|Born||December 26, 1922|
|Origin||Cow Island, Louisiana|
|Died||July 17, 1951(aged 28)|
|Labels||Gold Star, Modern Music, Starday, D Records, Deluxe, Macy's, O.T., Allied, Cajun Classics, Humming Bird|
|Associated acts||The Melody Boys|
Choates' place of birth is disputed, though his State of Texas death certificate lists his birthplace as New Iberia, Louisiana. His baptism certificate lists his place of birth as Cow Island, Louisiana, a small community which is south of the town of Kaplan. His baptism lists his parents as Clarence Choate and Idolie Menard. He was born Harry Henry Choate, and he added an "s" to his last name at some point after his first marriage. 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 Quinn Recording under the Gold Star Records label (#1314). Since Gold Star could not keep up with the demand for "Jole Blon", the record was co-released under other labels, such as Modern Music (#20-511), Starday (#187), D Records (#1024) and the Deluxe label (#6000). Later, it 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 and later for Macy's Recordings. 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 the Travis County Jail, 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.
Choates is known as the "Godfather of Cajun music" mainly because of his introduction of vocal wailing throughout his music. In 2014, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Harry Choates' version of Jole Blon #99 in their list of the 100 greatest country songs.
- Jole Blon (1946 Recording) Listen (MP3)
- Jole Blon (DLP-7000 D Records, 1979)
- Fiddle King of Cajun Swing (5027 Arhoolie, 1982)
- Five-Time Loser (KK-7453 Krazy Kat, 1986)
- Fiddle King of Cajun Swing (CD 380 Arhoolie, 1993)
- Five-Time Loser (KK CD-22 Krazy Kat, 1998)
- Jole Blon: The Original Cajun Fiddle Of Harry Choates (CD 7000 Glad, 1999)
- Cajun Fiddle King - Harry Choates (AIM 1205 AIM, 1999)
- Devil in the Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (BCD 16355 Bear Family, 2002)
- Jasinski, Laurie E (February 22, 2012). Handbook of Texas Music (2nd ed.). Texas State Historical Assn. ISBN 978-0876112533.
- "San Antonio Rose".
- Bradley, Andy. Wood, Roger. "House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios". Brad and Michele Moore Roots Music Series. University of Texas Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2010).
- "Harry Choates Artist Biography" by Craig Harris. Harry Choates at Allmusic
- "Bopping. HARRY CHOATES (1922-1951), the Godfather of Cajun music.". Retrieved 2014-06-06.