Louisiana Man 路州人

Winston Ho 何嶸.  
University of New Orleans,
Department of History 紐奧良大學歷史學系.

https://nolachinese.wordpress.com
NolaChinese on FacebookYoutube, and Instagram.   

2019 Nov. 28, Thanksgiving Thursday (revised 2020 Dec. 28).


2019.11.28 - NOLAChinese (Louisiana Man)

[Kershaw, Doug and Rusty.  “Louisiana Man.”  Sundown Records, 1961.] 

In 1969, Doug Kershaw’s “Louisiana Man” 《路州人》 became a major hit on the country music charts.  At the time, Cajun music 卡津音樂 was largely unknown outside east Texas and southern Louisiana, and the popularity of “Louisiana Man” around the United States was unusual.  Kershaw re-recorded the song several times, and the same song was recorded by many other artists, including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson, Connie Smith, and Bobbie Gentry, though Doug Kershaw wrote and sang the original.  

“Louisiana Man” describes a life fishing in the Louisiana wetlands 路州沼澤, trapping and drying muskrat 麝鼠狩獵陷阱, and traveling by boat to sell the muskrat furs in town.  For much of the twentieth-century, muskrat trapping supplied high quality furs for export around the world, and it provided much needed income to the fishing families of Louisiana.  

1957.02 - Louisiana Conservationist[Muskrat on the cover of the Louisiana Conservationist (1957 February).  Muskrats are members of the rodent family, and at one time, great numbers of them lived in the Louisiana wetlands.  Indigenous to most of North America, they build dens similar to beavers, and they live in shallow water like nutria.  Muskrats were valued for their fur, and muskrat pelts commanded high prices from the 1920s until the 1960s.  The muskrat industry collapsed due to the depletion of muskrat populations, and because wearing fur had become unfashionable.  https://louisianadigitallibrary.org/islandora/object/lsu-sea-p15140coll21%3A1266]

Fiddle player Doug Kershaw (1936 → present) and his guitar-playing brother Rusty Kershaw (1938 → 2001) were born and raised near Lake Charles in rural Cameron Parish, in Southwest Louisiana.  Their father was a fisherman and alligator hunter 漁夫鱷魚狩獵, and the brothers spent their early life on a houseboat 住家艇.  Doug Kershaw was seven when his father died, and his family moved to the small town of Lake Arthur, and later the city of Jennings, in neighboring Jefferson Davis Parish.  Kershaw spoke only Cajun French 卡津法語 before moving to Lake Arthur, and he never learned to read or write music.  Nonetheless, he was born into a musical family, and at the age of nine, he began playing music in local bars and dance halls to earn money and support his family with his mother, who was a guitarist.  He later mastered twenty-eight musical instruments.  

In high school, Doug Kershaw formed a band with his brother Rusty and a third brother, Nelson “Pee Wee” Kershaw, playing what was then called “French music,” and gaining fame in Acadiana 路州西南卡津地, but remaining obscure outside the French-speaking region.  Then, the Kershaw brothers began singing in English and became rising stars in the country world, performing at the Louisiana Hayride, the Wheeling Jamboree, and the Grand Ole Opry.  In the 1950s, Doug Kershaw attended McNeese State College in Lake Charles, earning a degree in mathematics. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, and he was honorably discharged three years later.  

Cameron Parish (Louisiana Department of Conservation, 1927) (LSU)[The marshland in Cameron Parish.  Louisiana Department of Conservation, 1927.  LSU.
https://louisianadigitallibrary.org/islandora/object/lsu-sea-p15140coll21%3A1678]

Homesick, Kershaw wrote “Louisiana Man” in a single day, based on his parents and his childhood in Cameron Parish.  After returning to Louisiana, Doug Kershaw and his brother Rusty recorded the original version of “Louisiana Man” in 1961, though the song was only modest hit at the time.  Rusty abandoned the music industry and began working in the oil fields, while Doug continued to perform and travel, gradually gaining respect nationally from other musicians.  

Then, in June of 1969, Doug Kershaw performed the song before a live audience on the premiere episode of the Johnny Cash Show 強尼·凱許. Later that year, the Apollo 12 astronauts 美國阿波羅12號登陸月球 broadcasted the song to Earth, becoming the first Cajun song broadcast from the Moon. By the end of 1969, Kershaw had performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and as the opening act in New York City for Eric Clapton’s band Derek and the Dominos 艾瑞克·克萊普頓. Since then, Kershaw has become an internationally known country and Cajun musician, and has even performed with classical violinist Itzhak Perlman 伊扎克·帕爾曼. “Louisiana Man” remains his biggest hit. Doug Kershaw was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009.


Muskrat Trapper (Louisiana Department of Conservation, 1939) (LSU)[Trapper with a pirogue full of muskrats.  Louisiana Department of Conservation, 1939.  LSU.  https://louisianadigitallibrary.org/islandora/object/lsu-sea-p15140coll21%3A2075

Sources.  

NolaChinese:  Louisiana Man 路州人(https://nolachinese.wordpress.com/2019/11/22/louisiana-man/).  

Kershaw, Doug and Rusty. “Louisiana Man.” 1961 original. Accessed from Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9CK1TOAvkg).

“The Johnny Cash Show, Episode 1.” 1969 June 7. Accessed from Daily Motion (https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5wja2t) or Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TylScwIBNdE and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0i9zLJnU3w) [Doug Kershaw’s performance begins at 14:04.]

