Six Degrees of Alan Lomax:
A Review and Multimedia Excerpts

Yale University
Independent Scholar
Published November 30, 2015
Overview 

In a review essay of Joshua Clegg Caffery's Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana (Louisiana State Press, 2013) Ryan Brasseaux assesses the context and contributions of Alan Lomax's 1934 recordings. Multimedia excerpts from Caffery's book follow, including lyric videos featuring Lomax field recordings from The Library of Congress.

Soundings is an ongoing series of interdisciplinary, multimedia publications that use historical, ethnographic, musicological, and documentary methods to map and explore southern musics and related practices. This series is guest edited by Grace Elizabeth Hale, Commonwealth Chair of American Studies, professor of history, and director of the American Studies Program at the University of Virginia.

Review Essay

Cover of Joshua Clegg Caffery's Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana.

Of all the southern spaces Alan Lomax visited during his Depression-era excursions into vernacular American music, the French-speaking communities populating south Louisiana forever captivated his imagination. "The Cajun country is one of the richest and at the same time least known mines of folk music and literature in North America," he once remarked.1 Lomax's 1934 foray into the state's Francophone musical traditions, with a portable recording device in tow, began an intermittent but deeply influential engagement with Cajun and Creole music across his long career. Indeed, the song hunter's 1934 excursion into French Louisiana generated a titanic splash that has rippled for generations.2

Lomax's southern excursions aimed to normalize folk culture and music in the United States. By reframing their positionality from the margins to the mainstream of American culture, Lomax's work opened and colored a public forum through which marginalized populations such as Louisiana's Cajuns generated a narrative in which they themselves became the protagonists.3 But not without tension in the telling. Lomax's interpretations were often at odds with local Cajun perceptions about culture, music, and history. He sometimes butted heads with folklorist Barry Jean Ancelet, who became the most visible auteur of the Cajun-generated narrative.

Cajun singers, southwest Lousiana, Summer 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.00338/.
Cajun singers, southwest Lousiana, Summer 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.00338/.

Folklorist Joshua Clegg Caffery's inaugural book, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings (2013), is the latest chapter in these Lomaxian annals.4 Caffery offers the first systematic exploration of the music that compelled Lomax eighty years ago. Under the tutelage of Ancelet, he painstakingly combed the whole of Lomax's French Louisiana recordings at the Library of Congress. He then methodically transcribed songs, cross-checking them against the extant catalogues of folkloric material on French North American songs. Caffery generally organizes his transcriptions by parish (or county), with the exception of the last three chapters titled "Unidentified Location," "Instrumental Music," and "Miscellaneous." The rest of the material is included in chapters titled "Acadia," "East Baton Rouge," "Iberia," "Jefferson Davis," "Lafayette," "St. Landry," "St. Martin," "St. Mary," "Vermillion," and "West Feliciana." Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana is both a point of entry into the deep archive Lomax deposited at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress and a first real step in understanding the material he collected. Caffery's work signals how Lomax profoundly influenced the spaces, both real and discursive, that Cajun music came to inhabit. While Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana signifies the latest chapter in the long view of Lomax's legacy, the rest of this review essay considers the song hunter's multi-generational influence in Louisiana music studies.

Cover of John A. Lomax's Cowboy Songs (New York: Sturgis and Walton Company, 1910).Cover of John A. Lomax's Adventures of a Ballad Hunter (New York: Macmillan Company, 1947).
Top, cover of John A. Lomax's Cowboy Songs (New York: Sturgis and Walton Company, 1910). Bottom, cover of John A. Lomax's Adventures of a Ballad Hunter (New York: Macmillan Company, 1947).

The 1934 excursion was the brainchild of Alan's father John, who had already amassed a national reputation with his first book Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910). Two years later, John began his scholarly flirtations with Louisiana while serving as a Sheldon Fellow at Harvard. He contacted the St. Landry Clarion newspaper in Opelousas, Louisiana, to facilitate his research on African American folk songs. "He wants the words and music of the most distinctive negro 'ballets,' precisely as he has sung them and in many places continues to sing them," explained the editor.5 The newspaper published snippets of work songs and spirituals written in minstrel phonetics so their readers "may be able to furnish the entire song, origin and music."6 Lomax's reputation, however, did nothing to preserve his family's finances when the Great Depression hit. Driven to find an alternative source of income, John secured the modest patronage of the Library of Congress in the early 1930s. He was sixty-five years old and had not been in the field in ten years. Moreover, he was at work on his autobiography, Adventures of a Ballad Hunter, even while exploring communities and collecting songs. These factors created space for a teenaged Alan Lomax, who took over the lion's share of the recording work during their 1934 expedition into Louisiana's Cajun country. This excursion along the Gulf Coast proved formative in Alan's burgeoning career in applied folklore.7

"The best pay-dirt I struck in Louisiana," he recalled, "was a young woman who worked in a fish canning factory. She had a repertoire of old French ballads that was inexhaustible. When I found her she was tired and not particularly crazy about singing for me, but she did want a new party dress."8 The girl's name was Elita Hoffpauir, whose repertoire often expressed, as Caffery notes, "feminine teenage angst, woven together from various strands of tradition often grounded in such emotions."9 But the Hoffpauir family's extensive knowledge of European balladry was only one component of a broader mosaic. The Lomaxes went on to record hundreds of hollers, hymns, spirituals, charivari, children's songs, blues, waltzes, two-steps, jurés, laments, and other genres that effectively demonstrated Louisiana's variegated soundscape. The scope of their work, together with the methodological innovations afforded by bringing recording technology into the field, propelled the father-son team (and particularly Alan) into the national limelight. Alan parlayed the experience, establishing himself as an authority on vernacular American music en route to becoming perhaps the most important arbiter of Cajun and Creole music to have never wielded an accordion or fiddle.

Alan Lomax, Mountain Music Festival, Asheville, North Carolina, 1938. Photograph from The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c12693.
Alan Lomax, Mountain Music Festival, Asheville, North Carolina, 1938. Photograph from The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c12693.

Alan's influence was felt immediately in the scholarly realm. Louisiana native and budding folklorist Irène Thérèse Whitfield met Lomax in 1934 while still in the throes of her master's thesis at Louisiana State University. "On one occasion I was out 'song-hunting' with Mr. Alan Lomax," she recalled. "He had in his automobile, the machinery for making phonograph records for the Library of Congress, while I was armed with paper for writing songs."10 The ripples from that encounter flowed into the 1936 National Folk Festival staged in Dallas, Texas.11 Whitfield directly influenced her cousin, cultural geographer Lauren Post, who served as chairman of the festival's Louisiana delegation. Post assembled a thirty-six-person entourage including musicians, folk artists, and Whitfield, whom he acknowledged as "the best informed person on Acadian folk songs."12 The Cajun performances Post helped stage at the festival so impressed Alan Lomax that he proclaimed fiddler Ardus Broussard "the best example of folk talent in the whole festival."13

Irène Whitfield's influence extended beyond the festival. She left her imprint on a budding song hunter named William Owens whom she met in Dallas. Owens decided to embark on his own song hunting expedition in south Louisiana.14 Meanwhile, Whitfield's thesis, "Louisiana Folk Songs" (1935), would become the first monograph on Cajun and Creole music—Louisiana French Folk Songs (1939). Almost a decade later, her notated melodies, including Mr. Bornu's "Je m'endors," would serve as the basis for composer Virgil Thompson's Pulitzer Prize-winning score to Robert Flaherty's last documentary, Louisiana Story (1948).15

Lomax's expedition also blazed the path for two of the most influential figures in the world of Louisiana music after World War II: Harry Oster and Ralph Rinzler. Oster and Rinzler figured prominently for their ethnographic fieldwork, field recordings, and, in Rinzler's case, bringing Cajun music to the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. Despite several degrees of separation, Oster, like Lomax, dove with abandon into the musical traditions of Louisiana. As a LSU professor and founding member of the Louisiana Folklore Society, Oster recorded various performers, including Anglo string bands, French ballads, work songs, and prisoners at Angola State Penitentiary.16 Between 1956 and 1959, Arhoolie issued a now classic collection of Oster's field recordings: Folksongs of the Louisiana Acadians (ARH LP 5009) and Folksongs of the Louisiana Acadians Vol. 2 (ARH LP 5015). These LPs marked the entrée of Cajun field recordings into the marketplace.

Leadbelly with African American prisoners, compound no. 1, Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID loc.gov/resource/ppmsc.00348/.
Leadbelly with African American prisoners, compound no. 1, Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID loc.gov/resource/ppmsc.00348/.

Rinzler, on the other hand, maintained close ties to Lomax, who, in anticipation of the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, convinced the festival board to hire Rinzler as a talent scout.17 Rinzler made plans to travel to Louisiana at Lomax's urging. He contacted local culture brokers, including Oster, then assembled a Cajun band that included a musician named Dewey Balfa who sat in on guitar when the group performed at that year's festival. Newport rejuvenated interest and pride for traditions thought by some in Louisiana as passé. President of the Louisiana Folk Foundation Paul Tate lauded Rinzler and the Newport Folk Foundation "for what is happening to Cajun music today,"18 affording the genre "authenticity and legitimacy."19 The experience politicized Dewey Balfa, who came home a devout cultural nationalist. In 1974 Balfa and Rinzler joined forces again, coordinating a concert sponsored by the Council on the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) entitled Hommage à la musique Acadienne/A Tribute to Cajun Music in Lafayette.

