Hackberry Ramblers Interview
“The way we would play, when we started playing over here at Silver Star, we would play maybe about three numbers. Then we would play a waltz. The waltzes we would play, French waltzes. It has a certain beat that the people around here like. I think that during the war is about the time that the people started going back to the French music.” – Luderin Darbone
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Hackberry Ramblers Interview Transcript:
A Note About the Transcriptions: In order to expedite the process of putting these interviews online, we are using a transcription service. Due to the challenges of transcribing speech – especially when it contains regional accents and refers to regional places and names – some of these interview transcriptions may contain errors. We have tried to correct as many as possible, but if you discover errors while listening, please send corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org
Luderin Darbone: I was born in Evangeline Louisiana.
Chris Strachwitz: In Evangeline?
Luderin Darbone: Actually it’s in Acadia Parish Louisiana. Evangeline, that’s all, sounds like the story of the Acadians. You’ve heard of Evangeline and Acadia.
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah.
Luderin Darbone: This was Acadia Parish, and I was born in Evangeline, a little oil field town is what it was. My dad worked in the oil fields and that’s where he met my mother. You’ll meet her after a while, she’s the one cooking our dinner today.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh.
Luderin Darbone: We didn’t live there long. We moved away when I was about six months old.
Chris Strachwitz: When was your birthday?
Luderin Darbone: It was in 1913, January the 14th. 1913.
Chris Strachwitz: You say you stayed there only until you were …
Luderin Darbone: I was about six months old when they moved away. Of course he followed oil field work and we moved from one oil field to another. Most of the fiddling that I learned, I actually first learned to play the hillbilly style. We lived in Texas. That’s where I learned numbers like Wednesday Night Waltz, Beaumont Rag, stuff like that. However, I was still pretty young, then we moved to Hackberry. That’s down south of here. After I moved there, that’s when I met Duhon, Edwin. He played the accordion at that time. We joined together. I’d play the fiddle and he’d play the accordion. We played that way for about a year, I guess, and then he switched over to the guitar.
Chris Strachwitz: Let me just try to get a few more sequences in. Did your father play any music at all?
Luderin Darbone: No. The strange thing about this is that I don’t think there was any, except I believe I had a great uncle that played the violin.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh.
Luderin Darbone: My mother, from the time I was born, she always thought about me playing the violin. In fact, she wanted me to play so when I was about 12 they bought me a, I think, about a ten dollar fiddle. Then she ordered a correspondence course for me. Every day, for about 30 minutes, I’d study on my notes. That’s how I really learned to play.
Chris Strachwitz: When you were about 10 years old you started?
Luderin Darbone: Well, I’d say about 12, I guess.
Chris Strachwitz: About 12. Do you remember hearing any music at that time that sort of impressed you? Or were you just doing it strict out of the book?
Luderin Darbone: We had one of these old-time Edison phonographs. You know the old-time records, cylinder type?
Chris Strachwitz: Oh, the cylinder.
Luderin Darbone: Do you remember those?
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah.
Luderin Darbone: There were some numbers, of course it was mostly orchestra numbers. I take it back. I believe we had one number there, The Missouri Waltz, that was more of a string type music. Actually, at that time, I didn’t care too much for this type music. Of course, when I was growing up I listened on this phonograph to these orchestras and naturally that’s what I liked at that time. As far as the French music, the Acadian music, accordion, I didn’t care for that at all until I started playing it, after I moved to Hackberry. I don’t know, when you look back, there’s so much that it’s hard to put together.
Chris Strachwitz: When were you living in Beaumont, I mean in Texas?
Luderin Darbone: We lived in Texas, that was about the time when we bought this fiddle, I was about 12 I guess. We moved there, I take it back, I was about 10. We moved to Orange and then from Orange we moved to Orangefield, which is an oil field town west of Orange. We lived there until I was about 17 I guess. That’s when we moved to Hackberry.
Chris Strachwitz: I see. By then you were already a pretty good player.
Luderin Darbone: Actually, I didn’t start playing any dances until after I was down at Hackberry.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh.
Luderin Darbone: I was about 18, I guess, when I started playing for dances.
Chris Strachwitz: I see. Was that about the first time that you heard this French music, when you moved to Hackberry?
Luderin Darbone: No, I had heard French music at Orangefield, where we lived. They had one of these country dance halls and on Saturday nights, in those days there was no radio, no TV, my folks, a lot of times, would just go to listen to the music and see the people who were there. I remember a lot of times they would go in and I’d sit on a bench and they would too. That’s where I first heard it, about that time.
Chris Strachwitz: What sort of instruments did they use, do you recall?
Luderin Darbone: Yeah, they would use, at first, the first time I heard the accordion I remember was accordion and one of these triangles like you have. After that they would use … just a matter of two or three years. Maybe that was being used before but the first time was with the accordion and triangle. Then they were using the fiddle, accordion and triangle. The guitar was not used at all until after Joe Falcon made his record. That’s when I recall that they started using the guitar with this type band.
Chris Strachwitz: Then when you got to Hackberry, how did you meet up with the fellows that finally … who was first guy that you met up with at …
Luderin Darbone: Duhon, it so happened that his folks were oil field workers too, his dad was. They lived only about a city block from where we lived. Of course there was no blocks on Hackberry but I mean just the distance wasn’t too far. After we found out that we played music then we started getting together and having our practice sessions. It so happened that we had what they call a tool room on the lease where my dad worked. That’s where we would get to practice.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh.
Luderin Darbone: We wouldn’t practice at each other’s house because you know how it is when you’re first learning how to play, the people, they don’t care about hearing you. We’d get in this shack and we’d play. That’s where we learned. Then there was another fellow there, Ellander. He started coming over with his guitar.
Chris Strachwitz: What was his name?
Luderin Darbone: Ellander, Alvin Ellander.
Chris Strachwitz: Alvin Ellander.
Luderin Darbone: He had a guitar so he would come over and meet us so we got to playing there. One of the fellows that worked on the lease, he’s an uncle by marriage, was from Basile, which is near Eunice. Just a little country town. He visited a friend of his over there and he talked to this fellow about us playing this string band type music. They were using the accordion there all the time. This fellow decided he’d give us a trial just to see what would happen so he booked us for a dance. That was back in 1933.
Chris Strachwitz: That was in Basile Louisiana?
Luderin Darbone: Basile.
Chris Strachwitz: Basile.
Luderin Darbone: Edwin and myself, we were talking one day, that was before we played the dance. We said, “Well, we’ve got to have a name for the band.” At that time there was an orchestra around here by the name of Louisiana Ramblers. It wasn’t widely known but it was a local outfit.
Luderin Darbone: We decided why not Hackberry Ramblers. That’s what we became known as and we played in Basile and the people down there, they really went wild for that type music. Just a fiddle and two guitars. The fellow booked us for every two weeks on a Saturday. We played maybe three or four times like that. I had an uncle in Evangeline, a great uncle of mine, that had a dance hall. He decided he wanted us too so we started playing, one Saturday we’d play in Evangeline, the other in Basile. That’s where we got started, right there.
Chris Strachwitz: What sort of tunes, can you recall, at that time what sort of numbers would you do mostly?
Luderin Darbone: Numbers like Corrina.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh yeah.
Luderin Darbone: That was released lately. Corrina and Just Because, made one of the recordings. Most of those first recordings is what we played at that time. Bonnie Blue Eyes and … Let’s see, what else at that time?
Chris Strachwitz: Most of them were, then, basically, the pop music of the time. It wasn’t so much the French music, was it? When you first started out.
Luderin Darbone: Well, Chris, we didn’t play too much French music at those dances. Once in a while we’d play them a French waltz and that was about all. Sometimes we’d maybe play almost an hour before we’d play a French waltz.
Chris Strachwitz: Why do you think that was? Were there mostly French people there?
Luderin Darbone: People were tired of the French music at that time.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh.
Luderin Darbone: This thing works in cycles. Up to that time all they had was accordion music. Actually, when we came out with the string band music they really went for it. After we played for about three months at these two places then we started being booked at other places. We moved from Hackberry to Crowley. We lived in Crowley for about three years and that’s when we started recording for RCA Victor.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh, I see.
Luderin Darbone: We kept the name Hackberry Ramblers.
Chris Strachwitz: Were your folks still with you then?
Luderin Darbone: No, I left. My dad was working and that was during the depression days and it wasn’t too many jobs. This way we were single and didn’t take too much money to live so we just moved. However, when we played a dance we didn’t make big money, a couple of dollars. Two or three dollars, that was it. Still, in those days, two or three dollars was a lot of money.
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah. When you moved to Crowley who was with you then?
Luderin Darbone: Let’s see, when I moved to Crowley I had Lennis (Sonnier),. He moved down. Lennis is from Vinton, a little town west of here. At that time he was from Vinton. Floyd Rainwater was playing and he was from Dequincy, which is north of here. We decided if we moved to Crowley it would be more of a central location for us so that’s what we did, us three. Then we were there about two or three …
Chris Strachwitz: Duhon had quit?
Luderin Darbone: Duhon had quit at that time. He was married and he figured he couldn’t make it with the money we were getting so he decided he’d better get him a steady job. That’s what he did. He quit at that time. We were Lennis, Floyd (Rainwater) and myself. A little later on Floyd Rainwater’s brother, Lonnie Rainwater, joined us. His picture’s in the picture there in the book.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh, it is?
Luderin Darbone: We’re four.
Chris Strachwitz: Did he also play guitar?
Luderin Darbone: He played the Hawaiian style, with no amplification.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh, yeah.
Luderin Darbone: He didn’t play long. He just played long enough to get his picture taken.
Chris Strachwitz: Did he ever make any records with you?
Luderin Darbone: Yeah, he was on the first five that we recorded.
Chris Strachwitz: On the first five.
Luderin Darbone: Crowley Waltz, he’s on that.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh, he’s on that? Hawaiian guitar.
Luderin Darbone: Mm-hmm (affirmative), steel. Let’s see, after he left … I think after he left that’s when I got the Shreve boys. Floyd Rainwater didn’t play too long after that, he also got married and he moved to Beaumont. Then I got the two Shreve boys, Danny Shreve and Floyd Shreve, to play. Lennis also quit about that time, he got married.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh.
Luderin Darbone: All through the years you change around. About 12 years ago, I guess, that’s when Edwin Duhon and Lennis came back in the band.
Chris Strachwitz: Whose idea, basically, was it in the ’30s to record those French numbers? Was that yours or was it Lennis?
Luderin Darbone: About that time RCA Victor got Leo Soileau to make some Acadian records. The first accordion record was released about in ’28 or ’29. At this period, when we moved to Crowley, it was about ’35. Then RCA Victor got this fellow, Leo Soileau, to come in and make some of these Acadian records and they went over pretty big. Then the next time they came down, or before they came down, I wrote to them and told them that we could play that type music too. Then we started practicing up on these. Of course we had been playing some of them but, like I said a while ago, people, they didn’t care for it too much anymore, but then they got back and started liking it again.
That’s when they wrote us back and said that they’d like to see us in New Orleans. We went to New Orleans and that’s when we recorded the French ones. If you’ll notice, on the first records that we recorded, there’s only about two of them that were Acadian records. The rest of them were English. You’ll notice by those titles. Mama Don’t Allow No Hanging Around.
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah, that’s true.
Luderin Darbone: Bonnie Blue Eyes.
Chris Strachwitz: They certainly have strong … like your friend said yesterday, you play the fiddle like an accordion, kind of.
Luderin Darbone: Yeah.
Chris Strachwitz: They had that French intonation.
Luderin Darbone: Yeah.
Chris Strachwitz: I guess that probably came as you listened to it more and more.
Luderin Darbone: Actually, yeah, I guess, like I stated a while ago, when we first started playing he played the accordion so I developed that style with that accordion.
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah.
Luderin Darbone: That’s probably why, through the years, I’ve kept that same style. People seem to like it.
Chris Strachwitz: Do you remember when you first saw or heard a Negro band around here?
Luderin Darbone: When we lived at Hackberry they used to have a dance there about once every two weeks and they would get a band out of Crowley, Jenkins and his Orchestra, all colored. They would play and then there was also a dance hall at Holly Beach, which is south of Hackberry, on the gulf. They would have a dance there every once in a while. Then there was another hall at a place called Shoe Pick. They would have a dance there and they’d always use colored orchestras.
Chris Strachwitz: Would they almost be the same band?
Luderin Darbone: No, I think there was another colored … I believe there was one from Lake Charles, wasn’t there?
Speaker 3: Yeah, they were …. I can’t remember the name.
Luderin Darbone: I don’t remember the name of that orchestra but there was two, I remember, that used to come down here. Of course I would learn some of those numbers too, you see, and play it with my style.
Chris Strachwitz: Can you recall what sort of instrumentation they had? Was it mostly horns?
Luderin Darbone: Yeah, mostly horns. I think they had a bass fiddle and a piano. I think that was the only string instrument. Well, they had drums.
Chris Strachwitz: Was it a fairly large band?
Luderin Darbone: Pretty good size, must have been about 10 or 12 pieces.
Chris Strachwitz: What were some of the tunes, if you remember hearing?
Luderin Darbone: One that I remember real well was Tiger Rag. I used to really like that number. Then Eh, La Bas, you know, the one that we talked about.
Speaker 3: You know something about that Eh, La Bas, I was in Miami Beach Florida and it was in ’52 and that’s what they was playing.
Luderin Darbone: Eh, La Bas, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Speaker 3: Colored band.
Chris Strachwitz: All right, they must have been from New Orleans.
Speaker 3: Must have been.
Luderin Darbone: Yeah, probably.
Chris Strachwitz: They still play it down there quite a bit. It’s still a very popular thing amongst jazz bands.
Speaker 3: Yeah, they say a few words in French. The people didn’t understand it but we could understand. It was kind of nasty but they would all laugh.
Luderin Darbone: They wouldn’t know …..
Chris Strachwitz: What sort of band was that? Do you remember the instruments?
Speaker 3: It was a colored orchestra.
Chris Strachwitz: Do you remember, was it mostly saxophone or was it trumpet and trombone?
Speaker 3: Oh, it was saxophone and trumpet and trombone.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh.
Speaker 3: Piano and drums. I did get a big kick out of that.
Chris Strachwitz: Let’s get up to date. You said that you’ve always played every weekend, really, that you’ve built your house … When did you move here to Sulphur?
Luderin Darbone: We moved to Sulphur when I went to work for Swift. Of course I was still living in Hackberry up to that period, to that time.
Chris Strachwitz: You came back from Crowley during the war?
Luderin Darbone: When I got married I moved back to Crowley, that’s when my dad was electrocuted on his work. I went to work down there and moved back to Hackberry. Then I got a group of boys and we started playing again.
Chris Strachwitz: When was this?
Luderin Darbone: This was in 1939. About 1940 is when Crawford Vincent came into the band. He was down at Hackberry at that time. I got a couple of other boys from Creole. We still kept the name Hackberry Ramblers. We played until the war started and then we disbanded. When I was working at Swift. Then, from Hackberry, we moved to Lake Charles. We lived there about a year and then we moved over here. My dad had bought this land just before he got killed. Then I built this house next door so I moved over here.
I had been here about two or three months and they were having a dance near Westlake and Edwin Duhon was playing it. We met someplace and he said, “Why don’t you come play the dance with us?” I said, “I might do that.” It was just a group that got together and they were just going to have a big old dance and have a good time. After I went and played we got to talking, “Let’s get reorganized, start playing again.” From then to this day we’ve been playing. That’s 1943. We’ve been playing continually since.
Then, from about ’46 to ’56 we played at this nightclub here, Silver Star. We played 10 years where I didn’t miss a Saturday night, not one Saturday night. I saved money and I built this house with it. You know, in 10 years time you accumulate a lot of money.
Chris Strachwitz: I guess you can. Most people don’t….
Luderin Darbone: That’s right. We played two, three and four times a week.
Chris Strachwitz: Do you recall when they started going forward again in a kind of a bigger way?
Luderin Darbone: The way we would play, when we started playing over here at Silver Star, we would play maybe about three numbers. Then we would play a waltz. The waltzes we would play, French waltzes. It has a certain beat that the people around here like. I think that during the war is about the time that the people started going back to the French music.
A lot of these people were sent from up north, the fellows, the men, in training down here. Every time they’d hear these French numbers, they got a kick of those. They liked that beat. Then Harry Choates recorded the Jole Blon, the one that we had recorded years before. It really went over big. From then on …
Chris Strachwitz: Do you think that kind of …
Luderin Darbone: … That started up again.
Chris Strachwitz: … started up again. Can you recall who was the first Cajun artist to make records? I think it was Joe Falcon.
Luderin Darbone: Joe Falcon, he was the first one.
Chris Strachwitz: Yes, that’s what you told me.
Luderin Darbone: Let’s see now, Joe Falcon, then right after he recorded, Leo Soileau and Mayeus Lafleur I believe, were the next … They recorded a couple, they put out two records.
Chris Strachwitz: When did you go to New Orleans to record for this DeLuxe company? How did that come about? Did he write to you?
Luderin Darbone: Right after Harry Choates recorded Jole Blon, I wrote to a company out of Houston. It wasn’t the same company that he had recorded for, but there was another company there. I wrote to the people-
Chris Strachwitz: Macys?
Luderin Darbone: I don’t recall the name. We sent them some records that we had cut here at one of the music stores in Lake Charles. Then they wrote back and said they didn’t think they were going to record that type music. In the meantime, this fellow that was with the DeLuxe, he must have had connections, but he got some way, he got in touch with the same company. They referred our band to him. One day I was at work, and I got a long-distance call from St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri.
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah. They call you from St. Louis?
Luderin Darbone: St. Louis and it was this fellow with the DeLuxe. He wanted to know if he could come down and listen to us play. I said, “Sure.” I told him where we were playing. Our next dance was going to be on a Wednesday night. It was about on a Monday. Sure enough, that next night before we started the dance, I went into Lake Charles at the Majestic Hotel, that’s where we were to meet. I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me. I was standing there and after a while, somebody walked in. I figured that was the fellow and sure enough, it was.
He came out and listened to us. He liked the way we played, so he said he would record us. He wanted us to go to New Orleans on week end. We had a dance to play at Silver Star on Friday and Saturday nights. The only way we could record was to be there on a Sunday. He got in touch with me again. He called me back from his … He was in New Jersey. Linden, New Jersey, that’s where they were. He called me and said for me to be in New Orleans on that Sunday with the band. We played the dance Friday night.
I worked Saturday. We played Saturday night. We left after the dance, went to New Orleans. We didn’t sleep. We started recording about 2:30. We recorded to 11:30 that night. We left and had to be back to go to work the next morning. I slept 30 minutes in all that time. I don’t know if I could still do that. He didn’t come down to make the record. He sent another fellow. This other guy, I don’t know what it was, but he didn’t get that level just right on the recordings.
When they sent us a sample of each record, immediately I put them on the juke box at Silver Star and compared them with the record that Harry Choates had put out. It was way low. Then I wrote to the company immediately and told them that their level was too low, to raise it if they could. They wrote back, said they couldn’t raise it too much, but they could raise it a little. They did but it still didn’t go. You know how it is.
Chris Strachwitz: What year was that? Was that shortly after the war?
Luderin Darbone: Let’s see now. That was … must have been about in ’47 or ’48.
Chris Strachwitz: I guess they didn’t have very good equipment.
Luderin Darbone: No, probably not.
Chris Strachwitz: Then they did put them out though.
Luderin Darbone: Later, we recorded. We made five records which was ten selections. Later on, they wrote back to us and wanted us to record a couple more records. They were coming through so we did. We played a dance on Saturday night. After the dance, we recorded these.
Chris Strachwitz: Did you go to New Orleans again?
Luderin Darbone: No. They came through here with the equipment.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh, they came through here.
Luderin Darbone: We made two more records after that. Then that was all. Later on I heard that they had sold out to King Records.
Chris Strachwitz: I guess that’s just been …
Luderin Darbone: Did you know any of the fellows that worked for DeLuxe?
Chris Strachwitz: No, no.
Luderin Darbone: I think one of them was named Lieberwitz.
Luderin Darbone: You told me had heard of Oberstein.
Chris Strachwitz: Oberstein, yes, I heard of … I always wanted to ask you. Was Oberstein the first guy that came around when you first made records or was he one of the later ones? You said he was working for Victor.
Luderin Darbone: No, the first time we recorded, he was the man.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh, he was the man.
Luderin Darbone: That was in August of 1935. Then we recorded twice a year for the next … until the latter part of ’38. Every six months they would call us.
Chris Strachwitz: Was Oberstein usually there?
Luderin Darbone: He was there every time.
Chris Strachwitz: Is that right?
Luderin Darbone: Then the last recording session about that time … Let’s see know. Let me get this straight. The last recording session was in ’38. The records came about in January. Then in April, that’s when I got married. Then in May, my dad passed away. Then we moved to Hackberry. I lost interest in the bands. Of course, that was a shock. It was about a year before I even started playing again. Then I lost track with the company.
I didn’t even write to them anymore. I don’t know. They might have tried to get us again. I never did hear because I changed my address and didn’t leave a forwarding address. In fact, after I was here years later, I wrote to RCA Victor to see if there was any accumulated royalty that they might have for me. Sure enough, they wrote back and they sent me a check. I don’t remember for how much about 10 or $12.
Chris Strachwitz: At least you get something, I’ll be damned. That’s real interesting. I’m just curious, what did they usually pay at that time for …
Luderin Darbone: At that time? It was a penny on the record.
Chris Strachwitz: Did they pay you any advance or expenses?
Luderin Darbone: Yeah, they would pay us advance. I tell you, they would pay us advance if we wanted to take royalty. If we didn’t, they would pay us $25 a record.
Chris Strachwitz: A side or for two side?
Luderin Darbone: For two sides.
Chris Strachwitz: For two sides.
Luderin Darbone: It was two selections for $25. Of course at that time like I said a while ago, $1.00 was $1.00.
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah, that was a lot more money then than today. That’s amazing. What sort of guy was Oberstein?
Luderin Darbone: Actually, I wouldn’t have too much dealings with him other than get there, we’d talk about our recording session. We’d start recording and maybe in three hours time we would be through and then we’d take off. He’d pay us off and then that would be it. Knowing anything about his character outside of that, I didn’t know a thing. I know that he had a lot of cash on him. He would pay us off in cash. If we took royalty, he would pay for our expenses which was an advancement.
Chris Strachwitz: Was there anything else you’d like to add to the …
Luderin Darbone: Basically, I guess that’s as far as I know, that’s probably the basic facts of the band. Of course, now any other thing would have to come from some of the other boys.
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah, I’ll have to let some of the others talk after ………….Glen? …………..your whole name, man.
James “Glen” Croker: James Glen Croker, Sr.
