Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans

Latest News:

August 1, 2013:

Very pleased to announce that has been selected as Blues Book of the Year for 2012 in Living Blues magazine’s annual Critics’ Poll:

June 3, 2013:

Living Blues has nominated for Best Blues Book of 2012, along with several other fine titles, in the magazine’s 2013 Blues Awards competition. My very first published pieces appeared in Living Blues, starting in 1977.  Many thanks to the magazine’s founders, Jim and Amy O’Neal (now Amy van Singel) for those initial assignments.

“Voting is now open for the 2013 Living Blues Awards…Our 20th anniversary of honoring the best of the blues! Go to  and  click on the “VOTE” button on the right side of the page to vote. Voting is open until July 15th. Winners will be announced in the August/September #226 issue of “Living Blues.”


May 3, 2013: A great review of Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans in the Chicago Tribune:,0,1016259.story 

Recent Appearances: Saturday, March 23, 1:30 PM, location TBA: The Oxford Conference of the Book, at the University of Mississippi in Oxford MS ( ) on a panel with Vladimir Alexandrov, author of The Black Russian (Grove/Atlantic, ), and moderator Ted Owenby, Director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

Sunday, March 24:  The Tennessee Williams Festival, in New Orleans ( ) 11:30 – 12:45 PM, at the Palm Court Jazz Café, 1204 Decatur, Drummer and Smoke: Discussion and Music Centered on the Book “Ernie K-Doe: the R&B Emperor of New Orleans,” with interviewer Sarah R. Doerries, Senior Editor of Publications at the Historic New Orleans Collection.  Interview followed by a live set of Ernie K-Doe’s music performed by his longtime colleagues Ernie Vincent and Tommy Singleton, leading a band including myself on drums.

Thursday, April 4th, time/location TBA: presenting a paper about Ernie K-Doe at the Music of the South Conference (  ) at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS.

Thursday, April 4th, 6 PM, at Off Square Books, 1110 Van Buren Avenue in Oxford, MS:   An on-air reading from Ernie K-Doe: the R&B Emperor of New Orleans on Thacker Mountain Radio ( ), broadcast by Mississippi Public Radio.

Saturday, April 20th, Experience Music Project’s Pop Music Conference, at Tulane University, New Orleans: Presenting a paper on the connections between jazz, Cajun music, and zydeco.

News: February 22, 2013: is co-selected as Humanities Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment of the Humanities ( .)  The other book is historian Lawrence N. Powell’s excellent The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans (Harvard, .)

January 6, 2013:  Interview on WVXU-FM in Cincinnati about , archived at

December 26, 2012 – January 2, 2013: Nick Spitzer of American Routes features  Ernie K-Doe and in the first hour of show, which is now archived at

December 24, 2012: is selected by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as one the Top Ten Books of 2012.

December 23, 2012:  Ernie K-Doe is profiled on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday:

December 22, 2012: Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans is selected by National Public Radio as one of the Best Music Books of 2012:

December 3, 2012: Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans is selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Best Non-Fiction Books of 2012:

Reviews: 4-15-12, KIRKUS REVIEWS: “A vital, loving chronicle of the colorful life and frequently hard times of the New Orleans R&B singer and self-styled “Emperor of the Universe… A vital, essential addition to the shelf of great books about New Orleans.” — starred review

4-26-12, THE DAY (Connecticut): “…Sandmel…writes eloquently and wittily in this gorgeously constructed book. People all the time ask me what’s magical about New Orleans. Read this, folks.” — Rick Koster —

May 1, 2012, GAMBIT WEEKLY (New Orleans): “…any Festgoer would do well to pick up Ben Sandmel’s knockout new biography, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans —

May 6, 2012, THE ADVOCATE (Baton Rouge): “Lee Dorsey… Chris Kenner… and Ernie K-Doe… are gone, but their memories are rekindled when Toussaint and many others perform their songs every year at Jazz Fest. K-Doe is more present than usual this year via a remarkably faithful new book by local writer and musician Ben Sandmel, “Ernie K-Doe: R&B Emperor of New Orleans.” — John Wirt

May 2012,  DOWNBEAT: “…a vibrant biography that challenges a few myths but ultimately reinforces what made K-Doe’s life so extraordinary. Sandmel examines the regional roots of his sound, especially the impact of local gospel performers and Mardi Gras Indians. Colleagues like Allen Toussaint and Dr. John add their perspectives on K-Doe’s rise up the early 1960s r&b charts, his downward spiral and miraculous career resurgence as a Crescent City celebrity (and venue owner) before his death in 2001. This book is part of the valuable Louisiana Musicians Biography Series, and the publisher’s archives include an array of photographs, posters and other artifacts that illustrate how the cape-and-crown-wearing K-Doe always looked just as colorful as his words.” — Aaron Cohen  , scroll down

