"Jolie Blonde" is a traditional cajun waltz, often called "the cajun national anthem" because of the popularity it had in cajun culture. The song was then later popularized on a nationwide scale by a series of renditions and references in late '40s country songs. It has been the subject of occasional covers later in the 20th century by cajun and classic country revival bands.
The original cajun version is a brief address to a "pretty blonde" who had left the singer and moved back in with her family, and is also now in the arms of another man. The singer concludes that there are plenty of other pretty blonde women. The fiddle-based melody probably dates to before the 1900s. I found a version (titled "La Valse De Gueydan") that predates the 1929 recording of the Breaux family. (SEE FURTHER ON IN THIS POST)
The earliest recording of the song is believed to be a version by the Breaux family trio entitled "Ma Blonde Est Partie", recorded on April 18, 1929 in Atlanta. There is some mystery to its origin. While Amede Breaux is credited with writing the song, it was his sister Cleoma who actually wrote the lyrics and Amede sang the song.
Amadie, Ophy and Cleoma Breaux' version was released on the Columbia and the Okeh-label.
Dennis McGee claims the original song was written by Angelas Lejeune as "La Fille De La Veuve" (aka "La Valse De La Veuve") during WWI and Cleoma Breaux rewrote the lyrics, allegedly about Amede's first wife.
Angelas Lejeune and Ernest Fruge would eventually record this song on November 19, 1930 in New Orleans (Brunswick 558, Melotone M18052)
(c) Le Jeunne & Fruge (1930) (as "La Valse De La Veuve")
Angelas LeJeune was one of the most influential of the early Cajun accordion players. His repertoire passed down to his younger cousin Iry LeJeune, who made big hits with his reworkings of tunes by Angelas and Amd Ardoin in the late 1940s, early 1950s.
His "Valse de la Veuve" (aka "La Fille de la Veuve") has the same tune as Jolie Blonde /Jole Blon but with different lyrics.
(c) Guidry Brothers (1929) (as "Homme Abandonné")
On October 2, 1929, the Guidry Brothers would lay down their version of the melody, calling it "Homme Abandonné".
It was released on the B-side of Vocalion 15849.
But there's another song with the same melody, that definitely predates "Ma Blonde Est Partie" and all the others.
In January 1929, John Bertrand and Milton Pitre would travel to Chicago and record "La Valse de Gueydan" for Paramount Records (12748A), using the same melody.
Here's a picture of the B-side of that pretty rare release.
"La Valse de Gueydan" was also recorded in New Orleans on November 19, 1930 by Amade Ardoin and Dennis McGee.
(c) Magee & Ardoin (1930) (as "La Valse de Gueydan")
Released on Brunswick 513
With slightly differnt lyrics Leo Soileau also recorded a version of "La Valse Gueydan".
(c) Leo Soileau and his Three Aces (1935) (as "La Valse Gueydan [Jolie Fille]")
Recorded on January 18, 1935.
Released on the B-side of his famous "Hackberry Hop" (Bluebird B-2086 and B-2171)
In 1934 Alan Lomax traveled to Louisiana, recording artists including the Segura Brothers and their version of "La Fille De La Veuve".
Jolie Blonde ("La Fille de la veuve") - John and Alan Lomax in Louisiana, 1934
Listen here: www.lomax1934.com/uploads/7/9/4/5/7945221/jolie_blonde.mp3
The title "Jolie Blonde" was first given to the melody by the Hackberry Ramblers
Floyd Rainwater [gt], Lennis Sonnier [vcl/gt], Johnny Puderer [bass], Lunderin Darbone [fiddle]
Recorded October 17, 1936 in St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans, LA.
Released on Bluebird B-2003
And (on the same day) Miller's Merrymakers also used the title: "Te Ma Lessa Jolie Blonde", but with a slightly different melody.
Miller's Merrymakers (J.B. Fuselier [vcl/fiddle], Bethoven Miller [gt], Preston Manuel [gt])
Recorded October 17, 1936 in New Orleans, LA.
Released on Bluebird B-2006
The melody also appears in "La Valse de La Lafayette" and in "Jolie (Brunette)" by the Jolly Boys of Lafayette.
Both recorded on February 21, 1937 in Dallas, TX
Released on Decca 17029 ("La Valse de La Lafayette")
And released on Decca 17032 ("Jolie (Brunette)")
And also in "Nouveau Grand Gueydan" (New Gran Guadyan) by Happy Fats and his Rayne-Bo Ramblers.
Recorded September 10th 1937 in St. Charles Hotel New Orleans.
