Watch CBS News

Kermit Ruffins on the hometown gun violence that rocked his family: "I could have been doing 2 funerals"

Kermit Ruffins turns tragedy into advocacy
Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins shares personal journey from hardship to hope 05:40

Kermit Ruffins has performed on some of the world's biggest stages. With his trumpet in hand, the 59-year-old has taken jazz to the next note ever since his childhood days.

"My uncle Percy Williams, he's a trumpet player, and I can remember being 8, 9, 10 years old, and he would come to the house almost every weekend and just put the trumpet in my hand and I look at that thing, man, when he opened that case, that shine, that smell of that brass, it was so freaking exciting."

By high school, Ruffins and some classmates founded Rebirth Brass Band, which to their surprise evolved into a world-renowned group. New Orleans native Ruffins is considered music royalty. 

After over a decade of touring around the world, Ruffins' roots called him back home in the early 90s. That's when he formed his next group, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers. 

"It's dancing music," he said of the band's sound. "And we're doing it in a birthplace of jazz where jazz has, was invented, walking distance from where we're sitting."

But his success in music could not shield his family from gun violence.

Two years ago, Ruffins' pregnant girlfriend, Harmonese Pleasant, was shot by a stray bullet outside of their home. It prompted an emergency delivery and left their daughter, Blossom, with a spinal cord injury. Doctors are unsure if she'll ever be able to walk.

1713359896094.png
Kermit Ruffins, his girlfriend, Harmonese Pleasant, and their daughter, Blossom, speak to "CBS Mornings." CBS News

"It's just unbelievable, you know. It's, it's like, it's not really happening. Cause now my baby probably won't walk," Ruffins said. "And then Harmonese has this big scar, most beautiful girl in the world. So, it's a lot when I look at Blossom and knowing what's gonna happen as far as going to school and everything she's gonna go through."

Louisiana ranked second for gun-related deaths in 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Nationwide, homicide rates and violent crime overall decreased in 2023, according to data released by the FBI.

But this past weekend, one person was killed and 11 were wounded in New Orleans after a shooting in front of a nightclub after a festival, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Meanwhile, Ruffins and Pleasant hope their story brings more awareness to gun violence.

"Because it's a — it's a real thing. It's a big thing," Pleasant said.  "And it affects people in a real major way."

"I could have been doing two funerals," Ruffins added.

David Begnaud recently reported on "CBS Mornings" about Tulane University students who are building specially designed wheelchairs for children with disabilities. The students delivered one to Ruffins' daughter to help her get around more comfortably.

With a new perspective on life, Ruffins' music now has a different tune, one a bit more focused on hope and peace in the community.

For Ruffins, there's no role he cherishes more than being a father. Through everything his family has been through, he is grateful for the outpouring of love and support they have received.

"They love me to death and everybody loves Blossom," Ruffins said. "She's the freaking joy, and I look in her eyes, she is excited about life."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news