Luderin Darbone: Fiddle player and bandleader at the forefront of Cajun music

The leader of the Hackberry Ramblers for more than six decades, Luderin Darbone was a fine fiddle player and, more importantly, one of the great innovators in Cajun music.

Today, both the music and the cuisine of the Cajuns of Louisiana are popular around the world but this wasn't always the case. Descended from French colonists who had been evicted from their homeland in Acadia (now Nova Scotia) by the English following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and who had then migrated south, settling around the bayous of modern Louisiana, the Cajuns remained, until the early decades of the 20th century, isolated by culture and geography.

It took both the discovery of oil and Governor Huey Long's highway construction programme to open up the area and the state legislature's much-hated ban in 1916 on the use of French in public schools accelerated its Anglicisation. With this social and economic change came greater affluence and a ready market for recordings by local musicians; people like Joe and Cléoma Falcon who, in 1928, cut the first commercial Cajun discs. It was they who heralded an era that would see Darbone's Hackberry Ramblers become not only one of the most popular and durable acts in Cajun music, but also one of the most revolutionary.

Having been brought up in Texas, Darbone absorbed the disparate blues, hillbilly and western swing sounds that filled the airwaves there and went on to incorporate them into the Ramblers' sound. On a more practical level, his swing fiddle supplanted the diatonic accordion used by more traditional outfits and, using the battery in his Model-A Ford, his became the first Cajun band to use electric amplification in local dance halls.

Darbone was born, the son of an accordionist, in 1913. His parents gave him his first fiddle at the age of 12 and he learnt to play through a correspondence course. In 1930 he met a guitarist called Edwin Duhon and together they formed the nucleus of a band they named the Hackberry Ramblers in honour of their hometown. By 1933 they were making regular radio broadcasts and two years later signed to RCA Bluebird, with whom they would go on to cut more than 70 sides. In 1936 they recorded their most celebrated disc, a superlative version of the Cajun anthem "Jolie Blonde" with Lennis Sonnier on vocals. Darbone himself took the lead on numbers like "Oh Josephine, Ma Josephine", "One Step De L'Amour" and "Faux Pas Tu Bray Cherie".

In 1937, and using the name the Riverside Ramblers in deference to the Riverside tyres manufactured by their then sponsor, Montgomery Ward, they recorded the English-language "Wondering", a blatant and successful nod to the hillbilly market that became the first of several cross-over hits. During the Second World War, with Darbone working in a munitions factory, the band's activities came to a halt but in 1946, having re-formed, they landed a decade-long Saturday-night residence at the well-known Silver Star Club in Lake Charles.

The 1950s saw a serious decline in interest in the Ramblers' music as younger Cajuns turned to rock 'n' roll. In common with many of their peers the band considered retirement. In 1963, however, they were approached by Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records, who persuaded them to record again. The resulting album, Louisiana Cajun Music, performed well on the back of the then current folk boom and inspired a number of young Cajun musicians to investigate their musical heritage. The band became mainstays of festivals and fairs throughout the South and both Darbone and Duhon found themselves venerated by a younger generation.

In 1993, when Darbone was 80, the Ramblers recorded an acclaimed album, Cajun Boogie, for Flying Fish. Featuring guests like the fiddler Michael Doucet and the noted country singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell, it included standards like "Old Pipeliner" and Howlin' Wolf's "Sitting On Top of the World" as well as Darbone's own "Une Piastre Ici, Une Piastre La Bas". It was followed four years later by the Grammy-nominated Deep Water, on which Crowell, Doucet, Marcia Ball and Jimmie Dale Gilmore abetted them in delivering effective covers of numbers like "C.C. Rider", "Proud Mary" and "Frankie and Johnny".

The Cajun approach to life has long been summed up in their declaration "Laissez les bon temps rouler!" ["Let the good times roll!"] For well over 60 years Luderin Darbone succeeded, in his music-making, in doing just that.

Paul Wadey

Luderin Darbone, fiddle player, vocalist and bandleader: born Evangeline, Louisiana 14 January 1913; married (one son); died Sulphur, Louisiana 21 November 2008.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
films
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - Expo

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager - Aesthetic Medical Devices - £80,000 OTE

£45000 - £80000 per annum + car + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A market leader in...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Field Sales Engineer - Welding Supplies - £45,000 OTE

£25000 - £45000 per annum + car: h2 Recruit Ltd: A fantastic and unique Field ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - Medical Lasers - £80,000 OTE

£45000 - £80000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A global market leader i...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game