Kershaw, Doug. “Louisiana Man.” 1999 re-recording. Accessed from Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTv21qwj9Uo).

Kershaw, Doug. “Louisiana Legends: Doug Kershaw.” Interviewed by Weill, Gus. Louisiana Public Broadcasting. 1982. Accessed from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (https://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_17-8279dp7b) [In this interview, Doug Kershaw describes everything stated above.]

Hahn, Roger. “Doug Kershaw.” 64 Parishes. Accessed from 64 Parishes (https://64parishes.org/entry/doug-kershaw).

“Muskrat.” Louisiana Fur Advisory Council. Accessed from the Louisiana Fur Advisory Council (https://www.louisianafur.com/muskrat.html).  

Holm, Evers, and Sasser. “The Nutria in Louisiana: A Current and Historical Perspective.” Lake Pontchatrain Basin Foundation, 2011.  Accessed from the Lake Pontchatrain Basin Foundation (https://saveourlake.org/wp-content/uploads/PDF-Documents/our-coast/LPBF-LSU-Nutria-FINAL-11-22-11.pdf). 

Armstrong, Louis.  “Muskrat Ramble.”  1926.  Accessed from Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OgtB4X3Z4Q)  [“Muskrat Ramble” is a New Orleans jazz classic, generally attributed to Kid Ory, and first recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five Band in 1926.]  


Houseboat on Lake Arthur, Jefferson Davis Parish (1909) (McNeese State University)[Houseboat on Lake Arthur, Jefferson Davis Parish. 1909. McNeese State University. https://louisianadigitallibrary.org/islandora/object/mcneese-psl%3A1559

“Louisiana Man.” Lyrics by Doug Kershaw, 1961 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9CK1TOAvkg):

At birth mom 'n papa called their little boy Ned
Raised him on the banks of a river bed
A houseboat tied to a big tall tree
A home for my papa and my mama and me
The clock strikes three, papa jumps to his feet
Already mama’s cooking papa something to eat
At half past, papa he’s ready to go
He jumps in his pirogue headed down the bayou

He’s got fishing lines strung across the Lu'siana rivers
Gotta catch a big fish for us to eat
He’s settin' traps in the swamp catchin' anything he can
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man

Muskrat hides hangin' by the dozen
Even got a lady mink, a muskrat’s cousin
Got ‘em out dryin' in the hot hot sun
Tomorrow papa’s gonna turn ‘em into mon'

Well, they call mama Rita and my daddy Jack
Little baby brother on the floor, that’s Mack
Bren[da] and Lin[da] are the family twins
Big brother Ed’s on the bayou fishin'
On the river floats papa’s great big boat
That’s how my papa goes into town
Takes every bit of a night and a day
To even reach a place where people stay

I can't hardly wait until tomorrow comes around
That’s the day my papa takes his furs to town
Papa promised me that I could go
Even let me see a cowboy show
I've seen the cowboys and Indians for the first time then 
I told my pap' I gotta go again
Papa said son we’ve got lines to run
We’ll come back again 'cause there’s work to be done

He’s got fishing lines strung across the Lu'siana rivers
Gotta catch a big fish for us to eat
He’s settin' traps in the swamp catchin' anything he can
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man
Gotta make a livin', Lu'siana Man

Muskrat Pelts on a Drying Rack (Louisiana Department of Conservation, 1927) (LSU)[Muskrat pelts on a drying rack. Louisiana Department of Conservation, 1927. LSU. https://louisianadigitallibrary.org/islandora/object/lsu-sea-p15140coll21%3A466 or https://louisianadigitallibrary.org/islandora/object/lsu-sea-p15140coll21%3A464

“Louisiana Man.” Lyrics by Doug Kershaw, 1961 (re-recorded in 1999) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTv21qwj9Uo):  

Well, at birth mom 'n papa called their little boy Ned
He raised him on the banks of a river bed
On a houseboat tied to a big tall tree
A home for my papa and my mama and me
The clock strikes three, and papa jumps to his feet
Already mama’s cooking papa something to eat
At half past, papa he’s ready to go
He jumps in his pirogue headed down the bayou

He’s got fishing lines strung across the Lu'siana rivers
Gotta catch a big fish for us to eat
He’s settin' traps in the swamp catchin' anything he can
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man

Muskrat hides hangin' by the dozen
Even got a lady mink, a muskrat’s cousin
Got ‘em out dryin' in the hot hot sun
Tomorrow papa’s gonna turn ‘em into mon'

Well, they call my mama Rita and my daddy Jack
Little baby brother on the floor, that’s Mack
Bren[da] and Lin[da] are the family twins
And big brother Eddie’s on the bayou fishin'
On the river floats papa’s great big boat
And that’s how my papa goes into town
It takes 'em every bit of a night and a day
To even reach a place where people stay
And, I can't hardly wait until tomorrow comes around
That’s the day my papa takes 'a furs to town
Papa promised me that I could go
Even let me see a cowboy show

I saw the cowboys and Indians for the first time then 
I told my pap' I gotta go again
Well, Papa said son we’ve got lines to run
We’ll come back again because there’s work to be done

He’s got fishing lines strung across the Lu'siana rivers
Gotta catch a big fish for us to eat
He’s settin' traps in the swamp catchin' anything he can
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man
Gotta make a livin', he’s a Lu'siana Man
Gotta make a livin', Lu'siana Man

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