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Radio Daze IV - Enter Floyd Soileau

Radio Daze IV - Enter Floyd Soileau

For 25 years I was a part of the recording industry. A small, minor, irreverent, paltry, unimportant, minuscule part, but a part never the less. It’s more, but that’s my thesaurus limit describing insignificant.

It started with Edison cylinders, then 10-inch shellac 78 rpm disks with a small hole to 7-inch 45 rpm discs with a large hole to 12-inch 33 rpm L.P. vinyl albums to 1 and 8 tract cassettes to compact discs with a medium size hole to MP3.

Who else can give you the history of an industry in one paragraph?

In 1960 Roy Vicknair had engineered Vin Bruce’s first Swallow recording session at K.L.F.T studio in Golden Meadow. Take notes, these are historic moments in South Louisiana music trivia and a pop quiz will follow, now to continue.

I had two songs on tape and was off to Ville Platte. Vin was working so I took a day off, (on taxpayers’ dime, forgive me.)

On arrival Floyd played the tape and said, “Wow! Who engineered this?”

I answered: “Roy Vicknair on a one tract ampex recorder and two mikes.”

Floyd, a man of few words said, “The quality is very close to sessions I pay hundreds of dollars for. Roy should get his ears insured. I’m shipping it to the pressing plant today with an order of 1,000.”

He would re-order many more times.

It was 10 a.m. as I headed back thinking “Mission Accomplished”! I stopped at the Assessor’s office and told my secretary, “I feel better so I thought I’d check the mail and catch up on some work.”

My conscience felt better since I had only missed half a day.

The session cost me forty dollars, $15 for soft drinks, beer and snacks, and $25 for Roy, which he declined but I insisted. The musicians were returning past favors. Studio cost? Mr. Leo Theriot didn’t send a bill and I never asked.

Less than a week after the record was released I got a call from Floyd.

“The records are selling so well I had to order another 2000. I need an LP album on Vin immediately. Get Roy Vicknair to engineer with the same musician plus a good fiddle player. If you added an accordion I’d sell more here but less in your area which is what I’m aiming at so no accordion. I want Vin to re-record his 6 Columbia Cajun songs plus 6 traditional Cajun favorites including Harry Choates’ “Jole Blon”, Doc Guidry’s “Chere Cherie” and Moon Mullican’s “Big Texas” among others.”

A piece of cake! Every Cajun musician knew those songs by heart.

Mack Cheramie and Harry Anselmi played with Vin and I once again called back favors from my musician friends, but Gene Rodrigue and Luke Charpentier, Jr. were not available.

The recording sessions story continues next week, but now a personal disclosure. Vin Bruce is often part of my stories and that’s because for 83 of my 87 years he was part of my “musical, political and cultural” memoirs. We played music together for 30 years but we were friends long before and today he is my only close friend still alive. We traveled to 12 states and 2 foreign countries, sometimes with spouses Dot and Aline and experienced many happy, sad and poignant episodes, some I’ve written about, some I will and some I will not, but here’s a funny one:

Until recently, when his legs, like mine, gave out, he would sing when invited, often, at an elder person’s birthday party or public functions, gratis of course. Recently he sang a hymn for a friend’s funeral and a lady told me about it.

“I got ‘frissons’ as he sang and his voice was as good as it was twenty years ago,” she said.

I told Vin about it and he said, “Lee, I had laryngitis and couldn’t sing a note, but I had promised so I took an old cassette, put it in the church P.A. and lip synced into a dead mike.”

Yes, his voice should have been as good as it was 20 years ago because she was listening to him sing 20 years ago.

Bye now!

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