waltz • Don’t Hang Around • My Sweetheart’s My Buddy’s Wife • Setre Chandelle • Allons Dance Colinda • Is It Too Late To Cry • Somehow You Don’t Care • LEE SONNIER & HIS ACADIAN ALL STARS: Dans Les Grand Meche • Chere Catan • LeBLANC & ADAMS AND THE VERMILLION PLAY BOYS: Chere Petite Brun • Vermillion Two Step • HAPPY, DOC & THE BOYS: Fais Do Do Breakdown • Chere Cherie • New Jolie Blond • Dans La Platin • JIMMY DURBIN & THE COUNTRY BOYS: Drunkard Waltz • Fais Do Do Two Step • JIMMY CHOATES & HIS MELODY BOYS: Chere Meon • Petite Negress • LEE SONNIER & HIS ACADIAN ALL STARS: La Blues De Cajin • Chere Eci Et Cher Laba • HAPPY, DOC & THE BOYS: Bayou La- Fourche • Sothe Fermon • VETERAN PLAYBOYS: Eunice Waltz • Chinaball Special
Disc Two – AUSTIN PETE & HIS EVANGELINE PLAYBOYS: Chatatinia Waltz • Evangeline Playboys Special • CHUCK GUILLORY & BOYS: Oakdale Waltz • Walfus Two Step • CHUCK GUILLORY & RHYTHM BOYS: Chuck’s Waltz • Teiyut Two Step • LEE SONNIER & HIS ACADIAN ALL STARS: War Widow Waltz • Cankton Two Step • AUSTIN PETE & HIS EVANGELINE PLAYBOYS: High Point Two Step • Redell Waltz • HAPPY & DOCTOR AND THE HADACOL BOYS: La Valse De Hadacol • Crowley Two Step • AMIDIE BREAUX & THE ACADIAN ACES: Jole Blonde • Acadian Two Step • Criminal Waltz • Poor Hobo • ALDUS ROGER & LAFAYETTE PLAYBOYS: The Lafayette Playboys Waltz • Hix Wagon Wheel Special • CLEVELAND MIRE & THE JOLLY BOYS: Prison Waltz • Hudson Breakdown • LIONEL CORMIER & HIS SUNDOWN PLAYBOYS: Welcome Club Waltz • Sundown Playboys Special • LOUIS SPELL & HIS FRENCH SERENADERS: The Fifty Cent Song • Lover’s Waltz • LEE SONNIER & HIS ACADIAN ALL STARS: Along The River • Acadian All Star Special
Disc Three – PEE WEE BROUSSARD & HIS MELODY BOYS: The Waltz That Carried Me To The Grave • The Pee Wee Special • PAPA CAIRO & HIS BOYS: Big Texas (English) • Big Texas (French) • PEE WEE BROUSSARD & HIS MELODY BOYS: Chere Tu Tu • Creole Stomp • AMIDIE BREAUX & HIS BAND: Hey, Mom! • Hard Luck Waltz • JIMMY NEWMAN & THE RHYTHM BOYS: (I Know Now That) I’ve Made A Big Mistake • I Don’t Know What I’m Going To Do • PEE WEE BROUSSARD & HIS MELODY BOYS: Le Valse De Bayou Blanc • M&S Special • ABE MANUEL & HIS LOUISIANA HILLBILLIES: Country Gentleman (French) • I’ve Got Your Heart Locked Up (French) • TERRY CLEMENT & HIS RHYTHMIC FIVE: Le Vaise De Te Maurice • Diggy Liggy Lo • ABE MANUEL & HIS LOUISIANA HILLBILLIES: Hippy-Ti-Yo • Country Girl • ALDUS ROGER & LAFAYETTE PLAYBOYS: Love Sick Waltz • Mardi Gras Dance • AUSTIN PETE & THE LOUISIANA RHYTHMAIRES: Prison Two Step • La Valse De Chagrin • St. Landry Waltz • Janot Special • ROBERT BERTRAND & THE LAKE CHARLES PLAYBOYS: Lost Love Waltz • Drunkard’s Two Step