“Jambalaya (On the Bayou)“ is a song written and recorded by American country music singer Hank Williams that was first released in July 1952…..which was named for a Creole and Cajun rice based dish, jambalaya….which spawned numerous cover versions….and has since achieved popularity in several different music genres. With a melody based on the Cajun song “Grand Texas”….it has been said by some sources to claim that the song was co-written by Williams and Moon Mullican….with Williams credited as sole author….and Mullican receiving ongoing royalties…..as Williams’ biographer Colin Escott speculates that it is likely Mullican wrote at least some of the song….and Hank’s music publisher Fred Rose paid him surreptitiously….so that he wouldn’t have to split the publishing with Moon’s label King Records….for Williams’ song resembles “Grand Texas” in melody only…..as Jambalaya, while maintaining a Cajun theme, is about life, parties and stereotypical food of Cajun cuisine. The narrator leaves to pole a pirogue down the shallow water of the bayou, to attend a party with his girlfriend Yvonne and her family….and at the feast they have Cajun cuisine, notably Jambalaya, crawfish pie and filé gumbo and drink liquor from fruit jars. Yvonne is his “ma cher amio”, which is Cajun French for “my good friend” or more likely to mean “my girlfriend.”
Williams recorded the song on June 13, 1952….which was his first recording session in six months, at Castle Studio in Nashville….with backing provided by Jerry Rivers (fiddle), Don Helms (steel guitar), Chet Atkins (lead guitar), Chuck Wright (bass) and probably Ernie Newton (bass). The recording Williams made differs significantly from Mullican’s, which was released in the same month as Williams’ version….but with a different order of verses and extra rhyming couplets.
Released in July 1952, it reached # 1 on the U.S. country charts for fourteen non-consecutive weeks. Williams performed “Jambalaya” at the Louisiana Hayride as part of his “homecoming” in the fall of 1952 ….after being fired from the Grand Ole Opry. A live recording released as part of a series of Hayride performances includes outbursts of applause. A demo version of Williams singing “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” with just his guitar was likely recorded in 1951. Williams composed a sequel to the song from the female perspective, “I’m Yvonne (Of the Bayou)”….which was recorded by Goldie Hill….and was not as popular.
In this video seen herewith…..the ever popular Brenda Lee performs Jambalaya (On The Bayou) on the widely popular 1979 television special Tribute To Hank Williams…..of which we are overjoyed to have….cuz we really like the song….and we loved Brenda Lee.