This versatile Cajun musician was a sideman in several key bands from that genre, although he also had both a performing and recording career as a bandleader, fronting a winning hand of a combo known as Floyd Shreve and the Three Aces. "Louisiana Sweetheart" was one of this group's classic sides, cut for Decca in 1935. The penchant for "aces" overlapped with Shreve's collaboration with Cajun legend Leo Soileau, who had drawn the original Three Aces in 1934 at a time when western music was surging in popularity in southwest Louisiana; the musical influences of neighboring Texas wandering into the Bayou State like disoriented armadillos. Almost in panic, Cajun bands were dropping the accordion and changing to exclusively stringed instruments. The Hackberry Ramblers, one of the outfits that would employ Shreve, have been credited as being the very first professional Cajun string band, but it at least kept the possibility of accordion at its center with founding member Edwin Duhon doubling on guitar and the old-time squeezebox. The group was formed in 1930, and Shreve appears on some of its first recordings sessions from 1935.
An important part of the same musical movement, the original Three Aces included Soileau on fiddle, Shreve and Dewey Landry on rhythm guitars, with the rhythmically versatile Tony Gonzalez doubling on bass and drums. A major inspiration for these bands was most certainly Western swing. The Hackberry Ramblers were enthusiasts, and the style was being widely broadcast over the radio throughout Louisiana. Shreve was part of Soileau's group signed by Bluebird, the instrumentation a telling example of where things were headed. It was a string band, minus the accordion but featuring the first use of a drum set on a Cajun recording session. These sides, such as "La Valse de Gueydan," "Hackberry Hop," and Cajun warhorse "La Gran Mamou," were quite popular. In 1935, this band had evolved into Soileau's Four Aces and shuffled over to Decca.
In the early '40s, the group drove out of the familiar surroundings of Crowley, LA, with its crawfish po-boys, and headed for Chicago, where smoked beef dogs smothered with mustard and ketchup were more the rule. The combo drove in a decrepit Model A Ford, complete with a fresh contract in hand to record country songs in a Cajun style. The resulting versions of "Red River Valley" and "Birmingham Jail" are priceless. This group also recorded polkas, Mexican songs, and practically anything that anyone suggested, creating a pile of some 100 record released during the '30s and early '40s. "Jolie Blonde" was one of the biggest hits; the Cajun standard had been first recorded by the Hackberry Ramblers, with debate still in progress over whether Shreve has bragging rights to playing on both versions. For one thing, some Cajun scholars confuse Floyd Rainwater with Floyd Shreve, as if the presence of the name "Floyd" canceled out the conscious mind. Rainwater was part of a set of brothers who were original members of the Hackberry Ramblers, while Shreve was more involved with the group in the mid-'30s, when it evolved a separate-but-equal identity as the Riverside Ramblers. Perhaps the only music group in American history that can claim to be named after a brand of tires, this offspring of the Hackberry mob sang in English rather than French, with the talented Joe Werner brought in to take care of the lead vocal duties.
Shreve's feel for country & western music was an asset as this ensemble rolled into that territory, running over some hit-parade positions and earning a Decca contract in the process. There have also been questions about whether Shreve appears or doesn't on some of the Soileau recordings from this period as well. The decision to credit guitarist Jerry Baker with being on the "Hackberry Hop" session depressed Happy Fats, a historic figure in this genre, who insisted it was actually two other guitarists, Shreve and Bill Landry. Shreve seems to have dropped off the professional scene sometime after the Second World War. ~ Eugene Chadbourne