News - The Original Red Clay Ramblers
The Original Red Clay Ramblers - Bill Hicks, Mike Craver, Jim Watson
old time music, new and vintage, with early Red Clay Ramblers favorites


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**FLASH!**Upcoming performances and CD releases:
Jim Watson Bill Hicks Mike Craver Craver, Hicks, Watson, Newberry

Bill Hicks
1943 -  2018
Please see our Facebook page for information.
You've Been A Friend To Me

Craver Hicks Watson Newberry
now on CD!

CDs are available at CHWN shows or from Jim Watson (132 Justice St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516 with check for $17.50) or from Mike's store!

"gloriously revives the spirit and sound of the Ramblers’ early years" ... Jack Bernhardt, Raleigh News & Observer (full review)

"There is great singing, great fiddling, great banjo playing, and great everything else. Have you figured out yet that I give my highest recommendation to this recording? If you like old-time music, if you like music period, find this recording and play it over and over again, and you will see what I mean." ...Bluegrass Unlimited. (full review)

"in terms of elan and verve and all those other words that point to the all-important spirit, You've Been a Friend to Me ranks right near the top." ...Bill Wagner, The Old Time Herald (full review)

"if the kids ever ask, What was old time music like?-- give 'em this." ...Randy Pitts (full review)

New interview with Mike Craver!
Mike Craver, Bill Hicks, Jim Watson and Joe Newberry play old-time music in Harrisburg, April 12
from Folk Mama's Blog, April 10, 2015.

Finally! 26 years in the making!
Jim Watson's "Christmas at the Cave" on CD!

Jim's 26th annual Christmas at the Cave show (December 22, 2011) was recorded by Jerry Brown of the Rubber Room and is now available from Jim at live shows or by mail.  Bonus: 2 videos of Chapel Hill's official Christmas kickoff are included on the CD. (MORE INFO | N&O review) Send a check for $17.50 to:

Jim Watson
132 Justice St.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
New! Songs from Mike's Musicals!

"For the past four years I have been writing and performing musicals for the Northwestern Illinois Theatre Coalition. These shows (BOSH AND MOONSHINE, THE BELLE OF THE WABASH, SARAH BERNHARDT IN TEXAS, and OKLAHOMA HALE & DAMNATION) follow a motley band of 19th century music hall entertainers as they wander through the Midwest. The troupe includes a saloon singer, a Shakespearean tragedian, a love-struck young couple, a gunslinger, and an undertaker. I have picked 17 of my favorites from these shows and put them on this cd. I hope you might like it!" ------ Mike

Mike's Store
Mike on Mike: "Rambling Man" in The American Interest

Jim Watson and Alan Jabbour recorded Hollow Rock String Band LPs and have teamed up again in 2015!

You Can’t Beat the Classics is a compact-disc (CD) collection of twenty-two distinctive settings of oldtime music classics and rarities from Appalachia and beyond. It is performed by three artists: Alan Jabbour on fiddle, Ken Perlman on clawhammer banjo, and Jim Watson on guitar and vocals. Classic tunes are inherently worthwhile musically, or they would not have become classics. Certain tunes also seemed worth revisiting because fresh versions might stir up renewed interest. "We hope that the musicality of our settings stirs fresh enthusiasm for these grand old classics. For good measure, we’ve also included a number of wonderful tunes never released before."

$17.50 - order from Jim Watson
132 Justice St.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
This picture turned up on the No Depression The Roots Music Authority website. In a post by newsgirlstacy on August 6, 2013, the writer described participating in Danny Gotham's Picknbow Folk Music Retreat Weekend in Durham, NC. Here's a quote from newsgirlstacy's post: "On Saturday night, when the students' fingers are aching from a full day of playing, the instructors give a performance to show the wide range of their talents. This year's headliner, so to speak, was Craver Hicks Watson Newberry, a real-deal old-time quartet that can make you guffaw or sob from song to song. The group's Joe Newberry was an instructor at this year's Picknbow, one who made everyone there feel like a million bucks and sound better than they ever thought they could."  Those who've listened to our guys being introduced will get the humor in how newsgirlstacy named the picture, "picnbowlawfirm." 
Larger view of the "law firm"

Congratulations to JOE NEWBERRY! 2013 IBMA AWARDS "They Called It Music" cowritten by Eric Gibson and Joe Newberry won SONG OF THE YEAR!  This song is found on the CD of the same name (nominated for Album of the Year) recorded by the Gibson Brothers. The winners were announced on September 26.

