Floyd Rainwater

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The brothers Floyd and Lonnie Rainwater began playing guitars together as boys, and continued to enjoy making music together as young men. They became original members of the world's first and oldest…
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The brothers Floyd and Lonnie Rainwater began playing guitars together as boys, and continued to enjoy making music together as young men. They became original members of the world's first and oldest Cajun band, the Hackberry Ramblers. Floyd Rainwater remained the silent partner, developing a mean shuffling strum on his guitar but leaving the vocals to his younger brother. The group was started up by the fiddler Luderin Darbone, whose repertoire of hillbilly and country music was heavily influenced by a new Western swing style. At first it might not have seemed like Darbone was a likely candidate for Cajun presidential status, but that was until he got together with a neighbor, Edwin Duhon, a straight Cajun accordion player, who helped the fiddler create a conglomeration of this genre and country that came to be known as the Cajun string band sound. The historical importance is more than a matter of timing, as there were other Cajun artists interested in this musical direction as well, including the robust Happy Fats and Doc Guidry.

The Rainwater brothers were some of the first guitarists to plug in and play electric guitars on a Cajun stage, not that there were always stages in the venues this group played after its formation in 1930. Later, Floyd would begin doubling on bass, working on establishing a stock of electric bass lines in a music with no tradition for such a thing. The Hackbery Ramblers began recording in 1935, striking gold with the first stroke of the shovel. "Jolie Blonde" became a standard in the Cajun repertoire, and it was just one of many fine songs the band recorded, sticking at first to French material before being rolled into the English parking lot by the efforts of a pushy tire company. It was part of the band's relationship with Montgomery Wards, sponsors of the band's radio show.

The Riverside Ramblers became a spinning wheel off the original band, performing country & western with a distinct Cajun feeling. The charismatic Joe Werner became the vocalist for this material, leading to several recording sessions with Decca and a minor hit. Now succeeding on two separate fronts, the group still didn't survive the onset of the Second World War. But, in 1946, the Hackberry Ramblers were back, cutting sides for Deluxe. The Rainwater brothers joined their old friends in a weekly Saturday night gig in Lake Charles as well, a tradition that went on merrily for a decade. In the '60s, it was a new folk revival that revitalized a now strictly part-time band of Cajun old-timers. A new album for Arhoolie in 1963 picked up a new, younger, and much more national audience, but the Rainwater brothers decided to dry up, leaving it to the new generations of Cajun players to carry on the Hackberry Ramblers' tradition. Under the direction of the seemingly ageless Darbone, the group has continued to do just that. Neither Floyd Rainwater nor his brother are any relation to Marvin Rainwater, country singer/songwriter and one-quarter Cherokee Indian.