Rick and The Ramblers Western Swing Band

Rick & The Ramblers Western Swing Band:

Rick Norcross - Vocals & Rhythm Guitar
Taryn Noelle - Vocalist
Julia Shannon-Grillo - Vocals
Josie Ritter - Vocalist
Charlie MacFadyen - Piano, Accordion & Lap Steel Guitar
Doug Reid - Fiddle
Dono Schabner - Lead Guitar
Dave Rowell - Vocals & Bass Guitar
Brett Hoffman - Drums
Ken Grillo - Sound & Road Manager

See our Photo Archives

Check out our Concert Schedule

What’s New With Rick & The All-Star Ramblers?

Airflyte Records announces the early Summer release of “Welcome To OUR Vermont,” a dozen song CD compilation of slightly off-center tunes that paint a musical picture of a Vermont seen through the eyes of Rick Norcross, one of Vermont’s most beloved touring artists, backed by his longtime stellar nine piece group, Rick & The-All Star Ramblers Western Swing Band. The songs are sometimes wacky, often hilarious and always infused with his heartfelt love of the Green Mountain State shining brightly through.

Fresh from a triumphant 2013 “Riding My Guitar Tour,” celebrating 50 years in music, Rick Norcross has responded to the call of his many fans asking for a new CD made up entirely of the best of his Vermont story songs. “Welcome To OUR Vermont” answers that call with 10 of his most requested songs, remastered and updated, along with the added bonus of two brand new Vermont songs written especially for this project, “Welcome To Vermont” and “Take Me Back To Hardwick”

Hear the Ode to famed Vermont folk artist Woody Jackson, “Paint It Like A Cow,” three “road” songs, “You’re In Heaven (Cruising Up Route 7),” “A Grill, A Bumper, Four Headlights & A $50 Bill” (as heard on National Public Radio’s Car Talk) and “I Heard The Highway,” the only non-Norcross tune, written by Vermonter, Asleep At The Wheel founding member and mentor, LeRoy Preston. Vermont history comes alive in “You Can’t Get There From Here,” Vermont’s “official” Bicentennial song, and “I Rode The Ti,” the story of the magnificent Lake Champlain Steamboat Ticonderoga, moved two miles overland to the Shelburne Museum in 1955. Rick Norcross was on the last voyage in November of 1954 at nine years of age and in 1998 was asked to produce The Ticonderoga Party, the festival celebrating the unveiling of the McClure Restoration of the Ti at the Shelburne Museum, attended by over 7,000 people.

And two of his best songs tell the story of leaving home to understand the value and meaning of life in Vermont, “What Goes Around” and “Riding My Guitar.” His most requested song, “You Can’t Make It Up,” perfectly relives the experience of buying a formaldehyde-infused corsage at Harold Holcomb’s Funeral Home in Hardwick, the only flower shop in town, for a date to the 1962 Hardwick Academy Junior Prom.

The “Welcome To OUR Vermont” CD cover design is based on a long out-of-print, early 50s “Greetings From Vermont” postcard. Utilizing a horizontally formatted “green wallet” DVD-sized fold-open case, the “Welcome To OUR Vermont” Postcard design will be displayed on the outside and inside, a tourist-centric invitation for all to visit “Our Vermont” in all her glory, complete with a schedule of Rick & The-All Star Ramblers shows, marked on a map of Vermont with the logos of tour sponsors. The rear of the cover package will duplicate the back of a ‘50s postcard and will allow the CD to be addressed and mailed as if it were an actual postcard.

The “Welcome To OUR Vermont” CD graphic will be applied to the sides of the Ramblers equipment trailer, “The Workin’ Gherkin,” which is always towed behind “The Pickle,” their 1957 Flxible Starliner tour bus.

Airflyte Records will distribute the “Welcome To OUR Vermont” CD through traditional Vermont music outlets and, with the cooperation of tour sponsors, WOKO and the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, at welcome centers on I-89 at Williston (both north and southbound), Burlington Waterfront and Burlington Airport locations. Every venue on the “Welcome To OUR Vermont” Tour of the region will be provided with 25 “Welcome To OUR Vermont” CDs to promote Rick & The-All Star Ramblers Western Swing Band’s concert appearances.

The new “Welcome To OUR Vermont” CD will be released and distributed by Airflyte Records in late May and will be available at over a dozen Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band concerts, in stores throughout Vermont and on-line at iTunes, CD Baby and direct from the band web site at www.rickandtheramblers.com.

A Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band performance is a high energy, entertaining and danceable trip back to a Vermont of a simpler, more musical day. A time of live radio, touring musical revues and family values. A Rambler show is fraught with Vermont-grown original music, classic western swing chestnuts and top-notch musicianship. Each of the Ramblers is an excellent musician in his or her own right. Together Rick & The Ramblers deliver an exceptional musical experience, loaded with laughs, musical memories, surprises and sweet harmonies.

Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band travel the region in “The Pickle,” an attention-grabbing 1957 Flxible Starliner tour bus in the style of early western swing legends like Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys. The Pickle enjoyed a fan-financed, 13 month major restoration over the past two years, thanks to donations from more than 125 “Pickle People” from all over the world under the auspices of Bear Bessete in Hardwick, Vermont. See the Pickle Page for details about the “Preserve The Pickle” restoration project and the resulting photographs.

Over the past 15 years, in addition to being the Rambler’s Tour Bus, The Pickle has appeared in a Jennifer Love Hewitt ABC-TV bio-pic about the life of Audrey Hepburn and in an MTV pilot called “Live Through This.” Former Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle commandeered the bus and Rick for a tour of the entire State of Vermont during his 2004 gubernatorial campaign, visiting over 60 towns in all 14 counties in just one week. The whirlwind tour included a trip over Lincoln Gap in the Starliner which gave the old timers at the Lincoln General Store quite a start.

Rick & The All-Star Ramblers 2014 Welcome To OUR Vermont Tour is sponsored by their good friends at 98.9WOKO, who have sponsored Rick & The Ramblers Western Swing Band for 27 consecutive years supported by an aggressive promotional campaign on Vermont’s number one Arbitron-rated radio station! Their 2014 Family of Sponsors also includes North Country Federal Credit Union, REM Development, The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dona’s Car Store in Hardwick, Johnson Woolen Mills and their newest sponsors, The Hotel Vermont & WCAX Television, Vermont’s CBS affiliate.

Rick Norcross - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar

Here’s what Rick has to say about the amazing past year of performances, celebrating his 50th year in the music biz and garnering the “Best Wesern Swing Band” nomination from the Academy of Western Artists in Gene Autry, Oklahoma.

“Well, we did it. What an amazing year Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band has enjoyed! We played 18 “Riding My Guitar” concerts all around northern & central Vermont, including Vermont Day at the “Big E” in West Springfield, MA, New England’s largest fair attended that day by over 150,000. Two of our shows, at events I played 50 years ago, four shows, I played over 25 years ago and seven shows we played for the first time this year. Three shows were played with all the musicians from the “Riding My Guitar” recording sessions, 10 Ramblers strong. What a blast that was! We recorded and released the best collection of songs we ever put together. Our CD has received great reviews and thanks to the internet, is getting airplay all over the world.

Stephen Russell Payne’s terrific biography, “Riding My Guitar - The Rick Norcross Story,” written over the past three years, brought our music to a whole new audience. The fine restoration of my 1974 D-45 guitar by Dave Nichols of Custom Pearl Inlay in Waddington, NY was the perfect start to the celebration which reached an amazing high note with the nearly-finished restoration of our 1957 Flxible Starliner tour bus, “The Pickle,” by Hardwick’s Bear Bessette, the icing on the anniversary cake. I extend my Sincere & Heartfelt Thanks to all the Musicians, Friends, Fans, Sponsors, Studio Wizards and Media Folks!”

Rick Norcross, longtime leader of Vermont’s premier western swing band, Rick & The All-Star Ramblers, performs mostly original songs about life in Vermont set smoothly into the western swing style of music. Many of his songs are lighthearted snapshots of a lost Vermont. A third generation graduate of Hardwick Academy, Class of ‘63, Norcross began his career performing at The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe as a “folk singer,” today called a singer/songwriter, for 17 years playing mostly humorous songs, first around northern Vermont before moving on to perform at major folk venues like The Unicorn in Boston and The Gaslight in New York City.

In June of 1965, he boarded the ocean liner “Empress of England” out of Montreal, and headed for London where he performed for nearly a year in folk clubs all over England under the auspices of London City Agency (who also handled one other American folk singer, Paul Simon). Norcross was “Master of Ceremonies” at Paul Simon’s “Going Away Party” at Les Cousins in London in February of 1966. He returned for three more British tours playing over 60 folk clubs into 1974 when he began working Summers out of Burlington and Winters out of Tampa, Florida for the next 20 years.

When the “Great Folk Scare of the 60s” receded, Norcross turned to performing in band configurations, continuing to play many of his own songs in a western swing genre, a natural extension of his favorite music, combining folk, country, swing, blues and jazz in a dancable, up-tempo, audience-friendly sound.

Fronting his longtime nine piece group, Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band, Norcross has performed many hundreds of shows around the region over the years including 59 concerts in Vermont State Parks over the past 13 years, 14 First Night Burlington shows, six appearances at the WOKO Country Club Music Festivals at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds, four performances on Vermont Day at the Eastern States Expositon and 23 times prior to Vermont’s largest fireworks show on Burlington’s Waterfront on the 3rd of July.

