The most important Cajun band of the 1930s, the Hackberry Ramblers -- also known as the Riverside Ramblers -- were formed in 1933 by fiddler Luderin Darbone (born January 14, 1913, Evangeline, LA). Darbone spent much of his early life in Texas, listening to -- and becoming influenced by -- Western swing as well as Cajun music. He studied at a business college in the early '30s but formed the Hackberry Ramblers soon after and found work at KFDM Beaumont, TX.
The Ramblers soon became the best-known band around the area, and they began recording for RCA Bluebird in 1935 with a lineup including Darbone, vocalist Lennis Sonnier, guitarists Glenn Croker, Lonnie Rainwater, Floyd Shreve, and Joe Werner, bassist Johnnie Parket, and occasional accordion player Edwin Duhon. The initial sides were recorded in French, but a partnership with Montgomery Ward to perform on KVOL Lafayette prompted the Ramblers to record in English as the Riverside Ramblers -- after Ward's brand of tires. Joe Werner provided most of the English vocals, and 1936's "Wondering" became a modest hit, sparking his brief solo contract with Decca.
The band broke up early in the World War II years but re-formed in 1946, recording for Deluxe and establishing a Saturday-night residency at a Lake Charles club that lasted ten years. The part-time band recorded an album for Arhoolie in 1963 and a few titles for Old Gold, and remained together, playing the occasional festival or event. In 1988, the Old Timey label released the best of the Bluebird and Deluxe material as Early Recordings: 1935-1948. ~ John Bush