2012 IBMA AWARDS Joe Newberry's song "Singing As We Rise" won IBMA GOSPEL RECORDED PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR!  This pic was taken at the ceremony on 9/27/12 by Chris Finan, and that's Joe on the left.  Song info: The Gibson Brothers with Ricky Skaggs (artists); Joe Newberry (songwriter); Eric Gibson, Mike Barber & Leigh Gibson (producers); Compass Records. Listen to Joe Newberry and Mike Compton's performance of the song thanks to our friends at YouTube.  And here's David Morris's interview with Joe on Bluegrass Today's website just before the awards show.

And another congratulations to JOE NEWBERRY! He was chosen as the Raleigh News & Observer's Tarheel of the week on 10/21/12.  "Tar Heel of the Week: State worker sees songwriting success"

And ANOTHER congratulations to JOE NEWBERRY!  Here's a fine article on Joe in the magazine Our State, April 2014: "Artist Spotlight: Joe Newberry."

1976 TV show posted on YouTube 9/5/13!

Where the Twisted Laurel Grows, 1976
Appalachian music program
presented July 4, 1976
West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

The program starts with Lelly Mae Ledford (Pretty Polly).  Second on the program is Tommy Jarrell with Barry and Sharon Poss (Soldier's Joy, Drunken Hiccups).  The Red Clay Ramblers close the show with Hobo's Last Letter, Where the Twisted Laurel Grows The latter song was chosen to be the title of the new TV show and is an early example of a music video with scenes of the band mixed in with a story scenes set West Virginia.

More '70s news that reappeared, this time in 2014 on Facebook.  Bill Hicks wrote about these two pictures in his blog on 3/9/14: "Someone sent me the following uncredited pictures, which they'd found on a facebook page which focused on photos from many of the Union Grove Fiddler's Conventions. The man playing is the great, even legendary you might say, fiddler Tommy Jarrell. The year is probably 1970, give or take a year either way. The young man studying Mr. Jarrell's left hand with some intensity is... me! And what you are observing, and indeed what I'm observing in this photo, is pretty close to the moment when Mr. Jarrell's incredible playing captured me, the very match which is in this moment lighting one of the fuses of my subsequent life. How bout that!" 
The year is 2003.  June Carter Cash passed away in May.  Joe Newberry was about to play his first gig with Red Clay Ramblers founders Craver, Hicks, and Watson at the Carter Family Fold in June.  The band received a call that Johnny Cash would be performing a few songs at the Fold that night in memory of his beloved wife.  Photographer Daniel Coston was there to photograph Johnny as he sang with son and daughter-in-law in what turned out to be Johnny's next-to-last public performance. Daniel continued to snap pictures and caught this shot of Craver, Hicks, Watson, Newberry taking the stage.  John Carter Cash is in the doorway on the left, Janette Carter is seated behind Mike Craver, and her son Dale Jett is at the right side of the stage.  Daniel told more of this story in his book North Carolina Musicians: Photographs and Conversations (2013).Craver, Hicks, Watson, Newberry used this photo in their CD You've Been A Friend To Me (2012) but credited the wrong photographer.  So sorry, Daniel! 

More of the story CHWN at the Fold 2003 | Daniel Coston's website | Daniel's photos of CHWN 2013 | 2008

dcoston9473.jpg (60778 bytes)
Bill Hicks attended the March on Washington back in '63.  He was recently interviewed by the online magazine Business Insider about being there for Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. "How A White Kid From Segregated North Carolina Ended Up At The March On Washington" is their version, and Bill also wrote a companion piece on his blog "How I Got to the March."
Bill noticed this item at the local market and thought of our Mike

Bill's friends at Bish Scrap Metal Co. in Siler City are going green in more ways than one this Christmas! 

