In the early 1960’s, in the midst of the evolution of American Rock ‘n Roll and the British Invasion, a new and different kind of music arose on American college campuses which eventually became known as “folk music.” It may have been new in the sense of style and presentation, but in reality it was a re-emergence of an older, traditional, more authentic style of music that had been played in America and in Europe for centuries. In the early years, a host of different individuals and groups began to sing “folk music,” some of whom went on to great success while others are remembered slightly or not at all. Some of the more commercial groups included the Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, the Chad Mitchell Trio and the Limelighters, while more traditional performers included Ian and Sylvia, Tom Paxton, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Josh White, Cisco Houston and Huddie Ledbetter. Bob Dylan, of course, stands alone in a class by himself. Ultimately, folk music expanded to include country and bluegrass artists such as Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Doc Watson and a host of others.
As the music swept across the country, groups composed of college students began to appear on campuses and, in 1964 at Virginia Tech, four young men with a love for the music and who had all been members of H Company of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, formed a folk group they called “The Rake & Ramblin’ 4.” For the next several years, the four friends played at fraternity houses and “hootenannies,” civic clubs and parties throughout the area, including memorable stints at the Christiansburg Armory, Radford High School and the Radford Women’s Club. The group did not play for free, at least not all the time, but they were reasonable and often agreed to “pass the hat.” Sometimes, the hat had to be passed more than once. It was a splendid time.
The American folksinger Tom Russell wrote in one of his songs, “Sweet bird of youth, no easy keeper, flown with the seasons, all too soon.” Thus, in the mid to late 1960’s The Rake & Ramblin’ 4 graduated from Virginia Tech and went off across the country and throughout the world to serve in the military, work in commerce and raise families. While not together, they still retained their love for the music and still continued to play in various venues, with or without the hat.
Then, in October, 2001, the group re-united for the first time in 35 years. They sat down, picked up their instruments, and began to play and sing again, just as if the years had never intervened, just as if it had been 35 minutes, rather than 35 years. It all came back immediately. Owing to the joy of the music and the keenness of the friendship, the group has continued to gather from afar several times a year, to play the music for hours and days at a time, taking their song list from a wide variety of sources including country, bluegrass, western music and 60’s folk songs. Their patron saint is, of course, Canadian folk legend Ian Tyson.Modern Days
In March, 2008, the group reunited once again in south Florida and recorded a CD for posterity entitled, “The Rake & Ramblin’4 – The Florida Sessions.” To our great happiness, the recording session was managed by David Thomas, the son of our lead guitar player and banjoist, who is himself a musician of exceptionally high quality. Then, in 2011 the recording studio called once again, this time Mountain Fever Records in Willis, Virginia- to record our third (and we think best) CD we titled “Trilogy- Long Journey Home.” It is our hope that these CD’s will honor the music we played and the times we lived, that it will be a source of enjoyment and pleasure for you and that it will hearken back to the halcyon days of the mid-60’s, when our hearts were young, our spirits were soaring and our music was precious, fine and rare.
Today, the Rake & Ramblin’ 4 continues to play and perform the music of America’s roots. Long-time friend and pickin' partner Bill McAllister (H-65), adds his guitar and vocals as our 4th member.