On March 26, 1974, approximately eight-thousand spectators filled the University of Southwestern Louisiana's basketball arena, the Blackham Coliseum, to hear some of the most popular artists of the region's dancehall circuit.20 The concert, however, signified a departure from local convention. Hommage à la musique Acadienne introduced three cultural interventions through which organizers hoped to recalibrate the perspectives Louisianians harbored about their own musical traditions. First, the concert exponentially expanded the size of the public forum in which locals consumed music. Dancehalls and honky tonks in south Louisiana generally held between two hundred and four hundred people.21 Organizers also barred dancing, eliminating the contexts so intimately associated with these forms of social music. Finally, the concert planners recontextualized the musical traditions on stage by introducing an interpretive framework analyzing the historical and cultural threads flowing through each performance. This initial concert proved the viability of the format in southwestern Louisiana as the concert evolved over time into the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles. And, perhaps more significantly, it became a training ground for undergraduate French student and budding folklorist Barry Jean Ancelet, whose career in applied and public folklore paralleled (and at times intersected) the work of Alan Lomax.22

Cover from CD box-set I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax in the Evangeline Country (Valcour Records, 2015).Cover from CD box-set I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax in the Evangeline Country (Valcour Records, 2015).Cover of Best of Festivals Acadiens Et Créoles: 2002 Live Rubber Bootleg Series (Valcour Records, 2011).Cover of Louisiana Cajun and Creole Music, 1934: The Lomax Recordings (Swallow Records, 1987).
First and second images are covers from the CD box-set I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax in the Evangeline Country (Valcour Records, 2015). Third image, cover of Best of Festivals Acadiens Et Créoles: 2002 Live Rubber Bootleg Series (Valcour Records, 2011). Bottom image, cover of Louisiana Cajun and Creole Music, 1934: The Lomax Recordings (Swallow Records, 1987).

Barry Ancelet, who wrote the Forward to Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, admittedly found Alan Lomax "variantly inspiring and intimidating, frustrating and fascinating."23 Like Lomax, Ancelet spent his "whole career trying to honor the culture of ordinary folks."24 He understood his travails in field recording, festival and musical programing, public education, radio, television, and publications all within the context of preserving French language and culture in Louisiana.25 His mediation rested on the primacy of French as a marker of cultural authenticity. "[T]he preservation of the language," he argued, "is vital to the survival of the culture."26 He influenced a generation of fieldworkers in south Louisiana, becoming one of the primary authors of the public discourse defining the Cajun experience, a narrative colored, in part, by Lomax.

In 1977, while still a master's student in folklore at Indiana University, Barry Ancelet and Beausoleil bandleader Michael Doucet visited the Library of Congress to explore the 1934 Lomax recordings. The two Cajuns listened to eleven reels of tape. After a particularly beautiful song, Ancelet turned to Doucet and said, "Oh, my God, we're gonna have to rethink, everything we thought we knew."27 The Lomax recordings proved a persuasive counterpoint to the historic commercial material Ancelet and Doucet had heard on the Old Timey record collection Louisiana Cajun Music—a five LP set of reissued Cajun songs recorded between 1928 and 1938. "All anybody had ever heard was the commercially recorded stuff," he expounded. "Our notion of the history of Cajun music was based on what we had heard."28 Ancelet initially copied the field recordings on reel-to-reel analogue tape for his own use, then later worked to build the Archive of Cajun and Creole Folklore at the University of Southwestern Louisiana by repatriating the Lomax materials back to the state. "I had met Lomax at several events over the years," he recalled. "I contacted him, and he said he'd be very happy to have his work here; he had always intended to make it available to Louisiana. I ordered reel-to-reel copies from the LOC."29 The archive opens John and Alan Lomax's 1934 recordings to local scholars, students, and musicians interested in the state's musical heritage. Indeed, Michael Doucet and Beausoleil began crafting new arrangements of material culled from the Lomax collection as early as their first American-released album, The Spirit of Cajun Music, in 1978.30

Taking a cue from Folksongs of the Louisiana Acadians, Ancelet further broadened the reach of the Lomax recordings by releasing them into the commercial market. In 1987, Ancelet partnered with Swallow Records in Ville Platte to produce Louisiana Cajun and Creole Music, a double LP compilation of field material. With an introductory text by Lomax, the twenty-five-page liner note compendium wove together photographs from the Library of Congress' Farm Security Administration and Ancelet's transcriptions and translations of the songs featured on the album. "[W]e try not to compete with commercial record companies," he elaborated. "Instead we try to work with these established labels to release records they might not ordinarily attempt…making available sounds that might have been otherwise forgotten.31 In 1999, Rounder Records of Cambridge, Massachusetts, ushered the Lomax recordings into the digital age by reissuing the double LP set in a compact disc format.32 "I was never so happy to be a folklorist in my life," Ancelet exclaimed as these historic compositions circulated once again in French Louisiana.33 Through the 2000's, forgotten songs reentered Louisiana's musical lexicon as local bands—such as Feufollet (which included Joshua Caffery)—adapted, recorded, and performed compositions just as Beausoleil had done in the late 1970s.34

Welcome to Louisiana sign, US 61, near Ashwood, Mississippi, September 9, 2009. Photograph by Flickr user Ken Lund. Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0.
Welcome to Louisiana sign, US 61, near Ashwood, Mississippi, September 9, 2009. Photograph by Flickr user Ken Lund. Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0.

Alan Lomax, meanwhile, renewed his relationship with the region where he "had my first glass of wine, my first shrimp creole, my first full-blown love affair and made my first independent field recordings."35 In 1980, Lomax gave the keynote address at the same Louisiana Folklore Society annual meeting that Harry Oster helped found. Lomax used the opportunity to challenge the cultural integrity of CODOFIL, a state agency designed to promote and preserve French in the region. He particularly railed against CODOFIL's importation of francophone teachers from Canada and France to teach French to Cajun children. The folklorist also used the occasion to rekindle his Louisiana fieldwork, which culminated in the American Patchwork documentary Cajun Country: Lache pas la patate.36 Cajun Country aired on PBS in 1990, bringing the intervention Lomax began in 1934 full circle.37 He once again sought to authenticate Louisiana's musical and cultural traditions, but through a deductive approach in which the folklorist sought out evidence to bolster his preconceived hypotheses. This time, however, Lomax's interpretation of the region's culture and music was suddenly the marginal discourse at odds with an increasingly influential emic narrative. Locals had learned to define and maintain boundaries about their own identity and culture. Indeed, Cajun critics, who helped craft public narratives around the meaning of Cajun and Creole, found the film "troubling in its omissions, oversimplifications, unsupported assertions, and loose ends."38 For instance, Lomax presented "Cajun" as an umbrella term that included indigenous peoples, Afro-Creoles, and Anglophone southerners. Ancelet protested Lomax's song lyric translations, though he is acknowledged in the film's credits as a language consultant. Lomax's apparent disregard for local input left Louisiana's Cajun intelligentsia feeling aggrieved, ignored, and disrespected. "I was frustrated to see his interpretation of the Mardi Gras celebration preserved in the film," Barry Ancelet elucidated, "despite our many efforts to offer other perspectives on this and other issues, such as the zydeco/pygmy connection, the Acadian/Huguenot connection, and the sexual repression at the heart of high constricted vocals in Cajun music."39 Ancelet's frustration with Lomax's view of French Louisiana had been simmering since 1983, when he openly challenged Lomax's interpretation of Mardi Gras at a Smithsonian Institute workshop. Lomax pulled Ancelet aside after the panel and roared, "Don't you ever contradict me in public again, you impudent young son-of-a-bitch."40

Spyboys singing at the 66th Annual Zulu Parade, New Orleans, Lousiana, May 1982. Footage by Alan Lomax and crew. Courtesy of Alan Lomax YouTube archive. Screenshot by Southern Spaces.
Spyboys singing at the 66th Annual Zulu Parade, New Orleans, Lousiana, May 1982. Footage by Alan Lomax and crew. Courtesy of Alan Lomax YouTube archive. Screenshot by Southern Spaces.

Cajun Country: Lache pas la patate helped bring into sharper relief the turf war between the aging, though celebrated folklorist and a group of local upstarts, all of whom harbored different agendas around defining Cajunness. Lomax's interpretive acumen and reputation hung in the balance. Locals, meanwhile, saw an opportunity for self-determination. Standing up to Alan Lomax's authorial voice in the realm of Louisiana music scholarship became a demonstrative illustration of the Cajun commitment to rewrite mainstream discourses about their community.41 But challenges to the song hunter's cultural capital did not materialize overnight. Cajun Country: Lache pas la patate came in the wake of a growing and influential body of writing by native Louisianians. In particular, an interdisciplinary collective forming the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Southwestern Louisiana—which included Ancelet, Carl Brasseaux, Mathé Allain, Glenn Conrad, Michael Forêt, David Barry, among others—ensured that a chorus of local voices would redirect the narrative of the Cajun experience in a rapidly evolving Louisiana during the 1980s and 1990s.42 And yet, Lomax's influence remained powerful in Louisiana Studies even as members of the Center for Louisiana Studies dismissed Cajun Country's analysis. In 2003, shortly after Lomax's death, Ancelet gave the Phillips Barry Memorial Lecture at the American Folklore Society annual meeting. He addressed the trials and triumphs of Lomax in Louisiana, ultimately concluding that "[s]ome of us who sometimes found ourselves enduring Alan when he was alive recognize that his contributions to our understanding of our own communities endure as well."43

Promotional still for PBS's American Patchwork with Alan Lomax series (Public Broadcasting Service, 1991).
Promotional still for PBS's American Patchwork with Alan Lomax series (Public Broadcasting Service, 1991).

