Fiddler Luderin Darbone is a seminal character in the growth of Cajun music from the bayous of southwest Louisiana to the international stage. The founder and leader of the Hackberry Ramblers, Darbone has enlivened dances with his energetic fiddling for more than six decades. Although his hearing has diminished in the past few years, and his wife's illness limits his touring, Darbone and the Hackberry Ramblers remain active. Their latest album, Deep Water, was released on the Hot Biscuits label in 1999. The son of an oil field worker, Darbone began studying violin at the age of 12, when his mother enrolled him in a correspondence course. Within six months, he was playing simple tunes. After moving to Orange, TX with his family, he continued to play old-timey tunes at house parties. In addition to traditional Cajun tunes, he assembled a large repertoire of country & western songs. A turning point in Darbone's career came when he was introduced to accordion player Edwin Duhon, whose father also worked in the oil fields. After finishing high school in 1931, Darbone began playing with Duhon. Initially a duo, the two musicians soon added a guitar player, and the Hackberry Ramblers were launched. They continued to play together while Darbone attended business college in Lake Charles, LA. When Beaumont, TX radio station, KFDM, added a satellite station in Lake Charles, Darbone approached the station manager and inquired about the chances to perform over the airwaves. For the next few years, the Hackberry Ramblers performed for the stations listeners every Monday morning. Beginning with a performance at a dance sponsored by a radio station in Bearsville, LA, about 70 miles from Lake Charles, Darbone and the Hackberry Ramblers became frequent performers at Cajun dances. Announcing where they were going to next appear during their radio broadcasts, the Hackberry Ramblers were soon drawing large audiences at their shows. After a great-uncle, who ran a dance hall in Evangeline, offered the band an extended engagement, the Hackberry Ramblers became one of the busiest groups in Louisiana's French Triangle. Their acclaim spread even further after they became the first Cajun band to purchase an electronic sound system in 1934, powered by the battery of Darbone's Model-T Ford. The Hackberry Ramblers have gone through numerous personnel changes over the past six decades. When Duhon was married in the mid-'30s and left the group, he was replaced by Alvin Ellinger. By the time that the band recorded their debut single in 1935, Floyd Rainwater and Lennis Sonier had been added. From 1935 until 1938, the group recorded many songs for RCA. The first comeback for the Hackberry Ramblers came in the early '60s when they recorded for Chris Strachwitz's Arhoolie label. Signing with Flying Fish in the early ''90s, the Hackberry Ramblers embarked on one of their most successful eras. Their first album for the label, Cajun Boogie, released in 1993, was nominated for a Grammy award in the Traditional Folk category. Guest musicians on the album included Michael Doucet and Rodney Crowell. With the exception of rhythm guitarist Johnny Farque, who died from a heart attack during a show in 1996, the group membership has remained constant since 1987. In addition to Darbone and Duhon, who returned to the group, the Hackberry Ramblers feature drummer Ben Sandmel, acoustic bass player and backup vocalist Johnny Faulk, and lead guitarist, pianist, and vocalist Glen Croker. Although Darbone suffers from a partial loss of hearing and has had to devote attention to his ailing wife, the Hackberry Ramblers continue to perform and record together. They released an album, Deep Water, in 1997. A self-titled effort was released in 2000.
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