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

  • Mlepek

    Beautiful rememberance, Paul. He will surely be missed.

  • Robert A. Webb

    I loved Herman, he was quick witted, had a deep raspy laugh that was easily inspired. In the early 80’s I traveled with Herman and Michael Swindle to Greenville, MS (Greensville as Herman, jokingly called it) for the Delta Blues Festival. Herman had a van “The Pressure Cooker”. The music was great and the club action in the evenings was even better, as many of the festival musicians would show up to jam. The club I recall was the Chit-Chat, it was a true honky-tonk. A black club which probably did more business those 3 nights when the festival was in swing than it did the rest of the year combined. I recall going to the restroom, long lines, not many white people there at that time in history and when I did not come back for what seemed too long for Herman, he came to the bathroom and made it clear I was under his umbrella; may or may not have been needed, but for those who knew Herman, they know he was always alert, positive and also damn considerate. I will miss him, his handshake snap and his celebratory comment “Church Is Out”. I send my love and condolences to his family for their loss.
    Robert A. Webb Birmingham, AL

  • Jeff Boudreaux

    One of the largest personalities I ever knew. He was the biggest, strongest cat, with the fast cars, guns and backbeat solid as a rock. He could deal with ANYONE. And he always took me under his wing when I was around…me the skinny kid drummer. He always was full of love and respect for my own drumming and musicianship, and always carried a certain plain-folks dignity. What an incredible shock. He was so much larger than life and indestructable! If the Lord can take him like that before his time, he can take any of us…so le’ts all stick together!
    peace and love forever to Herman the German!

  • Robin Lloyd KPLU-FM

    A supremely talented drummer and entertainer, and a truly good human being. Memories of hugs and smiles and laughter, and of course, music. Love and prayers to his family and extended family of musicians and other friends. There’s a big hole in our lives right now…

  • Jen Weiffenbach

    May he rest in no pain.smiling and dancing free again.peace.j

  • Gnf

    What a hole in the soul of the City of New Orleans. A beautiful person.

  • Wardrums

    Herman…was like my big brother. When I had moved to New Orleans in the early 80’s he took me under his arms. When we had the Crescent City Drumming Camp he was the one that the kids looked up to as there mentor and protector. When we had the Firehouse he came in and recorded Sunpies’ first CD on a 8 track…even thou I was a drummer myself with major hits’ under my belt he was a much better drummer than I was. I will all way remember him comming to the MELPOMENE Congominiums as we called them…he had just gotten a new Mustang…”A 5 point O.” This hurts me…But I know he’s “Beyond the Blues.” I will miss this man.

    Harold R Brown
    The Original Drummer for the Group WAR

  • Cswroten

    Loved by many he will be deeply missed.
    Craig Wroten

  • Glendavid504

    What a humble an great musician an great cat.May God accept him in Gabriels band.I ve always his playing. Oh didnt he Ramble!!!

  • Herman was a big bear of a funny, sweet man with a great laugh and a hug that made you feel good. He told me some of the best “Booker” stories I’ve ever heard. BTW, a KILLER drummer with the true New Orleans bounce that can’t be learned, that has to be in your blood. Herman had it. I will miss him.

  • Lee Oskar

    Herman Rosco Ernest… I will miss you,
    Lee Oskar

  • Jef Jaisun

    Double tough night for you, amigo. You not only lost a dear friend in N.O., you spent several hours playing your soulful harp to those gathered for L.J. Porter’s memorial in Seattle.

  • Jef Jaisun

    In 2009, when Roscoe had to take medical leave from Mac’s band, the NOMC dedicated a t-shirt to him. The right sleeve of every Seattle tour shirt was stamped, “Roscoe, keep it on the 1!” We made a poster sized photo of him, and dozens of people at Jazz Alley signed it with get-well wishes. Everybody loved him.

    Sure gonna miss him. Helluva drummer, damn nice guy and one of the funniest people on (or off) the planet. Keep it on the 1 up there, Roscoe!

  • Kim Calloway

    Attention should be paid to this legend and his passing, I believe. Kim Calloway, music fan and broadcaster, Kelowna B.C. Canada.

  • Johnfohl

    We played a beautiful gig last night in Shirley Massachusetts with every note and beat played and sung in his honor. He was a mentor, a teacher, a protector, a leader and a great friend. We all miss him dearly. Lucky for us we have thousands of stories and even more music to remember him with.
    He’s in The Big Band now…
    John Fohl

  • Eric Miller

    What a tough loss. Herman was a shining light for me many times. I will surely miss him.

  • Tom Perlic

    So very sad to hear the news…was so honored to have Roscoe and Mac in Dayton a few years ago right after the federal flood…got to drive him around Dayton, OH in my truck!

  • Denideadhead

    I know besides the music you will all carrying that love that tough grit the stories and that damn wonderful laugh in your hearts always !! Herman will be missed by even more than he could have imagined. My condolences to the boys in the band and crew and heartfelt prayers for his family and those he loved so fiercely ….I am sure he is surrounded by angels who are smiling at his stories and heaven is warmed by his talent and laughter. Free at Last.

  • RussColicino

    He was a wonderful person with a heart of gold. My condolences to his family and everyone in the band. It was an honor and a privilege to have known him .

  • Lou Marini

    I got to know Herman through playing with Mac and later with the Chickenhawks in Dallas. He was a true delight to be around, great to play with and so soulful. At the North Sea Jazz festival the Blues Bros. Band was getting ready to split and I spotted Herman outside and invited him in to introduce him to the cats. He did five minutes in the doorway of the bus and just killed everyone. My condolences to his family. Blue Lou Marini.

  • Leftturnpatti

    Hi Lou …
    I’m a former Chickenhawk vocalist …RIP to Herman…is Jack around, or Robert Harwell ?
    Blessings to the family and friends,
    Patti Sterling

  • Chopper Brady

    I was fortunate enough to have been taken under Herman’s wings as a young sound engineer. Not only was Herman a great drummer and friend, but he was a great teacher. You may not have known it at the time, but he was always teaching all of us how to be better at our craft, better as a friend, and to be teachers, too. He was always there for me and I will miss him beyond all thought. We were all lucky to have grown up with cats like that in New Orleans.

    – Chopper Brady

  • Aki Oduola

    Herman V. “Roscoe” Ernest III was a good man and great musician. His charisma and sense of humor were second to none. He was a smart guy who was fun to be around. He always had something to say that would make you crack a smile regardless of what mood you were in (or he was in for that matter). As a musician, he was simply the best. He really was. Had he lived longer he would have developed more of a profile as a producer too. When I heard the news that he had passed, I was truly saddened. I’m just glad that I got a chance to know him and watch him perform. He left everyone that knew him with some very cool memories. He left music lovers the world over with great music. I miss you Roscoe.

    Aki Oduola
    Brooklyn, NY

  • Hoonanay

    Nice story Robert, Herman was quite the gentlemen. I see Swindle every year when I go to jazz fest, hope all is well with you.Happy Mardi Gras!
    Steve Mogge
    San Francisco,Ca.

  • Kathleen Stieffel

    Hit groove, his humor and his heart — as big as he was — will be sorely missed by us all. New Orleans has lost one of it’s best. I love and miss you, my friend. You are always in my heart.

  • Sheila Rolfe

    My condolences to all of you ~ Dr. John and The Lower 911 band – their crew, and to Herman “Roscoe” Ernest III’s family and friends. May happy memories of Roscoe live in your hearts forever.

    I was fortunate to watch and hear Herman perform with Dr. John and The Lower 911 band in Canada last August 6th, 2010 at ‘The Festival of Friends’ in Hamilton Ontario, and August 7th, at the ‘Kitchener Blues Festival’ in Kitchener, Ontario. 2 Nights of superb performances!!! Thank you!

    I was hoping you were all coming back to Canada again this summer : (

    R.I.P. Herman “Roscoe” Ernest III

  • allyn robinson

    I met Herman years ago when he was with Richie Havens & I was on the the road with Wayne Cochran. We remained friends until his passing……his respect & love was always special.

  • Brian graber

    I was fortunate to have known Herman and what a huge Character and musician he was! One of New Orleans Greats and he will be missed!

