Next Up: French Creole Tunes from Upper Louisiana

Upper Louisiana is Illinois. The first European-Americans to settle in our state were French. And when the British defeated the French in the Seven Years War, many of the French moved across the river to Missouri. French culture and traditional French folksongs and tunes have survived downstate for over two centuries. Prairie du Rocher, Illinois and Ste. Genevieve, Missouri still celebrate the coming of the New Year with La Guignole, a house-to-house visiting tradition similar to mumming in Newfoundland or old-style mardi gras in Cajun southwest Louisiana. A number of older fiddlers and singers from near Old Mines, Missouri kept the old songs alive for later generations.

La Guignolee played by Charlie Pasha (or Pashia) in 1976 for the landmark LP of field recordings, “I’m Old But I’m Awfully Tough: Traditional Music of the Ozark Region.”

(A 1950s recording of the full Prairie du Rocher singers can be found on Folksongs of Illinois #1.)

Another fine fiddler from Old Mines, Missouri was Joe Politte. The following are a couple of his unnamed breakdowns recorded 30 years ago. The first one, in D, has been frequently taught at Old Town School fiddle classes under the title “Bass in the Hollow.”

D breakdown played by Joe Politte

C breakdown played by Joe Politte

Joe Politte
Joe Politte
Dennis Stroughmatt
Dennis Stroughmatt

Jury Baker played by Dennis Stroughmatt

Dennis Stroughmatt will be the featured guest at the next Fiddle Club of the World meeting on Sunday, March 28. A younger downstate fiddler and singer, Dennis learned directly from such traditional masters from Old Mines as Charlie Pashia and Roy Boyer. He leads two bands that cover a variety of French-American styles–L’Esprit Créole and Creole Stomp–but will appear as a soloist at the Fiddle Club of the World. That meeting is scheduled for 6:30p on March 28 at the Leadway Bar & Gallery (5233 N. Damen). Click here to register.

Paul Tyler, convener

6 thoughts on “Next Up: French Creole Tunes from Upper Louisiana

  1. Does anyone have the the notation for Jury Baker by Dennis Stroughmatt of L’Esprit Creole
    awesome tune, but I can’t yet learn it by ear, not that far in my fiddlen.
    Thanks 🙂

  2. Thanks Paul, that would be much appreciated.
    BTW, I heard that Dennis Stroughmatt will be at the College of Lake County this coming November. That could be a very cool show!

  3. I am the granddaughter of Charlie Pashia and would like to get a copy of this La guignolee on CD. Any ideas how I can get that?

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