5-13-2012, LOS ANGELES TIMES:”deeply researched and exquisitely drawn portrait of not just the singer’s ‘years trudging in torment’ — from club-circuit scuffler to homeless to ‘Emperor’…but of his relationship to the city that made him who he was: Context is essential when considering New Orleans, and Sandmel helps us understand the world out of which the charismatic K-Doe — whose single chart-topper was 1961′s ‘Mother-In-Law’ — emerged… Lyrically evoked, Sandmel’s take on Ernie K-Doe isn’t simply a study of the performer’s vocal prowess and outsized persona, but it allows the reader to wind through the streets of New Orleans during its golden era of R&B — the late 1940s into the 1960s — to really hear the distinct rhythm of the patois, feel the humidity of some after-hours hole in the wall where the musicians vamp and history was revving up. ” — Lynell George —,0,5787915.story

5-24-2012, NO DEPRESSION: “…a collectors item for any fan of Crescent City r&b…it’s one you’ll find yourself coming back to over and over again to revel and remember with a chuckle the power and the glory that was Ernie K-Doe.” — Grant Britt —

JUNE, 2012 (Issue #219), LIVING BLUES:”An obvious labor of love for its author, the biography strikes that rare balance of academic research and delightful, readable prose…Not only is K-Doe’s story told well, but a moment in time in New Orleans is captured as well…Ben Sandmel has raised the bar for music biographies. No serious student of New Orleans’ musical and cultural history should be without it.” — Melanie Young   ( page 56 )

JUNE, 2012 (Issue #270) BLUES & RHYTHM (U.K.):   “…Sandmel is a fine, literate writer, one who is able to turn a phrase in the language of the educated man or in the jargon of the street with equal authenticity.”  –  Billy Vera ( page 43 )

6-11-12, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: …a terrific biography of the much-missed performer. Packed with anecdotes, candid photos, and interviews from those who knew K-Doe best, Sandmel charts the mercurial performer’s rise, fall, and redemption before his death in 2001. Though K-Doe’s trajectory (rapid stardom, reckless spending, substance abuse, career decline, and poverty) isn’t surprising, Sandmel remains respectful and manages to hold the reader’s interest, portraying K-Doe as an eccentric man who was by turns irritating, egotistical, and incredibly generous… the self-proclaimed Emperor of the World would likely have been pleased by this balanced biography of a truly unique performer. Rounded out with a thorough index and discography of K-Doe’s recordings, this is essential reading for those interested in the unique culture of New Orleans.” starred review,

6-15-2012, AUSTIN CHRONICLE: “…eye-poppingly gorgeous… rich, scholarly text… an absolutely essential Gulf Coast read.” — Margaret Moser —

6-21-12, ROLLING STONE, 4 STARS: — “With passionate R&B-detective research and eyewitness accounts from local legends like Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, Ben Sandmel vividly captures K-Doe’s wild rise out of poverty, the riches on his many 45s and his long, strange rebirth as a Crescent City treasure. In a city that breeds and adores gifted eccentrics, K-Doe was royalty. And he reigned in style.” — David Fricke

6-22-12, USA TODAY:”R&B legend’s odd odyssey, explored with authority, admiration and affection in Ben Sandmel’s new ‘Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans’ (The Historic New Orleans Collection, $39.95). The exhaustive, photo-packed biography chronicles K-Doe’s kaleidoscopic history of fame and failure, delusional optimism, beguiling eccentricity and boundless self-regard.”  – Edna Gundersen photo gallery:,+Emperor+of+New+Orleans/G3909

6-24-12, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: …The Big Easy-based Sandmel, a musician himself, paints a meticulously researched yet enormously entertaining portrait of an artist who, for all his outrageous self-absorption, was ultimately a good-hearted guy and talented artist who was hard not to like….It’s also a uniquely and quintessentially New Orleans story. In telling it, Sandmel brings the reader into the Crescent City’s rich musical milieu — he interviewed scores of musicians as well as the late K-Doe’s family and friends — and also examines the city’s African American culture and the roots of its traditions, helping to explain K-Doe’s particular flamboyance…. Antoinette [K-Doe] Antoinette, who died in 2009, told the author: “Of course I know that K-Doe’s dead. But the fans don’t consider it a statue; to them it’s Ernie K-Doe. I want people to remember K-Doe as a legend; I want his music and legacy to live on.” With this fascinating biography, Sandmel has done his part to make sure that happens. — Nick Cristiano

