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Campaign songs

Campaign songs

Last week I wrote about Lafourche Parish’s geography but today it’s about Lafourche’s politics in the 1960’s.

I entered politics by writing campaign songs for various candidates and as Chief Deputy Assessor, I still wrote a few, some anonymously if those candidates were opposed by my employer. Then as now, a buck was a buck but I knew who buttered my bread.

I also wrote for friends running for civic club offices, Including fellow employee Lillian Duet for Business and Professional Woman’s Club President and Larry Usee and Addy Thibodeaux running for District Presidents of Lions and Rotary Clubs respectively and others.

It was pro bono for my friends and they all won but some political candidates who paid for my services did not. The songs did not come with any guarantee.

My employer, Assessor Hubert Robichaux and Clerk of Court Ambroise Landry, were both elected in 1953, unopposed in 1956 and 1960, but opposed in 1964 when they refused to support the incumbent sheriff. So they chose running as a team and wanted a campaign song.

Since, according to Life Magazine, my “Shrimp Boats” song had helped elect Governor Bob Kennon in 1952, I was in demand and I had pretty much cornered that market. So I was commissioned, (read that “demanded”), to write one with the caveat that I name every city, town and community in Lafourche.

That was a tough one even for me.

In 1959, Swamp Pop king Johnnie Allan had borrowed Johnny Horton’s tune from “North to Alaska” and rewrote it as “South to Louisiana, to the Town of Thibodaux”.

Big hit!

I borrowed the same tune and called it “South in Louisiana, it’s Landry Robichaux”.

Sometimes songwriters get away with it, but Johnny got sued. I didn’t because our records were free, a technicality I was well aware of.

I won’t bore you with the whole song, but here are some typical rhymes and lines. Bear with me with a straight face, please.

“Thibodaux to Golden Meadow, may I now report, Robichaux’s Assessor and Landry’s Clerk of Court.”

“Raceland, Gheens and Galliano, Lockport, Bayou Blue, all want their officials honest good and true.”

“Ambroise in Larose and Robichaux in Thibodaux, hear the people cheer them everywhere they go.”

“On a rig out in the Gulf, Gaston said to Tee Joe, let us keep them in the Court House up in Thibodaux.”

Corny? Absolutely! But those were cornier times and I had softened my past anti-opponent style to a now more mellow pro-candidate scenario.

The song written, I organized a band and scheduled a session at Cosimo’s in New Orleans. It took about 4 hours and a dozen takes but it sounded good, so I rushed to my clients in Thibodaux who listened intensely. They approved, so I shipped it and ordered five hundred 45rpm records. Having only one song, I put it on both sides.

We gave them out at the first rally and could have given out thousands more. Since the mother* and master* were paid for they would have been much cheaper. But time had run out and the election was too close. The vocal tract was clean, no bleeding*, so I used it for years in other ventures with different words for other purposes, like radio commercials.

(Mother* and master*: Stampers used to mass produce records, while bleeding* is sound leaking to another tract. When buying a record, you are paying more for the content than the hardware.)

Landry and Robichaux aced that election and many more. They each served 30 years and retired in 2000. Landry was succeeded by his nephew Vernon Rodrigue, who retired this year, and Robichaux by … Come on, you know who!

All this hurrah about a campaign song seems silly today and I guess it was, but elections were dead serious because a lost election meant the loss of jobs, one of which could have been mine.

Next week: How a patch of land in Lafourche Parish turned an already rich man into a multi-millionaire. How I got to meet him and now that any law infringement matters have proscribed, a list of gifts he gave me.

Bye now!

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