Chris Strachwitz: James Glen … When were you born?
James “Glen” Croker: February 28th, 1934.
Chris Strachwitz: Where?
James “Glen” Croker: Lake Charles.
Chris Strachwitz: In Lake Charles. Did your folks play any music?
James “Glen” Croker: No.
Chris Strachwitz: When did you first decide you wanted to play music?
James “Glen” Croker: I think I was about five years old when somebody game me an old French harp.
Chris Strachwitz: A French harp?
James “Glen” Croker: I could play one song on it, the Isle of Capri. First time my mother heard me, she broke a couple of dishes in the house, didn’t believe it.
Chris Strachwitz: When did you switch to the guitar?
James “Glen” Croker: I took Hawaiian guitar lessons. I was nine years old. Took them until I was about 12. Only one thing was wrong. I was the only one in the class that had an ear for music. The instructor would show me one Saturday how to play it so I play it by the music. Next Saturday when I went back, I play it by ear. He finally pulled my daddy one time and said it was a waste of money to give me lessons. I’d never amount to anything.
Chris Strachwitz: That’s an encouraging teacher. When did you first start playing jobs or …
James “Glen” Croker: Dances.
Chris Strachwitz: … especially dances.
James “Glen” Croker: I was about 14.
Chris Strachwitz: That right?
James “Glen” Croker: When I first started with Eddie Shuler.
Chris Strachwitz: You started with Eddie Shuler’s band?
James “Glen” Croker: I played with Eddie for about three years.
Chris Strachwitz: When did you meet up with the Hackberries?
James “Glen” Croker: Naturally I’ve heard of the Hackberry Ramblers all my life at least since I got interested in music. Then I guess I joined the band about four years ago.
Chris Strachwitz: When did you learn those Cajun numbers that you sing?
James “Glen” Croker: When you live with it around you all the time, it’s pretty easy to catch on.
Chris Strachwitz: You mean you just heard them at dances and stuff like that?
James “Glen” Croker: That’s right, radio.
Chris Strachwitz: What sort of work do you usually do?
James “Glen” Croker: Pardon me.
Chris Strachwitz: I mean what is your regular kind of work that you do or do you make music?
James “Glen” Croker: No, no. I work for Continental Oil Company.
Chris Strachwitz: Continental, okay.
James “Glen” Croker: Tommy ….. still there as well.
Chris Strachwitz: Luderin Darbone, I forgot to ask you where you work now. Music is only a sideline.
Luderin Darbone: I’m working for Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company.
Chris Strachwitz: Pittsburgh Plate Glass.
Luderin Darbone: Chemical division.
Chris Strachwitz: Chemical division.
Luderin Darbone: Work in the office.
Chris Strachwitz: With so many other things, music has always been just a sideline.
Luderin Darbone: Yeah, that’s right. I tell you, back when I first started playing for about three years, that was my income. That’s about all. Like I said while ago, I was single and it didn’t take much money to live. I had an old Model A Ford. That’s how I got around.
James “Glen” Croker: I tell you, music put me through school. I wouldn’t have had the money to go to college. I don’t think….well dad would have sent me, but most of it was done through music.
Chris Strachwitz: Is that right?
James “Glen” Croker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Strachwitz: Is there anything you’d like to add to …
James “Glen” Croker: Let me think.
Chris Strachwitz: After you left Eddie Shuler’s group, when did you play with him roughly? Do you remember the years?
James “Glen” Croker: A long time ago.
Chris Strachwitz: Was it after the war, shortly after the war?
James “Glen” Croker: I’m not a war baby. I’m just a little bitty boy. Let’s see, no I started with Eddie … I got to figure now. I’m 29 and about 14 years ago, about 14 years ago. I’d say ’49, ’50 and ’51.
Chris Strachwitz: What sort of music did you play then? Was it mostly country and western?
James “Glen” Croker: Mm-hmm (affirmative), western feel, right.
Chris Strachwitz: At that time, did you do any Cajun songs at all when you danced?
James “Glen” Croker: Oh, yes. We play several French waltzes a night.
Chris Strachwitz: Anything else you want add to? Music you like?
James “Glen” Croker: I don’t care much for this rock and roll music they’ve got out now. Course, we’ve been playing that for ten years around here. It wasn’t known as rock and roll. It was called rhythm and blues. Of course, we’re on this Cajun dialect we’re mostly interested in. It’s a very simple music to play and it’s got one of the best beats to dance to. It does have by far your best beat to dance to. I’d like to add I’ve never played with a finer bunch of musicians than I have right now.
Chris Strachwitz: Edwin Duhon, would you just tell us where you were born and when?
Edwin Duhon: I was born in Broussard, Louisiana, which is Youngville in 1910. That puts me pretty up in age now.
Chris Strachwitz: Did your folks play any music?
Edwin Duhon: My daddy played very little music, very little music. He played a little accordion, fooled around with a guitar a little bit. Myself, I was approximately 17, I’d say by 17, 18 years old before I even got my hands even to play anything.
Chris Strachwitz: Wow. What did you first start with?
Edwin Duhon: Guitar. We played accordion, played accordion a little bit there. The old man had the accordion. I fumbled around with it some. Not a music lesson in my life. I don’t know what music … as far as read music, I can’t.
Chris Strachwitz: What sort of music? Have you always liked the French music or have you played other kinds of …?
Edwin Duhon: Anything that’s got good rhythm. Anything that’s got good rhythm and that … of course, French and Spanish is hard to beat to listen to. They’re about combined, pretty close … Spanish or French.
Chris Strachwitz: You also play Spanish?
Edwin Duhon: I was in South America three years you know.
Chris Strachwitz: Oh, is that right. When was that?
Edwin Duhon: I was over there running a job for a company over there. I was also three years in Panama. I was there three years there. I was superintendent of a ………… job, been around.
RADIO INTERFERANCE STARTS (17:25)
Chris Strachwitz: Did you ever play music ……..?
Edwin Duhon: No, I listened to them. I listened to them. I played a little with some western band. They claim themself western band but there’s no comparison with these boys here because they’re mostly natives and they’re trying to imitate these bo ys. They’ve got some good band but don’t misunderstand me. As far as Spanish people over there, they’ve got the … Kind of like I say, it resemble the French numbers in a lot of respect. That’s the reason why I guess maybe I like that music.
Chris Strachwitz: Between …….., where can …………marshal?
Edwin Duhon: Yes, I was an electrician until about 25 years. I had to play music aside. I had a large family you know. You have to pick up everything you can to be able to put them through school. I was an electrician for approximately 25 years.
Edwin Duhon: I decided maybe I’d help the community out in my town, and I run for city marshal which I was elected. I don’t say it’s a good thing or anything like that, but I was elected. I like it fine.
Chris Strachwitz: How long …..?
Edwin Duhon: That’s the last like July. July is when I took office, July the 1st.
Chris Strachwitz: Do you still play music…….?
Edwin Duhon: If I hear anybody playing music and I’m invited to, you can rest assured I go over there because I’ll tell you what, I think that’s what keeps us in shape that we in now is by being able to play an instrument of any kind that you can relax after your day of work. You come in very tired of working, you can go over and fool around with the fiddle, the guitar, and play a few tunes. It concentrates on something other side the job that you’ve been on during the day. It look like it relaxes you. You feel better physically. I feel better physically whenever I do play. Maybe once a week I’ll get together playing music because it does relax you.
Chris Strachwitz: Keeps you……..].
Chris Strachwitz: When did you first meet up with Luderin?
Edwin Duhon: We were living in Hackberry at the time. Me and Luderin here get together and practice an old leased oil field. His daddy was running a lease there in Hackberry. We’d get in one of the warehouse there. Oh, we’d have time. We’d just practice, work hard. We worked hard and then the first thing you know we wound up, got on over here at the Lake Charles and started broadcasting. We’d line up with two, the best I remember and then we line up with the boy that used to play the French harp with French ….. He moved from there and he start playing with us. It puts two guitars and a fiddle.
Chris Strachwitz: Did you know ….. KFBM?
Speaker 6: KFDM out of Beaumont.
Chris Strachwitz: KFDM in Beaumont.
Male: They have a remote control …..for broadcast ……..
Chris Strachwitz: It was during the ’33.
Edwin Duhon: Possibility of the reason why we never did go no further than this here, we all have good jobs. We just had families to take care of. We couldn’t leave. We were asked several times to participate in different places in different parts of the country, but we just didn’t have the time we needed to go over everything. We had families to raise and take care of.
Chris Strachwitz: Were you brought up with this French music or did you learn it …?
Edwin Duhon: I’ll say it this way that my father he never believed in taking us nowhere to dance or stuff like that. It was just in you, or it’s in some people to playing I guess. Myself, I didn’t have it when I was a small child. I couldn’t get my hands on … The old man had accordion once in a while, but you could rest assured he wouldn’t let his kids touch it because afraid we’d tear it up which possibly we would.
It’s a pretty good sized ….. whenever I got a chance to play anything at all. I had to buy my own instrument. We raised the hard way, raised on a farm. We had to get it. The time you come back to school, that old man expect you to get out there in the field and help him. He was very strict on us, and we appreciate it in the long run. Every one of his boys thought the world of him because he was strict.
