Originally published in Oxford American Number 21/22 (1997)
Luderin Darbone, eighty-five years old, bounces the bow on the fiddle strings and releases a slight smile. Standing at his far left is Edwin Duhon, who pulls open the red bellows of his accordion and twitches his broad shoulders. He’s eighty-eight. Guitarist Glen Croker, a generation younger than Darbone and Duhon, raises his eyebrows. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he exclaims, “for sixty-five years, this song as been the theme of the Hackberry Ramblers!”
Behind the musicians, picture windows open to a rainy night on Times Square. Flashing neon lights spell out Converse, Liz Claiborne, and United Artists. Looking at the scene on monitors stationed around the studio, your first impression is that the Hackberry Ramblers have just dropped down from a rural 1930s dance hall onto the deck of a spaceship.
Yet even here they are finding a home. Cameras rolling, Darbone beats time on his fiddle, and Croker begins to sing in a slightly warbling tenor:
Hello, MTV, the Ramblers are here!
Those Hackberry Ramblers are known far and wide,
We’ll play y’all some music, and try to make you smile.
This is the story of the oldest working band in America. After sixty-five years of making music, the Hackberry Ramblers are nominated for their first Grammy, for their album Deep Water. They’ve come to New York for the award ceremony, to play a show at the club Tramps, and to appear on the afternoon music and talk show MTV Live.
It’s Sunday, February 22, and at New York’s La Guardia airport, the first signs that the Ramblers are in town are four white cowboy hats descending in the escalator, floating like ducks over the mass of weekend travelers. Approaching the baggage claim, other markers of Hackberry identity come into view: red suspenders, white shirt, string tie, black pants, cowboy boots. For the rest of the week, the bandmembers will not be seen wearing anything else. When rhythm guitarist Johnny Farque died last spring, he was buried in this uniform.
In addition to Duhon, Darbone and Croker, the band includes seventy-two-year-old Johnny Faulk, who is best known for ebullient mid-song shouts and a small American flag that waves from the top of his upright bass. Drummer Ben Sandmel (who at forty-five is by far the youngest Rambler as well as the group’s manager, is already in New York, waiting in their temporary home of a Howard Johnson’s on Park Avenue. An entourage of wives and grown children are also along for the trip.
As the Hackberry Ramblers wait at the luggage carousel, I introduce myself to Croker and tell him that I’ve heard the band before. It was on a Sunday afternoon in Vermilionville, a South Louisiana “living history” museum that features a collection of wooden buildings arranged like a nineteenth-century Cajun village.
I also once caught their show at the Mermaid Lounge, a tiny bar located on a dead-end street in the shadow of an expressway near downtown New Orleans. The Hackberry Ramblers opened for a local punk band, and when the Ramblers arrived, they and some of their patrons — dyed hair, piercings, dressed all in black — studied one another nervously. Then Darbone’s fiddle kicked off the theme song. Two hours later, the crowd was slamming wooden chairs on the concrete floor, demanding encores. After the third ovation, Croker stepped to the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, holding his hands outstretched, palms down. “Thank you so much for your hospitality, but out of professional courtesy for the other band, let’s give them a chance to get up here and play for you folks.”
Croker brightens when I tell him I was at the Mermaid Lounge. “Well, then you’ve seen the Hackberry Ramblers!” he shouts.
Hackberry, a small town located on the salt marshes of Louisiana’s southwest boot-heel corner, enjoys two claims to fame. One, the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves stores 194 million barrels of crude oil in nearby salt domes. Two, here is where Luderin Darbone and Edwin Duhon first met and formed their band in 1933. Darbone was twenty and taking violin lessons from a New York correspondence school. Duhon was twenty-three and teaching himself Cajun French songs on the accordion and guitar. With second guitarist Lennis Sonnier, the two began playing local dances and appearing on a live radio broadcast over KFBL in Beaumont, Texas.
Hackberry is just thirty miles from the Texas border, and like many border bands, the Hackberry Ramblers became known for a hyphenated sound — in this case, Cajun-country. Darbone and Duhon also frequented a local dance hall to hear a black New Orleans-style orchestra, and later recorded their own versions of early jazz standards such as “Eh Las Bas.” They picked up other new songs from country radio shows out of Nashville, along with a popular Tulsa, Oklahoma-based program featuring Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing. In all, the band would cut more than eighty recordings on 78s for RCA’s Bluebird label.
