“A bunch of the boys were whooping it up, in the Malamute saloon” … the opening line from the famous poem
“The Shooting of Dan McGrew and the Lady known as Lou” by Robert Service.
Not my story! Actually we were only five and it was the Bellevue Hall in Cut Off, not the Malamute Saloon in Alaska.
There was no whooping it up, just friends enjoying a drink while discussing a forthcoming trip to Nashville, Tennessee.
Nobody named Dan McGrew got shot and there was no lady known as Lou, but hopefully I’ve caught your eye, so read on!
That night my manager, Harry Simoneaux, Sr., and I were explaining to friends, Bellevue manager Raleigh Pitre, musician Dudley Bernard, and boat builder Leonce “Ferin” Duet, how we were invited to Nashville by Peer International Music Publishing executive Troy Martin to spend four days in Nashville producing demos (demonstration recordings) of me for Decca Records who was interested in signing me.
Vin Bruce had been recording for Columbia Records for over a year and was showing great promise, so Decca Records was looking for another Cajun/country artist. Even knowing this, Vin had recommended me to his agent Troy Martin who had come to New Orleans to make the arrangements. That’s a friend!
Dudley said, “I’d like to go,” and Raleigh added, “I’ve never been there. I can drive us all in my new car.”
Leonce added, “Boys, I’d like to get away for a while and you’re bringing the Martins seafood so you’re going to need a cook.”
I said, “Ferin, why does an old married man like you want to get away for?”
“I’m an old married man! That’s what I need to get away for!” He answered.
“Fine,” I said. “That makes five and leaves room in front for the ice chest. Full crew! Mission accomplished! We leave Sunday.”
Not since Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan, Victor Hugo’s three Musketeers, plus one, form an alliance to save ‘king and country’ had a more enthusiastic group of Frenchmen (Cajuns) planned such a trip. The stakes were not as noble or nationalistic, but of great importance, especially to me.
I previously wrote about how we left here and got there and how on our last night Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers had arranged for me to sing on the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, so here’s what happened in between.
We checked in the Tulane Hotel and informed Mr. Martin we had arrived.
“I’ll meet you there at 9 a.m. tomorrow,” he answered and after a few toddies we hit the sack. After all, I thought, “tomorrow is another day.” (G.W.T.W.)
Next day he knocked on our door promptly at 9 a.m. and led me, Harry and Dudley to the elevator, riding to the 15th floor. The door opened and “vois la”, we were in the Castle Recording Studio, located in our hotel.
Surprise! We met the musicians and spent the rest of the day selecting songs and making arrangements for the sessions which began the next day.
Leonce and Raleigh had driven to the Martin house in the suburbs of Nashville to prepare the seafood banquet planned for that night. Mrs. Martin and children assisted.
We spent the rest of the day with the musician and I was amazed at what was known as the Nashville “Chart” system which consisted of transforming notes, chords and special licks and runs into numbers and symbols which only they understood. It had been devised by musicians as a short cut since recording sessions were time limited by the musicians’ union to three hours. Producers hired musicians who could produce more per session therefore necessity brought innovations.
At about 5 p.m. Troy called it a day and told the musicians, “I’ll see you tomorrow. We start recording at 1 p.m.”
On our way to Troy’s home, I remembered a Jimmie Davis song, “Come home, come home, it’s supper time”, and upon arrival from the car, we could smell wonderful aromas, herbs, spices, okra, Zatarains seasoning and seafood! Beaucoup seafood!
Next week, details of the sessions, picnic in the park and the outcome and results of all this commotion.
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Posted on Tue, February 23, 2016
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer