Jole Blon or Jolie Blonde is a traditional Cajun waltz, often called "the Cajun national anthem" because of the popularity it has in Cajun culture. The song was popularized on a nationwide scale by a series of renditions and references in late 1940s country songs. It has been the subject of occasional covers later in the 20th century by Cajun and classic country revival bands.
McNeese State University adopted "Joli Blon" as their official fight song in 1970, having been a part of the university band's repertoire since 1951. It is played by the "Pride of McNeese" band upon scoring at athletic events.
The original Cajun version is a brief address to a "pretty blonde" who had left the singer and moved back in with her family, and is also now in the arms of another man. The singer concludes that plenty of other pretty blonde women are around. The fiddle-based melody dates to before the 1900s.
The earliest recording of the song is believed to be a 1929 version by the family trio Breaux Brothers entitled "Ma blonde est partie", recorded in Atlanta. Some mystery exists to its origin. While Amedée Breaux is credited with writing the song, his sister Cleoma actually wrote the lyrics and Amedée sang the song. Dennis McGee claims the original song was written by Angelas Lejeune as "La Fille De La Veuve" ("The Widow's Daughter") during World War I and Cleoma rewrote the lyrics, allegedly about Amedée's first wife. Lejeune and Ernest Fruge eventually recorded this song on November 19, 1929, in New Orleans (Brunswick 558, Melotone M18052). In 1934, Alan Lomax traveled to Louisiana, recording artists including the Segura Brothers and their version of "La Fille De La Veuve".
In January 1929, John Bertrand and Milton Pitre travelled to Chicago and recorded "La Valse de Gueydan" for Paramount Records (12748A), using the same melody. It appeared again in a 1930 recording of "La Valse de Gueydan" (Brunswick 513) by Amade Ardoin. Dennis McGee and he traveled to New Orleans and recorded this song discussing a "small young girl". This version was re-recorded with slightly different lyrics by Leo Soileau and his Three Aces. The title was "La Valse Gueydan [Jolie Fille]", recorded by Bluebird (B-2086) on January 18, 1935.
The following year, the song appeared with the title "Jolie Blonde" for the first time on two records. Both the Hackberry Ramblers and J. B. Fuselier and his Merrymakers traveled to New Orleans and recorded the song on October 17, 1936, for Bluebird Records. J.B. Fuselier named the song "Te Ma Lessa Jolie Blonde" (Bluebird B-2006) and the Hackberry Ramblers simplified the name to "Jolie Blonde" (Bluebird B-2003).
By 1937, the melody was popular among very small regions of Louisiana. On Feb 21, the Jolly Boys of Lafayette traveled to Dallas and recorded "Jolie (Brunette)" for Decca (#17032), a similar take on the song with different lyrics. Later in the year, Happy Fats traveled to New Orleans and recorded "Nouveau Grand Gueyan" for Bluebird (B-2024).
Rod Bernard recorded an English-language adaptation of the song in 1964 on the Tear Drop label.
During the late 1940s, as country's nationwide market had solidified, a number of country artists popularized the song "Jole Blon". The popularization began in 1946 with Harry Choates and his French version of "Jole Blon" for Goldstar records. Later, he recorded an English version and several different versions for different labels.
As is not infrequent in country music, once a song is popularized, several other contemporaries covered it. In this case, it was common for the covers to be not so much reproductions as they were songs in the same spirit, making use of the same subject, melody, or Cajun theme. Several of them used "Jole Blon" as the name of subject of the song, instead of using the original meaning of pretty blonde.
Many of the covers included self-referential humor in regard to the production context of the song. A popular rendition, first published by Moon Mullican (and Moon Mullican's first major hit), consists of a purposeful mix of unrelated English, French, and nonsense words: a joke attempt at "translation" of the original. Johnny Bond's "The Daughter of Jole Blon" exemplifies this contextual humor, describing the titular character as "so round, so firm, so fully packed" (itself the title of a popular country song at the time), and "Jole's only daughter... but she knows all the tricks that Jole taught her."
The following contemporary artists' renditions or songs make reference to "Jole Blon". Listed next to each song is if, and the year when, that version reached the Billboard 100 for country at the time (The country billboard charts began in 1946).
Some recent covers of the song have been made by Cajun revival and popular artists, though these have not enjoyed the same widespread popularity. The following are some of the artists who have covered "Jole Blon":
In 2002, Bear Family records released "Jole Blon: 23 Artists One Theme". In 2009, an unknown publisher, T. Basco, released a three-volume set called Peepin' Thru the Keyhole which contains virtually every version of "Jolie Blonde" that has ever been recorded and popularized. In 2013, Goldenlane Records released "Jole Blon & The Cajun Music Story" compilation CD with many of the popular versions.
In 1974, artist George Rodrigue painted several iconic portraits of his vision of what Jolie Blonde would have looked like. His paintings can be found in "Jolie's Louisiana Bistro" in Lafayette, Louisiana. Rodrigue claims the origins of "Jolie Blonde" stem from a prisoner in Port Arthur, Texas, whose lover left him for someone else.