Jim Watson/Mike Craver in Concert
Bull City Cosmic Hoedown
March 16, 2000
Jim Watson and Mike Craver
Dear Dave,

Thank you for putting on such a memorable event on Thursday night with  Mike Craver and Jim Watson, former members of the Red Clay Ramblers.   These guys have been and always will be part of the picture of my life, and I wanted to share with you my perspective on the show.

Having to hold my mouth right and push the send button at the precise time so it would go at 8:00 PM and not 7:59 on the 9th was a challenge.   I felt honored when I found out that I was one of the 75 that had either pushed  or dialed at the right time.  You know life is all about timing.  The anticipation of getting to see and hear these two gifted guys performing and collaborating musically in the same room, in the presence of many of old and new Ramblerites, was more than fulfilled from the time I walked in the door Thursday night. 

Jim opened his set with “Baby Rose”, a Charlie Poole song which is an old standard of Jim’s.  His set was comprised of Charlie Poole, Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers songs with the exception of Gilbert and Sullivans’s “A Policeman’s Lot is not a Happy One,” which he performed with his father Richard “Dick” Watson with Mike’s accompaniment.  Mr. Watson stole the show with his still intact “couldn’t be 80ish” voice and mannerisms.  Jim’s very traditional “picking” and almost shrill voice with his not-to-be-forgotten face and stature has always been part of the package for me as it was tonight.  My favorite, a first-time listen for me, was "Leaving Ireland" by Charlie Poole.  Joe Newberry on banjo and Alice Gerard on vocals joined Jim on “Leaving Home.”  Jim and Mike partnered on several Carter Family songs, which really wowed the crowd, including “Faded Coat of Blue” and “While the Band Was Playing Dixie.”

After an enjoyable intermission with chats, hugs and rekindling of very old connections and homemade goodies, it was time for Mike.  Mike and I had a brief moment together before he began his performance.  I was touched by his humility and the cold sweat and “almost tears” in his eyes as he reached to me for encouragement to go ahead make the long walk to the “stage.”   Beads of anxiety quickly vanished as Mike and the lit candelabra engaged the crowd immediately with “Wagoners Lad,” every word and every stroke on the piano being charged with emotion and powered by 35 years of song.   “Down at the Crossroads” was my favorite along with “One Day When Now Is Gone.”  Mike challenged us to sing along with his Radio Gals collaboration with Mark Hardwick, "Wicky Wacky Hula Hula Honka Wonka Honolulu Hawaiian Honey of Mine."  He dedicated “Sweet Lovers Love the Spring” to the late Marcia Wilson who, with Bill Smith and several others, initiated the long standing and growing music legacy in the Triangle with her founding and financial support of the Cat’s Cradle in the early seventies.   “When You’re Lying Awake,” a Gilbert and Sullivan song, was dedicated to Mr. Watson, who mouthed the words to the crowds delight, since Mike confessed that he might not know them all.  For the encore he sang “You're the Top,” which only a few minutes ago I found out that Mike didn’t write.  Cole Porter did.  Who would have thunk it? 

Again Dave, I loved being there Thursday night to experience the wonderful pickin’ and singin’, the fine hospitality of Chris and Carolyn and along with everyone else in the room I enjoyed the nostalgia.  Need I say more?
Allison Lee
With Kindest Regards,

(Allison Lee started a booking agency in 1975 and her collaboration with the Ramblers lasted over 12 years ranging from booking local jobs to national tours to two state department tours which included Africa in 1981 and Jordan in 1985. In later years Allison featured the Red Clay Ramblers in a number of her Dark Night Concerts at the Paul Green Theater in Chapel Hill, NC.  Allison returned to fan status in 1988.)

When the audience called Mike Craver back to the stage for an encore, Mike said, "You're too kind."
A voice from the audience replied, "You're too good!"
Our thanks to the unknown fan for speaking for us all.

Joe Newberry and Alice Gerrard join Jim on "Leaving Home" ==>

Below, Jim and dad Dick Watson harmonize on "A Policeman's Lot is Not a Happy One"

Joe Newberry, Jim Watson, and Alice Gerrard
Dave Tilley
Check Dave Tilley's Bull City Cosmic Hoedown website for upcoming house concerts.
Thanks Dave!
From Dave Tilley's Bull City Cosmic Hoedown website...

       Last year we saw the release of Jim Watson's solo record Don't Tell Me, I Don't Know (on Chapel Hill's fine Barker Records label) which featured a who's who of local and nationally known players and lots of old friends of Jim's. These days it is rare to see Jim Watson in concert in these parts, as he is busy playing bass and singing with the hard-working, hard-touring Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group.

       This summer we saw the release of Mike Craver's new solo record Wagoner's Lad, a very ambitious songwriting project that Mike created and recorded on his own label (Sapsucker Records), which has received a lot of airplay from a number of stations (both big and small) all over North Carolina. Mike's new record and his debut performance of it at the North Carolina Museum of Art created quite a stir in the local papers. Mike has also been very active in several musical theatre projects recently, both inside and outside of North Carolina. These include: Bosh and Moonshine at the Gaiety Saloon, Radio Gals, and Jack Herrick's Bah Humbug!

       Red Clay Rambler fans, old-time and country music fans, and fans of great songwritng will all want to make it to this special concert featuring two of the area's favorites together again.
Tommy Thompson's daughter Jessie was at the show with hubby David Eustice

The mantel tribute to two favorite recordings
Meeting in the Air (Mike Craver, Jim Watson, and Tommy Thompson)
and Chuckin' the Frizz (Red Clay Ramblers)

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January 1, 2007