Critical views of Alan Lomax's work and legacy have most recently culminated in Joshua Clegg Caffery's annotated compendium of song lyrics derived from the Lomax recordings. Caffery acknowledges the varied genealogical currents that have carried the Lomax legacy into the twenty-first century. But, his investment in studying the 1934 Louisiana recordings does not translate to a wholesale subscription to Lomaxian analyses. Lomax's explanations of Louisiana culture are cavalier and uneven, he explains, in ways that are "alternately brilliant or demonstrably incorrect."44 He recognizes Irène Whitfield's pioneering work as opening an early window into the Lomax collection, but dismisses her interpretations as being void of "any significant depth."45 Instead, Caffery's work is situated squarely within his dissertation advisor's camp.

If Lomax's imprint can be felt on Whitfield's work, so too can Ancelet's influence be felt on Caffery's. Ancelet, he argues, "brought a more scrupulous eye to the material" than Whitfield and indeed Lomax himself.46 Caffery echoes many of Ancelet's interpretations, privileges his French-language song transcriptions and translations, while crediting his mentor with helping carry the project through: "Without Barry's guidance, advice, and specialized knowledge, the work conducted here simply would not and could not have happened."47

Cover of Beausoleil and Michael Doucet's Déjà Vu (Swallow Records, 1990).
Cover of Beausoleil and Michael Doucet's Déjà Vu (Swallow Records, 1990).

The varied intellectual genealogies flowing through Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana inform the excerpts reprinted below. I have selected representative transcriptions that provide an introduction to the breadth and range of material featured in Caffery's book. Mr. Bornu's "Belle" is both an a cappella French-language composition indigenous to Louisiana and a song that reentered the state's musical lexicon through later adaptations. The Grammy Award-winning band Beausoliel orchestrated and released the song on their Swallow Records release Déjà Vu in 1990. Lunéda Comeaux's "La Belle, Je Suis Venu" is an example of the European ballad traditions still circulating among French Catholics in coastal Louisiana in 1934. In contrast to the material associated with Bornu and Comeaux, both of whom were white Francophones, "Thank God Almighty" is a window into some of the English-language compositions offered by African Americans. Alberta Brandford and Becky Elzy were born into slavery and lived on the Avery Island plantation where Tabasco brand pepper sauce is made. Their Protestant spiritual sung in English suggests that diversity in Depression-era Louisiana was linguistic and religious, in addition to racial. The final excerpt included here is the text to "Batson," an original composition sung by African American string band performer Wilson "Stavin' Chain" Jones. Part murder ballad, part social commentary, the song recounts in thirty-nine verses the tale of a mass murder that occurred in 1902 in southwest Louisiana. To further situate these transcriptions, I have also selected analytical excerpts accompanying the lyrics to contextualize those compositions. The lyrics are haunting. Song protagonists become the heroes of Caffery's narrative. Meanwhile, the ripples of Alan Lomax's legacy lap ashore against the text of Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana.

About the Author

Ryan André Brasseaux is dean of Davenport College at Yale University. He is the author of Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music (Oxford University Press, 2009), co-editor of Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader (2006), and co-author of Stir the Pot: The History of Cajun Cuisine (2005).

Excerpts from Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana by Joshua Clegg Caffery

Introduction

John A. Lomax, Jr., ca. 1930–1950. Photograph from The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.00629/.
John A. Lomax, Jr., ca. 1930–1950. Photograph from The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.00629/.

In the summer of 1934 the two central figures of American folk song collecting, John Lomax and his son Alan, ventured into Louisiana's southern parishes. The resulting collection constitutes the foundational record of the area's vernacular music. Undertaken at the dawn of the era of recorded sound, the Lomax collection continues to provide the best glimpse of the origins of south Louisiana's vernacular musical culture. Recorded long before television became widely available, when radio and recorded sound were in their infancy, the collection captures the collision of old and new song types and styles, effectively straddling the oral/literary milieu of the nineteenth century and the emergent, electronically mediated styles of the twentieth century. In many ways the collection exerts a firm pull on the present as a source of authority, an archive of forgotten lore, a beacon and a blueprint. Despite its significance, however, and despite the continued proliferation of interest in traditional music in southern Louisiana, the bulk of the material has remained largely inert, slumbering in the deep aluminum grooves and flickering integers of the Archive of Folk Culture in Washington, D.C. The Lomax recordings in Louisiana have not yet, in other words, generated a body of critical commentary comparable to the great collections of Appalachian folk song, such as Cecil Sharp's English Folksongs from the Southern Appalachians, or the five-volume critical editions of the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore or the Vance Randolph collections of Ozark tales and songs brilliantly edited and annotated by Gershon Legman. The central aim of this study, therefore, is to examine and identify the materials in the 1934 Lomax foray into coastal Louisiana and to present them for the first time in an accessible critical and comparative framework.

Cover of Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (Northfield, Minnesota: Loomis House Press, 2012).Cover of Newman Ivey White's North Carolina Folklore (Durham: Duke UP, 1952).Cover of John A. and Alan Lomax's Our Singing Country: Folk Songs and Ballads (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 1941, 2000).
Top, cover of Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (Northfield, Minnesota: Loomis House Press, 2012). Middle, cover of Newman Ivey White's North Carolina Folklore (Durham: Duke UP, 1952). Bottom, cover of John A. and Alan Lomax's Our Singing Country: Folk Songs and Ballads (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 1941, 2000).

In the absence of a comprehensive critical treatment, we know of the collection through selections published in Irène Thérèse Whitfield's 1934 Louisiana French Folk Songs and in the Lomaxes' early anthology Our Singing Country. Although both parties occasionally offer intriguing observations about the material, neither offers commentary of any significant depth. As Barry Jean Ancelet argues (2003), sounding a common criticism, Alan Lomax in particular was given to hazarding cavalier interpretations that could be alternately brilliant or demonstrably incorrect or even, somehow, both.

In the liner notes (with transcriptions) to the release of forty-four songs from the 1934 and 1935 trips, Ancelet (1999) brought a more scrupulous eye to the material, and John Cowley offered perceptive commentary on a segment of the English material in the notes to Rounder's Deep River of Song: Louisiana (2004). Taken as a whole, however, these studies consider less than half of the collection. While Ancelet's liner notes represent the first serious analyses and interpretations of the material, they are of necessity succinct rather than expansive. What follows is a textual study of the 1934 Lomax Louisiana recordings—in what they called "Evangeline Country"—in their entirety, a concerted effort to extend the efforts of Ancelet and others and address the whole corpus in all of its rambling complexity.

There are a number of reasons why this project is important. To begin with, the musical traditions of southern Louisiana, outside of New Orleans, remain only partially understood. While most attention is paid to Cajun music and zydeco, popular public styles that emerged in the early and mid-twentieth century, very little work has been done on older vocal or instrumental traditions—traditions that made up the musical climate in which Cajun music and zydeco came to be. Even given the considerable body of scholarship surrounding twentieth-century styles, for instance, there remains almost no comparative work, with the exception of Ancelet's analysis of Creole séga traditions in the Indian Ocean (Murray 2004, 955). Although scholarship abounds on the creolized contemporary genres of Louisiana music, in other words, we know very little about the elements of those creolizations or how they fit into broader patterns of transatlantic cultural evolution and change. In order to understand these puzzles, we need to know more about the shapes of the pieces.

"Fais Do Do" tent, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 27, 2012. Photograph by Flickr user Kevin Levine. Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.Cajun girls at Fais-do-do dance, Crowley, Louisiana, 1938. Photograph by Russell Lee. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photograph Collection, digital ID LC-USF34-031658-D.
Top, "Fais Do Do" tent, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 27, 2012. Photograph by Flickr user Kevin Levine. Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Bottom, Cajun girls at Fais-do-do dance, Crowley, Louisiana, 1938. Photograph by Russell Lee. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photograph Collection, digital ID LC-USF34-031658-D.

While there are a few examples of what we might call Cajun music or zydeco in the Lomax collection, the recordings primarily hint at the substructure underpinning these genres. When the Lomaxes arrived in southern Louisiana in 1934, the public dance music of the region was just coming into style. Although the father-and-son team recorded a handful of waltzes and two-steps, John Lomax in particular was not interested in what he perceived to be a radically syncretized popular form. While radically syncretized popular forms have a way of coalescing into traditions and becoming what some would call folk song or folk music, such a fate had not been preordained in 1934, and the "genius of American folksong collecting" had other quarry in mind (Abrahams 2000, 102). John Lomax was also highly suspicious of jazz, and he saw what he called "fais do-do" music as a dilution of older folkloric styles, much as he saw jazz as a dilution of more hallowed blues and work song traditions (Hirsch 1992). Alan Lomax, in turn, while he continued throughout his career to support efforts to encourage and preserve Cajun music and zydeco, cultivated an ecumenical vision of Louisiana's traditional music, based on his early work in the state: "Yet, since we were short of money and time, I am glad that we preserved these older styles, since they provide a view of the complex roots of the Cajun and Creole music of today, and, with luck, may fuel a French Louisiana music richer than the present-day zydeco and fais-do-do" (1988).