The Hackberry Ramblers never achieved a national hit song, but during the ’30s and ’40s, they enjoyed great popularity in dance halls along the Louisiana Gulf Coast, especially the Silver Star near Lake Charles, where they played up to four nights a week for a decade, and even participated in “battles of the bands” against the likes of legendary country boogie pianist Moon Mullican and country singer T. Texas Tyler. In 1936, the Ramblers came out with the French-language waltz “Jolie Blonde.” The song had been previously recorded under different titles, but it was Darbone’s jazzy fiddle and guitarist Sonnier’s mournful vocals that defined the tune now regarded as the “Cajun national anthem.”
“I believe this driver knows what he’s doing,” says Glen Croker, as the van weaves through traffic on the Queensboro Bridge across the East River, the lighted towers of Manhattan appearing ahead.
Edwin Duhon nudges me. “See that lady there?” he asks, motioning toward a woman in the seat in front of us wearing a purple Mardi Gras sweatshirt. “That’s Marie, Johnny Farque’s widow. It was last year, he played ‘Waltz to Texas,’ and he went straight down. I could see his was dead when he fell.”
“He was a good French singer,” says Luderin Darbone softly.
“Then they charged him sixteen hundred for the ambulance.” Duhon shakes his head.
Johnny Faulk is sitting beside me, holding onto his shoulder strap with both hands. “When he would sing one of them in his high-pitched voice, it was pretty,” he says. “But he always said that he wanted to go out like a light — flick it off and on. And he wanted to go out singing. Only thing, he never mentioned his birthday. That day he was seventy-seven years old. They called us the two Johnnies.”
Monday morning at the Howard Johnson’s, and both Darbone and Duhon have walked up the street to a nearby Catholic church for Mass. I stop by to see the fifth member of the Hackberry Ramblers, drummer and manager Ben Sandmel. His room barely accommodates a narrow bed that’s now covered with a briefcase, papers, and an envelope stuffed with Grammy tickets. A tuxedo hangs in the corner. Sandmel moves some papers to sit down and considers his role in the band.
A journalist as well as a musician, Sandmel grew up in Cincinnati. His mother introduced him to roots music through a collection of Alan Lomax field recordings, and he went on to study folklore at Indiana University. Then he moved to Chicago where he played drums for bluesman Sunnyland Slim, then in his late seventies. In 1987, Sandmel was working at the Louisiana Folklife Festival when the Hackberry Ramblers showed up without a drummer. He sat in and, not long after, became a full-fledged Rambler. “They knocked me out,” he remembers. “It was so obviously out of the past, but still pumping.”
At that time, the Hackberry Ramblers were mainly playing free shows at nursing homes in the Lake Charles area — a practice they still maintain — as well as occasional festivals. Sandmel believed the band had more to offer, and the result was Cajun Boogie, released in 1993. It was the Hackberry Ramblers’ first album in thirty years, since recording for Chris Strachwitz’s Arhoolie label in 1963. Sandmel brought in special guests including fiddler Michael Doucet, frontman for the Cajun group BeauSoleil, and with country singer and songwriter Rodney Crowell, who joined in as guest vocalist on the Moon Mullican classic “Old Pipeliner.” Crowell returned in 1997 to sing on Deep Water, which also included Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Marcia Ball, whose parents used to hire the Hackberry Ramblers for church dances in Vinton, Louisiana.
“Ben was like a photographer who around and photographs stuff that ain’t going to be here long,” Crowell says. “That’s the way those recordings struck me. This is a photograph of something that’s precious.”
Even in their most productive years, the Hackberry Ramblers — whose members had always held down other jobs — didn’t know a career quite like the one they are currently enjoying. The band was featured on CNN and Entertainment Tonight, and opened at New York’s The Bottom Line for Jimmie Dale Gilmore. They played a Super Bowl party where Diana Ross danced their two-steps, and performed for the president in Philadelphia. (For the latter gig, Sandmel rented a saxophone, just in case.)
Fame, like a Grammy nomination, is not always accompanied by fortune, however. The band’s most recent album — produced by Sandmel for a label he started and named Hot Biscuits — has yet to turn a profit. But Sandmel is not complaining.
“It’s a thrill for someone with my interests to have this opportunity to work with people from this era,” he says. “How could you squander something like that?”
He recalls a night when the band played on a steamboat cruising down the Mississippi River, then had to disembark to catch an early morning plane to the East Coast. “We pulled onto a remote ferry landing at two o’clock in the morning,” he says. I still remember when we got of the Mississippi Queen, pulling up to this isolated rural riverbank in the fog. It was a moment that could have easily been happening in the founding days of the band.
Monday afternoon, and a light drizzle is falling on Times Square. Duhon and Darbone wait for their instruments to be lifted from the back of the van, and then the Hackberry Ramblers walk through a set of glass doors and ascend an escalator to the studios of MTV. It promises to be an unusual day. Country bands are rare here, to say the least, and Cajun music virtually nonexistent.
The band walks past a row of offices, each with color televisions and blue-and-turquoise sliding doors. They are directed to their dressing room, which, like most of the studio, is decorated in late ’90s lounge, complete with purple ottomans, paper lanterns, and leopard-print loveseats. The oldest employees they meet are in their early thirties, and the staff of MTV seems to be relating to the musicians as if they are the world’s coolest grandfathers. “The Hackberry Ramblers are in the house!” a woman with a clipboard shouts when they arrive. “Raise the roof!”
Inside the dressing room, the band looks around at the leopard-print furniture and a table of food. They seem delighted. A producer sticks his head into the room. “Is everybody happy?” he asks.
“I’m sixty-four and I’ve always been happy,” says Croker.
The producer laughs. “I’m thirty-four and I’m fucking miserable,” he says, walking away.
A second producer enters. She pulls open the curtain to reveal a picture window overlooking Broadway. She points to a billboard for the animated television show King of the Hill. She speculates that the Fox network has placed the sign in front of the MTV studios because the program is competing with MTV’s own animated series, Daria.
Duhon stares at her. “You see, I was chief of police in Westlake for sixteen years,” he says. “Me and my wife only had twelve children.”
Croker sits on a loveseat, looking at a promotional announcement he’s been asked to read. He takes a pen from his jacket pocket. “We’re coming at you live right here in the MTV studio, by crackee,” he reads to himself. He quietly crosses out the last two words.
Darbone now walks up to the producer. “I’m going to tell you the story of the band,” he offers. “Two of us are founding members, from 1933. I was the financier, I had the money to start it with. So I bought a Model A for ninety-five dollars.”
But before Darbone can go into greater detail about the price of automobiles, he is interrupted by the sound of loud screaming. The Ramblers, with their wives and children, hurry to the window and survey the scene unfolding one story below. A black van has pulled up to the MTV building. Hundreds of teenaged girls are shouting and waving signs, and three boys with long blond hair duck their heads and dash through the crowd.
Another producer enters. “You’re going to be sharing a dressing room with Hanson,” he explains.
There is a pause. Then Duhon goes to the table of food. “Those kids are going to eat all these cookies,” he says, loading a plate for himself.
Hanson is a pop group from Tulsa, Oklahoma, made up of three brothers — Zac, Taylor and Isaac Hanson — who range in ages from fourteen to eighteen. Although the Hackberry Ramblers recall that city as the site of the old Bob Wills radio broadcasts, the Hansons know a different Tulsa. Last summer, Hanson’s first hit, “MMMBop,” combined Jackson 5-style funk, pre-pubescent vocals, and hip-hop. It held first place on the charts for three weeks, and their videos went into heavy rotation on MTV.
The third producer is still in the dressing room. He has brought with him a portable tape player. He turns to the Hackberry Ramblers. “You guys are going to listen to ‘MMMBop’ now?” he asks.
The band looks at him blankly.
The producer tries again. “When you get a chance, there is a song we wanted to know if you guys could play,” he says.
“Well,” says Croker, “let’s listen to it.”
The machine is placed on the floor, and a button is pressed. The song plays. Several of the Hackberry Ramblers immediately act as if a small, potentially dangerous animal has just been unleashed in the room. “What kind of damn song is that?” scowls Duhon, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
Sandmel tries to stay positive. “Edwin, you can nail that.”
“I’m not going to let it be said that we didn’t try,” says Faulk.
“Well,” says Croker, humming the tune. “Let’s go practice.”
The Hackberry Ramblers take the tape player and their instruments to a nearby hallway. As they tune up, their wives and children are whispering in a corner. Then they come to me, asking if I have any inside information. They want to know if it’s a set-up, if the Ramblers are going to make fools of themselves. There is great concern about what everybody calls “the new song.”
But there is no time to dwell on the matter. It is time for the program to begin, and the Hackberry Ramblers find their mark.
Considering the band’s history, there is really nothing odd about the Hackberry Ramblers playing on MTV. In their early career, they always tested new technologies. The band’s early use of electronics has been credited with changing the sound of Cajun music, allowing Darbone to introduce a lighter touch on the fiddle.
“Around 1934, I had a service station in Hackberry,” Darbone says. “I got a catalogue from a wholesale house in Chicago. And they had this public address system that they used for making speeches. Well, Lennis Sonnier was a real fine singer, but his voice didn’t carry too far. So I sent off for that P.A. system. Cost fifty dollars, a lot of money during the Depression.”
Duhon picks up the story. “We bought a converter since those country dance halls didn’t have electricity. We put that converter on our Model A, and we had wires running out the door to provide the power. So I went and strung a speaker way up in the corner, and the ladies were watching me. They didn’t know what the hell I was doing. And when that speaker started, they all got up and ran for the door! I said, ‘There ain’t nobody there. That’s a speaker.’ So they went back and sat down. But they were still kind of scared.”
“It caused a lot of curiosity,” says Darbone. “And they’d talk about it during the week, and the crowds would be there the next Saturday.”
When the Hackberry Ramblers were starting out, radio was the image-maker of the day. So the band awoke each Monday morning at four-thirty to catch the ferry across the Calcasieu river and play a live broadcast from Lake Charles. They slept in cars, on couches, and once in a junkyard. Sometimes, they’d stretch out right on the dance floor at the end of the dance. Duhon says he can still hear the patter of rats’ feet trotting across a late-night wooden floor in Abbeville.
The program starts with the Hackberry Ramblers’ theme song, and MTV Live host Carson Daly walks over to the band to conduct a short interview.
“Now, you guys have been together since 1933, when FDR was in office,” Daly says, looking at Darbone. “Don’t you feel you deserve a Grammy just for time served?”
“Well,” says Darbone, smiling. “It would help the situation.”
Daly turns to Duhon. “What’s the key to being a band for sixty-five years?” he asks.
“What do you mean?” Duhon feigns ignorance. “Sixty-five years?”
Daly looks momentarily concerned.
“I’ll tell you what,” says Duhon. “We have a lot of young people like what we play.”
Daly recovers. “Oh, I was going off on it! I was shaking it!”
Duhon laughs loudly.
After a few more words, Daly walks past a display of plants and paper lanterns, and sits down. He introduces actor Kelsey Grammer, who is hosting the Grammy awards. Then there is an interview with Hanson in an adjacent room, via video monitor.
“The Hanson brothers think those girls are there for them,” Daily says about the crowd outside the studio. “It’s actually the Hackberry Ramblers all those girls are screaming for.”
“Hey,” says Taylor Hanson, the middle brother. “Those guys are pretty darn cool. Are they playing later on?”
Isaac, the oldest brother, shrugs at the camera. “I wish I could be around for sixty-five years,” he says.
As Hanson enters the set for their interview, the Hackberry Ramblers gamely offer their fifteen-second version of “MMMBop.” None of the brothers seem to recognize the tune, but it sounds all right. During another commercial break, Daily asks Hanson if they’d like to sing with the Ramblers. This idea is quickly dismissed. Instead, fourteen-year-old Zac suggests they do a “hoedown.”
The brothers lock arms and dance. The Hackberry Ramblers play a two-step, “Poor Hobo,” to end the show.
The next morning, I arrive at the hotel to find Duhon sitting in the lobby, still wearing his Hackberry hat. We had discussed sitting down for an interview, but Duhon has other plans. “I’m going to get gumbo,” Duhon greets me. “You don’t want any of that.”
Duhon gets up, and I follow. On the way out the door, he stops to help a woman put on her coat. He seems to be spending extra time on the project. After the woman’s coat is finally in place, Duhon and I walk across the street to a lunchtime restaurant called Suzie’s Kitchen. Inside, a jazz band from Harlem is playing, and the room is decorated in colored streamers. For the first time today, I realize it’s Mardi Gras. Duhon talks with the cook, who, it turns out, is from Lake Charles. Then he goes to talk with the Harlem band, who he says are old friends.
