Banjo too
.... everything you ever
wanted to know about
The Southern Ramblers

The "Southern Ramblers" were a very popular U.K. Bluegrass band performing, with numerous changes in personnel, from about 1965 to 1978.

When I first started playing country music in public, way back around 1965, I came across an ad. in "Melody Maker" for a group called "Anita & the Bluegrass Boys". So Gerry Francis & I took ourselves off to a pub in Dalston (North London) had a very entertaining evening, played a few songs ourselves and met a great bunch of guys. The line-up at that time was Anita, who, if I remember correctly, played fiddle and her husband Stan Blacker (Banjo), Andy Grant (guitar), Dave Jones (autoharp), John Harty (mandolin) and Mike Hibbs (bass).

Andy Grant, Dave Jones, Anita Blacker, John Harty, Mike Hibbs & Stan Blacker
Photograph: courtesy of the Graham Dyer Collection ©

I did remember correctly and Graham Dyer tells me that Anita sported flying boots, which as everybody knows, is what all professional female fiddle player wear (and perhaps someone should drop a hint to Alison Krauss).

I don't recall ever seeing Anita again and the next time I saw the band, Graham Dyer had replaced Stan on the banjo and they were called "The Southern Ramblers" and occasionally and mistakenly I might add, as "The Southern Railway", not to be confused with THE Southern Railway.

Standing: Mike Hibbs, Graham Dyer & John Harty
Grovelling: Dave Jones & Andy Grant
Photograph: courtesy of the Graham Dyer Collection ©

Graham was quite amazing - the band played "Buckin' Mule" and he picked the main part but frailed the bridge - with his picks on. When I tried it, my picks flew off in every direction.

But I digress.....

Over the next few years I went through a whole bunch of bands, meeting various members of the "Ramblers" along the way as the personnel changed.
The next version of the Ramblers produced Ced Thorose - vocalist, guitarist, fiddler & Dobro player and Gerry Rolfe on banjo. Gerry was later replaced by Keith Nelson from the other side of the pond, who was one of the most innovative pickers on the scene at that time.

Left to right:
Ced Thorose, Mike Hibbs, John Harty, Gerry Rolfe & Andy Grant
Photograph: courtesy of the Graham Dyer Collection ©

Keith Nelson fronting the band.
Photograph: courtesy of Mike Mayhew ©

Phillips album "Bluegrass"

The next drastic upheaval saw the introduction of John Boswell, vocalist & guitarist and on banjo, Rick Adams from Australia..

Andy Grant, Mike Hibbs, John Boswell, John Harty & Rick Adams ....... and their album "Country Roads"
Photograph: courtesy of the Graham Dyer Collection ©

After John Harty & Andy Grant left for Australia, John Allam joined up (mandolin, banjo, Dobro & vocals) and the only original band member left was Mike Hibbs.

John Boswell, Mike Hibbs, John Allam & Rick Adams
and their album "Testerday's Gone"

The band in it's many incarnations made several recordings for Philips and Westwood, the last album being "Yesterday's Gone" on the "Sweet Folk All" label and frequently appeared on BBC Radio's "Cellar Full Of Folk", "Country Style", "Country Meets Folk" and "Night Ride". As well as this, they/we appeared at such prestigious events as The Cambridge Folk Festival and The Folk Voice and National Country Music Festivals at Cecil Sharp House and Islington Town Hall.

Mick French, Lynn Lewis, Mike Hibbs & John Allam
From our flyer.

At this point Rick Adams returned to Australia taking John Boswelll with him, so....

.... guess what? Mick French and yours truly, both of us having played together for a about three years in the Clay County Travellers, were asked to join the Southern Ramblers. This was a major overhaul for the band as all of the previous vocalists had left. Mick and I handled the vocals with the addition of John Allam's screaming high tenor voice and so we got underway for a couple of years with no more changes. The recordings below are from this period.

Left to right: Mick French, Lynn Lewis, Mike Hibbs & John Allam
First performance of this combination at Greenich Town Hall
Photograph: Local Newspaper - Lynn Lewis archives

Then the changes started again. Mike Hibbs, tired of commuting from South East London to North West London everyday, moved down to Southampton where he played with "The Southern Gentlemen". He was replaced by the guy who was to become everybody's preferred Bluegrass bass player in the U.K. - Dave Hatfield, with whom I'd played in "High Country". Then Mick French decided to leave and was replaced on fiddle by Canadian Bob Winquist. This combination was short lived as I then decided to go to Israel and as far as I am aware, that was the end of the Southern Ramblers.

If you know if the band has been revived I'd be happy to hear from you, as I would if you know of the whereabouts of any of the above mentioned personnel.

..... and if you happen to have any photographs of the band or its members that you could scan and send me I would be very glad to have them and would of course include credits for them.



Banjo too
The music of
The Southern Ramblers

These particular recordings, from about 1975, were never made into a record. I've assembled them into an album entitled "The Last Album" which seemed appropriate.

Mick FrenchFiddle, Mandolin, Lead and Tenor Vocals
Lynn LewisGuitar, Lead and Baritone Vocals
John AllamBanjo, Dobro, Tenor and "High Baritone" Vocals
Mike HibbsBass Fiddle
Switch speakers on to hear music.
01. Eight More Miles to Louisville
02. Sweet Moments
03. I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby
04. Joshua
05. It's a Lonesome Feeling
06. Some of Shelley's Blues
07. Cutting the Grass
08. Rocky Top
09. Casey's Last Ride
10. High Country
The Southern Ramblers

Picture by Mike Hibbs (c) - All rights reserved


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