Click pics for larger versions of 
"Can Tree" and "Forklift Tree"

Return to Wheatlands!  Craver, Hicks, Watson, Newberry returned to the Wheatland Music Festival in September 2011.  Bill, Mike, and Jim performed there many times beginning back in the 70s and appeared on at least 3 Wheatland recordings.  See the pics and read Bill's review of the years in "Happy Wheatlands"  that begins  "It was a real treat to return to Wheatlands, where we all had many fond memories from our visits there in the late '70s with the band that shall not be named.  In the intervening generations the old site has more or less grown up in woods, like an abandoned field or a famous battle site that didn't turn into a national shrine.  In its place we found a wonderful main stage with magically good acoustics, sited on a hill facing a wide field where fans in the thousands ..."

Click on Jim to see the PICS, VIDEOS and special Mike Craver review of Jim's 24th annual Cave Christmas Show!  Thanks to Stan Lewis for the pics and Tom and Gail Watts for the videos.
A pic so good it's named:
"The Church of Jim Watson"
"Shroud of Touring"
ramblers2259.jpg (101401 bytes)<---- David's spooky picture
The whole show ---->
Was lost but now am found.  We misplaced David Eustice's capture of Craver, Hicks, Watson, Newberry at Southern Village 2009 for awhile, but now it's here on the left for your contemplation.  Be sure to click on the picture for a full-sized version.  Or visit the page honoring the show by clicking on the group in the sunset on the right.  Thank you, Joe and Mike, for wearing white.
"The Bible Salesman"
story and song by Clyde Edgerton and Mike Craver

Order your copy from Mike's store

Clyde narrates his novel THE BIBLE SALESMAN and does most of the character parts. Mike takes the part of Henry Dampier and one of the talking cats. Clyde and Mike do a variety of songs that set up and comment on the scenes and story. Most of the songs have been written especially for THE BIBLE SALESMAN, although the CD contains some old country chestnuts and hymn-tunes as well. The CD comes in a 4 panel eco-friendly digipak designed by Chris Baker with cover paintings by Clyde.  Check Mike's site for reading/concert dates.

Jim's latest solo CD!
"This World Would be All Sunshine"
(A Portrait of Home Sweet Home)

Get your own copy by writing Jim 
(or catching him at a show)
Jim Watson
132 Justice St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516
$17.50 (includes shipping)
(more info)

click on pics for larger view

How long has it been since you heard this rip-roaring old time celebration by the founding members of the Red Clay Ramblers?  The wait is over.  With the availability of the Red Clay Ramblers' second LP on CD-R, their entire catalog is now on CD. Replace your LPs and cassettes with CDs from Mike's Store - free US shipping!

From the Indy....
26 NOV 2008 Chapel Hill

The Cave—If you're lucky enough to squeeze underground and into The Cave tonight, you'll witness perhaps the state's most beloved and long-lasting musical institution as it continues to chart an unlikely chapter in our collective history. Young string band veterans Tommy Thompson, Jim Watson and Bill Hicks inaugurated their run as Red Clay Ramblers in 1972, adding Mike Craver a year later. The intervening 35 years have brought multiple lineup changes, multimedia experiments, solo albums, duo albums, three international tours sponsored by the State Department, several off-Broadway hits, the revival of one such hit for a new generation, performances at the 1st and 25th Eno festivals, two Carter family funerals, and the death of co-founder Thompson in 2003. Watson, Hicks and Craver roll on several times a year, their preservation of old-time tunes and their own material assisted now by Joe Newberry. —Grayson Currin

David Eustice used the Red Clay Ramblers "Aragon Mill" from Chuckin the Frizz to create a tribute to dad-in-law Tommy Thompson using Bobby Thompson's drawings, period photos of mills and workers, and Ramblers pics from back in the day.  Click the pic to stream from YouTube. 

Or click on the YouTube button to view the clip there and leave your comments.

Hard Times and Chuckin' the Frizz CDs are here!

