Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Jambalaya (song))
Jump to: navigation, search
"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"
Single by Hank Williams
from the album Honky Tonkin' (1954)
A-side "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"
B-side "Window Shopping"
Released 19 July 1952
Format 7"
Recorded 13 June 1952
at Castle Studio, Tulane Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee
Genre Country
Length 2:52
Label MGM
K-11283 (U.S. 7")
Writer(s) Hank Williams
Hank Williams singles chronology
"Half as Much"
"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"
"Settin' the Woods on Fire"
Audio sample
file info · help

"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" is a song written and recorded by American country music singer Hank Williams, Sr. that was first released in July 1952. Named for a Creole and Cajun dish, jambalaya, it spawned numerous cover versions and has since achieved popularity in several different music genres.


With a melody based on the Cajun song "Grand Texas", some sources, including Allmusic, claim that the song was co-written by Williams and Moon Mullican, with Mullican uncredited but receiving ongoing royalties.

Released in July 1952, crediting Williams as the sole author, it was performed by Williams as a country song. It reached number one on the U.S. country charts for fourteen non-consecutive weeks.[1] "Jambalaya" remains one of Hank Williams' most popular songs today.

Cajun roots[edit]

Since the original melody of the song was from a Cajun French song called "Grand Texas," the song is a staple of Cajun culture. Although Williams changed the lyrics, he kept a Louisiana theme. After Williams released his version, Cajuns recorded the song again using Cajun instruments. However, they used Williams' lyrics translated into the Cajun French language. Over the past few decades, the Cajun French version has been performed by many Cajun bands including Aldus Roger and Jo-El Sonnier.


Williams' song resembles "Grand Texas", a Cajun French song, in melody only. "Grand Texas" is a song about a lost love, a woman who left the singer to go with another man to "Big Texas".

However, "Jambalaya", while maintaining a Cajun theme, is about life, parties and stereotypical food of Cajun cuisine. The protagonist leaves to pole a pirogue – a flat-bottomed boat – down the shallow water of the bayou, to attend a party with his girlfriend Yvonne, and her family. At the feast they have Cajun cuisine, notably Jambalaya, crawfish pie and filé gumbo and drink liquor from fruit jars. Yvonne is his "ma chaz ami-o", which is Cajun French for "my good girlfriend" (“ma chère amie” in French). Williams uses the term "ma chaz ami" as one word, thus the "my" in front of it. The "o" at the end of "ami" is a poetic/lyrical device making the line match the phrasing of the previous line and rhyme with it.

Williams composed a sequel to the song from the female perspective, "I'm Yvonne (Of the Bayou)", with Jimmy Rule, recorded by Goldie Hill. It was not as popular. As with "Jambalaya" there is speculation that Williams may have purchased this song from Mullican.

Later researched by a member of Moon Mullican's family, a story emerged about how the song came about in the first place, and it was said that while visiting a small bar located just south of the Choupique Bayou and owned by Yvonne Little, the song "Jambalaya" referred to some truly wonderful times had there.[citation needed]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1952) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Most Played By Jukeboxes 20

Cover versions[edit]

Sheet music of "Jambalaya" with Jo Stafford
Single by Jo Stafford
Released 1952 (1952)
Genre Traditional pop
Writer(s) Hank Williams
Jo Stafford singles chronology
"You Belong to Me"
"Early Autumn"

A version of the song was recorded by Jo Stafford in 1952, reaching #3 on the Billboard pop charts (and making the song well known to people other than country music fans). Mitch Miller had originally intended "Jambalaya" to be recorded by Jimmy Boyd for Columbia Records. Boyd turned the song down and Miller recorded it with Jo Stafford. Years later Jimmy Boyd recorded it for Dot Records. It was further popularized in a rock and roll version by Fats Domino.

The Carpenters featured the song, in an uptempo MOR version with country flourishes, on their 1973 album Now & Then. Their version was released as a single outside the United States in 1974 and sold well in the UK (peaking at number 12 in the charts)[2] and Japan.

Single by John Fogerty
from the album The Blue Ridge Rangers
Released 1973 (1973)
Genre Country
Writer(s) Hank Williams
John Fogerty singles chronology
"Blue Ridge Mountain Blues"
"Hearts of Stone"

Other artists who have performed the song include The Meters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy C. Newman, Leon Russell, Charley Pride, Jimmy Buffett, Jeff Healey on his 2008 album Mess of Blues, Emmylou Harris included it in her 1976 album Elite Hotel, Moon Mullican, John Fogerty (whose version hit #16 in 1973 under the name of The Blue Ridge Rangers), The Muppets, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Brenda Lee, Harry Connick, Jr., Lucinda Williams, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (whose version peaked at #84 in 1972), Billy "Crash" Craddock, George Jones, Leo Kottke, Wes Paul, Dolly Parton, Roomful of Blues, Andy Kaufman, Professor Longhair, Shocking Blue, Freddy Fender, The White Stripes, Tab Benoit, and Tommy Funderburk (appearing in the film Steel Magnolias), Van Morrison and Linda Gail Lewis on their 2000 album You Win Again, Doug Kershaw and The Residents among many others.

A recording by The Tanner Sisters with an orchestra and conductor Don Carlos was made in London on September 25, 1952. It was released by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10418.

Ex-Hong Kong female singer, CHANG Loo (張露), covered this song twice. The first version was covered in Mandarin Chinese entirely, under title name of 小癩痲 in the mid-1950s. The second one was covered, in alternate English and Mandarin Chinese, under the name of Jambalaya/小癩痲 on her album An Evening with Chang Loo in 1963. In 1978, another Hong Kong female singer, Paula Tsui (徐小鳳), covered the Mandarin Chinese version made by CHANG Loo, on her LP album 風雨同路.

In 1974, Singapore-based female singer, Ervinna, covered this song, on her LP album Top Hits Vol. 2 with the local White Cloud Records.

In India, Usha Iyer (now Usha Uthup) recorded a version in 1968 on the HMV label, that became the best selling song until then, by an Indian artist in English.

Džo Maračić Maki released "Jambolaya" in the Croatian language.[3]

International, translated or derived versions do exist at least in Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Polish (as "Baju-baj, proszę pana" recorded by Anna Jantar), German, Spanish and Estonian. In 2005, two versions of "Jambalaya" surged in Mexican folk music, one by Banda Limón and the other from the Duranguense group K-Paz de la Sierra. However, in Mexican music, the most famous cover version is by Los Felinos.

Country star Hunter Hayes made his debut, at four year old, covering the song on the accordion with Hank Williams, Jr.[4]

Garth Brooks recorded the song for the 2013 Country Classics album in the Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences compilation.

Preceded by
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" by Kitty Wells[5]
Best Selling Retail Folk (Country & Western) Records
number one single by Hank Williams and His Drifting Cowboys

September 6, 1952[5]
December 18, 1952[5]
Succeeded by
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" by Kitty Wells[5]
"Back Street Affair" by Webb Pierce[5]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 387. 
  2. ^ Carpenters UK chart history, The Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  3. ^ Video on YouTube
  4. ^ "Hunter Hayes Bio | Hunter Hayes Career". CMT. Retrieved 2014-07-31. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Whitburn, Joel (2005). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2005. Record Research, Inc. p. 604. ISBN 0-89820-165-9. 

External links[edit]