  • Cebrina

    On behalf of our family I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and condolences it’s been a hard road and I will miss him so much. Affectionally his daughter…..Cebrina

  • Vaughn Smith

    Herman was many great things but above all he was a true friend! No matter how long since he had seen you or how busy he might be he always took the time to let you know he was genuinely glad to see you and when we played together the groove was so easy and so natural that he took you to his level, and what a great ride! With his strength and goodness you just knew everything was going to be OK when Herman was around. We love you and miss you, rest easy, my friend.

  • Don Vappie

    Herman and I first met while playing together with Sammy Berfect and the Polished Gentlemen.
    I will miss you brother.
    Rest in peace.

  • Grisgrisfunk

    What a great loss…. Herman was such a great guy in so many different ways. Such sad news to hear. He would always go out of his way, even during a Dr. John show, to mention that he had “two friends (my wife and I) at the show tonight. ” Great guy, we were so honored and pleased to have known him. Thanks for all the memories Herman Roscoe Ernest III.

  • What a shock – someone so strong and full of life to go at such a young age! I had the privilege of playing with Herman on several occasions backing up the great NO singer Johnny Adams. Herman had one of the deepest pockets of any drummer ever! He was always welcoming to me, a guitar player from Boston. He also had a great sense of humor and fun-loving attitude. These qualities, plus his incredible ability to create the perfect drum part for whatever tune he was playing, made it so enjoyable to play with him. I wish I had got to know him better and play with him more often. But I’m quite thankful for the experiences that I had with him. The international music world has lost a great drummer and personality. RIP, Herman!

  • Rich Hale

    What a huge loss! What a great drummer and a great friend! RIP, Herman

  • Gregory Boyd

    When I first got out of the US Navy. I was playing with Charmaine Neville on steel drums Herman would come in and give me this look kinda “yeah man I hear that” from then Herman took me in protected me and showed we how to be me. There was one gig later in my career in particular where I was playing drumset and he came up to and said “You a bad MotherF%¤&cker” I went home smiling cause this icon in American music thought that I, this cat just getting his career moving sounded good. Later on I moved to Denmark and Mac was on tour here and once again in a session we were all doing Herman stood up to all the people in the studio and prounced “This is Gregory Boyd from New Orleans and he is a “Bad Mother&%/%¤%cker and ya’ll should hire him”. I had no problem getting into the scene. You will always be with me. Rest in Peace.

    Gregory Boyd

  • Eric Miller

    I’ve been watching a video of him on youtube telling one of his tales about being in Jamaica. This is how I like to remember Herman. No one could hold court like that. Any time he walked into a room you had better have your popcorn ready cause you were in for a good show and a great laugh…think about it! I havn’t spoken to him in a while but his words of wisdom and protection through some tough days in my life will always resonate with me. Thanks Herman. Love.

  • Elaine / ELS

    I can’t begin to tell you how I feel. When ELS first moved to New Orleans he opened his heart to us. I knew then that we were in the right place. He schooled me about the music and all the great places to play. That was in 1981 and we have been here every since. When he played with us the band had a feel that was solid. With his jokes, smile and big heart how could you not love him. God must have started a funk band in heaven and only he could fit the bill. My heart goes out to his family. When we get to heaven I know he’s going to be at the gate with some great stories. I know he’s reading these right now so I’ll just say, see you later.

  • Hudoman

    I’m thankful for having the privilege of playing with the “Prussure Cooker” when we both played in the “Fats Domino Band”. he was my friend. “Mr Eyes”.

  • Bobby

    I always felt very fortunate to have known Herman. never heard say much bad about anything, always had a story, always a hug…last time I saw him at HOB in NoLa he kicked it hard with the Dr. Herman, it brings tears to my eyes brother, I and all the rest will miss you…B.Boos

  • Jules

    I use Herman’s tracks on Legends of New Orleans DVD to play piano with, hoped to meet him when I was there last October…ahh too sad, at least he has no more pain..
    Love Julesxxx

  • Johnleesanders

    Thank you for sharing this, my favorite drummer. New Orleans music is my life, and as a cancer survivor, this story means even more.  Thank you Herman for the joy you brought to each performance, and the spirit of New Orleans.