…normally a fox trot or ballad thought using Cajun music as background would be appropriate for this song. “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” is a song credited to American country music singer Hank Williams that was first released in 1952. Named for a Creole and Cajun dish, jambalaya, it spawned numerous cover versions and has since achieved popularity in a number of music genres. Cajun Roots of the Song
Since the original melody of the song was from a Cajun French song called “Grand Texas”, the song is a staple of cajun culture. Although Williams changed the lyrics, he kept a Louisiana theme. In addition, Cajuns readily identified with the soulful sound of Williams. After Williams released his version, Cajuns recorded the song again using Cajun instruments. However, this time they used Williams’ lyrics translated into the Cajun French language. Over the past few decades, the Cajun French version has been performed by many Cajun bands including Aldus Roger and Jo-El Sonnier. Williams’ song resembles “Grand Texas”, a Cajun French song, in melody only. “Grand Texas” is a song about a lost love, a woman who left the singer to go with another man to “Big Texas”. Jambalaya, alternately, is about life, parties and stereotypical food of Cajun cuisine. The song has a Cajun theme, possibly inspired by Williams’ time with the Louisiana Hayride, though Louisiana Hayride was recorded in Shreveport, a city with very little Cajun cultural influence. Referenced within the song are such Cajun dishes as jambalaya, crawfish pie, and filé gumbo. Williams sings of “Yvonne” in the song, referring to her as my ma cher amio, which is considered poor Cajun French for “my dear” (redundantly Williams uses the word “my” before the French “ma”), and has caused some confusion among listeners, particularly given his pronunciation. The refrain “son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou” has become a well-recognized and often repeated phrase Williams composed a sequel to the song from the female perspective, “I’m Yvonne (Of the Bayou)”, with Jimmy Rule. It was not as popular. As with “Jambalaya” there is speculation that Williams may have purchased this song from Mullican.
Later researched by a member of Moon’s family, a story emerged about how the song came about in the first place, and it was said that while visiting a small bar located just south of the Choupique Bayou and owned by Yvonne Little, the song Jambalaya referred to some truly wonderful times had there The Carpenters featured the song, in an uptempo MOR version with country flourishes, on their 1973 album Now & Then. Their version was released as a single outside the United States in 1974 and sold well in the U.K. and Japan.
Other artists who have performed the song include Jerry Lee Lewis, Leon Russell, Charley Pride, Jimmy Buffett, Jeff Healey on his 2008 album Mess of Blues, Emmylou Harris included it in her 1976 album Elite Hotel, Moon Mullican, John Fogerty (under the name of The Blue Ridge Rangers), Gerry & The Pacemakers, Brenda Lee, Harry Connick, Jr., Lucinda Williams, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Billy “Crash” Craddock, George Jones, The Residents, Leo Kottke, Wes Paul, Dolly Parton, Andy Kaufman, Professor Longhair, Freddy Fender, Fats Domino, The White Stripes, Tab Benoit, and Tommy Funderburk (appearing in the film Steel Magnolias), Van Morrison and Linda Gail Lewis on their 2000 album You Win Again among many others.
In India, Usha Iyer (now Usha Uthup) recorded a version in 1968 on the HMV label, that became the best selling song until then, by an Indian artist in English.
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