Terry and the Zydeco Bad Boys, Gulf Coast Zydeco Music Festival, Daphne, Alabama, May 22, 2011. Photograph by Flickr user John Krupsky. Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0.Thomas Fields' "The Big Hat Man" and his Foot Stompin' Zydeco Band sign, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 25, 2009. Photograph by Flickr user Rocky A. Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Top, Terry and the Zydeco Bad Boys, Gulf Coast Zydeco Music Festival, Daphne, Alabama, May 22, 2011. Photograph by Flickr user John Krupsky. Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0. Bottom, Thomas Fields' "The Big Hat Man" and his Foot Stompin' Zydeco Band sign, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 25, 2009. Photograph by Flickr user Rocky A. Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

This is not primarily a book about Cajun music and/or zydeco. In looking closely at what the Lomaxes actually found, however, during their sojourn in coastal Louisiana in 1934, we stand to learn a good deal about how the modern vernacular musical culture of this region emerged. Far from diminishing these contemporary styles, their small but distinct role in the collection throws them into sharp relief, highlighting their startling difference and deep beauty. But these recordings also hint at alternate paths, forgotten slips off the main current, now covered in brush and duckweed. In their travels down the back roads of rural south Louisiana, the Lomaxes preserved an invaluable atlas of Louisiana's vernacular musical traditions—a document based on the past yet designed for charting future explorations.

The sheer variety of song styles reflected tells an engrossing, complex story about rural Louisiana music as well as about the Lomaxes' own predilections. While the early "ethnic" recording industry preserved the short form two-step, waltzes, and accordion blues, the Lomax collection is unique in that it preserves a wild diversity of noncommercial traditional music. Folklorists tend to gravitate to genres in "distress" (Stewart 1991), and the Lomaxes were on the lookout more often than not for songs that had "been handed down for a number of generations" (AFS 35 A02). In 1934 they were particularly interested in African American work traditions and in the vestiges of Acadian culture. In seeking out the domestic, the occupational, the noncommercial, the unique, and the rare, the Lomaxian gaze (in 1934 at least) stayed fixated on the sunset horizons of tradition. Even as Alan advocated for French language instruction and for the preservation of Cajun and Creole dance music years later, he continued to urge young preservationists not to forget the diversity and venerability of earlier traditions of the sort reflected in the 1934 collection.

Cajun orchestra at Fais-do-do dance, Crowley, Louisiana, 1938. Photograph by Russell Lee. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photograph Collection, digital ID LC-DIG-fsa-8b20678.
Cajun orchestra at Fais-do-do dance, Crowley, Louisiana, 1938. Photograph by Russell Lee. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photograph Collection, digital ID LC-DIG-fsa-8b20678.

Both Lomaxes were first and foremost ingenious song hunters, and the 1934 song bag is, thankfully, both deep and wide. John Lomax in particular modeled himself on the great British ballad collectors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and he envisioned fieldwork as a strenuous, heroic endeavor. Criticizing Lomax's romantic ideology is easy enough today, but it remains difficult to challenge the basic impetus or the results of his collecting. Despite sensibilities that might strike a modern folklorist or anthropologist as naive, paternalistic, or cavalier, Lomax proved clairvoyant in his belief that these older styles would fade from the earth. In Louisiana, narrative singing in French, for instance, exists largely as a folkloric reenactment at festivals or to round out a recording project. Ring shout songs similarly have been reabsorbed into some contemporary zydeco recordings and performances, but the original spiritual context is largely missing. While a very distinct, localized vernacular music thrives in southern Louisiana, in other words, a variegated host of older styles have—for the most part— expired. Today the 1934 Lomax recordings provide the best early record of this diverse array of types.

These styles include—but are not limited to—traditional French mal-mariée and charivari songs; antebellum spirituals; nineteenth-century French romances; tietamping and cypress-logging hollers; roustabout coonjine songs; French strophic songs and songs in dialogue; ancient and modern pastourelles and brunettes, randonnées, rounds, and play-party songs; Protestant hymns; French drinking songs; sacred, profane, and downright bawdy English and American ballads; French adaptations of English ballads; American fiddle tunes; Creole jurés; ring shout songs; blues and blues ballads; nineteenth-century French theatrical and literary songs; mazurkas, waltzes, twosteps, and valses à deux temps; enumerative children's songs; and small dance orchestra settings; not to mention a Scottish jig.

Horace Foreman, Cajun fiddler, near Morse, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Ruby T. Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.00668/.
Horace Foreman, Cajun fiddler, near Morse, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Ruby T. Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.00668/.

Historian Carl Brasseaux argues convincingly that modern examinations of vernacular culture in southern Louisiana must take into account current research that demonstrates its complex ethnic plurality (2009). The Lomax collection provides a mighty testament to that complexity—a collection of verbal art and musical style that parallels the dense plurality of south Louisiana's culture. As the list of song types suggests, the vernacular music of Louisiana in 1934 was multifarious and cosmopolitan. But what do we know about this embarrassment of riches? Where, for instance, are the foundational textual studies of Louisiana vernacular song? For the most part they simply do not exist. As Ancelet observes of Louisiana French song lyrics: "Little attention has been given to the thematic and textual content of Louisiana French song lyrics that would enable comparisons between this music and its sister and cousin traditions in French North America (Québec, Ontario, the Acadian Maritimes, the Old Mines district of Missouri, the old Detroit region, the old Illinois country, and the Franco-American areas of the Northeast) and other parts of the French-speaking world (e.g. France, the West Indies, and the Indian Ocean)" (2003).

The argument could be made about any of the genres in the long list of musical styles. There are no thorough comparative studies of Continental French song in coastal Louisiana, Whitfield's Louisiana French Folk Songs (1939) and a 1950 Louisiana State University thesis by Gaston-Eugène Adam notwithstanding (though French Canadian scholars, particularly Marius Barbeau and Conrad Laforte, have integrated available Louisiana materials into their comparative studies of French song). Susan Silver's unpublished master's thesis, "J'apprenais ça avec ma maman: Étude de la femme dans les repertoires de cinq chanteuses traditionnelles en louisiane" (1991), offers perhaps the most extended examination of traditional song lyrics, with the exception of Ancelet's collected liner note annotations.

Dunes at Sea Island, Georgia, February 6, 1938. Photograph by Samuel H. Gottscho. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, digital ID http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/gsc.5a00119/.
Dunes at Sea Island, Georgia, February 6, 1938. Photograph by Samuel H. Gottscho. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, digital ID loc.gov/pictures/resource/gsc.5a00119/.

Although Whitfield anthologizes a number of Creole songs, there remain no systematic textual studies of Creole song in Louisiana, and no comparative apparatus exists for studying the Louisiana Creole song bag in the context of the broader Creole world. Little has been written about the antebellum spiritual repertoire in southern Louisiana, well represented here by Becky Elzy and Alberta Bradford, born into slavery on and around Avery Island. Less has been written about the Louisiana ring shout song and its secular Creole counterpart, the juré. Although it is commonly assumed that the ring shout, one of the oldest indigenous African American performance traditions, died out everywhere except the Sea Islands of Georgia, there are no less than fifteen shout songs in this collection, indicating a vibrant tradition. While Louisiana scholars have discussed the ring shout, contextual and comparative studies are lacking. Although John Szwed has hinted briefly at tantalizing similarities between Creole quadrille bands in Guadeloupe and Louisiana zydeco (Szwed and Marks 1988, 30), there are no major studies of nineteenth-century quadrille traditions in Louisiana and therefore no foundation for the sort of comparative work that could provide an invaluable perspective on the evolution of Louisiana's signature dance music traditions. The influence of the blues on the emergence of Cajun music and zydeco is clear and palpable, yet almost nothing has been written about rural blues in coastal Louisiana. If the Lomax collection is any indication, there was a dynamic country blues tradition in Louisiana in 1934. The same basic criticism could be applied to other English genres— ballads, hymns, and play-parties, for instance.

There continues to be a wide gulf between the great collections of oral poetry in Louisiana—those not only of the Lomaxes but of Harry Oster and Irène Whitfield, Ralph Rinzler, Catherine Blanchet, Robert and Jeanne Gilmore, Barry Jean Ancelet, and others—and the concerns of modern scholarship: questions of authenticity, for instance, representation, performance, authority, agency, and/or the sociocultural genealogy of modern performance styles. These concerns should undoubtedly be part of a broader critical discourse about traditional music in southern Louisiana, but there has not been a strong textual or exegetical framework for them to develop. Critical studies of the great collections of Louisiana folklore can help build this framework.

