Joe Bonsall was one of 11 children and was born in Lake Arthur, La. He learned to play music at his mother's knee; Theresia Theriot Bonsall, was an accordion player. While the name Bonsall is not French, it is English. His ancestor was rescued from a shipwreck off the coast of Louisiana according to family accounts. The survivor was adopted by the Cajuns, became immersed in the Acadian culture and fell in love with a local woman of French descent.
Joe was inspired by Lawrence Walker and Joe Falcon growing up. In 1937 his family moved from Lake Arthur to the Gum Cove area north of Vinton in Calcasieu Parish. He was known to play house dances during this time with "Moot" Harrington. The original Orange Playboys were formed by Joe around 1952-53 when Moot Harrington retired from performing. Over the next couple of years a steady stream of musicians played with the Orange Playboys.
John Lloyd “Tee Bruce's” Broussard's parents moved to Port Arthur, Texas around 1924 from Carencro, Louisiana and there February 25, 1929, “Tee Bruce” was born. After graduating from High School in Port Arthur he spent two years in the Air Force and worked for a Texaco refinery for 38 years. During that time he frequented the Twilight Club in Port Neches, Texas every Saturday night listening to Cajun music. This is about the time he got interested in the accordion and bought one and learned to play. He didn't consider himself a good accordion player, but played for his own amusement. He played in a band for a while and made accordions for about eight years. “Tee Bruce” answered the telephone for Huey Meaux's Cajun show on KPAC Radio station and later at KOLE Radio. He then was able to start his own Cajun show on KOGT Radio in Orange, Texas. For 14 years he hosted “Tee Bruce's Cajun Jamboree.”
Joe and the Orange Playboys first made their mark on the recording scene when they recorded for Goldband Records in 1962. In 1963, Joe Bonsall contacted John “Tee Bruce” Broussard and asked him to produce recordings and help promote Joe Bonsall and the Orange Playboys. The group released a couple sides on Floyd Soileau's Swallow label at first.
Floyd Soileau recalls the association:
"Tee Bruce originally pushed him onto me and I did their recordings in my studio, the last studio I had. But later on, he developed his Cajun Jamboree label and he was recording and trying to sell some records and tried to make money on it, and later he sold me the masters on his Cajun Jamboree stuff. But they came in and did a couple of records in my studio."
By 1965 Joe and his band were releasing records Tee Bruce's Cajun Jamboree label. The second record they released on the label was a spirited version of a Iry Lejeune classic that the band made into their own and called it "Bayou Pon-Pon Two Step". The band at the time consisted of Joe on accordion, Bobby Caswell on guitar, Russell Quebodeaux on fiddle, Tilford McClelland on steel guitar and Rayford Quebodeaux on drums.
The songs goes back further than Iry's version of course. Iry's relative, Angelus LeJeune, recorded it in 1929 as "Bayou Pom Pom One Step" and a earlier version of the melody was recorded by Joe Falcon as "Osson". Early Cajun music researcher, Wade Falcon, writes that Bayou Pon Pon (spelled either "Pon Pon" or "Pom Pom") is a mythical town, somewhere in Lafourche Parish, in which comedian Walter Coquille would use as the basis for his 1929 satirical recordings on Brunswick records.
Gold Star Studio, Houston TX; 1965
6946 (LH 2275) Over the waves-1 Cajun Jamboree 803,
6947 (LH 2276) Bayou pon-pon two step-1 Cajun Jamboree 803
Cajun French Music website
Ron Yule- Cajun Dance Hall Heyday
Wade Falcon- Early Cajun Music blog
Nick Leigh- Cajun Music Discography
Interview with Floyd Soileau