We know that he thought the world of us, but at the same time, he would see that we had to learn the hard way to be sure and be able to earn a living when we got in the world you see. In fact, the first pair of shoes I believe, they had to rope me on horseback to catch me. Bucked like a horse. I seen many a day, many morning going to church. He sent us to church. We lived a mile from church.
We had to walk to church because we didn’t have no vehicle at that time or walk on a gravel road. I had my shoes on my shoulder. I walked barefooted until I got to church. Then when I got to church, I take it and put my shoes on. Gosh, I just waiting for the time to get out. Them shoes killing them. I’d get out on the step and it was a relief to take those shoes off and get back barefooted. I don’t mind admitting it because that’s the fact. In those days, we just didn’t have it.
Chris Strachwitz: Did you ever hear any Negro bands or Negro musicians when you started………?
Edwin Duhon: When I was a small boy, I’d say about 13, 14, I listened to a lot of nigger playing, correct. My uncle lived in Broussardville which is right on the other side of Lafayette. I was working for him at the meat market. Nearly every Saturday or Friday night, they had what you call a nigger dance at a resident. I’d go out there next door to my uncle’s and I’d go over and watch them and listen to them. That’s been years back.
Those colored folks there was dancing what you call now the rock and roll and bebop and all this stuff. In those days, that’s what they actually were dancing. The same as it was when I was over in Central America. They had been dancing this twist for years and years. I guess I liked that way of playing and they play……
Chris Strachwitz: What sort of music would they have? What kind of a band was it?
Edwin Duhon: They was accordion.
Chris Strachwitz: Was it?
Edwin Duhon: Accordion and guitar and one of them he play a jawbone. He had a jawbone of a cow with the teeth still in it and he’d make a scraping noise across those teeth. They sounded real good. It sounded real good. The way he’d handle his hand, looked like he would change the tone of it by moving his hand up and down the jawbone.
I used to get a big kick out of it because they had very good rhythm. They have strictly rhythm from the day that they are born on up. We knew that. I used to go there every time they had a dance and just watch the one because they was the very friends of my uncle and they didn’t mind us watching them dance.
Chris Strachwitz: Did you ever pick up any of their songs or numbers that they did?
Edwin Duhon: They was playing mostly these French numbers. They’d change the tempo a little bit. It was mostly all French numbers they was playing. It was very little difference. The only thing they was using was kind of blues and rhythm like we’ve got now. They knew the same type of rhythm.
Chris Strachwitz: Did you ever hear any colored bands that had horns in them like jazz musicians?
Edwin Duhon: The only colored band I ever heard that had the horns in was over in Central America and Venezuela. Every boy over there was going to school, every one of them plays a horn. They teach every one of them at school to play a horn. They have celebration out there and everybody plays a horn. They’re very good musicians and of course they go to school and take music lessons. Over here down in the part of the country where I was raised, no horns did I hear. I never went around. I couldn’t have went to these big orchestras…
Chris Strachwitz: Did you ever see a brass band that was colored……..?
Edwin Duhon: Yeah. I saw a brass band that was colored in New Orleans.
Chris Strachwitz: In this part of Louisiana?
Edwin Duhon: Not that I remember, not that I recall. They had one white band of my age that was a brass band out of Lafayette, all old fellows. In fact I heard them several … I’d say five, six years back, these old gentlemen back all together in a brass band.
Chris Strachwitz: …….. Very interesting. …… unless there’s something else you’d like to………
Edwin Duhon: Maybe from the time that we played, we traveled every night. One night that we had off, we’d broadcast that night and we’d have off. We’d travel around the country here in Louisiana playing mostly every night. Those days was big money. Of course, then I left there to work in the oil field, worked in the oil field there for several years until I decided to go to school and……….the rest of the work which I did have a little experience at my uncle’s.
I worked as an electrician helping my uncle. He had a shop and then I went to school and took up electrical ……, got the ……]. Then I followed electrical field since. Still that does not relieve me of wanting to play of anytime I can get around an instrument. It does keep you physically fit because you exercise parts of your body you don’t in any other type of work.
It does in your mind, in your neck likely. I don’t know, it relaxes me. We’ve had maybe a good thing doing that. I don’t mind saying this. We’ve had 11. We lost one boy. We have ten children living, seven boys and three girls. That’s something we very proud of.
Chris Strachwitz: Yeah, that’s wonderful. That’s a big family. Let’s see.
Edwin Duhon: I’d like to say a little bit more here too. This Hackberry Ramblers, the whole time that they association with Luderin Darbone which we very close friends. We’ve been like brothers ever since I met the boy. He’s just about as good as you can ask, fair and honest. He’s very cooperative. We always have got along. We do look at each other as brothers. I thank you very much.