Lonnie Rainwater

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The brothers Lonnie and Floyd Rainwater were original members of the Hackberry Ramblers, acknowledged to be the oldest performing Cajun band in the history of the genre. The group was formed in 1930 by…
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The brothers Lonnie and Floyd Rainwater were original members of the Hackberry Ramblers, acknowledged to be the oldest performing Cajun band in the history of the genre. The group was formed in 1930 by the fiddler Luderin Darbone, whose repertoire of hillbilly and country music, heavily influenced by the new Western swing style, might have seemed at odds with what was developing in terms of a Cajun musical outlook. That was until the fiddler got to know a neighbor, Edwin Dubon, who took out his accordion and showed how to create a conglomeration of Cajun and country that came to be known as the Cajun string band sound. The Rainwater brothers, along with guitarist and singer Lennis Sonnier, helped create a unique sound for this group, which began recording in 1935 and hit immediately with "Jolie Blonde," a song that would become a standard in the Cajun repertoire.

At first the group stuck to French material, but later branched into English singing with the talented Joe Werner taking over the frontman chores. It was a happy marriage of creativity and commerce, as the English material was encouraged by the sponsors of the Hackberry Ramblers' radio show, who just happened to have a new tire design they were hot to sell. Thus, Lonnie Rainwater also became a member of the Riverside Ramblers, a spin-off band named after the spinning Riverside Rambler tire. The band splintered as the Second World War began, but by 1946 had re-formed and had the opportunity to cut sides for Deluxe, as well as gig every Saturday night at a funky Lake Charles club. A decade went by, and around the time the Rainwater brothers were beginning to feel their age, the '60s folk revival led straight to an interest in their genuine American music roots.

The band of Cajun old-timers recorded an album for Arhoolie in 1963, picking up a whole new audience in the process. Lonnie Rainwater did not stick around to strum and hoot his way through the subsequent decades with the band, as he became one of the first original members to depart. The group has carried on under the original leadership, but the Rainwater brothers' musical puddle seemed to dry up after that. They are no relation to Marvin Rainwater, country singer/songwriter and one-quarter Cherokee Indian.