Released on Bluebird Records B-2024
(c) Harry Choates (1946) (as "Jole Blon (Pretty Blond)")
Harry Choates [vcl/fiddle], Esmond Pursley [gt], B.D.Williams [gt], Charles Stagle [banjo],James Foster [bass], William Slay [piano]. Producer: Bill Quinn)
Recorded March 1946 Quinn Recording Co., 3104 Telephone Road, Houston, TX -
Released July 1946 on Gold Star 1314.
When the same master was re-released on Modern Music # 511 end 1946, it hit the charts.
Listen here: http://www.rocky-52.net/son/son_c/choates_harry/choates_harry_joleblon.mp3
(c) Moon Mullican And The Showboys (1946) (as "New Pretty Blonde (New Jole Blon)")
Moon Mullican [vcl/piano], Mutt Collins [ld gt], Guy Cotton Thompson [fiddle], Acie Peveto [steel], Reggie Ward [bass], Richard Prine [drums], Ralph Lamb [fiddle]
Recorded October 1946 Cliff Herring Studio, 1705 W. 7th St., Ft. Worth, TX –
Released on King 578 (Nr 2 in the C&W charts)
(c) Red Foley and The Cumberland Valley Boys (1947) (as "New Jolie Blonde")
Zeb Turner [gt], Zeke Turner [gt], Smoky Lohman [steel], Louis Innis [bass], Dolph Hewitt [violin], Jimmy Bennett [accordion], Salty Holmes [harmonica], ? [trumpet])
Recorded January 8, 1947 Chicago, IL
Released on Decca 46034 (Nr 1 in the C&W charts)
(c) Johnny Tyler and Riders of Rio Grande (1947) (as "New Pretty Blonde (New Jole Blon)")
Johnny Tyler [vcl], George Chumura [gt], Richard Hamilton [gt], Judith Lee Cragin [gt], Robert Terry Fell [gt/harmonica], Leodie Jackson [steel], Carl Victor Bias [bass], Ralph Gleason [drums], Jesse Ashlock [fiddle], Norman Baker [fiddle], Robert Armstrong [piano]
Recorded January 9, 1947 RCA Victor Studio, 1016 North Sycamore St., Hollywood CA
Released on RCA-Victor 20-2171
In 1947 Roy Acuff recorded his own version of "Jole Blon",
It was this version that most likely inspired Bruce Springsteen and Gary US Bonds to record their version in 1980.
(c) Roy Acuff And His Smoky Mountain Boys (1947) (as "(Our Own) Jole Blon")
Roy Acuff [vcl], Lonnie Wilson [gt], Brother Oswald Kirby [dobro/vcl], Jess Easterday [mandolin], Welma Williams [bass], Tommy Magness [violin], Francis “Sonny Day”Tamvourin [accordion].
Recorded Jan 1947 CBS Studio (Radio Station KNX) 6121 Gower and Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CAReleased on Columbia 37287
(c) Johnny and Jack and the Tennessee Mountain Boys (1947) (as "Jole Blon")
Johnny Wright, Jack Anglin, Ray Atkins, Eddie Hill, Paul Buskirk, Dorris Paul Warren. Recorded March 25, 1947 New York City
Released on Apollo 142
Eventually, in 1951, Amede Breaux would form the band Acadian Aces and record the song again with the title "Jole Blonde" for J. D. "Jay" Miller's Feature Records (F-1023).
(c) Amidie Breaux And The Acadian Aces (1951) (as "Jole Blonde")
Listen here: http://npmusic.org/Amedee_Breaux_Jolie_Blonde.mp3
(c) Waylon Jennings (1959)
Buddy Holly on guitar and King Curtis on tenor sax
Recorded September 1958 in Clovis, New Mexico
(c) Jimmy Newman (1959) (as "Jolie Blon")
Recorded June 10, 1959 Bradley Film and Recording Studio, 804 16th Ave. South, Nashville, TN
Released on the album "This is Jimmy Newman" (MGM SE-3777)
Jimmy recorded the song again in 1963.
Released on the album "Folk Songs Of The Bayou Country" (Decca DL 4398)
and in 1974.
(c) Rod Bernard (1965) (as "My Jolie Blonde")
(c) Gary U.S. Bonds and Bruce Springsteen (1981) (as "Jole Blon")
Springsteen had originally recorded the song for his 1980 album, The River, but it was never released and he decided to re-record the song with Bonds for his 1981 album, Dedication.
The Bonds/Springsteen version was most likely modeled after the Roy Acuff version (SEE ABOVE)
Gary U.S. Bonds peforms "Jole Blon" with Bruce Springsteen at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey (September 21, 2012). "The Boss says, "I've seen this sign at 95 shows. It's a pain in my ass." So to the satisfaction of the fan who says she's been carry the sign "her whole life", Bruce "imported Gary U.S. Bonds" to finally honor her request."