Cleoma Breaux Falcon
Musician and singer Cléoma Breaux Falcon recorded the first Cajun record with her husband, Joseph Falcon.
Musician and singer Cléoma Breaux Falcon recorded the first Cajun record with her husband, Joseph Falcon. Recorded on April 27, 1928, in New Orleans, “Lafayette,” also known as “Allons à Lafayette,” sold well and led to other recordings by Cajun musicians. Though she played an impressive variety of instruments, Cléoma made her major contributions to Cajun music as a guitarist and singer. Her emotional singing and rhythmic guitar style set standards in Cajun music still in effect today.
Born May 27, 1906, in Crowley, Cléoma Breaux was born into an influential family of Cajun musicians that included her father, Auguste Breaux, and brothers: Amede, Ophy, and Clifford. When Cléoma was about 12, her father abandoned the family, causing her mother to take work as a domestic. Cléoma took over many of the duties of the household, including cooking and cleaning. She graduated from Crowley High School. She started playing music at an early age and soon mastered the accordion and fiddle. Throughout the1910s and 1920s, Cléoma performed with her brothers around Crowley, which rapidly became the center for Cajun music. Her driving rhythm formed the basis of the Breaux family band, and her singing reflected the growing influence of blues, popular, and particularly country music on Cajun musical traditions.
She met and formed a lasting musical and personal partnership with Joseph Falcon, an accordionist from Rayne. They married on April 27, 1932. Four years earlier, Cléoma and Joe recorded two sides—“Lafayette” and “The Waltz That Carried Me to My Grave”—for Columbia Records in New Orleans, generally considered the first Cajun music recording. During the next ten years, the Falcons and the Breaux family would record nearly one hundred songs for several labels including Columbia, Decca, and Bluebird. Their recordings made the couple local celebrities, and they earned a living performing throughout southern Louisiana. Their style reflected the influence of popular genres on Cajun music, especially country music, which Cajuns embraced. Cléoma recorded Cajun versions of popular songs such as “Lulu’s Back in Town” and “Love Letters in the Sand.”
Cléoma Falcon died April 8, 1941, in Crowley; she was thirty-five years old. Her legacy continued through her nieces and nephews, including swamp pop singer Johnny Allen, accordionist Jimmy Breaux of Beausoleil, and accordion builder Randy Falcon.