In May of 2010, Rick was invited to perform a solo 10-day tour of British folk clubs in Murcia, Spain by an old friend who booked him into folk clubs in England back in the 60s. The experience rekindled his love of playing folk venues. He has since performed at house concerts, Vermont History Expo, The Music Box, The Palmer Street Coffeehouse, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and at the UU Dome in Tampa, Florida.

Rick & The All-Star Ramblers perform mainly at outdoor fairs, festivals and special events during the Summer and Fall out of Burlington, Vermont and Rick performs at smaller folk-oriented venues durng the Winter season.

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Taryn Noelle - Vocals

Vocalist Taryn Noelle is the Ramblers’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Taryn was invited to join the Ramblers eight years ago to bring her sultry voice, her commanding stage presence and her audience-melting smile to our stages. She is featured on four terrific songs on the award-winning “Riding My Guitar” CD, “Back In Baby’s Arms,” “Wurlitzer Prize,” “The Best Things In Life Are Free” and “Full Moon Full Of Love” and is gaining a growing legion of fans who just love to hear her sing.

“Luminous, Evocative, Poignant and Soulful” are words spoken about this talented young singer, actress, dancer and choreographer. Originally from Toronto, Taryn has studied dance, theatre and voice with acclaimed New York and Vermont vocal teacher Bill Reed and at the renowned Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York City. After years of playing leading roles in American Musical Theatre, she returned to Vermont to focus on her love of singing, playing on her considerable talent as a jazz and cabaret vocalist. In addition to her veelvet-smooth vocalist performances, she also works locally and regionally as a dance teacher, choreographer and stage and film actor. She was showered with rave reviews for her recent lead performance as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” at the University of Vermont’s Royal Tyler Theater. Some favorite onstage roles to date have been; Grace in Vermont Stage Company’s production of Opus and as Dominique in The Skinner Barn’s production of Lucky Stiff.

Taryn has recorded two of her own jazz CDs and, in addition to her starring position with the Ramblers and frequently performs with the very fab jazz vocal trio, The Blue Gardenias. Rambler Taryn Noelle is simply... Terrific.

Learn more about Taryn by visiting her Web Site: www.tarynnoelle.com

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Doug Reid

Julia Shannon-Grillo

Julia Shannon-Grillo, a vocalist with Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band, is the yougest member of the band at 11 years of age. Julia has been singing with the band for the past five years and is the daughter of Joan Shannon, President of the Burlington City Council in Vermont’s largest city.

Julia is the featured vocalist on a special song on the “Riding My Guitar” CD about dealing with the gridlock shutdown of Congress called “I Don’t Want To Play With You Any More.” The song puts the situation into proper perspective presented in playground language and was written for Julia by Rick Norcross on April Fool’s Day, 2013 and recorded in mid-April at Lane Gibson Recording & Mastering Studio in Charlotte, Vermont. It was the last song recorded for the “Riding My Guitar” CD sessions and it has proven to be a big hit with audiences every time Julia performs the song on Rick & The All Star Ramblers concert dates. And Julia sings several Patsy Cline songs on the shows, much to the delight of her many fans, including Miro Weinberg, Mayor of Burlington.

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Charlie MacFadyen

Josie Ritter

Josie came to the Ramblers back in 2009 when she was invited to help out the Ramblers as a vocalist sub at Vermont Day at the Big E in West Springfirld, MA. Josie has a great ear and a terrific voice to match and it was a delight to have her on the stage with us, if only as a substitute performer. When the “Riding My Guitar” project was in the planning stages, Josie was invited to sing harmonies on the sessions and after the CD release show, just continued on with the band for the entire season on Rick’s 50th anniversary tour last Summer.

Josie is a member of the popular band, Mango Jam and so far has been able to sing with both bands, as the schedules have allowed. She loves western swing music and has the style down perfectly, as her performances prove. Josie lives in Sudbury, Vermont and is our token southerner.

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Charlie MacFadyen - Piano, Accordion & Lap Steel

In the tradition of the late, great Light Crust Doughboys piano player Knocky Parker, Charlie MacFadyen is the musical backbone of Rick & The Rambers. Whether he’s building the energy with his masterful piano playing, his western accordion moves and now, his 1950s lap steel guitar, Charlie gets the Rambers and the audience swinging. Charlie is a gifted musical arranger and was the guiding hand on all the arrangements on the “Riding My Guitar" CD as well as co-writing with Rick ,“Don’t Make Me Beg,” one of the standout tunes on the new CD.

