We here at the Tales From The Woods' editorial board have to raise a glass and say farewell
to accordion player and founder member of the legendary Hackberry ramblers, Edwin Duhon, who
died on the 26th February 2006 aged 95.
I have recounted the story a couple of times before through these hallowed pages when, back in 1994, in the days before Tales From The Woods' was even a twinkle in the eyes of yours truly, we made our first ever trip Stateside to the southern states when Ken major (who would become our genius Marketing Manager) Shaky Lee Wilkinson (now of course one of our veteran scribes) and not forgetting the man who would become the Howard Hughes of the Essex coast, Keith Johnson, along with myself, attended both weekends of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. We stood in the pouring rain in near tropical storm conditions to witness the Cajun/western swing cum rockabilly band that had been together since the early 1930s. We yelped, hollered, jumped up and down until the atrocious weather conditions forced us and the band to quit but not before we were literally soaked through to the skin and covered from head to foot in mud. Eat your heart out Glastonbury children, this was surely man's mud.
The band of course was the Hackberry Ramblers.
Well, over the years we have made many a trip to the southern states and not once do I recall did we miss out on seeing The Ramblers, whether at the Festival or any roadhouse club we could find them, in particular the wonderfully atmospheric Mermaid Tavern a couple of miles from the New Orleans French quarter. We became good friends with The Ramblers' lead guitarist and front man Glen Croker. Indeed we would become mates with them all and not once in all those meetings did Mr Duhon fail to mention the day he first encountered those three insane middle-aged Englishmen caked in mud, jumping about like lunatics in the pouring rain.
Sadly, since that glorious hour back in '94, three members of the band have passed away; the rhythm guitarist Johnny Farque passed on during the final days of the last century. Within the last couple of years their enigmatic slap-bass man, Johnny Faulk's whoops and hollers were silenced for ever and sadly now their co-founder member Edwin Duhon, leaving fiddle player Luderin Darbone the sole surviving founder member.
In 1930 Edwin Duhon moved to the small salt-marsh town of Hackberry, Louisiana where he would encounter Luderin Darbone and soon they would be performing together at local dances. Come 1933 they would name their increasingly popular band The Hackberry Ramblers. They were also one of the first Cajun bands to use a sound system consisting of a crystal microphone, an amplifier and a speaker, all powered by the battery on Mr Darbone's Model T Ford. Naturally few dance halls in those days had the benefit of electricity.
Co-founders Luderin Darbone and the recently departed Edwin Duhon estimate that there % been over 70 Hackberry Ramblers over their% years of existence including such legendaf ;; names of Cajun music as Lennis Sonnier anils Floyd Rainwater to name but two. Several times'! the band has come perilously close to retirement ^ during the late fifties through to the early sixties when Cajun music was indeed fighting to survive.
Fortunes would change in 1963 when Arhoolie Records' boss Chris Strachwitz gave the band a new lease of life when he literally showed up on Mr Darbone's doorstep to encourage The Ramblers to record again, bearing in mind in decades prior they had recorded over 100 titles for the Bluebird label, Cajun standards such as "Jolie Blon" and "Bury Me Beneath The Willow", and down home blues songs such as "Sitting On Top Of The World". Record again they did, soon once again strutting their stuff, encouraged by the return to popularity of Cajun music on the American folk scene and amongst young Cajuns back in South Louisiana.
In 2002 Edwin and Luderin received a national Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment For The Arts and toured Europe for the first time to much critical acclaim. Edwin played a number of instruments apart from the accordion including guitar, bass, harmonica and fiddle. We here at the Tales From The Woods' editorial board believe that The Hackberry Ramblers are an American institution and their magnificent 73 year career deserves to be recognised by an industry where many are out of business within a couple of years in the spotlight.