Now in their 40th year, the Tony Award-winning Red Clay Ramblers are a North Carolina string band whose repertoire reflects their roots in old-time mountain music, as well as bluegrass, country, rock, New Orleans jazz, gospel, and the American musical.
In 1993, the Irwin-Shiner-Ramblers hit Fool Moon on Broadway earned the Ramblers their second Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Music in a Play, and Fool Moon in Los Angeles set box-office records; Fool Moon went on to run abroad in Vienna and Munich, returned to Broadway for a second success in late 1995, and had a third Broadway run (Brooks Atkinson Theater, Nov. ’98-Jan. ’99). Fool Moon enjoyed a 5-week run at the Kennedy Center, DC, Feb.-Mar. ’99, and received a Special Tony Award, Gershwin Theater, New York, NY, on June 6th, 1999.
The Ramblers’ long association with music and theater also includes the original New York productions of Diamond Studs (1975) and Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind (1985). In 1988, the Red Clay Ramblers scored Mr. Shepard’s film Far North, and they perform and appear in his second feature, Silent Tongue (Tri-Mark, 1994). The Ramblers also scored Nick Searcy’s Paradise Falls [Best Feature Under $1M, Hollywood Film Festival, Aug. ’98].
The Ramblers have been guests numerous times on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and have appeared nationally with Jay Leno (NBC-TV “Tonight”), Harry Smith (CBS-TV “This Morning”) and Candice Bergen (ABC-TV “AM-America”). They have toured extensively in North America and in Europe, and have made four USIA concert tours, to eastern Europe, sub-Sahara Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. The Ramblers developed Kudzu: A Southern Musical, in collaboration with Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette, and staged the show at Duke in Durham, NC (Feb. ’98) and Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC (Mar.-June ’98).
Over the years, the Ramblers have performed with such figures as ’98 Grammy-winner Shawn Colvin (a Red Clay Rambler for most of ’87), Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Eugene Chadbourn, Ireland’s Boys of the Lough, Randy Newman (recorded “Ride, Gambler, Ride” with him for the film Maverick), and Michele Shocked (who brought the Eagles’ Bernie Leadon and a mobile studio to North Carolina to record with the Ramblers). All along, members of the Ramblers have been involved separately in diverse creative projects, including children’s works for the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and the celebratory Carolina musicals King Mackerel, Cool Spring, and Tar Heel Voices.
The Ramblers’ show Fool Moon ran at the Geary Theater, San Francisco (Summer ’01) and their musical Lone Star Love: or, the Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas ran at the Ohio Theater, Cleveland, (Fall ’01). Their album Yonder was released August ’01, and the Ramblers made a national radio appearance on Mountain Stage” (NPR) in 2002. They premiered Ramblin’ Suite with the Atlanta Ballet (Fall ’02); toured Rambleshoe nationally with Dayton’s Rhythm in Shoes (Spring ’03, Spring ’04); and released on CD the scores to both Rambleshoe and Kudzu.
The Ramblers’ ’04-’05 Off Broadway run of Lone Star Love earned Outstanding Musical nominations from both the Lucille Lortel Awards and the NY Outer Critics’ Circle, and the Original Cast Recording of the show was released January 2006 by PS Classics of New York. Their recording Fool Moon, the Music was released September 2007. The Red Clay Ramblers appeared with the North Carolina Symphony New Year’s Eve 2007, and “Carolina Jamboree,” their second ballet, launched by the Carolina Ballet in 2005, was reprised June 2008, and has been broadcast statewide numerous times over UNC Public Television.
The Daily Advance calls the Ramblers’ latest CD, Old North State (released October 2009), “North Carolina culture at its best.” Premier acoustic music station WNCW salutes The Red Clay Ramblers as “the house band of North Carolina.” All over North Carolina during 2010 and 2011, as well as from New York City to St. Louis to Vancouver Island, The Ramblers continue to carry the banner of string-band music far and wide, and with great joy and zest!