JULY 2012 (Issue # 224) MOJO, 4 STARS, “Ben Sandmel’s affectionate portrait, always judicious, often hilarious, whirls the reader through the streets of New Orleans…” — Tony Russell

POP CULTURE CLASSICS, Around the world, K-Doe is known for his 1961 hit, “Mother-In-Law.” In New Orleans, he’s cherished as one of the city’s legendary figures. Sandmel’s illuminating, intimate, sympathetic, fascinating book tells the story of the late performer through a marvelous collection of anecdotes, interviews and photos. The self-proclaimed “Emperor of the Universe,” K-Doe had a rapid rise and a dramatic fall. The author makes the highest highs and lowest lows equally spellbinding. A thoroughly researched discography is included. The timeless tome, from The Historic New Orleans Collection ( ), celebrates the city, as well as this incredibly colorful character. — Paul Freeman —  , scroll down

10-19-12, THE TENNESSEAN (NASHVILLE)  –  “…as Sandmel proves on each page of his book, K-Doe was as fascinating a character as you’ll find anywhere else in American roots music….  riveting…”  –  Peter Cooper  –

10-25-12, THE ADVOCATE (BATON ROUGE and the new daily newspaper in NEW ORLEANS,  “Like a great pop song, Ben Sandmel’s book about New Orleans rhythm-and-blues singer Ernie K-Doe opens with a great hook.”  –  John Wirt  –

10-31-12, THE TIMES OF ACADIANA (LAFAYETTE, LA), “In his book, Sandmel takes readers backstage through interviews with K-Doe, his wife Antoinette Dorsey Fox, their family and friends, and more than 100 musicians, including Toussaint, Aaron Neville and Dr. John.”  –  Herman Fuselier

December 1, 2012, BLACK GROOVES (The Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University, Bloomington): “…K-Doe’s tirelessly entertaining personality offers a lot in the way of content. But Sandmel’s account improves on the tales K-Doe spun, perfectly framing the musician’s offbeat jive talk with a skillfully understated yet probing and witty literary voice, telling of New Orleans’ local treasure while casting him within universal themes. And Sandmel’s writing paints the details with a precision en par with the book’s amazing collection of archival photos…   Sandmel honors K-Doe’s memory without ever idealizing him and humors K-Doe without ever patronizing him. Without a doubt, Ernie K-Doe was a larger-than-life character. Sandmel gives him the story he deserves.”  –  Betsy Shepherd Shepherd

12-22-12, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, Staff Picks: Our Favorite Music Books Of 2012:  Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans, by Ben Sandmel:  “Much more than a biography of a New Orleans music eccentric, this perspicaciously researched book encapsulates the spirit of a city that honors the wisdom of its weirdos. It’s also the story of a unique place — K-Doe’s Mother-In-Law Lounge, the shrine to his career-defining hit, and a haven for connoisseurs of this precious city’s flamboyant expressive culture. Packed with rare photos and gorgeously produced by the Historic New Orleans Collection press, this volume will transport you to the liveliest city in America — a trip all music fans should frequently take. —Ann Powers

3-22-13, THE OXFORD AMERICAN: BOOK REVIEW: Unfinished Blues and Ernie K-Doe   “…You can hear music anywhere, but in New Orleans you can feel it and smell it in the thick and salty air. Now and then you can read about it—but rarely in stories as well-told as Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man by Harold Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan (2010), and Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans by Ben Sandmel (2012). These are the first two books in a series published by the Historic New Orleans Collection.  The large-format books are liberally illustrated with photographs, poster and  record label reproductions, and ephemera—get-well cards, poster boards, newspaper clippings, election buttons—that alone are worth the cover charge. But the storytelling makes the difference in these lavishly produced books… “…Ernie K-Doe’s story is… compelling, due largely to the writing talents and outsider’s eye of author, musician, and historian Ben Sandmel, whose prose reads like a great New Orleans song is supposed to sound: you start tapping your foot with each turn of the page, as the tales grow wilder, more exotic, and larger than life. Each time you’re ready to put the book down, you’re swaying and moving to some silent rhythm… “…Sandmel’s appreciation and respect for K-Doe and Antoinette shows through his rollicking, party-time narrative that celebrates the extreme aspects of entertainment without ignoring the consequences of what the pursuit of pleasure can bring…  –  Joe Nick Patoski  