He was educated at Oberlin College (math & music) and formerly was the piano player for the Burlington rockabilly and swing band Buck & the Black Cats. Originally from New York, Charlie has lived in Burlington since 1992 and by day is a high school math teacher and techie at CVU in Hinesburg. Besides holding down the stage right position on the Ramblers’ team, Charlie plays accordion with the jazz group Trio Gusto.

He prefers the old-fashioned swing, boogie and honky-tonk piano styles in the tradition of Moon Mullican and Al Stricklin which fits the sound of the Ramblers like a sequined glove. Charlie also created the swinging arrangements on the Ramblers “I Rode The Ti” CD project.

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Doug Reid - Fiddle

As the Charlie Daniels song says, “:Ya Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band,” and the Ramblers have that position covered in high style with Rambler Doug Reid, the King of the Double Stop style of fiddle. Doug keeps the Ramblers swinging with his impeccable rhythm and his traditional western swing-influenced style of fiddling. Doug started violin lessons at fourteen when was listening to jazz/swing master Stephane Grappelli. Doug says he’s excited to be at the stage in his career when he can devote himself to the finer points of this lyrical style. Classically trained, he spent many years as a touring side man in country & western bands out of Southern California, Austin, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. He has opened for many major acts in country music. While living in Texas, he studied jazz and composition at North Texas State University and played with several of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, including Joe Holley and Johnny Gimble.

Doug spent seven years as a feature performer on the Jim Stafford Show, in Branson, Missouri, where he was alternately comedy writer, arranger, Music Director, and head of Special Effects. Doug performed with the Paris Swing Orchestra of New York for four years at the annual Bastille Day Celebration on 60th Street. He returned home to Vermont in 1999 and currently resides in Wheelock in the Northeast Kingdom where he was recently elected Town Clerk.

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Buck Maynard

Dono Schabner - Lead Guitar

Welcome aboard to our newest Rambler, Dono Schabner who has rejoined to take the lead guitar position on the Rambler team. Without missing a beat, the Ramblers will play on with a terrific guitarist who already knows the material from his former years as a Rambler and his sterling performances on our two recent CD projects. We’re thrilled to have Dono back on our stage. Dono Schabner is one of those rare musicians who can play any style of music without breakng a sweat.

Maybe it’s because he started playing guitar at the age of 12 in Italian weddings bands in his Long Island hometown. Maybe it’s because he has a wicked good ear and the fingers to make it happen. Maybe it’s that beautiful vintage Gibson hollow-body guitar he has been bringing to gigs lately. Whatever it is, it sure works like a well-oiled, soulful music machine on the Rambler stages when his solos come around!

Dono lives in Morrisville and works in the Northeast Kingdom as an educational techie between musical gigs with a variety of Vermont musicians.

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Dave Rowell - Vocals & Bass Guitar

By day, an unassuming account executive with Morrisville country music station WLVB, a successful north country realtor and a spirited country auctioneer. By night and onstage... one wicked talented bass player and spot-on lead and harmony vocalist. Dave Rowell brings more than 20 years experience as a longtime member of one of Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom’s favorite traditional country bands, the WDEV Radio Rangers. The WDEV Radio Rangers have performed on the air every Saturday morning at 10:30 on WDEV since 1986 and are a favorite at community events all over the region.

Dave hails from East Craftsbury where his musical roots run deep. His family founded the Craftsbury Chamber Players over 40 years ago and his sister Mary is Concertmaster at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and occasionally tours with Cheryl Crow. Dave brings a love of real country music to the table and knows more songs than an iPod Classic. He has quickly become a favorite vocalist on Rambler shows with his smooth as silk delivery in addition to holding down the bass position in the rhythm section.

Dave is featured singing two songs on the recent “Riding My Guutar” CD, “Don’t Make Me Beg” and “Walking Around Money,” tunes written for him especially by Rambler Rick for the recording sessions.

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Brett Hoffman - Drums

A grateful denizen of Newark, deep in the Northeast Kingdom, Brett has been a drummer since 1964, when he first picked up sticks to emulate his favorite timekeepers of the British Invasion.

Brett took a ride five years ago on the Rambler tour bus, affectionately known as “The Pickle,” as a sub drummer for a concert at Lake St. Catherine State Park in Poultney just below Rutland. It wasn’t just the color of his drum kit (turquoise) or his jovial nature that immediately endeared him to the Ramblers, it was his rock-solid drum style and innate feel for the western swing genre that made him such a delight. Brett expressed an interest in playing with the Ramblers and when an opening appeared shortly thereafter, he was immediately drafted to ride The Pickle as a full time Rambler.

On hearing Hoagy Carmichael’s famous song, “Moonlight In Vermont”, Brett took the title as career advice, and so today you’ll find him also making music with the Dave Keller Band and Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band.

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