Rounder re-issued the Red Clay Ramblers HARD TIMES and CHUCKIN' THE FRIZZ albums as limited edition CDs as part of their Rounder Archive series this summer. 

(And update the rest of your RCR LP collection to CDs too!)

CHUCKIN' THE FRIZZ, recorded live at the Cat's Cradle in 1979, is considered by many to be the original line-up's finest release.  We have a special page for the honors, accolades, reviews and souvenirs for Frizz.  Read it and get excited with us!

"Red Clay Ramblers, Chuckin' the Frizz -- Any true Ramblers fan knows that this all-too-rare release marks the band's finest hour on record, a well-produced live recording of the rollicking 1979 lineup performing at the old, tinier Cat's Cradle. This is a superior string band at the height of its powers, spinning out traditionals and originals with inspired, infectious fervor." [more]
...Durham Independent 2003
"This is a superbly produced set with a superior recorded sound, fully capturing the rich overtones in the blend of stringed instruments and piano. Craver has never sounded better, and neither has Tommy Thompson, whose voice and banjo playing are adept and gorgeous. His ballad "Hot Buttered Rum" is wonderful, and this moving performance is one of the Red Clay Ramblers' best recorded moments." [more]
...Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide.

The Dairy Queen pig proclaims the starting point of the Crooked Road in Rocky Mount, VA, also home of the Red Clay Restaurant.  (Click on the pics for larger views.)
WUNC's "The State of Things" interviewed our Jim Watson, Bill Hicks, Mike Craver, and Joe Newberry live on Friday, June 15, 2007.  The podcast, which includes "Sugar Hill," "The Schoolhouse on the Hill," and "Hobo's Last Letter," is available on the WUNC website.
Jim Watson! Hometown Hero!
Congratulations to Jim Watson, recently named a "Hometown Hero" by WCHL AM radio. The station chooses folks who make the community special.  Jim was honored for his Christmas shows at the Cave in Chapel Hill, the recent show being his 21st annual kickoff of the holiday season.  By popular demand, Jim has expanded the tradition to a second night in Hillsborough. 
Joe Newberry is featured in the February 2007 edition of the MelBay "Banjo Sessions" Webzine.  Read Joe's interview by Fred Huffnam HERE.

Joe Newberryand his Two Hands make all the music on his new solo CD, recorded in a day and a half and with live takes (no overdubbing or effects), just like they used to do it.  We especially liked his original songs (highlighted by "I Know Whose Tears") and the Christmas Trilogy finale ("Christmas Eve, "On This Christmas Day," and "Breaking Up Christmas."  Click on the cover to be swept over to Joe's website to get your own copy straight from the source.

Craver, Hicks, Watson, Newberry perform at the Charles House Tribute held at the Friday Center, Chapel Hill NC, September 10, 2006.  Charles House was part of Tommy Thompson's care during his illness. (Pics by Anne Berry)
Recent concert pics! | Concert videos!
Cookshack07_flyer.jpg (128736 bytes)
"...made the moon come up 2 hours late..."
Pics and videos from the
Cook Shack show 5/24/07
Fiddlin' Bill's
Admit One Journal
An Irregular Blog of Snappy Opinions
Bill's blogspot
ramblings of a fiddler
Meeting in the Air
Songs of the Carter Family
performed by Jim Watson, Mike Craver, & Tommy Thompson
Meeting in the Air on CD is here! Fans can retire their well-worn LPs and get a new CD copy directly from Mike Craver's website.  Mike is posting all the details of the release on his Meeting in the Air page.
[ more info | order ]

Dirty Linen, August/September 2005 reviewed by Duck Baker, London, England
One of the best of the many tributes to the Carters that have appeared over the years was recorded in l980 by three members of that unique and wonderful outfit known as the Red Clay Ramblers. It's interesting neither Jim Watson, Tommy Thompson, nor Mike Craver play very much on mandolin, banjo, or piano here, though Thompson does pick up the five-string at times. The main instrument is the guitar, which both Watson and Craver handle nicely in the appropriate Carter style. The main focus is on the vocals, and they are just gorgeous. The leads are heartfelt, the harmonies just right, and the blend reflects all the years these guys had worked together. A variety of approaches is used, and all reflect a deep understanding of and feeling for the music.

