The Lost Waltz
Fiddle master had Orange connection
Beverly Kegley Spell of Orange knew right away the voice on the other end was not from Louisiana. “I could tell he wasn’t a Frenchman,” she says.
Lyle Ferbrache of Brentwood, Calif., who runs a music business on the Internet, wanted information about Spell’s late father, Cajun fiddler Will Kegley.
Before it was all over with, he flew Spell and her sister Florence Kegley Johnson to the San Francisco area on a mostly expenses-paid journey.
“The only thing we paid for was to get there and back,” says Spell, who lives at the Heritage Center. She sits at her kitchen table with the screen door open, letting in sounds of repair work from Hurricane Ike damage.
Most of the first-floor apartments were flooded and remain empty with their doors open.
Ferbrache was most interested in a rare acetate recorded in Sulphur, La. – as well as some cassettes recorded in the ‘80s at Kegley’s home and in a few music halls – which had never been released.
As Spell puts it, Ferbrache has recordings and other memorabilia on “ … anybody that’s ever strummed a guitar.”
Kegley was a founding member of the Pine Grove Boys, known for one of the great Cajun anthems, “Pine Grove Blues.” The group later gained its best notoriety under leadership of accordionist Nathan Abshire, after Kegley left the band.
Ferbrache got in touch with Spell through Lake Charles-based music writer Ron Yule. In his liner notes for “Will Kegley: Master of the Cajun Fiddle” (Zeaux Records), Ferbrache writes, “According to (musician) Ray Abshire, Kegley was the master at ‘basing’ (playing in tune with the accordion) behind the accordion. Ray said, ‘When playing with Will, I sometimes turned to make sure he was still playing. He was so good he just blended perfect with the accordion.’”
Spell sent Ferbrache tapes of what she had, and with the help of Donald Thibodeaux, who played on some of the recordings, he learned the song titles. Thibodeaux also provided the fact that some of the live performances were from T-George’s Club in Lake Arthur, La.
“My father also played guitar, drums and the accordion,” Spell says. “When he was young he made a fiddle out of a cigar box and used screening he got off the windows, and he just taught himself to play.”
Kegley eventually moved from Lake Charles to the other side of the Sabine, playing in Orange, Orangefield and Port Neches. Spell says he decided to leave after tangling with a Louisiana bar owner who had done prison time and supposedly had connections to the mob.
Spell moved with the family and later married Charles Spell, who worked at American Bridge and passed away in 1988. Spell has one son, Mark. She worked mostly in the service industry, sometimes as a car hop.
The Zeaux recordings include “Step It Fast” and “Locking Heart Waltz,” from the Sulphur acetate originally recorded by Oday Boudreaux for O-Day Records, and never known to have been released.
The Zeaux CD also includes “Lost Love Waltz,” from a home recording Spell says is about her father and mother’s relationship, which soured at one point; and some recordings from T-George’s Club circa 1981 (including a version of “Pine Grove Blues.”)
For more information on Zeaux Records, e-mail Ferbrache at firstname.lastname@example.org.