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Cajuns in Nashville

Cajuns in Nashville

After my column deadline last week, a weird coincidence occurred. Liz Simoneaux Dorsey, a teacher from Lafayette posted on Facebook an old Lafourche Comet clipping reporting five South Lafourche Cajuns’ visiting Nashville.

Liz knew nothing about me, my column, or the Lafourche Gazette. But my column was about that journey. She had found it in her grandmother’s scrapbook.

The coincidence: Liz’s grandmother Gladys was Mrs. Harry Simoneaux, Sr. from South Lafourche and Liz is Harry and Daphne Simoneaux, Jr.’s daughter, and both senior and junior were part of my column.

Liz and I friended and I obtained information and pictures which I include in my montage this week along with a copy of the article.

Harry, Jr. and I have a long history as friends and musicians. We share many memories, such as once after a late jam session, Vin Bruce, Doc Guidry and I brought Harry back home at daybreak, just as his wife Daphne, a nurse, was going to work. I’ll never forget the look we got from that dear lady.

I’m sorry to learn that her health has confined her to a wheel chair. She was always kind to me, except maybe for that one time.

It’s also sad that lung problems prevent Harry Jr. from playing sax. Arthritis prevents me from playing my guitar, but that’s no great loss. Harry’s is.

Now to continue my Troy Martin story and the trip to Nashville:

Harry Simoneaux, Sr. and I learned two lessons that morning in New Orleans, one was the retail price of a Mardi Gras miracle ($50 slipped into a cab driver’s hand) and two, that everything has a price.

As our cab pulled away I saw the lights go out in the tower of the Hibernia bank building and my mind flashed back to 1944 and an interesting experience I had in that tower which will be part of next week’s column.

We slept a few hours in Troy Martin’s “miracle” room at the Roosevelt before heading for the bayou. We introduced him to our great food, took him fishing, visited Grand Isle and took a swamp tour.
Vin Bruce was touring in Texas and missed his visit.

Troy told us that a deal for me with Decca Records was almost assured but that demos (demonstration discs) with professional Nashville musicians had to be cut before the final contracts were signed but that was merely a routine requirement. He arranged for our Nashville trip, guaranteed our travel and lodging expenses and agreed to let me bring friends. Then he boarded a train back to Nashville.

The Music City (not yet called that) studios were booked so it would be at least a month or so before I could be scheduled. The wait was excruciating, (thank you Mr. Webster … always by my side. The Thesaurus is also useful, but I often wonder, what’s another word for Thesaurus?)

Early one morning in June of 1952 I gathered my entourage: My manager Harry Simoneaux, Sr., my friend Dudley Bernard, Leonce “Fee-Ran” Duet, and a friend, Raleigh Pitre, who had volunteered to drive us in his new car.

I haven’t a clue as to how I ever got that gang together, but they provided just the right combination of humor, laughter and reminiscing and I assure you that not a word of English passed our lips until reaching Nashville. Mais oui, Cher!

We filled the trunk with our luggage and all the frozen seafood we could buy or sponge from our friends, bottles of Zatarain’s seasoning and an ice chest full of Jax and Dixie beer and took off over two-lane highways on a 600 mile trip to Nashville.

The Martin family was waiting on the sidewalk when we arrived assumingly to see Cajuns. After checking out five ordinary but tired men, they shrugged their shoulders and went back in.

I had no idea what the future would hold for me, but with those friends, I knew it would be fun, and I was 100% sure that for the next few days, Troy Martin’s family would be fed dishes they would never forget.

Bye now!
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