Bon Ton Roula
|"Bon Ton Roula"|
|Single by Clarence Garlow|
|B-side||"In a Boogie Mood"|
|Format||Ten-inch 78 rpm record|
|Recorded||Houston, Texas, 1949|
|Label||Macy's (no. 5002)|
|Clarence Garlow singles chronology|
"Bon Ton Roula" (alternatively "Bon Ton Roulet") is a zydeco-influenced blues song first recorded by Clarence Garlow in 1949. The following year, it became a hit, reaching number seven in Billboard magazine's Rhythm & Blues Records chart and "helped introduce the Louisiana music form to a national audience".  "Bon ton roula" (pronounced "bahn tahn roolay") is a phonetical approximation of "bons temps rouler", Louisiana Creole French for "good times roll" as in "Laissez les bons temps rouler" or "Let the good times roll", a regional invitation to join in a festive celebration.
A song with a similar theme, "Let the Good Times Roll", was recorded by Louis Jordan in 1946 and it became a R&B chart hit. In 1949, Clarence Garlow recorded "Bon Ton Roula", using a different arrangement and lyrics. The song was recorded as a sixteen-bar blues with "an insistent, swirling rhumba rhythm". Commenting on the song's lyrics, singer and music writer Billy Vera noted, "The song featured some of the same kind of broken Cajun-isms as Hank Williams's "Jambalaya":
- You see me there, well I ain't no fool
- I'm one smart Frenchman never been to school
- Wanna get somewhere in a Creole town
- You stop and let me show you your way 'round
- You let the bon ton roula, you let the moolay boolay
- Now don't you be no fool-ay, you let the bon ton roula
The song's success promoted Garlow to record subsequent renditions. A newer version with singer Emma Dell Lee titled "New Bon Ton Roola" was released on Feature Records and in 1953, he recorded perhaps the definitive version with the Maxwell Davis Orchestra for Aladdin Records, titled "New Bon Ton Roulay". The song retains most of the elements of the original song, but some new lyrics are added and the arrangement does not include a progression to the IV chord.
"Bon Ton Roula" (with a variety of spellings) has been recorded by several artists often associated with Louisiana music, including Bo Dollis and The Wild Magnolias, Phillip Walker, and BeauSoleil. Blues-rocker Johnny Winter, a native of Garlow's adopted home of Beaumont, Texas, also recorded a version for his Raisin' Cain album in 1980. A different "Bon Ton Roulet" was recorded in 1967 by Clifton Chenier (Arhoolie 1031) that has inspired several subsequent versions.
- Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research, Inc. p. 164. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
- Santelli, Robert (2001). The Big Book of Blues: a biographical encyclopedia (2nd ed.). London, England: Penguin Books. p. 177. ISBN 0-14-100145-3.
- Differences in spelling have been attributed to Creole French being "primarily oral and aural traditions" with few written works.
- Whitburn 1988, p. 229.
- Sandmel, Ben; Oliver, Rick (1999). Zydeco!. University Press of Mississippi. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-57806-116-7.
- Vera, Billy (1996). Louisiana Swamp Blues (Compilation notes). Various artists. Capitol Records. p. 8. CDP 7243.
- "Clarence "Bon Ton" Garlow — Song Highlights". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved June 16, 2014.