The first step in undertaking the present work was one of demarcation. Although the Lomaxes conducted work in north Louisiana and in Pointe Coupee Parish in 1934, the collection featured here represents only the materials from south-central and southwestern Louisiana—the southern rim of the state. Although the songs of Pointe Coupee are relevant to those of parts farther south, particularly considering the deep links between the Pointe Coupee Creole culture and that of the lower Bayou Teche, I do not include the Pointe Coupee recordings for two reasons. First, Pointe Coupee is geographically displaced from the location of these recordings, not only in terms of distance but also because the two places are separated by the largest river swamp in the nation, the Atchafalaya Basin. Even now the journey from, say, New Iberia to False River is a winding one. In 1934, long before the construction of the I-10 interstate or Highway 190, which enabled faster access to the east side of the Atchafalaya Basin, the trip would have taken an entire day or more, depending on the mode of travel. Second, the recordings in Pointe Coupee are extensive, and the additional investigation of these materials in one volume would have made a large project unwieldy. This is not to say that these materials are not important or that there are not vital connections to be made between the two areas. On the contrary, there are multiple book-length studies to be done just on the recordings made by Harry Oster and the Lomaxes in Pointe Coupee, and these future studies will only serve to complement the work conducted here.

I accessed recordings of the francophone materials through the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. As my project is geographic, rather than language-specific in focus, I obtained copies of the additional English recordings from the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress. While some of the recordings previously released on compact disc were already divided into individual audio tracks, another part of the process was, of necessity, archival. Working with audio software, I divided the entire collection into individual tracks, which then formed the basis of a digital database. The next step involved transcription, translation where necessary, and finally annotation. Although this study's primary aim is to be a lucid and direct textual study, I have offered interpretations and speculations that incorporate the perspectives of performance studies, gender studies, and psychological criticism but only insofar as they seem pertinent and helpful. I have assiduously attempted to avoid tendentious readings based on my own predilections for one or another theoretical mode.

The resulting core of this project is thus a fairly straightforward annotated anthology. Taken as a whole, this study of the Lomax collection provides firmer footing for future scholarship concerning traditional music in Louisiana. In attempting to make sense of this fundamental document, I hope to answer the call made by John Lomax during his Louisiana sojourn (as it turns out, he had a bit of a soft spot for Cajun music after all): "The Segura Brothers and their band at White Oak near New Iberia, Louisiana, played this beautiful music on June 22, 1934, for the Library of Congress in Washington. The record is to be kept there perpetually for the musicians of America to study" (AFS 40 A01).

Mr. Bornu

Mr. Bornu, Kaplan, Louisiana, Summer 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.00334/.
Mr. Bornu, Kaplan, Louisiana, Summer 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, digital ID loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.00334/.

Mr. "Bornu," who recorded near Morse in 1934, remains one of the great enigmas of the Lomax collection. His songs suggest a familiarity with cowboy lore ("Old Chisholm Trail") and traditional English bawdy material ("Inch above Your Knee") as well as the complex interplay of white and black francophone traditions that coalesced into Cajun and Creole music ("Belle" and "Donne-l'à ton nègre"). Alan Lomax's photograph of Bornu reveals a handsome young man with a mischievous grin, smoking a cigarette in front of a cattle fence—an appropriate location, considering the various connections in his songs to horse culture. Who exactly Bornu was remains a mystery. No one with the surname Bornu appears in any of the 1900, 1910, 1920, or 1930 Louisiana census rolls. One possibility is that the Lomaxes invented the pseudonym at his request, perhaps because of the extremely risqué nature of one of the songs. Performers of bawdy material (as evidenced, for instance, in the notes to Vance Randolph's extensive collections of bawdy song) often contributed material to folklorists with the understanding that they would not be identified. One possible clue exists in the Library of Congress catalog. On the card for "Old Chisholm Trail" the performer's name is scratched through, with Bornu added in pencil above it. Alan Lomax, who spent some time at the helm of the Archive of American Folk Song, often personally amended these files, and it may be the case that he or someone else altered an accidental printing of the actual name. (Barnes is the name scribbled out.) While this is purely conjectural, it should be noted that Barnes was indeed a common surname in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas in the early 1930s (as was, incidentally, Borne).

In this song the speaker takes a train for Texas—a perennial theme in vernacular Louisiana song. After three days he receives a letter informing him that the girl he has left behind is ill, and he returns by train, pawning his horse, Henry (presumably to pay for her medical bills). As the Lomaxes observed in their note to a transcription of this song, published in Our Singing Country, the performance, while apparently an indigenous francophone composition, suggests that the "influence of the Westerns and of jazz is plain to be seen in this modern chronicle of Cajun country" (2000, 194). Irène Thérèse Whitfield cites a Mr. Vories LeBlanc, of Rayne, who associated the rhythm of the song with the valse à deux temps (1939, 96), which literally means "waltz in two times" but which refers to a European two-step dance in triple meter. A valse à deux temps thus originally referred to a dance step rather than a song type. Although the notion of a "two-step waltz" seems counterintuitive, as waltzes and two-steps are generally considered two discrete, even opposite, steps, particularly in Louisiana and Texas, the valse à deux temps is simply another style of dancing to a triple meter. As the valse à deux temps tends to be a quick dance, involving almost constant turning, faster songs in triple meter, such as this one, may have been associated with the dance form. While much hay has been made about the evidence of English influences indicated by the pronunciation of the horse's name, this should come as no surprise, given that Bornu also performed two songs in English for the Lomaxes. Like many people who came of age during the 1930s in southwestern Louisiana, he was apparently bilingual and, not surprisingly, sang songs in both English and French. As Ancelet notes, horses and particularly mules were often given Anglo-American names by francophone and bilingual owners, and Henry is also the name of the horse in Lawrence Walker's classic waltz "Chère Alice" (pers. comm., February 2011).

Lunéda Comeaux

Portrait of Lunéda Commeaux of New Iberia, Louisiana, 1934. Detail from photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00670.Lunéda Commeaux, Cajun singer, New Iberia, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00337.
Top, Portrait of Lunéda Commeaux of New Iberia, Louisiana, 1934. Detail from photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00670. Bottom, Lunéda Commeaux, Cajun singer, New Iberia, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00337.

Not much is known about Lunéda Comeaux. According to annotations made by the Lomaxes, Comeaux lived at Route 4, Box 117, in New Iberia. She was forty-two at the time of the recording, making her birth date approximately 1892. The spelling "Lunéda" is based on Whitfield's spelling in Louisiana French Folk Songs, and may or may not be correct. Comeaux's repertoire was a varied one, and it reflects the depth and breadth of oral tradition in south Louisiana in the 1930s. Alongside traditional laments with medieval roots, Comeaux performed rounds, randonnées, nineteenth-century "sans souci" fool songs, and transpositions of American folk songs—not to mention humorous lyrics related to Louisiana Creole song traditions. Songs of parting and abandonment are conspicuously prevalent in her repertoire. Unfortunately, as so little is known about her life, any link between her own experiences and her penchant for these particular songs is purely conjectural.

This song consists of a dialogue between a man and his lover. About to depart for "the islands," he has come to say his good-byes. The woman proclaims that the pretty brunettes of these islands will surely entrance him, but she also makes a flirtatious promise: if he is wise and remains faithful, he won't regret it upon his return. He concurs and promises the same. In the last verses, presumably set later in time, the abandoned girl laments the pitfalls of love and declares herself "malheureuse" (wretched), suggesting that her apprehensions about his journey were well founded. Although portions of this song seem to adhere to a fairly strict abab rhymed quatrain, this tendency is highly variable.

An analogue of the song published by Creighton and Labelle as "Parti pour un voyage" (1988, 62), this song was also sung for the Lomaxes, with slight variation, by Julien Hoffpauir. The motif of a departure for the islands also appears in Joe Segura's version of "Adieu Marguerite." Although the versions of "Parti pour un voyage" consist of the same basic plot, there are subtle variations. In this version the traveler is warned about the charms of pretty brunettes. In others, however, the temptresses in question may be Italians or, in Acadian versions, "Canadiennes," the term used to this day by Acadians for their Québécois neighbors:

Quand qu'tu s'ras dessur ces îles,

Sur ces îl' bien-z-éloignées,

Tu voiras ces bell's Canadiennes

Qui te charmeront le coeur.

[When you arrive on these islands,

On these islands well far away,

You'll see these pretty Canadians

Who will charm your heart.]

(Creighton and Labelle 1988, 64).

Just as the terrible beauty of a "jolie blonde" signals cross-cultural temptation in indigenous French Louisiana song, the pretty brunettes and Canadiennes of these songs may have embodied cultural as well as romantic fears.

Although clearly a love lyric, this song also reflects the occupational realities of the French maritime provinces, where men had to travel far afield for employment— whether as fishermen or, earlier, as voyageurs and coureurs des bois. As Madeleine Béland and Lorraine Carrier-Aubin discuss at length in their study Chansons de voyageurs, coureurs des bois et forestiers (1982), parting songs like this one were part of the repertoire of itinerant laborers as well as the women they left behind.

Songs in dialogue often allow for different interpretations, of course, on the part of the performer, and Comeaux's concluding verses clearly focus the narrative on the plight of the deserted girl. In contrast to Hoffpauir's lilting, chantey-like version of this song, Comeaux's version is plaintive and shrill, a lament in line with the other songs of abandonment in her repertoire.