5-3-13, The Chicago Tribune,

“Ben Sandmel’s tribute to Ernie K-Doe sings…  It is a triumph…   Sandmel’s book is a magnificent work of art that helps guarantee the Emperor’s immortality.”,0,1016259.story  –  Jake Austen

Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans – ordering info, press clips, book events

Announcing the new book by Ben Sandmel, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans, published by The Historic New Orleans Collection, publication date April 11, 2012. For details and ordering information, please visit

Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans is the saga of a beloved singer who brought joy to generations of New Orleanians during his lifetime (1936 – 2001), and whose timeless, exuberant music — exemplified by his 1961 hit “Mother-In-Law” — continues to resonate since his passing. Combining elements of biography, music history, and oral narrative, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans explores two venerable, entwined Crescent City traditions – rhythm & blues, and grassroots surrealism. In addition it is a poignant love story and a hero’s odyssey of early success, adversity, and late-life redemption.

Media inquiries:

Lauren Noel,, (504) 556-7655
Karen Leipziger,, (615) 297-4452


Reviews/TV and radio clips

April 1, 2012: Starred review from Kirkus Reviews: kdoe/#review

“A vital, loving chronicle of the colorful life and frequently hard times of the New Orleans R&B singer and self-styled “Emperor of the Universe”…   A vital, essential addition to the shelf of great books about New Orleans.

April 9, 2012, interview on WWL-TV, New Orleans’ CBS affiliate:

April 10, 2012, interview on WVUE-TV, New Orleans’ Fox affiliate:

April 10, 2012, feature article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

April 10, 2012, radio interview on WWNO-FM, New Orleans’ NPR affiliate, with Susan Larson on The Reading Life:

April 11, radio interview on WWNO-FM, New Orleans’ NPR affiliate, with Fred Kasten on The Sound of Books:

April 13, television interview on WYES, with Peggy Scott Laborde on Steppin’ Out   (The K-Doe segment starts at 9:30 in to the show

April 13, television interview on WVUE, New Orleans’ Fox affiliate, with Chris Rose:


Tuesday, April 17, 1 PM, interview on Kaleidoscope with host/producer Eustis Guillemet, New Orleans cable channel 76

Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 PM,  signing at Garden District Bookshop, 2727 Prytania in New Orleans, uptown. , 504 – 895-2266

Sunday, April 29, 3 PM, book-signing at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival book tent

Monday, April 30, 2 PM
Signing at Louisiana Music Factory, 210 Decatur Street,

Tuesday, May 1st, 7:30 PM
Palm Court Jazz Café, 1204 Decatur Street, New Orleans — a dual celebration of the publication of the book and the 14th “birthday” of the founding the New Orleans Clinic, Live music by the Blue Eyed Soul Revue with Marcia Ball, Ernie Vincent, Tommy Singleton, and friends, Co-presented by the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation, NOLA Relief, and the Historic New New Orleans Collection.

Sunday, May 6th, 1 PM
Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, David Fricke, Senior Editor of Rolling Stone, will interview Allen Toussaint, Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Sandmel, about Ernie K-Doe and Sandmel’s book.

Sunday, May 6th, 3 PM book-signing at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival book tent.

Monday, May 7th, noon
Signing at Louisiana Music Factory, 210 Decatur Street,

Wednesday, May 9th, 6:30 PM, booking signing at Maple Street Book Shop at the Healing Center, 2372 St. Claude Avenue, in the Bywater, New Orleans,  , 504-304-7115

Thurs May 17th, 7 PM
A reading and signing at Casa Azul, 232 Martin Luther King Drive in Grand Coteau, LA (between Lafayette and Opelousas), , 337 – 662-1032.  There will also be live music by the great South Louisiana country/Cajun/rockabilly singer and multi-instrumentalist Yvette Landry,







The Hackberry Ramblers: 1933 – 2005

Hackberry Ramblers news:


Guitarist, singer and emcee Glen Croker, the last surviving old-time member of the Hackberry Ramblers, passed away on August 23, 2011, in Lake Charles, LA, at age 77, following a lengthy illness.

Born in Lake Charles in 1934, Croker began playing steel guitar in the early 1950s with Eddie Shuler and the Reveliers. On the way home from engagements with the Reveliers, the young Croker would stop by the Silver Star Club in Sulphur, LA, to hear the Hackberry Ramblers. “And it’s a funny thing about that,” Croker recalled; “I can remember saying to myself: ‘Self, one day you’ll be playing with that band!’ And thus it came to pass.”

Croker joined the Hackberry Ramblers in 1959, 26 years after the band was co-founded by Luderin Darbone and Edwin Duhon. Croker stayed with the Ramblers through their final performance in November of 2005. His swaggering, soulful style and use of electronic amplification brought the Ramblers a post-war honky-tonk tinge that added blues, R & B, rockabilly, and classic country songs to their already-diverse repertoire. This stylistic incarnation was the sound most often heard when the Ramblers started touring nationally in the late 1980s, following an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. When first founded in 1933, the Ramblers had embodied the acoustic string-band sound of that era, and then evolved, during the ’40s, into a large western swing orchestra. Despite his modernizing influences, Croker always stayed connected with the band’s traditional roots, in part by singing in French on many Cajun numbers.

Croker appeared on the Hackberry Ramblers albums Jolie Blonde (Arhoolie, released in 1963), Cajun Boogie (Flying Fish, released in 1993, re-released by Hot Biscuits in 2003), and the Grammy-nominated Deep Water (Hot Biscuits, released in 1997), and on the anthologies Boozoo Hoodoo (Fuel 2000, 2003) and Christmas Gumbo (Flambeaux, 2004.) Croker was also prominently featured in the PBS documentary film Make ‘Em Dance: The Hackberry Ramblers’ Story ( directed by John Whitehead of Fretless Films, St. Paul, MN. Make ‘Em Dance was broadcast nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens in 2004. He enjoyed the fulfillment of a life-long dream by performing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1999. To hear all the best elements of Croker?s style as a guitarist and singer, click on the song “Poor Hobo” on the Deep Water album.

In addition to his musical talent, Croker was known, as the band’s emcee, for his snappy patter. His shamelessly corny bandstand jokes elicited groans around the U.S. and in France, Holland, and Canada. “I really am a nice guy, once you get to know me,” Croker often said; then, after a dramatic pause, he would add,” but that getting-to-know-me part is rough.” He will be sorely missed.

James Glenwood Croker is survived by his devoted wife, Nell, two sons, two daughters, three step-children and numerous grandchildren.

MP3s of Hackberry Ramblers 78s:

21 A Little Rendezvous in Honolulu.mp3

23 Mon Cour Me Fais Ci Mal.mp3
                                                                      24 Hackberry Trot.mp3

                                                               25 Tu Vas Pluerie (You Will Cry).mp3
     26 Silver Star Stomp.mp3


Luderin Darbone

Luderin Darbone, the acclaimed Cajun-swing fiddler who co-founded The Hackberry Ramblers in 1933, passed away on November 21, at Calcasieu-Cameron Hospital in Sulphur, Louisiana.

He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Eddie and Annette Darbone; his grand-daughter Paige Neal, her husband Bob, their daughter, Julia, and son, Taylor; his grandsons Heath, and Dustin; and band-members Glen Croker and Ben Sandmel. Luderin Darbone was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Lue, who steadfastly encouraged his musical career and travels until her passing in 1999. A devout Catholic who attended mass every day, Darbone was also an active member of the Knights of Columbus.

Visitation will be held on Monday evening, November 24, from 5:00 – 9:00 PM, at Hixson Sulphur Memorial Funeral Home, 2051 E. Napoleon, in Sulphur, 337 – 625-9171. On Tuesday morning November 25, at 10:00 A.M., the funeral will be held at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church, 1109 Cypress St, in Sulphur, 337 – 527-5261.

Luderin Darbone was a kind, gentle, conscientious man. He was a deeply talented musician, a loving parent and grandfather, and a wise bandleader. Although he will be sorely missed, he leaves a rich and beautiful legacy from a long, happy life. May he rest in peace.

Cajun Music Book


Along with many other Cajun musicians, past and present, The Hackberry Ramblers are the focus of a chapter in the new anthology Accordions, Fiddles, Two Steps and Swing : A Cajun Music Reader. Edited by historians Ryan Brasseaux and Kevin Fontenot, Accordions, Fiddles, Two Steps and Swing has just been published by the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In addition to chapters by Ryan Brasseaux and Kevin Fontenot, contributors include Barry Ancelet, John Broven, Erik Charpentier, Brenda Daigle, Mike Leadbitter, Lauren C. Post, Ann Savoy, and Michael Tisserand, among many others.

