MAKE ’EM DANCE: The Hackberry Ramblers’ Story

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The Music

Discography
Early Recordings: 1935-1950, album cover
Early Recordings: 1935-1950
Arhoolie Records
  “Jolie Blonde”(1936)
  “Drifting Along” (1937)
 “One Sweet Letter” (1938)

Jolie Blonde album cover
Jolie Blonde
Arhoolie Records
  “Pipeliner’s Blues”(1963)
  “Black Bayou Rag” (1963)

Deep Water album cover
Deep Water
Hot Biscuits Records
  “Poor Hobo” (1997)
  “C. C. Rider”(1997)


"Many baby boomers are impressed that Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones are still performing now that they're in their 50s. But those grizzled veterans have nothing on The Hackberry Ramblers. The Ramblers describe themselves as a Cajun/country/rockabilly band. If you haven't heard of them, it can't be because they're too new to have caught your attention. After all, some of their members were making music before Jagger was even born."

—CNN Showbiz Today

Since the 1930s, The Hackberry Ramblers have played a rollicking blend of Cajun music, Western swing and classic country with a touch of blues, rock and Gulf Coast swamp pop. Cajun music, and the Creole music that later evolved into Zydeco, are the elements of the Ramblers’ style that are unique to Southwest Louisiana, drawing on broader traditions such as African-American blues, Anglo-American fiddle tunes and ballads and the African-European synthesis that produced jazz.

The Ramblers were the first band in southwest Louisiana to blend Cajun music, sung in French, with old-time string band music and a wide variety of popular styles disseminated by the then-new medium of radio. They were also the first group to use electronic amplification in order to increase the volume of acoustic instruments such as the fiddle. Although the Ramblers started out as an all-acoustic string band, by the 1940s they had evolved into a full Western swing orchestra. After World War II the accordion returned to prominence in Cajun music, and the Ramblers’ later instrumentation also reflected this trend.

When rock-and-roll grew popular in the '50s, Louisiana musicians adapted by producing their own style of what came to be known later as swamp pop. Swamp pop’s distinction, as described by British music journalist, John Broven was "a unique combination of Cajun emotional feel, lingering hillbilly melodies, and refined New Orleans-style R&B musical backings." Since then, new musical sub-genres in south Louisiana have included "Zyde-Cajun" and the rap-influenced sound known as zydeco nouveau. Such ongoing innovation retains strong ties with the spirit of the pioneering changes made by bands such as the Ramblers, who pay homage to Cajun tradition while continuing to influence the direction of southern Louisiana music.

SOURCES:

Ben Sandmel

Dirty Linen

A Brief History of Cajun, Creole, and
Zydeco Music

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