La. music mag has Orange edge
The original Pine Grove Boys are no more. There might be an old-timer or two still around who played with them, or at least a splintered-off version of the band.
The first issue of a new magazine devoted to the Cajun music and its sub-genres of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s features contributions by Beverly Spell of Orange, daughter of the late fiddle player Will Kegley.
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.
In “Volume 1, No. 1” of Louisiana Music, Lyle Ferbrache and Andrew Brown trace the history of the group, including biographies and extensive research drawn from present-day and archival interviews. The issue also chronicles a somewhat famous stabbing in Cajun music history.
Spell provided old photographs and memories of her father to the authors. Although the stabbing might sound shocking today, Spell says that’s just the way the old south Louisiana clubs were. Take the name of a famous club in Lake Arthur – “Bucket of Blood” says it all.
“They had chicken wire all around the bandstand,” Spell says.
Very often, there was gunfire, usually followed by a scattering crowd. Many wondered why patrons kept returning to the same dangerous nightspots.
“The people were in the rice fields all the time,” Spell says. “They worked hard all week. So on Saturday night they went to the dance. They knew the chances were they may not come back alive. But they knew they would have a good time – and they DID have a good time. It was just a different lifestyle then.”
The basics of the stabbing go like this: Kegley attacked steel guitarist Atlas Fruge after the two had words over whether Kegley had been inappropriate with Atlas’ wife, Bernella Fruge.
These are where the similarities end. Kegley was eventually sentenced to 18 months, but served a shorter term since he had spent three months in jail awaiting trial.
Bernella Fruge said Kegley was going around the bandstand at the Town and Country Club in Riceville, La., trying to play a different instrument on each number. When he got to her and the drum set, he touched her leg. She slapped him across the hand with a drumstick and Atlas noticed.
According to an account in the magazine by guitarist Ernest Thibodeaux, Kegley and Atlas had never gotten along, but Spell remembers differently.
“They’d played together all their life, then they’d have a big ‘tuss’ and one of them would leave the other,” she says. “The next thing you know they were back together again. They were just like brothers.”
Kegley’s version was the group was at a table on a break. Kegley got up to leave and his leg brushed across Bernella’s. He never talked about the incident in later years, Spell says, and no one ever asked.
Bernella claimed the stabbing was premeditated. In this version, Kegley went to the bar to buy Atlas a soft drink to smooth things over. When he returned, he took out a pocket knife and attacked Atlas in the back.
Spell remembers that Kegley never went to the bar.
“He took out his knife right then and there,” she says.
Louisiana Music is published in Houston. The first issue includes many rare photographs, source bibliography and an Abshire/Pine Grove Boys discography from 1949-58.
Spell is also developing a CD of some of the unheard music and private home recordings her father left behind. She worked with Ferbrache for last year’s release of “Will Kegley: Master of the Cajun Fiddle” (Zeaux Records).
Spell says she can deliver or mail copies of the magazine to those interested by calling her at 988-0509. It’s $10 for delivery or $12 by mail, and she can only serve the Orange/Louisiana border area. National and international orders can be made by going to www.pinegrovepress.com.