I buy drinks and return to find Duhon at another table, now sitting with a woman who, along with her friend, appears to be startled. Duhon is encouraging them to come see his band play at Tramps, and is also telling them about his work as chief of police in Westlake, and how he once arrested his own wife for speeding. And just yesterday, he adds, a crowd of screaming girls were dancing on the streets to his band.
At eighty-eight, Duhon is a widower. Except for Sandmel, he’s the only member of the band who isn’t married. He is currently dating two nurses in Louisiana, he says, but the road brings him other opportunities. This discovery has become the subject of band legends. Once, in California, Duhon didn’t return to the hotel until the next morning. And the last time the band was in New York, a schoolteacher handed him her brassiere at the end of the show. He saw her again that spring at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and, he tells me, something wonderful happened right there on the festival grounds.
Before the Hackberry Ramblers’ performance at Tramps, they will attend a party that is being thrown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for all Grammy nominees. It is a big night, but as their van steers into a swarm of yellow taxicabs, there is tension between the band members. Darbone had skipped Mass this morning to join the group that collects each day outside the studio of The Today Show. It was cold and drizzling, and Darbone was without a coat. He went because he wanted his wife, who is ailing and unable to leave their home, to see him in New York.
“I talked to my wife, she saw us on MTV,” Darbone says finally. “She said we looked good. It was the first time she’d seen the band play for many years.”
There is silence.
“She saw me on The Today Show, too.”
“She probably said, ‘Look at that fool standing out there in the rain,’” Croker replies sharply.
“I don’t believe she said that.”
Then Duhon turns to his partner of sixty-five years. “I hope you didn’t get a cold standing out there,” he says.
At the Metropolitan, the Ramblers pass the open doors of an auditorium where, inside, Paul Robeson’s son is accepting a posthumous lifetime achievement award for his father. Lifetime Grammies are also being presented to Bo Diddley and the last surviving Mills Brother.
The Hackberry Ramblers, however, are looking for dinner. Then they learn that each nominee will receive a gold medallion. “You know how much these medals cost?” Croker says excitedly. “Two hundred dollars. They came from Tiffany’s.”
“Who estimated the value?” asks Darbone.
“My wife,” Croker says. “She knows her shit when it comes to jewelry.”
Once fed, the Ramblers’ children launch a search for recognizable celebrities. Duhon walks on through the museum alone. He wanders into an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts and glass-encased mummies. Behind him, Ben Sandmel watches in awe as his bandmate, lost in his thoughts, waves at the mummies, greeting each one as he passes through the room.
During the sound check at Tramps, as tables are being dragged noisily across the room, Croker runs through a Fats Domino song on his guitar. Darbone stands to the side with his hands in his pockets. Slowly, the other Hackberry Ramblers join them onstage.
There is some delay as a piece of equipment is located. The band kills time by playing a waltz. They are huddled together, playing softly, and the sound barely reaches the edge of the stage. Duhon, seated, flexes his muscles and squeezes the accordion. Darbone stands beside him, bent over the fiddle, his fingers finding their places along its wooden neck. It is one of the most lovely and fragile musical moments I’ve ever witnessed. Later, nobody in the band will be able to remember the name of the song.
The rest of the night is more raucous. Croker steps to the front of his stage for his guitar solos; Duhon swings his accordion at hip level; Faulk shouts and yells, his bass thumping alongside Sandmel’s pounding drums. They are joined onstage by a special guest, Cajun accordionist Jo-El Sonnier. Dancers fill the space between the tables. The bandmembers wear their Grammy medals, although the gold coins are buried beneath strings of plastic Mardi Gras beads.
Later, in the dressing room, the Hackberry Ramblers line up for a videotaped interview with the country music cable television network TNN.
“You have one of the best party bands out there,” says the host. “Do you feel that way about your music?”
Duhon folds his arms and defers to his partner.
“I would say yes,” says Darbone.
The day of the Grammy Awards also happens to be Ash Wednesday. In the morning, the bandmembers visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral to receive ashes on their foreheads. The dark smudges will remain on through the Grammies.
