Choates' place of birth is disputed, though his State of Texas death certificate lists New Iberia, Louisiana as his place of birth. He moved to Port Arthur, Texas in the 1930s, and received little schooling, instead spending time in local bars listening to music on jukeboxes. By age 12 he started playing fiddle for spare change in barbershops. He gained early professional experience playing in the bands of Leo Soileau and Leroy LeBlanc, then split off to form his own group called the Melody Boys in 1946. His 1946 song "Jole Blon", a top 10 hit (Billboard position #4) for Choates, was recorded by country singer Moon Mullican and became a major hit, but Choates had waived his rights to the song and was never compensated for its success.
Choates remained with the Melody Boys from 1946 to 1951, recording for Gold Star Records in 1946-47. The Melody Boys disbanded over Choates' chronic problems with alcoholism and his frequent missed concert dates, and shortly after the dissolution he played with Jesse James & His Gang on KTBC radio. In the middle of 1951, Choates was found to be in contempt of court for failing to pay his support payments for his children. He spent three days in prison, at which time he began hitting his head against the bars of his jail cell, eventually knocking himself into a coma. The condition persisted for several days before Choates died of the effects of his alcoholism on July 17, 1951.