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Papa Cairo

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Born Jules Angelle Lamparez, the steel guitarist who would come to be known as Papa Cairo was a unique player on the steel guitar in Cajun music as well as the vocalist featured on fiddler Chuck Guillory's 1949 hit single "Big Texas. Since Cairo's instrument was less in demand in Cajun music than the fiddle or accordion, he also branched into steel-happy institutions such as Western swing and country, appearing for a time as a sideman to Texas honky tonker Ernest Tubb. Cairo practically lived on the stages of dancehalls and saloons in the '40s and '50s, when artists such as Guillory and Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc were riding high. He performed throughout Louisiana and Texas as a member of Chuck Guillory & His Rhythm Boys. He also fronted his own units such as a Port Arthur-based Western swing unit that, for a time anyway, featured a vocalist named George Jones, who would go on to become one of country music's biggest stars. Another biggie country star has a different sort of relationship with Cairo. As a former Guillory Rhythm Boy, country star Marty Robbins certainly knew all of that band's material. Thus, it is possible that there is truth in Cairo's allegation that Robbins pilfered a number the pedal steel player had written for the Rhythm Boys, entitled "You Just Wait and See." Guillory recorded this number at the same series of sessions that had produced the 1949 hit "Big Texas." Cairo claims that Robbins made up his own version of this song, retitling it "Pretty Words." Cairo also worked with Jimmie C. Newman, Rufus Thibodeaux, Harry Choates, and one of the most commercially successful Cajun acts, Doug Kershaw. When the Arhoolie label began to organize sessions involving historic Cajun players who were still kicking out the jams in their older years, Cairo was called in to be part of both Fiddle King of Cajun Swing featuring Harry Choates and Guillory's project Grand Texas. Cairo's playing and singing both received positive mentions in reviews for the latter recording. Early recordings by this artist, to which all publishing rights have lapsed or are mired in a legal morass, are extremely likely to show up on bootleg-oriented compilations such as the two-disc Cajun collection on Disky. He also has made it onto a Japanese-produced compilation of Western swing on the Tishomongo label. ~ Eugene Chadbourne