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Drummer Herman Ernest Passes

Herman Roscoe Ernest III passed away today. I hired him for the Nine Lives session because I loved him. Just before the flood I began recording Between Friends and Mike Mayeux suggested Herman for a track. Herman dug the songs so much he offered to play for free on several tracks and it was a lesson in how to record percussion that I will never forget and have passed on to many young musicians like Shamarr [Allen].

Dr. John and Herman Ernest backstage at Tipitina's. Photo by Erika Goldring.

When Colman and I were writing songs for Nine Lives, I thought of Herman as Da and hired him for the sessions to sing and play. I had not seen him since before the flood and when he got out of his car for the start of the sessions, I could barely hide my shock at his changed appearance. He was a proud man, and when I asked how he was doing he said, “It hurts, but it could be worse.” This stunned me because these were to be the lines I asked him to sing on the intro to “Could Have Been Worse.”

Herman was very brave, and as I had hired him to do the whole session he was determined to do so, but after two days of tracking, Matt Perrine and Mark Bingham pulled me aside and pointed out how much pain he was in. I went to Herman and asked how he was and he said it only hurt when he wasn’t playing music. We tracked one more song and I let him go home with a hug and much love. Before he left the studio, sweating in pain, he sang those lines for me, “Yes, boys, it hurts. It hurts bad but it could have been worse.” As we sat with tears in our eyes in the control room, Herman came in and listened to his vocal, ever the professional. Satisfied, he thanked us, and as he turned to leave he smiled and said, “If you got any more lines to sing about pain you give them to me, I got that covered these days.”

I am pleased you were both there at different times to document the one thing I had feared the flood would take from us even as it continues to take lives, our community. Herman lived while he lived and music was his escape from pain. It is our great honor that he shared his voice and drumming with Nine Lives, again, thank you for being there to witness it.

–Paul Sanchez