I called Vin Bruce two days before the photo shoot for his first Swallow LP which had been released with a plain cover. It was being recalled by the company to be rewrapped and reissued with a full color picture due to high volumn sales. This was the gist of the conversation:
Leroy: “Vin, tomorrow we shoot. You found us a blond, yet?”
Vin: “No, I didn’t, but my wife Aline did.”
Leroy: “Your wife? She spent the last ten years keeping them away from you!”
Vin: “I convinced her it was only business. Her old friend Beatrice Hebert volunteered her daughter, a beautiful teenager named Elicia to have her hair dyed for the picture.”
Leroy: “Wow! A mother sacrificing her daughter on the altar of show business. That’s high drama, kid!”
Vin: “No, she’s just going to let us shoot her picture. Her mother and Aline will both be there to watch.”
Leroy: “OK, just my poetic way of thanking them. See you tomorrow.”
My humor was always offbeat.
We arranged to be photographed on my cousin Calvin “Fox” Cheramie’s trawl boat anchored in Bayou Lafourche where Vin and Fox both lived. (I mention relationships because many Cajuns are related so when a misdeed is rumored to have been committed, the first questioned asked is “are we related?” If the answer is no, the rumor can continue, otherwise you shut up.)
Fox had scrubbed the boat and arranged the trawls, boards and ropes in a nice order, all for naught, as I will later explain. Then the musicians and our “Jole Blon” model arrived and jaws dropped, the male ones, at least. Aline told me that Elicia was a natural blond, but had gotten touched up at the beauty shop. She sparkeled.
One of my wise cracking musicians said loud enough for everybody to hear, “Well, boys, we may as well go home. With her in the picture, who the h--- will look at us?”
(Personal note: To this day, over 50 years later, I still get letters asking who she was. Like all of us, she’s older but I would love to interview her. The mysterious blond in Vin Bruce’s first album has become a minor legend on the bayou. Please contact me at (985) 475-7306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The photo shoot went well but Doc Guidry was on a music festival tour in Africa with the White family, which was long before Ricky Scaggs married one of them. But we needed to show a fiddle. I volunteered.
Vin had an old fiddle and he showed me how to hold the bow. Fortunately no one asked me to hit a note since I didn’t know how. With C.J. Guidry on drums and Harry Anselmi on steel, the Vin Bruce band at the time, posed in our identical shirts and colonel bow ties and pretended to serenade our “Jole Blon.”
Ebdon Barrios and D.J. Collins, who actually played on the album, were unavailable.
We waited, and when our samples finally arrived I was once again disappointed. The picture was fine but the boat and all the riggings had been painted over and we were portrayed as playing on the porch of a hand drawn old shack. Management decision!
We apologized to Mr. Cheramie and moved on. You can view the old and the new covers in this column and a picture of a bootlegged LP which is an aspect of the record business I will write about next week.
The LP continued to sell and the “Jole Blon” single issued from it was another hit for the song now known as the “Cajun National Anthem”.
It led to many more LP’s, 8-tracts, and later compact discs and many dozens of single 45 rpms. It also allowed the organization of a touring band that extended Vin and I’s musical careers for another twenty-five years, traveling all over the U.S. and foreign countries, meeting with and playing with, top personalities and encounting musical adventures that we two Cajun boys had not even dreamed about, and which I hope to be able to write about.
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Posted on Tue, November 1, 2016
by The Lafourche Gazette