Interesting article! Unfortunately, trying to learn about the history of the accordion in Louisiana is a little frustrating because there are so few documents that historians can often only make suppositions. The most interesting article I have read about this subject (that most people on here probably know already) is this one:
Thanks Christian, that article you posted adds more information and clarity to the subject and great detail. It said at one point that the first accordions didn't fit so well with the Cajun fiddles because the accordions were in the keys of A and F and the fiddle couldn't be tuned to these keys without breaking the strings. Well, I submit that when an "F" accordion is played in the 5th, more commonly known as being played in the 2nd position on the pull, it suddenly switches to the key of "C". Now, I know for a fact that fiddles can be tuned very easily to be played with an accordion played in the key of C. In fact, playing in the key of "C" on a fiddle allows the fiddle player to drone two strings with hardly any effort which gives an awesome sound. Hell, there are accordion players today that are purposely ordering accordions in the key of "F" for that very reason. So when they say the fiddle couldn't get along with the accordion....LOL, I think the experienced fiddle players couldn't get along with the novice accordion players just starting to learn.
I also submit that the dope dealing robot might be Jim Petijon. The bot keeps changing names and posting only 1, 2,3 or 4 posts per name and always during the daytime hours. Never late at night or in the early morning. But of course, I had Jim cussing me out at 2am last night on youtube. LMAO. Poor fellow.
Off the wall!
The questions seem to be usually aimed at who brought them here, and it doesn't seem it will ever really be answered, though that Mervin Kahn guy may have played a huge role in it's spread in the SW area. I think my biggest question is how the style got started. The style of Cajun accordion playing is limited to SW La, with Rayne seeming to be the epi-center, spreading out from that area. That style is not used in any other genre that I know of. I've always suspected the percussive and syncopated style came from the black community, maybe along with the tendency to rely heavily on the partial chord sound (like pulling the 7 and 10 buttons), but it's only speculation.
But the other thing that amazes me is the accordionists who were first recorded in that area all played in varying degrees of what is now considered the Cajun style, many of them, like Ardoin, Lejeune, Breaux, Falcon, etc, were technically really really good. That seems unusual considering how little time the accordion had been integrated into the area at that time.
I've wondered how much of the rhythm (the chanky-chank sound) might have actually come from the influence of Denus McGee on Amede Ardoin! His short bow fiddling style didn't stick around long. Leo Soileau and others (Doc Guidry?) brought in a more long bow style. But the short bowing interplay between McGee and Ardoin -- man, that's fine chanky chank! (I don't use that term in a pejorative sense at all).
I think of 2 early influential areas -- Eunice/Ville Platte/Basile with Amede Ardoin and Dennis McGee, Mayeuse Lafleur, and Rayne/Roberts Cove/Crowley with Joe Falcon and the Breaux Brothers. They sound different to me but I am not knowledgeable enough to articulate what differences I hear. Falcon and the Breauxs definitely had a blues influence, like Octa Clark of Judice, too.
If you throw in Pacaniere/Arnaudville with Moise Robin, and Church Point/Point Noir with Angelas LeJeune, it gets more complicated regionally. Then what about the Segua Brothers around Delcambre?
Neal, I think you're onto something there. If you stare real hard at the early recording period, you have regional influences that didn't expand much further than a few dozen miles. While the melodies floated around a wider region (ex. Jolie Blond), many of the more influencial nuances were much more localized. You highlighted a few already:
- Eunice/Ville Platte/Basile with Amede Ardoin and Dennis McGee, Mayeuse Lafleur. (NOTE: keep in mind, Moise Robin, while in Arnaudville, was a huge fan of Mayuse. I lump him in this region.)
- Rayne/Roberts Cove/Crowley with Joe Falcon and the Breaux Brothers.
- Point Noire/Church point influences such as the Lejeunes.
- You can add the HWY 14 towns of New Iberia/Gueydan/Kaplan/Lake Charles area with the Connors, Nathan Abshire, Fawvors, Credures, Seguras and such. (i included the Seguras with Nathan since he relied heavily on their material).
These "areas" were given a name coined by Dr. Ancelet. He calls them "culture-plexes". Small regions of localized influence in Cajun music. Places were most of the same people all borrowed from each other. This seems to have lasted until the mid 30s when the music was more available on records and everyone was copying someone else from many miles away.
Funny, i was having this discussion not long ago. It's neat to see others pick up on these "culture-plexes".
I've been saying for a long time that La music was once very regional. I'm guessing cars and recordings changed that. But even comparing those areas accordion playing, even accounting the differences, there are some definite unique markers that you only see in SW La accordion playing that all those areas that Neal listed showed in their recordings,at least to me. They all used those partial chords and double finger octave playing.
Hey Wade! That's interesting what Ancelet said. Hadn't heard that.
I am going to speculate that the music and tunes traveled around more widely than you would think at first glance, mainly because it was played by tenant workers who moved around often because of harsh economic conditions. Blacks and whites. My father told me of whole families plopping down and settling for a year or two then moving on. He called them "des engagées" which from the context appears to mean "contracted ones," "contracted labor," likely tenant farmers. Ironically maybe being none too prosperous helped spread the music and the techniques. Hard to explain otherwise why the unique techniques were spread around like that. It's the same with Delta Blues.