Alberta Bradford and Becky Elzy

Alberta Bradford and Becky Elzy, Avery Island, Louisiana, ca. 1933. Photo courtesy of E. A. McIlhenny Enterprises, Inc. Reproduced from Joshua Clegg Caffery's John and Alan Lomax in Louisiana, 1934 project.
Alberta Bradford and Becky Elzy, Avery Island, Louisiana, ca. 1933. Photo courtesy of E. A. McIlhenny Enterprises, Inc. Reproduced from Joshua Clegg Caffery's John and Alan Lomax in Louisiana, 1934 project.

At the end of the Lomaxes' recording session with Becky Elzy and Alberta Bradford, John Lomax offers a short biography of the singers: "The spirituals on this record were sung by Becky Elzy, 86, and Alberta Bradford, 73, who in their younger days were slaves on the Avery Island plantation. They've recollected these songs over all these years and still have wonderful voices to sing them as they should be sung" (AFS 00105 A02). As Lomax also mentions, words similar to many of those in the songs from this recording session can be found in E. A. McIlhenny's book, Befo' de War Spirituals (1933). McIlhenny was and remains the best-known scion of the Avery and McIlhenny clans of Avery Island—a raised coastal salt dome near New Iberia, Louisiana. McIlhenny, who managed the family's multifarious business interests, also made a name for himself as a nature writer and amateur ornithologist, turning the island into a bird sanctuary and planting exotic gardens open to the public. In addition, McIlhenny was fascinated by the religious music of the former slaves who remained on his family property after the Civil War. A regular participant in the church services on Avery Island, McIlhenny set out to put together a songbook with the intention of preserving the songs he had heard growing up—songs that he believed were rapidly dying out during Reconstruction. When he could remember only thirty of these songs on his own, he set out to find singers who could help fill out the repertoire. Eventually, he located Becky Elzy, who had been a slave about twenty miles away on Côte Gélee but who was then living in the country only six miles from Avery Island. Elzy had retained many of the older songs, and—along with help from Alberta Bradford, who provided a "second," or "tone," to her alto—she helped McIlhenny construct a significant collection (McIlhenny 1933, 11–33; McKenzie 1990, 95–110).48

This song is among the most famous in the African American spiritual repertoire, thanks in part to a reference to it in the concluding lines of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech: "And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'" (1992, 105–6).

As most commentary on African American spirituals notes, the bondage and subsequent release of the Israelites, as recounted in the Old Testament, served as a deep internal cultural metaphor for the plight of black slaves. Unable to address this plight outright, the original authors of the "sorrow songs" employed Christian symbolism to express what would otherwise be interdicted. In this song there is little outright reference to any particular biblical story, with a focus instead on personal salvation from sin. As sung by congregations of enslaved African Americans, however, it seems logical to speculate that the song would have expressed a broader cultural longing for economic and social freedom.

This song, like all of the other songs performed by Bradford and Elzy, freely includes metrical commonplace lines found elsewhere in their repertoire as well as in the broader spiritual tradition. The lines "Ole Satan mad and I am glad" and "Satan thought he had me fast," for instance, can also be found in a version of "Goin' Down to Jordan." Likewise, "I know my God is a man of war" also appears in their versions of "Dry Bones," "Comin' Down the Line," and "Adam in the Garden Pinnin' Leaves." All of these lines, it should be noted, are virtually identical, metrically speaking, in that they can be scanned as trochaic tetrameter—four accents per line, emphasizing the rhythm's heavy downbeat.

Wilson "Stavin' Chain" Jones, Charles Gobert, and Octave Amos

The Lomax recordings of Wilson Jones (guitar), Octave Amos (fiddle), and Charles Gobert (banjo) are the only known documentation of this somewhat mysterious ensemble. Who exactly these musicians were, where they might have performed, and who might have been their audience remains a mystery, though census and military records confirm that people with those names lived in Louisiana during the early twentieth century.

Wilson "Stavin' Chain" Jones playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson" alongside fiddler Octave Amos, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00340. Wilson "Stavin' Chain" Jones playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson," Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00342.Wilson "Stavin' Chain" Jones playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson," Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934. Photograph by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00341.
Top, Wilson "Stavin' Chain" Jones playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson" alongside fiddler Octave Amos, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00340. Middle, Wilson "Stavin' Chain" Jones playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson," Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00342. Bottom, Wilson "Stavin' Chain" Jones playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson," Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00341. Photographs by Alan Lomax. The Lomax Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Wilson Jones, who apparently went by the name Stavin' Chain, may be the same Wilson Jones drafted on September 12, 1918.49 Nineteen at the time, this Wilson Jones was born in Opelousas around 1899 and would have been approximately thirty-five when the Lomaxes recorded him. Jones's original ballad about serving in World War I suggests that they could be the same individual. Census records also indicate, however, that another Wilson Jones apparently lived in northeastern Louisiana, around the town of Bonita, an area known for its dynamic blues traditions.

Evidence of Amos and Gobert is similarly sparse. The 1930 census indicates that a black man named Charles Gobert, aged forty-nine, was living in Lafayette, and military records indicate that an Octave Amos, born in Louisiana on May 7, 1894, was drafted into the army in 1918. Perhaps they met during the war.

The lineage of the rural banjo/fiddle-driven black string band is a long and complex one. Although the style fell into obscurity during much of the twentieth century and the banjo and fiddle became more commonly associated with white bluegrass and "oldtime" Appalachian music, early accounts of vernacular American string band music identify it with African American performance. As Dena J. Epstein's Sinful Tunes and Spirituals (2003) amply illustrates, the banjo and the fiddle were once perceived to be the quintessential instruments of slave performance, going back at least to the late eighteenth century. Moreover, as a number of studies have suggested, many early minstrel performers expended considerable effort attempting to imitate the fiddle/banjo performances of black southerners, and these imitations were incorporated into the minstrel show—albeit in a somewhat distorted and often grotesque fashion (Conway 1995; Lott 1993; McLane 2003; Meer 2005). In turn the minstrel show, the most popular American musical style for much of the nineteenth century, provided a template and training ground for many of the early popular white "hillbilly" and "country" artists. Uncle Dave Macon, Jimmie Rodgers, and Bob Wills, for instance, all cut their teeth as minstrels in medicine shows. Black musicians, strangely enough, first gained national audiences in the nineteenth century on the minstrel circuit, even in some instances wearing blackface themselves (Toll 1974).

Although the string band became increasingly identified as a hillbilly (and thus white) configuration in the twentieth century, a number of black string bands enjoyed some success before those divisions became widely accepted. Most famous among them was the Mississippi Sheiks, the guitar/fiddle duo whose hit "Sitting on Top of the World" is today a staple of the bluegrass and western swing repertoires. As black string band ensembles had done since before the Civil War, bands such as the Sheiks, the Dallas String Band, Cannon's Jug Stompers, and many others performed a hybrid repertoire that was designed to appeal to both black and white audiences (Wolfe 1990, 32–35). The repertoire of Stavin' Chain and company is in this same vein, mixing straightforward blues with topical ballads and crossover dance numbers such as "Little Liza Jane."

While anglophone black string band and folk blues traditions have not thrived in south Louisiana, all evidence indicates that they were a vibrant part of the area's cultural landscape up until at least the early part of the twentieth century. Along with the Lomax recordings of John Bray and Herbert Halpert's Works Progress Administration recordings (AFS 3990) of Phinus "Flatfoot" Rockmore, "Kid" White, and Joe Harris (recorded in Shreveport but hailing from New Iberia), these recordings demonstrate that a vernacular pan-southern anglophone African American tradition once thrived in south Louisiana, alongside the better-known Cajun and Creole traditions. Moreover, they provide meaningful context for the development of Cajun and Creole styles, themselves so indebted to and intertwined with the blues, while reminding us of the remarkable breadth of vernacular performance styles in early-twentieth-century Acadiana.

In the headnotes to this song, published in Our Singing Country, Lomax remarks that he was unable to verify Jones's claim that it was based on an actual murder and subsequent trial in the area of Lake Charles (2000, 335). As the legal scholar Richard Underwood points out, however, Lomax's efforts toward this end must have been minimal (2007, 766). The case of Albert Edwin "Ed" Batson and his alleged murder of the Earle family in the environs of Welsh, Louisiana, in 1902 was infamous, and Jones's ballad constitutes a vernacular echo and retelling of a story that had been at one time a statewide, and even national, sensation.

In Jones's song Batson is a hapless, somewhat oppressed laborer accused of a crime he did not commit. Apprehended while window-shopping, he is convicted and gruesomely executed, much to the horror of his adoring family. His last request is that his daughters be well cared for.

With little exception, newspaper reports of the time painted a starkly divergent portrait of Batson. "fiendish deeds of a tramp" reads the front page of New Orleans's Daily Picayune story (one of many that would run), published two days after the mutilated bodies of the Earle family were discovered. This article essentially follows the accepted narrative surrounding the killings, the same narrative that the prosecution would successfully articulate in the subsequent trial.

Batson had worked for some time as the hired man of Ward Earle, son of L. S. Earle, a prosperous farmer who had brought his family from Kansas to Calcasieu Parish. Someone (many witnesses later testified that it was Batson) claiming to be Ward Earle apparently tried to sell Earle's team of livestock in Lake Charles, arousing suspicions that led to the discovery of the murdered family. Batson, meanwhile, had departed for his hometown in Missouri, leaving incriminating evidence in Ward Earle's buggy—a vest containing a cryptic suicide note and other possessions linked to Batson. As all circumstantial evidence seemed to suggest Batson's guilt, he was arrested in Missouri and ultimately extradited to Calcasieu Parish, where he stood trial for murder (Underwood 2007; Daily Picayune 1902).

Edward Albert Batson, New Orleans Daily Picayune, 1902. Batson was found guilty of murder and executedSheriff Perkins and deputy Fontenot, Batson's Louisiana escorts. New Orleans Daily Picayune, 1902.
Top, Edward Albert Batson, New Orleans Daily Picayune, 1902. Batson was found guilty of murder and executed. Bottom, Sheriff Perkins and deputy Fontenot, Batson's Louisiana escorts. New Orleans Daily Picayune, 1902. Images in public domain.

Already notorious, the case began to assume legendary proportions when the first verdict of guilty was reversed and a second trial announced. Things became more complicated when an acquaintance of the defense attorney, the Associated Press reporter Charles Dobson (also known as Miles Dobson), published a book, Guilty? Side Lights on the Batson Case, a Recrudescence of the Murder of the Earll [sic] Family in Louisiana (1903), which postulated that two unknown villains had perpetrated the crime, possibly as retribution for an ancient grievance dating back to the Earle family's past lives in Kansas (Underwood 2007). Although the hearsay evidence that led to Dobson's conclusion was never admitted in court, the book caused quite a stir and contributed to the controversy surrounding his eventual execution on August 14, 1903, as well as the lingering doubts about Batson's guilt. Almost a century after his death, for instance, an article by journalist Jim Bradshaw in the October 28, 1997, edition of the Lafayette (La.) Daily Advertiser accepts key tenets of Dobson's hypothesis.

While Jones's ballad obviously diverges sharply from the facts as presented at the trial, many of these divergences relate to details of the case, no doubt transmuted via oral transmission. Batson, for instance, hitches up Mr. Earle's "two bay horse and a wagon." The case revolved largely around the suspect's attempt to divest himself of Earle's mules, horses, and buggy. In the song Batson walks "uptown," where he looks in a "showcase." During the trial it emerged that the suspect had left Earle's horses and mules and visited a gunsmith and a watch repair store. "Henry Reese" is the name of the sheriff in the ballad, and while the sheriff who arrested Batson was named Perkins, one H. L. Reese, the foreman of the Lake Charles streetcar line, was a key witness at the trial. Moreover, the initial appearance of a deputy, rather than the sheriff, echoes real events: apparently, Perkins was criticized for sending his deputy to investigate what he knew to be a major crime. Similarly, the song refers to Batson scribbling with a pencil. Much of the trial proceedings hinged on the positive identification of Batson's handwriting— specifically, whether it matched the handwriting on a note pinned on Ward Earle's door that seemed intended to throw investigators off the scent. And finally, the closing line of the song, "Bye Bye, Batson, Bye Bye," may relate to the text of Batson's purported suicide note (the so-called Ha Ha Letter), which concluded thusly: "A. E. Batson, Friend to All. Ha, ha, bye-bye, I'm gone" (Daily Picayune 1902).

All of these connections notwithstanding, Jones's narrative differs from the actual events in many major respects. Albert Batson was an itinerant laborer, for instance, and had no wife or children. Authorities apprehended him after he had left the state, not when he was window-shopping in Lake Charles. The metamorphosis of the Batson story evidenced here, however, is in keeping with its assimilation into the narrative blues tradition—a tradition that tends to invert societal norms, often making heroes of reputed scoundrels. The tune and structure of the song, the Lomaxes note in Our Singing Country, are taken directly from the widely known African American folksong "Frankie and Johnny," a song that also presents a generous defense of a murderer.

A number of the phrases and motifs are also traditional. Batson's declaration "You may dress in red, / You may dress in black" echoes the concluding verses of a number of similar blues songs, such as "Ella Speed" and Mississippi John Hurt's version of "Louis Collins." Likewise, the image of a "rubber-tired buggy, decorated horse" appears frequently in similar songs, such as "Frankie and Albert" and Blind Willie McTell's "Delia":

Rubber-tired buggy,

Two-seated hack,

Took Delia to the graveyard,

Never brought her back.

(McTell 1990)

Although early scholarship on the blues ballad as a genre—or "Negro ballad," as G. Malcolm Laws called it (1964, 94)—initially set it apart from Anglo-American balladry, suggesting that it was less likely to be based on real events and less likely to be diegetically unified, more recent investigation into the historical background of songs such as "Stagger Lee" and "Ella Speed" have suggested that these compositions were in fact often based on real events and that those real events were often rendered in precise and realistic detail (Garst and Cowley 2001; Brown 2004). "Batson," I would argue, while it does incorporate stylistic elements from the blues tradition, is a highly unified, extremely realistic narrative drawn directly from real events—much like many topical canonical ballads. In general the song is a skillful appropriation and transmutation of current events through the medium of African American oral poetics.

The only other known version of this song is a manuscript version in the Robert Winslow Gordon papers in the Library of Congress (Gordon 3759). In December 1929 an assistant district attorney in Lake Charles, Robert Mouton, transcribed eleven verses from the singing of an elderly African American man and forwarded them to Gordon. Although the story differs in certain details, the refrain is nearly identical, and the words fit neatly with the musical structure of "Frankie and Johnny."

About the Author

Joshua Clegg Caffery is a scholar and musician from Franklin, Louisiana. He was a founding member of the Red Stick Ramblers and a longtime member of the Louisiana French band Feufollet. In addition to being nominated for a Grammy for his work on the Feufollet album En Couleurs, he served as the 2013–14 Alan Lomax Fellow in Folklife Studies at the John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress. In 2014–15, he served as visiting professor of folklore at Indiana University.

Acknowledgments

Southern Spaces thanks Lousiana State University Press for permission to reprint this excerpt from Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings. All rights reserved.

