Sunday, August 8, 2010

Harry Choates on Gold Star 1326/1330

Harry Choates and His Fiddle - Cajun Hop / Harry Choates Special (Gold Star 1326/1330)

"Cajun Hop"

"Harry Choates Special"

Harry Choates's third release for Gold Star, which hit the jukeboxes in the summer of 1947, finally gave an accurate representation of how he and his band sounded in night clubs. "Cajun Hop" was merely an updated version of Leo Soileau's "Les Blues de Port Arthur," but "Harry Choates Special" broke from the "Jole Blon" mold entirely to deliver an excellent western swing dance/jam tune. Choates had been playing things like this since his earliest days as a musician. But years after Choates's death, when Pappy Daily was reissuing Choates's Gold Star masters, he deliberately avoided both these sides. Daily crafted a posthumous ideal of Choates as a "pure" Cajun folk artist that, for the most part, successfully deluded most listeners and writers for many years. I addressed and, I hope, permanently smashed this myth in my liner notes to the Choates Bear Family CD Devil in the Bayou (2002).

The "Cajun Hop" session is unique because Bill Quinn actually typed up a session sheet which the entire band signed, and, miraculously, this sheet actually survived and is now in the University of Texas archives. This is one of only two session sheets to survive for any Gold Star session, by anyone. Quinn's motivation was apparently to prove that he had paid the band for their services in case one of them tried to sue him later (as Jimmie Foster would do later that year for his non-credit on "Jole Blon"), though since he's only paying them $1.00 each, the contract is purely a formality. Either that, or the Melody Boys worked very cheap.

"Harry Choates Special" is not listed on the contract and is presumed to date from a later session. Quinn, in his usual eccentric fashion, issued 1326-A backed with 1330, and 1326-B ("Fa-De-Do Stomp") backed with 1331 ("Rubber Dolly"). This contract is reproduced for the first time below, as well as two rare Choates photos whose condition was too poor to use for the Bear Family release.

Below: The Choates Gold Star session sheet for the "Cajun Hop" session, dated (Wednesday), February 19, 1947. Click to enlarge.

Below: Harry Choates and Band in the Corpus Christi, Tx. area (possibly Rob's Place in Robstown), 1947. Left to right: unknown drums, Pee Wee Lyons (steel guitar), unknown saxophone, probably Wally Bryant, probably B.C. Jennings, Harry Choates, Red Fabacher.

Below: Harry Choates and Band, possibly in San Antonio, 1948. Left to right: Amos Comeaux (drums), Junior Keelan (bass), Choates, Johnnie Manuel (piano), Pee Wee Lyons (steel), unknown (guitar?).