The Hackberry Ramblers are featured in Accordions, Fiddles, Two Steps and Swing via a history of the band written by fiddler Luderin Darbone in 1991. Darbone speaks with considerable authority on this topic, since he co-founded The Hackberry Ramblers in 1933 and has led the band ever since. Darbone’s essay follows a detailed introduction by the Ramblers’ drummer and manager, Ben Sandmel. Sandmel’s previously-published work on Louisiana music includes Zydeco! , published in 1999 by the University Press of Mississippi. He is currently at work on a book about the New Orleans rhythm & blues singer Ernie K-Doe.

Accordions, Fiddles, Two Steps and Swing: A Cajun Music Reader will be the focus of a panel discussion at the Louisiana Book Festival at 11:00 AM, on Saturday, October 28th, at the State Capitol building in Baton Rouge, LA. Kevin Fontenot will moderate the panel, with participants Barry Ancelet, André and Louie Michot, and Ben Sandmel.

Musicician Hurricane Relief Fund


The Hackberry Ramblers send a grateful “merci beaucoup” to the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund for recent financial assistance to the Hot Biscuits Recording Company.

The funds help ensure that the Ramblers’ albums Cajun Boogie and Deep Water will remain in print.

Fourteen months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, there is still much need for relief in south Louisiana. Donors to the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund and the New Orleans Musicians Clinic can rest assured that their money will be used wisely.

Big Screen Debut

The acclaimed documentary film Make ‘Em Dance: The Hackberry Ramblers Story, will make its New York big-screen debut on Friday, September 15, at 7:00 PM, at the Lyceum, 227 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. The screening of the hour-long film will be followed by a Q & A session with the film’s director/co-producer, John Whitehead,, and co-producer Ben Sandmel.

The New York debut of Make ‘Em Dance is one of dozens of happenings in a three-month multi-media arts event known as SurgeFest: New Orleans In Higher Ground. SurgeFest honors the artistic traditions of hurricane-ravaged South Louisiana, where The Hackberry Ramblers are revered as elder statesmen of the arts.

For additional information about the Surge Film Festival, please visit and

Edwin Duhon

Edwin Duhon, co-founder of The Hackberry Ramblers, passed away on Sunday, February 26, 2006. He was 95. In 1933, Duhon formed The Hackberry Ramblers along with fiddler Luderin Darbone, who survives him. Initially, Duhon played acoustic guitar; he went on to play electric guitar, piano, upright bass, harmonica, and accordion, at various times, focusing solely on the accordion in the mid-1990s. Duhon’s last performance was in November, 2005, at the Shaw Center for the Arts in Baton Rouge. Although quite ill, he gave it one hundred percent, as always.

In 2002, Edwin Duhon and Luderin Darbone were co-recipients of a National Heritage Fellowship, awarded by the Folk Arts Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Savannah Film Festival


On October 30, 2004, Make ‘Em Dance: The Hackberry Ramblers’ Story received The 2004 Savannah Film Festival HBO Films Producer Award. Make ‘Em Dance was co-produced by John Whitehead and Ben Sandmel, and directed by John Whitehead. The award, which is the top honor bestowed at the Savannah Film Festival, was presented by the festival’s Executive Director, Danny Filson.

The films in consideration were juried by a distinguished panel of five judges: Bill Dawes, an actor whose roles in New York theater premieres include Lord Alfred Douglas in Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and whose credits include a dozen independent films; Abe Gurko, playwright, actor and creator of ABE-NYC Events, an event-planning venture; Sophia Karteris, vice president of programming for the regional entertainment network Turner Broadcasting System Inc.; Michael Mailer, president of Bigel/Mailer Films, a New York-based company specializing in star-driven films that bridge the gap between Hollywood and independent productions; and Nancy Spears, director of marketing for Warner Home Video, the world’s largest distributor of video entertainment.

The Awards ceremony capped off eight days of film fervor in Savannah, with over 60 screenings, numerous panels and workshops, and appearances by such luminaries as actors Kathleen Turner and Peter O’Toole, director Norman Jewison, and critic Roger Ebert. Established in 1998, the festival is presented by The Savannah College of Art and Design, and has quickly gained stature as a prestigious event in cinematic circles.

Future screenings of Make ‘Em Dance are forthcoming.

In other Hackberry Ramblers news, co-founders Luderin Darbone and Edwin Duhon will jointly receive a Living Legend Award from the Acadian Museum in Erath, Louisiana, in a ceremony at 4:00 on Saturday, December 11, 2004.