  • 1. "Cajun' Music,"Weekly Iberian, April 28, 1938.
  • 2. Irène Thérèse Whitfield, "Louisiana Folk Songs" (MA thesis, Louisiana State University, 1935); John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, Our Singing Country: Folk Songs and Ballads (New York: MacMillian, 1941); Barry Jean Ancelet, Cajun Music: Its Origins and Development (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1989); Barry Jean Ancelet, Jay Edwards, and Glen Pitre, Cajun County (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991); Shane K. Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996); Barry Jean Ancelet, "Research on Louisiana French Folklore and Folklife," in French and Creole in Louisiana, ed. Albert Valdman (New York: Plenum Press, 1997), 351–356; Ben Sandmel and Rock Olivier, Zydeco! (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999); Charles J. Stivale, Disenchanting Les Bons Temps: Identity and Authenticity in Cajun Music and Dance (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003); Mark F. DeWitt, Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008); Ryan André Brasseaux, Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); John Szwed, Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World (New York: Viking, 2010).
  • 3. For more on the cultural politics of Alan Lomax's agenda, see Robert Baron, "'All Power to the Periphery': The Public Folklore Thought of Alan Lomax," Journal of Folklore Research 49, No. 3 (September/December 2012): 275–317.
  • 4. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings developed out of Caffery's dissertation advised by Barry Jean Ancelet. Joshua Clegg Caffery, "Ride les Blues: The Lomaxes in Coastal Louisiana, 1934" (PhD dissertation, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2011).
  • 5. "The Realm of Negro Lore," St. Landry Clarion, May 25, 1912.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. For more on the Lomax family legacy, see Nolan Porterfield, Last Cavalier: The Life and Times of John A. Lomax (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996); Szwed, Alan Lomax.
  • 8. "Cajun' Music."
  • 9. Joshua Clegg Caffery, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013), 130.
  • 10. Whitfield, "Louisiana Folk Songs," 22.
  • 11. John and Alan Lomax never served in any official capacity as advisors for Sarah Gertrude Knott's National Folk Festival. However, their influence was certainly felt despite their tangential relationship to the festival. Michael Ann Williams, Staging Tradition: John Lair and Sarah Gertrude Knott (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006), 22.
  • 12. Lauren C. Post, Cajun Sketches: From the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974), 159.
  • 13. Ibid., 160.
  • 14. See William A. Owens, "Cajun French: Lapping Over from Louisiana," in Tell Me a Story, Sing Me a Song: A Texas Chronicle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983), 116–152.
  • 15. For more on Mr. Bornu and "Je m'endors," see Caffery, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, 25–31. For information on Virgil Thompson and the Lomax recordings see, Ryan André Brasseaux, "The Backstory on Louisiana Story," Louisiana Cultural Vistas 20, No. 1 (2009): 20–29.
  • 16. As quoted in F. A. de Caro, "A History of Folklife Research in Louisiana," http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Virtual_Books/Guide_to_State/decaro.html. This is an online reprint of F. A. de Caro, "A History of Folklife Research in Louisiana," in Louisiana Folklife: A Guide to the State, ed. Nicholas R. Spitzer (Baton Rouge: Office of Cultural Development, 1985): 12–34.
  • 17. Szwed, Alan Lomax, 349.
  • 18. As quoted in de Caro, "A History of Folklife Research in Louisiana."
  • 19. As quoted in Ibid.
  • 20. Now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
  • 21. For more on dancehalls, see Malcolm L. Comeaux, "The Cajun Dance Hall," Material Culture 32 (2000): 37–56; Ryan André Brasseaux "Social Music" in Cajun Breakdown, 27–48.
  • 22. Barry Jean Ancelet and Philip Gould, One Generation at a Time: Biography of a Cajun and Creole Music Festival (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2007). Ancelet considers his brand of folkloristics "guerrilla academics." Barry Ancelet, "The Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore: An Experiment in Guerrilla Academics," in Sounds of the South: A Report and Selected Papers from a Conference on the Collecting and Collections of Southern Traditional Music (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 148–156; Barry Jean Ancelet, "The Theory and Practice of Activist Folklore: From Fieldwork to Programming," Working the Field: Accounts from French Louisiana, edited by Jacques Henry and Sara Le Menestrel (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009), 55–76. There are a number of parallels between Lomax's and Ancelet's modes of public engagement. See, Baron, "'All Power to the Periphery'."
  • 23. Barry Jean Ancelet, "Lomax in Louisiana: Trials and Triumphs," Folklife in Louisiana: Louisiana's Living Traditions website, http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/LFMlomax.html. This article is based on the Phillips Barry Memorial Lecture Ancelet delivered at the 2003 American Foklore Society meeting, later published in the 2009 Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, a journal of the Louisiana Folklore Society. See also,"40 years of Festivals Acadiens et Créoles," http://blog.lafayettetravel.com/40-years-of-festivals-acadiens-et-creoles/.
  • 24. Ruth Laney, "Barry Ancelet has Established an Archive of Cajun and Creole Music in Lafayette," The Attakapas Historical Association No. 2 (2014), http://attakapasgazette.org/2014-issue-2/barry-ancelet-established-archive-cajun-creole-music-lafayette/.
  • 25. Ancelet came of age during a period in Louisiana's history when the number of native Francophones was in precipitous decline, a phenomenon that colored his scholarship and activism. For more on the decline of French in Louisiana, see Shane K. Bernard, The Cajuns: Americanization of a People (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003) and Jacques M. Henry and Carl L. Bankston III, Blue Collar Bayou: Louisiana Cajuns in the New Economy of Ethnicity (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002).
  • 26. Barry Jean Ancelet, "A Perspective on Teaching the 'Problem language' in Louisiana," The French Review 61, No. 3 (1988): 353. This mediation took various forms, from scholarship to the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles. For more on the role of linguistic and cultural politics in French Louisiana, see Jacques Henry, "From 'Acadien' to 'Cajun' to 'Cadien': Ethnic Labelization and Construction of Identity," Journal of American Ethnic History 17, No. 4 (Summer, 1998): 29–62; Dianne Guenin-Lelle and Alison Harris, "The Role of Music Festivals in the Cultural Renaissance of Southwestern Louisiana in the Late Twentieth Century," Louisiana History 50, No. 4 (Fall 2009): 461–472; Mark Mattern, Acting in Concert: Music, Community, and Political Action (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998), 79–100; Ancelet and Gould, One Generation at a Time. Some locals who identify as Cajun take issue with the emphasis on French as the defining factor in the Cajun cultural equation. See, Michael Tisserand, "Never Mind the Bowties—Here's The Bluerunners," in Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader, eds. Ryan A. Brasseaux and Kevin S. Fontenot (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, ), 477–85; Michelle Y. Fiedler, "The Cajun Ideology: Negotiating Identity in Southern Louisiana," (PhD dissertation, Washington State University, 2011), 166–172. For examples of other cultural mediation efforts through folklore, see David E. Whisnant, All That Is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984); Benjamin Filene, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000).
  • 27. Laney, "Barry Ancelet has Established an Archive of Cajun and Creole Music in Lafayette."
  • 28. Janey McMonnaughey, "Father-Son Team of 'Ballad-Hunters' Preserved Louisiana Folk Songs," Los Angeles Times, February 21, 1988.
  • 29. Laney, "Barry Ancelet has Established an Archive of Cajun and Creole Music in Lafayette."
  • 30. Doucet and his band crafted a new arrangement of the a cappella composition "Je m'endors" originally sung by Mr. Bornu and recorded by the Lomaxes in 1934. Beausoleil, The Spirit of Cajun Music (Swallow LP6031, 1978). Caffery, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, 25–31.
  • 31. Ancelet, "The Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore," 153.
  • 32. Alan and John A. Lomax: Cajun and Creole Music, 1934/1937 (Rounder Records 11661-1842-2, 1999); Alan and John A. Lomax: Cajun and Creole Music II, 1934/1937 (Rounder Records11661-1843-2, 1999).
  • 33. Laney, "Barry Ancelet has Established an Archive of Cajun and Creole Music in Lafayette."
  • 34. Ancelet, "Lomax in Louisiana."
  • 35. As quoted in Szwed, Alan Lomax, 57.
  • 36. Ancelet, "Lomax in Louisiana."
  • 37. Sharon Bernstein, "'Patchwork' Extends the Cultural Reach of PBS Television," Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1990; Paige Gutierrez, "Cajun Country: Lache pas la patate by Alan Lomax," Journal of American Folklore 109, No. 434 (Autumn, 1996): 465–468.
  • 38. Gutierrez, "Cajun Country," 466.
  • 39. As quoted in Ancelet, "Lomax in Louisiana."
  • 40. As quoted in Ibid.
  • 41. A number of socio-historical factors, including transnational influences from French Canada, contributed to the vocabulary with which Louisianians express their culture and language in public discourses. For more on these factors, see Barry Jean Ancelet, "Negotiating the Mainstream: The Creoles and Cajuns in Louisiana," The French Review 80, No. 6 (May 2007): 1235–1255; Bernard, The Cajuns; Jacques Henry, "Le CODOFIL dans le mouvement francophone en Louisiane," Présence Francophone, 43 (1993): 27–28; Jacques Henry, "The Louisiana French Movement: Actors and Actions in Social Change," in French and Creole in Louisiana, ed. Albert Valdman (New York and London: Plenum Press, 1997), 183–213; James Dormon, "Louisiana's Cajuns: A Case Study in Ethnic Group Revitalization," Social Science Quarterly 65 (December 1984): 1043–1057; Dianne Guenin-Lelle, "The Birth of Cajun Poetry: An Analysis of Cris sur le bayou: naissance d'une poésie acadienne en Louisiane," The French Review 70, No. 3 (February, 1997): 439–451.
  • 42. Revon Reed, Lache pas la patate (Montréal: Éditions Parti Pris, 1976); Glenn R. Conrad ed., The Cajuns: Essays on Their History and Culture (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1983); Glenn R. Conrad, New Iberia: Essays on the Town and Its People (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1986); Carl A. Brasseaux, Founding of New Acadia: The Beginnings of Acadian Life in Louisiana, 1765–1803 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987); Barry Jean Ancelet and Elemore Morgan, Makers of Cajun Music (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984); Carl A. Brasseaux, "Four Hundred Years of Acadian Life in North America," Journal of Popular Culture 23, No. 1 (Summer 1989): 3–22; Michael James Forêt, "A Cookbook view of Cajun Culture," Journal of Popular Culture 23, No. 1 (Summer 1989): 23–36; Darrell Bourque, "Plainsongs of the Marais Bouleur: A Selection," Journal of Popular Culture 23, No. 1 (Summer 1989): 37–45; David Barry, "A French Literary Renaissance in Louisiana: Cultural Reflections," Journal of Popular Culture 23, No. 1 (Summer 1989): 47–63; Mathé Allain, "They Don't Even Talk Like Us: Cajun Violence in Film and Fiction," Journal of Popular Culture 23, No. 1 (Summer 1989): 65–75; Marcia Gaudet, "The Image of the Cajun in Literature," Journal of Popular Culture 23, No. 1 (Summer 1989): 77–88; Sharon Arms Doucet, "Cajun Music: Songs and Psyche," Journal of Popular Culture 23, No. 1 (Summer 1989): 89–99; Barry Jean Ancelet, "The Cajun who went to Harvard: Identity in the Oral Tradition of South Louisiana," Journal of Popular Culture 23, No. 1 (Summer 1989): 101–115; Ancelet, Cajun Music; Barry Jean Ancelet, Capitaine, Voyage Ton Flag: The Traditional Cajun Mardi Gras (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1989); Ancelet, Edwards, Pitre, Cajun Country.
  • 43. Ancelet, "Lomax in Louisiana."
  • 44. Caffery, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, 2.
  • 45. Ibid., 1.
  • 46. Ibid., 2.
  • 47. Ibid., xx.
  • 48. Alan Lomax announces: "The spirituals on this record were sung by Becky Elzy, 86, and Alberta Bradford,73, who in their younger days were slaves on the Avery Island plantation. They've recollected these songs over all these years and still have wonderful voices to sing them as they should be sung. These spirituals, as they're sung, can be found in Mr. E. A. McIlhenny's book, Befo' de War Spirituals. These songs were recorded in Lake Arthur, Louisiana, in the month of June, 1934." Caffery, Traditional Music in Coastal Lousiana, 68.
  • 49. For a discussion of the meaning of stavin' chain, see my note to the song "Stavin' Chain" (217).
doi:10.18737/M7JC8B

Browse by