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Wade Frugé

ifiddlemag May 22, 2020

Hi, I’m Mitch Reed and I’m with mitchreedmusiclessons.com. I wanted to talk today a little bit about a great player who I learned from, and a lot of people did. And he’s still to this day considered a really interesting Cajun fiddler to listen to, and his name was Wade Frugé. And what I thought was interesting about him was not only was he a great fiddler, but he was in the Cajun and Creole tradition what we call a traiter, which is a treater in French. And so he would treat people who had heat strokes, or a sunburn, an earache, a common cold, you know, any kind of aches and pains, toothache, things like that. He could heal you. And the way traiters work is they use herbs that grow naturally just in and around Southwest Louisiana or also in herb gardens that they grew themselves. And then they would combine that with Catholic prayers and they could heal people. He could even heal people over the telephone. So if somebody had an earache, they could call him up and he could tell them what to do, but he was an amazing fiddle player.

And I never forget one of his fiddles he had to put away for a season while he was farming. He was a farmer and a mama mouse ate through the F hole and raised the whole family in the fiddle and then ate out the other side and let them all out. So that was always interesting, but he had a really neat technique. He was what I would consider an old-timey Cajun fiddle player. And some of the things that he did, I thought was interesting was some of the ornamentations that he used.

And one of those things was he called it a roll-up and basically what it was, was it was a triplet, a slurred triplet. So just to give you an example, if you take the first finger on the E string and the second finger and the third finger, and you slur them all together, you get what he would call a roll-up. And some other people call it a slurred triplet, but he would use that going up in pitch and also going down to the open string. And that was a really neat technique that he used. He also used a lot of slides because he learned to play fiddle from a Creole fiddle player, a black French-speaking Creole who was a lefthanded fiddler. And he pumped gas just down the road from Wade’s house. And Wade would walk the way to this gas station to learn tunes from this Creole fiddle player who was only 13 years old at the time.

But one of the tunes that Wade would play that he learned directly from this fiddle player was a tune called Les Flammes D’Enfer One-Step, The Flames of Hell One-Step. And this tune was composed by another great fiddler named Douglas Bellard, who was the first French-speaking, black fiddler in Louisiana to record 78 recordings. And I guess, you know, he got into some trouble, this Douglas Bellard, and he did actually go to jail and while he was in jail, he was such a great fiddler that the guards let him have his fiddle in the cell and he would play tunes. And while he was in there, he got so depressed about being arrested that he wrote and composed this tune called The Flames of Hell One-Step and the words and the tunes say, you know, I’m no good, I’ve caused a lot of people pain, caused my mother, a lot of pain. She’s on her knees saying the rosary for me right now. And when I die, I’m going straight to Hell. So that was one of his tunes he had composed, which is still considered a real classic and standard two-step in Cajun music in Zydeco today.

So Wade learned this one from the 13-year-old Creole fiddler that he learned a lot of technique from. And so he had slides, he had these roll-ups and he also had a lot of cross bowings that were interesting. So he did a lot of you know, the first finger on the E string and the third finger on the A string kind of back and forth cross bowings. And that made an interesting technique as well, but definitely should look up some of Wade’s recordings. He was recorded by Arhoolie Records.

And I think the title is just Old-Time Cajun fiddle. And one of the waltzes to check out is called Frugé’s Waltz. So just wanted to talk a little bit about a great fiddler who passed on a lot of fantastic tunes to me. And Michael Doucet, and David Greeley, Kevin Wimmer, a lot of great Cajun fiddlers, and we still play him to this day. And still, every time I listen to Wade’s recordings, I get goosebumps. And just the way he phrased things and the way he played notes. And his tone was really unique. It was like the wind blowing through the trees during the wintertime here in Louisiana. That’s how his bowing sounded. It was amazing and almost haunting. So really a good player to talk about around this Halloween season. So check out Wade Frugé. You won’t be disappointed. Thank you so much for joining me, Mitch Reed.

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