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RIP Luderin Darbone (cajun fiddler) 21 Nov 2008

greg stephens 03 Mar 09 - 02:53 PM
katlaughing 03 Mar 09 - 03:33 PM
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Subject: RIP Luderin Darbone (cajun fiddler)
From: greg stephens
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 02:53 PM

Cajun music fans will be sorry to hear about the death of the legendary Hackberry Ramblers fiddler Luderin Darbone. But they will also have, I hope, a warm feeling of happiness for the incredible wild, emotional goodtime music he made, and also for the extraorinarily long innings he had. How many musicians have played for as long as him? There can't be many.
Guardian obituary here

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Subject: RE: RIP Luderin Darbone (cajun fiddler)
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 03:33 PM

It's okay to post a whole obituary for music-related persons.

    * Tony Russell
    * The Guardian, Tuesday 3 March 2009

If Cajun music has a place on the world stage, it is because of men such as Luderin Darbone, a fiddler and singer with the Hackberry Ramblers, who has died aged 95. Originally confined to the marginal community of French-speaking Acadians in southern Louisiana, Cajun music began to seep into the outside world in the late 1920s, when it was first recorded, but only in the late 30s did it find a significant audience beyond the Cajun enclaves of Louisiana and east Texas.

The turning point was a record called Wondering. The combination of Joe Werner's tear-stained singing and Darbone's poignant fiddling electrified listeners who knew little of Cajun. The influence of that dense, bluesy ensemble would infiltrate country music all over the south, colouring the sound even of the leading 1940s country act, Hank Williams's Drifting Cowboys.

Darbone was born in Evangeline, Louisiana, the son of an itinerant oilfield worker, and grew up in east Texas. He began playing the fiddle aged 12 and quickly learned tunes. In 1931 the family moved back to Louisiana and settled in the small town of Hackberry. "Across the street," Darbone would recall, "lived Ed Duhon, who was just learning to play guitar, and we immediately began playing together. He knew Cajun songs and I knew hillbilly tunes."

Joined by another guitarist, Lennis Sonnier, they began playing at parties. Cajun had been dominated by the accordion so, Darbone said, "We didn't know how people would react - we were there to play their dance with only a fiddle and two guitars, but to our amazement, we were a smashing success."

Through live shows and broadcasts, the Ramblers' new string band sound spread across the Cajun community. Darbone bought one of the first sound systems in the region; if he was booked into a rural dancehall with no electricity, he ran it from his car.

In 1935 he moved to Crowley and opened a service station. He also contacted Bluebird records, which sent a team twice a year to New Orleans to record local talent. At seven sessions between 1935 and 1938, the Ramblers made 80 recordings, mixing traditional Cajun songs such as Jolie Blonde, "Cajunised" hillbilly numbers, and jazz standards such as High Society and Eh La Bas, which Darbone had learned from a black band who played at a local dancehall. The vocal role was divided between Darbone, Sonnier and other members, but the band's trademark was Darbone's sliding, slurring fiddle.

One of their radio sponsors was the mail-order company Montgomery Ward, then marketing its own brand of car tyres called Riverside Ramblers. The promotional opportunity was too good to miss, and the Hackberry Ramblers took on a parallel career as the Riverside Ramblers, using the name on record for their English-language songs. Their first release with this billing, in 1937, was Wondering. The honkytonk singer Webb Pierce revived it in 1952, and it is now a country music standard.

The band broke up at the end of the 1930s but, in 1942, Darbone reorganised it with the drummer Crawford Vincent and the guitarist Eddie Shuler.

Thereafter the personnel was fluid, though Vincent, Sonnier and Duhon were often to be found in the ranks. Shuler went into the record business, and the band made part of their first album, for Arhoolie, in 1963 at his Goldband studio in Lake Charles. Subsequently they cut several singles for Goldband itself, and had a local hit in the 70s with the novelty song Cajun Pogo. In 1989 Darbone and Duhon appeared in Les Blank's Cajun music documentary J'ai été au Bal.

By now the Hackberry Ramblers and their admirers - including the journalist Ben Sandmel, who had become their drummer and producer - were suggesting that they might be the longest-serving band in the US. Even counting from their reformation in 1942, they had a remarkable run of 63 years before what would prove to be their last engagement in November 2005. Duhon died the following February; his and Darbone's seven decades' friendship was celebrated in the 2004 documentary Make'em Dance: the Hackberry Ramblers Story, co-produced by Sandmel.

Darbone's last public performance was in May 2008 at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival, where he played with Sandmel and members of the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a young band from Lafayette who perform many songs from the old Hackberry repertoire.

He is survived by his son, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

• Luderin Darbone, Cajun musician, born 14 January 1913; died 21 November 2008

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