“It means from the beginning of life to the end,” Faulk explains. “It’s just a little penance, a little squeeze.”
At noon, I arrive at the Howard Johnson’s to talk with Darbone. He is the quietest speaker in the Hackberry Ramblers, and for the past two days, our conversations have been drowned out by the general commotion around us. This has frustrated both of us, so on the band’s last full day in New York, we have scheduled this interview at the hotel.
Darbone opens the door to the room he has been sharing with Duhon. He has carefully placed a chair two feet from the edge of the bed for me to sit in. Duhon’s hearing aid is recharging on the window ledge by the air conditioner. A knock comes on the door. Housekeeping. She agrees to return in half an hour.
What I most want to hear about is the Silver Star, the site of the Hackberry Ramblers’ heyday.
“The Silver Star wasn’t anything fancy,” Darbone notes. “It looked terrible on the outside, but inside, it was all right. It was a big building, with a good dance floor that might have been oak. It was real smooth. Of course, every once in a while, they had a fight, but it didn’t hurt the attendance. When Friday, Saturday, and Sunday would roll around, we had crowds. Big crowds.”
The band earned seventy-five dollars a week. Darbone took out a dollar for the sound system, and the men split the rest.
I ask him to describe what music has added to his life. Darbone, a lifelong accountant as well as a fiddler, takes me literally. That is, he starts to discuss the earnings from the band that he has declared on his taxes and begins to break them down by year. He has determined that each brick in his house was paid for with exactly one song at the Silver Star.
Duhon walks in. “Hey fellas, can we go outside and talk? She’s got to clean that room. Don’t hold that woman down.”
In the elevator, Darbone returns to my earlier question. “I guess everybody enjoys their life,” he says. “But being able to play music has added to mine. My life as an ordinary citizen has been good. But if you add the music, it doubles it.”
At two o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, the Hackberry Ramblers and their families meet in the hotel lobby to wait for their ride to the Grammy Awards. They cheer each time the elevator door opens and another dressed-up person steps out. Everyone poses for pictures in front of a large peach-colored vase of dried flowers. Croker and his wife are sitting on a small couch, talking with a hotel employee in a black suit and maroon turban.
“Do you come from the Middle East?” Croker asks.
“I am a Sikh.”
“Sikh,” the employee says. “From India. It means ‘student.’”
“Well,” says Croker, “I could tell by talking with you that you are an educated man!”
“Yes, I’ve studied to be a C.P.A.”
“Really!” says Croker. “My daughter’s a C.P.A.”
“Do you play Cajun music? I have tapes of BeauSoleil.”
“Well, Michael Doucet is a good friend of ours. He played on our last CD. I’ll get Ben to give you one.”
As they talk, Duhon, wearing a black Western-style sports jacket over his band uniform, sits in the corner by a mirrored wall. He’s resting his feet, which are painfully swollen from wearing new shoes the previous night.
The elevator door opens, and Luderin Darbone, wearing a Knights of Columbus tuxedo and cowboy hat, steps out. Everyone claps, then moves quickly outside to board the van. It disappears in traffic.
With the Hackberry Ramblers departed on the final stretch of their New York tour, the hotel lobby is suddenly empty and quiet. The housekeeper who had cleaned Darbone’s room walks in. Her name is Caroline, and she was born in Hong Kong. She moves more cleaning supplies onto the elevator. Another employee walks up and holds the door for her, then laughs and tells her that she’s rich.
I ask why. The housekeeper points to a long strand of purple Mardi Gras beads hanging around her neck.
“The guests, they come from another country,” she says. “They gave me these beads. And that’s why I’m very rich.”
In addition to being a great friend and a great writer (see his biography of New Orleans music legend Ernie K-Doe at www.erniekdoebook.com), Ben Sandmel is a hero of mine for his work with the Hackberry Ramblers. Admittedly, by the time Ben started playing with them, some members of the band were no longer the nimble instrumentalists that they had been a half-century earlier. But Ben recognized that there was something essential about the Hackberry Ramblers that was undimmed — even enhanced — by time. The band pulled in musical influences from all over to create a one-of-a-kind dance floor each time it played. A Hackberry dance was more than a lot of fun — it was joyous and triumphant. Long live the Hackberry Ramblers.