Author and broadcaster Charlie Gillett truly opened the doors in Britain and Europe for South Louisiana music - and Floyd Soileau's Jin label - when in 1974 he released the LP ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT on his Oval label. A CD version with bonus tracks is still available on Ace CDCH 288. Thanks to Charlie's vision, records like The Promised Land by Johnnie Allan and Sweet Dreams by Tommy McLain have well outlived their original short existence on Jin 45s. Indeed, due to constant reissues, The Promised Land is now a genuine accredited million-selling gold record.
Over the years, hordes of collectors and music lovers have visited Floyd Soileau at Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte, mainly in springtime during the free days of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The affable Floyd always treats these fans royally, regaling them with stories about his artists, competitors and even his infallible rice cookers. Often he would take his visitors to a tasty Cajun lunch at the nearby Pig Stand. Then everyone would return, contently, to the store to buy up 45s, LPs, CDs, cassettes or whatever.
How different business was in 1958 when Floyd, barely out of his teens, established his tiny Jin label. It was cleverly named after his soon-to-be wife Jinver. At the time, Floyd was concerned only with selling his records in the South Louisiana/East Texas axis along the Gulf Coast stretching from New Orleans to Houston. He would have his records pressed by RCA in Indianapolis and then shipped them out to the 'mom and pop' stores and local distributors, with promo copies to the radio stations. His biggest hope was to get the records placed with jukebox operators, which would mean immediate bulk sales. All the while he was building up a mail-order business that was soon to flourish. Floyd reckoned that one good seller would pay for eleven duds. If a record broke big, he would arrange, wisely, for the master to be handled by a national label to save him the headaches - and possible financial ruin - of dealing with a hit.
In 1959, Floyd launched Swallow Records as a receptacle for his Cajun music releases. As an aside, it has to be said that our pioneering FLOYD'S EARLY CAJUN SINGLES (CDCHD 743) has been horribly lost in the digital shuffle.
With Floyd, I started working on this CD some five years ago. We went through his vault located in an old bank safe, which made me feel quite at home. The majority of the early tapes were still stacked fortuitously on the shelves, whether on the original singles reels or transferred to subsequent LP reels. Oddly enough, we found only one unissued track - Once Again by Red Smiley & the Veltones with Clint West, which is included here. This shows that Floyd did not waste time, tape or money on unnecessary sessions. What he recorded was released.
Originally this compilation was destined to feature South Louisiana rock'n'roll music only, but the appearance of a brazen European bootleg last autumn encouraged a last minute tweak. Instead we elected to go for this wider-ranging overview of the early days of the Jin label. Happily, the bootleg has been seen off, while our set is even more attractive.
Jeff Hannusch, the New Orleans author, collector and fan, was commissioned to write the notes. Without asking, he made the familiar trek via Interstate 10 to Cajun country to coax out of Floyd the eternally fascinating stories behind these recordings. Swamp pop king Johnnie Allan then contributed many of the excellent obscure photographs for the booklet, along with memorabilia from Floyd himself.
And so we have here a pot-pourri of the early Jin singles, by artists familiar and unfamiliar, that veer from out-and-out rock'n'roll to ethereal swamp pop ballads with a little doowop on the side. The prevailing influences are Fats Domino and the New Orleans R&B sound, along with Chicago bluesman Jimmy Reed who was huge with white Southern groups of the day. It goes without saying that the original Jin 45s are now very rare and almost impossible to find.
This is the music of the young, hopeful artists and bands of South Louisiana and East Texas who, between 1958 and 1961, were creating a cultural revolution by usurping their old-fashioned native Cajun music with a brand new Southland rock'n'roll. It seemed there would always be another Saturday night until the Beatles launched the British Invasion. But out of the debris there has been a reawakening of this music through the swamp pop phenomenon of the past two decades.
A follow-up volume of the Later Jin Singles is in the active planning stage.
by John Broven