Can 25 years really have passed since this record was made? Has Tommy Thompson really, truly gone on, perhaps to sing his parts with Sara, Maybelle and A.P.? Well, we have to believe it, apparently, which makes the reissue of Meeting in the Air that much more welcome. When it first appeared, everyone agreed that this was a great record. Now it seems something more that that, a classic. 

* * * *  4 Stars! Meeting in the Air reviewed by Jack Bernhardt, RALEIGH NEWS AND OBSERVER, 8/15/04 
In 1980, Jim Watson, Tommy Thompson, and Mike Craver – original members of Chapel Hill’s Red Clay Ramblers - made a critically-acclaimed, 14-song collection of Carter Family standards. Called “Meeting in the Air,” this splendid recording has long been out of print. Now comes a newly released CD version that sounds as fresh and inviting as the vinyl did. 

Greenman Review by Gary Whitehouse (scroll down to the second half of the link)
"Beautiful harmonies abound...The Ramblers give the music an extra note of authenticity by maintaining the rhythmic hooks the Carters wove into their songs."
And check Mike's great News page on his site for the latest happenings!
Mike Craver's update: Clyde Edgerton adapted this staging from his 2004 novel LUNCH AT THE PICCADILLY, and Clyde and I have written 23 songs for it. We are calling it a "play with music". The poster at right says "based on the novel by Clyde Edgerton, with lyrics and music by Mike Craver" -- that is true but Clyde did the adaptation and also wrote and/or inspired many of the lyrics and some of the music, too. At this point three of his songs from the novel will be in the show: "Safety Patrol", "Ain't Got No Problems", and "Baloney Bacon and Beer". Clyde and I have recorded ten of the songs from the show which is now available on CD.
Piccadilly news!  CD available! Reviews!
Janette Carter and Jim Watson, August 2005 - photo by Anne Berry

Sunday, January 22, 2006 -- Sad news this day for fans of acoustic music in general.  Janette Carter, the last child of the original Carter Family, has died at the age of 82.  It's been a hard year for Janette, with numerous medical problems and the death of her oldest child over the summer, but in her typical fashion went ahead with her life as best she could, attending shows   and occasionally performing at the Carter Family Fold on Saturday nights.  I got to know Janette about 30 years ago when the Ramblers first played at the Fold and she was always warm, welcoming and unfailing honest, with a great sense of humor.  Her daughter Rita Forrester and son Dale Jett will be carrying on with old time and bluegrass shows every Saturday night as part of the promise Janette made to her Dad, A. P. Carter, before he died.  So let's send good thoughts to Rita and Dale and the rest of the Carters as an era ends and another page is turned.  ---Jim Watson

Thursday, January 26 -- Mike Craver, Bill Hicks, Jim Watson, and Joe Newberry were honored to sing at Janette's funeral. For those of us who weren't able to be there, Mike has written a touching account of the service and the friends attending, and we've posted it in our Carter Family collection.

Mike writes of singing at Janette Carter's funeral service
Carter Fold Site | tribute from Tommy Bledsoe, a regular at the Fold
Red Clay Ramblers and the Carter Family Connections
The Day They Came Back...
On the afternoon of July 4, 2001, at the Festival of the Eno in Durham, NC, founding Ramblers Bill Hicks, Jim Watson, and Mike Craver were reunited for a rare set of RCR music.  This magic look at the past was preceded by a set from Bill & Libby Hicks with songs from their new CD and a set from Robin & Linda Williams and Their Fine Group (which includes Jim Watson).  Hope we saw you there for this focus on the music and legacy of the Original Red Clay Ramblers! more pics!

Jim! Mike! Bill! Together again
July 4, 2001- Festival for the Eno
Bill & Libby - Robin & Linda
Blurred Time, Bill Hicks' witty mix of short stories and history of the Red Clay Ramblers from 1972-1981
click, read, enjoy!
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July 31, 2021