Louis Michel Irigaray

1973 - Louis Michel Irigaray postcard. JUHC - Bk 8 - 00419.

Louis Michel Irigaray is the son of Michel Irigaray and Marie Etcheverria who were from the district of Esterenzubi in Baxe-Nabarre. Louis Michel Irigaray spent his boyhood in a sheep camp in California, with a man from Baigorry, in charge of his father flocks and learning the sheep business. His father was a prominent sheep rancher in the High Sierra country of California.

Later, Louis Michel would become a balladeer and find success among the Basque communities of the American west with his studio recorded albums. The most popular of the records was The Basque Balladeer recorded at the Buck Owens studios and released by SH Records. This album included songs such as Jeiki Jeiki or the Basque Prisoner.

He also recorded a 45 RPM album in 1973 at Don Cederstrom’s studio. In this album he collaborated with the well-known accordion player Jimmy Jausoro Louis Etchegaray on castanets and Anne Urquiaga letting loose with a powerful Irrintzi. This album had traditional songs such as Haurrak, patriotic songs like Lepoan Hartu, and even an original composition, Dantza-Dantza Mariano which he wrote in honor of his mother.

He played in the American west during the 1970’s in several Basque Communities like Reno or Bakersfield (1974). The highlight of his career as a musician was when he played at the Basque Holiday Festival as the star of the Friday night show. Also, Louis Michel would be invited by Espe Alegria, the announcer of the Voice of the Basque KBOI radio program, to appear on her show. As a Nevada resident he stayed in close contact with the Basque communities of Reno and Carson City playing at Johnny Ascuaga’s Nugget or the Laxalt family’s Ormsby House.

Just as in many histories written about the Basque Sheepherders (like Sweet Promised Land by Robert Laxalt or Zuretzako by Javi Zubizarreta) Louis Michel dedicated his music to his ancestor, the heroic figure of the Basque sheepherder. However, Louis Michele Irigaray is a unique figure in Basque-American music as he was the only sheepherder who became a professional musician, recorded albums, and became an icon of his time.

One of the Lp albums of Louis, a Sheepherder Sings.

The Basque Balladeer, 45 rpm album recorded in Boise with local Basque musicians.

1, Louis Michele Irigaray. The Basque Ballader. Recorded at the Buck Owens Studios.

Text by Eneko Tuduri.

Audio Recording: 
Basque Prisoner, written by Bordachurri, 1.
Urtzo Churria (White Dove) Translation: Msgr. James C, O'Dorherty, 1.
Jeiki, Jeiki (Rise Rise) New version, Louis Irigaray, 1.