Harry Choates died 62 years ago, yet the memory of this fiddler still is as real as it was during his lifetime. Choates was born in Cow Island, La., in Vermillion Parish, the child of tenant farmers. In 1929 Choates moved with his parents to Port Arthur, Texas. During this early phase of his life, Choates developed a talent for music, the exact source of his musical ability has never been discovered by Cajun music historians. What is known is that he developed his skills with a borrowed fiddle, never owning any musical instrument during his lifetime.

In 1946 Choates took an ancient Cajun waltz, changed the cording from G to A, added an upbeat tempo and took it to the Quinn Recording Studios in Houston where Cajun musical history was made. “Jole Blon” would become a regional and national hit transcending the boundaries between Cajun and Country and Western music. Today “Jole Blon” is fondly referred to as the Cajun National Anthem.

Local author Tim Knight has spent several years in research in this life story of Harry Choates entitled “Poor Hobo: The Tragic Life of Harry Choates a Cajun Legend.” The book is hard cover with several never before seen photos of Choates, his family and fellow musicians. The price is $19.95, and copies may be purchased from The Museum of the Gulf Coast Gift Shop, and Floyd Soileau’s Record Shop in Ville Platte, La.

Harry Choates lets loose with his trademark ‘Eh-Ha-Ha.’ This publicity photo was used in the San Antonio area around 1949. courtesy Photo: Port Arthur Historical Association.