Joseph Falcon (September 28, 1900 – November 19, 1965) was a Cajun accordion player in southwest Louisiana, best known for the first recording of a Cajun song entitled "Allons à Lafayette" in 1928 . He and his wife Cléoma Breaux left for New Orleans to record the first Cajun record and went on to perform across southern Louisiana and Texas.
Joe was the fifth child of Pierre Illaire Falcon and Marie Arvilia Boudreaux. He was born near a small German community north of Rayne, Louisiana known as Roberts Cove, located by Bayou Plaquemine Brule. He began playing accordion at the age of seven.
His career as a professional musician began some years later at a fais-do-do hall called the "Blue Goose" (Oneziphore Guidry's dance hall) in Rayne, Louisiana when the regular band didn’t show up and the dance hall owner insisted that Joe take their place.
Joe Falcon's last accordion, a pre-WWII German "Eagle" brand.As a young man, Joe was friends with accordionist Amédée Breaux of the legendary Breaux family and sometimes accompanied him on triangle. Amédée’s sister, Cléoma, a gifted guitarist and singer, became Joe’s frequent accompanist and they married not long after the onset of their recording career.
In April 1928, a jeweler, George Burrow, from Rayne, Louisiana persuaded Columbia records to record Joe and his wife Cléoma by agreeing to purchase the records. Recorded on April 27, 1928 in New Orleans, "Lafayette" caused a sensation when it was released by Columbia Records in the summer of 1928.. Thousands of copies were sold and Falcon became the first Cajun-recording star, playing to packed dance halls in Louisiana and neighboring Texas. Joe and Cleoma recorded more material at sessions in New York in August 1928 and Atlanta in April 1929. After a hiatus caused by the onset of the Great Depression, the couple resumed their recording career in 1934, recording again in New York, then at New Orleans in 1936 and San Antonio in 1937. Cléoma died suddenly on April 9, 1941, but Joe continued to perform as leader of Joe Falcon and His Silver Bell String Band, which included his second wife, Theresa Meaux, on drums.
Despite this success, Joe’s career flagged in the late 1930s with the increasing popularity of fiddle-based country-and-western influenced bands. His music came to be considered old-fashioned and he stopped recording after his last session in 1937. Though Joe continued to play local dances into the 1960s, he declined to make further recordings, maintaining he had been cheated by record companies.
"Allons a Lafayette" remains one of the most popular Cajun songs of all times. Joe recorded for Columbia Records. His studio recordings, mostly with Cléoma Breaux, are available on the compilation CDs "Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do" (Columbia/Legacy) and "Cajun Vol. 1: Abbeville Breakdown (Columbia). A live CD, "Joe Falcon: Cajun Music Pioneer," recorded at the Triangle Club in Scott, La., in 1963, is available on the Arhoolie label.
Cléoma Falcon (née Breaux) (May 27, 1906 – April 4, 1941) was a Cajun guitarist and vocalist born in southwest Crowley, Louisiana. She is best known for being the wife of Joe Falcon as well as being one of the first people to record Cajun Music. The song "Allons à Lafayette" was recorded on April 27, 1928 in New Orleans. Afterwards, she performed across southern Louisiana and Texas.
Joe and Cléoma together.Cléoma was born into a musical family. She was the daughter of Auguste Breaux, a Cajun accordion player. She also had three brothers Orphy, Clifford, and Amadee with whom she had recorded many albums. Cléoma and her husband had an adopted daughter named Lulu who they brought to dances.
Cléoma had an enormous impact on Cajun music. At the time, women had a significantly smaller presence in Cajun Music. Her vocals and guitar skills fascinated many people. This made her recordings very successful. Besides a successful recording career, she frequently performed in dancehalls, which was considered improper. However, she overcame this stigma, most probably because she was alongside Joe Falcon. She recorded until 1940, when she was seriously injured by a car; she died from her injuries the following year. Cléoma's importance to Cajun music was recognized when she was the first woman to be inducted into the Cajun Music Hall of Fame in 2002.