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Luderin Darbone and Edwin Duhon

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Louisiana musicians Edwin Duhon and Luderin Darbone formed the Hackberry Ramblers in 1933, and the band went on to become one of the most innovative and long-lasting in American popular music. The Ramblers made the first recording of “Jolie Blonde,” which became known as the “Cajun national anthem.” They incorporated Western swing and other sounds into the Cajun repertoire and introduced amplification. Arlington, Virginia, 2002, photograph by Alan Govenar
Lennis Sonnier, Edwin Duhon and Luderin Darbone, courtesy Luderin Darbone
From left: Floyd Shreve, Luderin Darbone, Danny Shreve and Pete Duhon, 1938, courtesy Luderin Darbone
From left: Joe Werner, Luderin Darbone and Lennis Sonnier, courtesy Luderin Darbone
Edwin Duhon, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Luderin Darbone, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Edwin Duhon, who hailed from the South Louisiana oil town of Hackberry, played both guitar and accordion, though later in his career he focused exclusively on the latter instrument. Luderin Darbone, a fiddler, spent part of his youth in East Texas, where he acquired a taste for country music to complement the Cajun sounds of his native South Louisiana. Duhon and Darbone formed the Hackberry Ramblers in 1933, and the band went on to become one of the most innovative and long-lasting in American popular music.

The group became popular playing for dancers in Louisiana and Texas and in 1935 began recording more than 100 tunes on 78-rpm records for RCA’s Bluebird label. The Ramblers made the first recording of “Jolie Blonde,” which became known as the “Cajun national anthem.” They incorporated Western swing and other sounds into the Cajun repertoire and introduced amplification to the roadhouses they played, initially powering a Sears sound system off Darbone’s Model T Ford.  Many of the English-language records identified them as the Riverside Ramblers.

In the early 1960s, the band made its first vinyl long-playing record for the Arhoolie label owned by Californian Chris Strachwitz, who encouraged the Ramblers to stay active and re-released some of their older material.  They continued to perform at home and on the road, becoming regulars at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. They played in Europe and on the Grand Ole Opry and were featured on MTV. The band was featured in J’etais au bal (“I Went to the Dance”), an award-winning 1991 documentary by Strachwitz and Les Blank.

The Ramblers’ 1997 Grammy-nominated recording Deep Water featured guest appearances by country singers Rodney Crowell and Jimmie Dale Gilmore and singer-pianist Marcia Ball, whose parents had once booked the Ramblers for dances in her hometown of Vinton, Louisiana. The material on that disc ranged as far afield as “Frankie and Johnny” and “Proud Mary.”

"Edwin was a tough, tough old guy," band member Ben Sandmel said after Duhon died in March 2006. "He played as recently as November in Baton Rouge, even though he was playing in a wheelchair and it was difficult for him to go." Darbone told a reporter, "Edwin was like a brother to me, We were very close, although we had different personalities." Darbone's last performance, too, was just months before his death, in 2008.

Bibliography
Alden, Grant. “The Hackberry Ramblers: Deep Water, Hot Biscuit.” No Depression (August 1997).
Collins, Rich. “Ramble On.” Gambit Weekly (May 1997).
Gundersen, Edna. “At Jazzfest, Age Affords Respect.” USA Today (May 1996).
Himes, Geoffrey. “Hackberry Ramblers: Deep Water, Hot Biscuit.” New Country Reviews (June 1997).
"Luderin Darbone: Cajun fiddler and singer with the Hackberry Ramblers." The Guardian, 2008. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/mar/03/obituary-luderin-darbone-world-music
Mouton, Todd. “Dirty Rice.” Off Beat (May 1997).
Orr, Jay. “Hackberry Ramblers.” Nashville Banner (May 1997).
_______. “70 Years of Rambling Finally Leads to ‘Opry’: Hackberry Ramblers Bring Their Country-Cajun Dance Mix to Famed Stage.” The Tennessean, December 1999.
McLellan, Dennis. "Edwin Duhon, 95; Co-Founded Cajun Band." Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2006 http://articles.latimes.com/2006/mar/19/local/me-duhon19

Tisserand, Michael. “Fest Focus.” Off Beat (May 1993).
Whiteis, David. “Hackberry Ramblers.” Chicago’s Weekly Free Reader (July 1997).
“3CM Record Reviews: Hackberry Ramblers.” 3rd Coast Music (August 1997).

Dennis Discography
The Hackberry Ramblers. Deep Water. HOTBI CD 5001.
______. Early Recordings 1934-1948. Arhoolie/Old Timey C-0127.

Watch

The Hackberry Ramblers, 2002 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

The Hackberry Ramblers interviewed on the Showbiz Today show on CNN that aired November 7, 1997


Listen

Edwin Duhon answers the question 'How did you learn to play music?' Washington, D.C., 2002, interview by Alan Govenar

Edwin Duhon answers the question 'What keeps you going?' Washington, D.C., 2002, interview by Alan Govenar

Edwin Duhon and Luderin Darbone answer the question 'When was your first recording?' Washington, D.C., 2002, interview by Alan Govenar

Luderin Darbone answers the question 'How did you learn to play music?' Washington, D.C., 2002, interview by Alan Govenar

Edwin Duhon and Luderin Darbone answer the question 'Why do you still play at your age?' Washington, D.C., 2002, interview by Alan Govenar

The Hackberry Ramblers, 'Vinton High Society,' Early Recordings: 1935-1950, 1988 & 2003, Arhoolie Productions CD 7050

The Hackberry Ramblers, 'Jolie Blonde,' Jolie Blonde, 1963 & 1993, Arhoolie Productions CD 399

The Hackberry Ramblers, 'J'ai Passe,' Jolie Blonde, 1963 & 1993, Arhoolie Productions CD 399

The Hackberry Ramblers, 'Hackberry Ramblers' Theme Song,' Cajun Boogie, 2003, Hot Biscuits Records

The Hackberrry Ramblers, 'Turtle Tail,' Cajun Boogie, 2003, Hot Biscuits Records

The Hackberry Ramblers, 'Deep Water,' Deep Water, 1997, Hot Biscuits Records HOTBI CD 5001

The Hackberry Ramblers, 'J'etais Au Bal Hier Soir,' Deep Water, 1997, Hot Biscuits Records HOTBI CD 5001

The Hackberry Ramblers, 'Proud Mary,' Deep Water, 1997, Hot Biscuits Records HOTBI CD 5001