Wasn't Austin Pitre himself a tenant farmer who lived not only in Ville Platte (in the country I guess) but also Mamou, Church Point for a while, then finally Elton where he had a garage and fixed cars? As for living in Church Point for a while I might be mixing him up with Melton Molitor.
Clearly the melodies were traveling far. As Brian mentioned, the 'style' of playing stayed local. The titles also did too! In the Rayne/Crowley area, "Jolie Blonde" was "Ma Blonde Est Partie". However, in the Eunice/Mamou area, it was commonly known as "Valse de Gueydan". It's not till the mid 30s when you see these areas begin to cross over much more. Another is Lafayette. In Rayne/Crowley, it was called "Lafayette", but the Eunice/Mamou region was already calling it "Jeunes Gens Compangne". Where the original melodies came from? Who knows.
Check out this little chestnut....While visiting my grandmother who was born in the early 1920's, we were looking for photo albums in her utility room so we could pass the time. Well, I see this old boot box with quite a few things stacked on top. I lifted the lid while holding the other stuff on top from falling all over and felt inside and it felt like photo album covers. I go through the trouble to get the box out of the bottom of the stack and I look inside.
Awestruck was I...for inside was my deceased grandfather's Cajun vinyl 45 record collection with the covers in great condition. He was born in the 1910-1920's. Played piano, fiddle, and accordion by the time he was 13 years old. He signed every one that was his, claiming proud ownership it seemed. The Cajun swamp pop and elvis albums in the box he did not sign. For years I wondered who were my grandfather's heroes when it came to accordion players. In this boot box were my answers. And from what I remember of his "HWY 14" style of accordion playing, he was influenced by every one of these accordion players featured on each album. All of the albums that he had his signature on were played to living hell. Scratched very much. Not warped, just scratched pretty bad.
The albums were of Iry Lejeune, Nathan Abshire, Lawrence Walker, Joe Bonsall, Amede Ardoin, Austin Pitre, Sidney Brown, one 78 of Marc Savoy, and a couple others I can't remember. My grandfather was alive when all of these musicians were alive and he was playing accordion in the same time frame as them. He was learning from their recordings! The whole time, I thought he learned solely from his family, and also from a local click of musicians over the years. Compare to Iry Lejeune who obviously learned from his own family members, recordings, and definitely Amede Ardoin's recordings. They learned watching people play dances,from recordings, and from their own memories of having heard another accordion player play one song long ago in their past or even in their present. They tried to re-create what they heard. They didn't have YouToob to slow it down!. I believe that's where these little pockets of style came from. Each individual accordion player hashing these songs out on their own. Nathan Abshire also had a style that was influenced by the earliest recordings and others he may have heard live. As I've said before, Nathan Abshire took a lot from Blind Uncle Gaspard's "Rabbit Stole the Pumpkin". He created his own unique riffs from listening to it, and the similarities are noticeable.
Point being...after an accordion player listens long enough and plays long enough, he begins to see the need to make his style stand out amongst the many. "Parakeeting" directly just won't do anymore. His "special" riffs, thrills, and turns come from combining what he's heard others do and how he interprets it and what his brain, fingers, and muscle memory allow him to do on the accordion. Every once in a while he creates an original riff, thrill, or turn, but not often. For instance, I have in my memory some of my granpaw's and his brother's special turns or B parts, and I can do them at will. These riffs I have not heard any other accordion player do both past and present. I'm sure there are others out there that possess these bits of rare styles, but they are rare in the world of parakeets. Take time to try and tackle the old recordings people. You will find that after a while, you too will begin to develop your own unique styles. You will no longer sound like every other dime a dozen accordion player out there today who jumps up on the stage or makes a CD or you tube video way before he or she has earned their own style.
I was interested and afforded some credibility to your post until:
"Take time to try and tackle the old recordings people. "
The last word in this context ( and any other time some one refers to others as "people" or "you people" )it is disrespectful and a transparent attempt at raising the author's status at the expense of others.
And while we're at it..
Some may take offense at "dem black boys".
Oh come one Jeff! Don't go all Liberal bleeding heart on me man. We have about enough of that going on in this country. If I didn't jab and jive at "you people", it just wouldn't be me. LOL Are you saying that Cajuns are uneducated, discourteous rednecks that need to be changed for the better by outside society? Are you saying that our ways and speech patterns are cocky, offensive and worthy of only other cavemen to hear? Well, good, I'm glad. At least I stand out amongst the ever growing heard of politically correct sheep. But hey, thanks for the input. I will store it away in my steel trap for future reference. Maybe it will help me to improve some way in the future. But man!....I sometimes find myself hating change in my life. In the old days, I wouldn't think twice before pointing a pistol or shotgun in someone's face for having threatened me or offended me or mine. Then, later I switched to blasphemous hurtful words and loud tones and physical violence. Now a days, I try to stay quiet and I just stand and stare at these people without saying a word and wait for them to put their own foot in their own mouths. LOL, it never takes very long for them to do just that. In fact, I can usually bet on it 10 to 1 odds.
I never mentioned me or I..
Keep that in mind
I am a little more grounded than to be offended by what you wrote.
I was stroking the snowflakes lest they unglue.
I had an inept ex army lieutenant for a boss..
who pushed his finger into my chest and said "you people".
He never did it again.
You stand there and stare without saying a word.. Am I talkin' to the right guy.
PS nuthin' ****** me off more than to be misquoted or suggest that I said or meant something I did not say or mean
I am anything but politically correct.
Politically correct means lying by omission or being evasive and trying to make everyone "happy"
I do not believe in "happy"
I am not a "happy" guy.
I am matter of fact and truthful. And this seems to offend a lot of people. So be it.
I am not surprised by that.
It might be a bit of an oversimplification, but you can make the case that any type of music that was uniquely created in the US was by black people.
Jazz, blues, R&B. The list goes on and on.
Even other forms of music that you might consider to be lily white, like Blue Grass or Country, if you listen carefully enough, you can detect the significant influence of African Americans.
I would agree with you on this Dave. There was some speculation a while back on who were the first Cajun accordion players. The common thought was Amedee Ardoin, but there were white Cajun players taking up the accordion at the same time as him. Angelas Lejeune for example was born the same year as Amedee Ardoin in 1898. Amedee Breaux and Joe Falcon were born two years later in 1900. But records show that Amedee Ardoin the black man, had to have learned from others coming before him. I believe Canray Fontenot the fiddle player and Amedee Ardoin were tied together to an elder musician that showed them the ropes. I also believe that when the accordion finally came to the Cajun people, both black and white, all the players had to do was follow the Cajun fiddle music that had already been around for a very long time and voila! They could also take that accordion and invent some new tunes depending on what their ears and fingers were willing and able to produce. Perhaps the thought of these non Cajun black men playing accordion to the delta blues gave the early Cajun players the idea to try it against the Cajun fiddle. Maybe there was some cousinship or something like that within Amedee Ardoins family that exposed them to Lead Belly or some other black accordion playing blues brother.?? Or the world was a smaller place back then. Hell, Amedee Ardoin, a young black man went all the way to New York City. I've never even been to New York City and it's the year 2017! I still would say that whitey copied from the black man back then, but whitey sure did a good job with his own style of Cajun accordion music. After all, he sure as hell wasn't going to be out done by no black man! LOL. But it's all relative. Black folks sang in the fields. They gave each other hope with song when there was little hope and the work was mandatory and hard. But get this...Cajun women sang in the fields too back in Nova Scotia I'm told. And they sang when they arrived in Louisiana too. So, whether the chicken or the egg came first, does it really matter? LOL!
Mississippi Delta bluesmen claim they were influenced by white fiddlers' reels! They even call some their own tunes reels. I think there's white fiddler influence on accordion style quite likely!
It's a real mix of black and white. So it irks me when they claim that jazz is the only truly American music form. No it isn't. There's also Cajun music and country music borne out of the mixing of the black and the white. Then there's the Tex-Mex music mixing Mexican and Central European. And what about Hawaiian? The jazz crowd doesn't know what it's talking about! I am on jazz discussion boards and this comes up rather frequently. There are genres of music that could have ONLY happened in America due to our unique mix.
See my reply to Bryan Lafleur.
Tex-Mex music is influenced by the polka. Invented, and brought to Tejas, by BOHEMIANS.
It just so happens my great grandfather was from Salnau, Bohemia, Austria as it says on the ship manifest and his immigration papers. He settled in the Seattle, Wash area. He was a box player. According to my mother, her grandfather played for the Bohemian Hall the Swedish Hall, dances, weddings, parties etc. and played mazurkas, waltzes and of course the Polka. (which is not Polish)
I have, and play, his 2 1/2 row D/G box.
PS Salnau, Bohemia, Austria was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a "kingdom" within the Empire. Many of the Bohemians, such as my great grandfather spoke German with an Austrian inflection. Salnau is now Zalnav and in the Czech Republic. It is six miles east of the German Bavarian border and six miles north of the current Austrian Czech border.
When Hitler invaded... he annexed "Bohemia" and confiscated our family's mill and property. It was Hitler's first conquest.
My great grandfather's birth name was Jakob Josef Bock, his father was Wenzl Bock .
Apparently both played the button accordeon.
PS There were no Cajuns in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland or any of the other island provinces(sp).. They were Acadians.
If I'm not mistaken, the Mrnustik family of Houston was Czech as well. He was a box player that did repairs during the 40s.
With that last name, he could be a Czech speaking Czech.. or, like my GGF spoke both Czech and German.
I heard that Marc Savoy said that during a seance of Marie Laveau a black accordionplayer was playing.
I have to search for the video where he said that.
Is anybody familiar with that or i sthat a rumour ?
Marc talks about it in the documentary of Les Blank titled Jai Ete Au Bal.
It's when he talks about the accordion.
I have the video.. I'll check it out.