Rick and The Ramblers Western Swing Band

NEWS & REVIEWS

Nominated “Best Western Swing Band” by Academy of Western Artists

Rick & The All Star Ramblers Western Swing Band has been named one of five finalists in the category of “Best Western Swing Duo Or Group” by the Academy of Western Artists. The winner will be revealed at the 18th Annual Academy of Western Artists Will Rogers Awards Ceremony which will be held in Dallas, Texas on March 29th.

The nominees for Top 5 Western Swing Duo or Group are: Al Dressen & Super Swing Review from Austin, TX; Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band of Burlington, VT; The Tulsa Playboys of Tulsa, OK: The Time Jumpers (with Vince Gill and Ranger Doug) from Nashville, TN and The Western Swing Authority from Waterloo, ON, Canada.

“We are thrilled to be included with these other fantastic nominees... what a terrific group of western swing artists! We are headed to Dallas in March to attend the awards ceremony, to listen to some great music, to meet the western swing community and to pass our CDs out like Chiclets,” said Rick Norcross, the Ramblers’ front man.

Fresh from a triumphant 2013 “Riding My Guitar Tour,” celebrating Rick’s 50 years in music and the release of a biography by noted Vermont author Stephen Russell Payne, Rick & The All-Star Ramblers were nominated for this award as a result of extensive airplay of their “Riding My Guitar” CD which is currently receiving heavy airplay on western swing radio around the world, thanks to internet programming.

Based in Gene Autry, Oklahoma, the Academy of Western Artists was formed almost 20 years ago to recognize and honor outstanding individuals who, through their accomplishments, preserve and perpetuate the traditions, values and heritage of the American Cowboy. The Academy of Western Artists is actively involved in the contemporary cowboy heritage movement giving recognition to those who excel at writing and performing traditional and contemporary western music and those who expand and refine the music of western swing. The Annual Academy of Western Artists Will Rogers Awards Ceremony was organized to help promote awareness of the depth and breadth of the movement as well as highlighting the year’s outstanding group and individual works.

Read the Hardwick Gazette Press Release, Feb. 12, 2014. ().

Read the Congressional Notes ().

What Did They Say About Rick & The All-Star Ramblers?

Jul 17, 2014
CD Review: Rick Norcross looks back … and ahead

If good marketing is a key to success in sales, then the new CD by Rick and the Ramblers has made a good start. While most CDs are sold in the jewel case format or the newer cardboard packaging, this product created for the “Welcome to Our Vermont” CD has a cover design based on a long out-of-print, early 1950s “Greetings From Vermont” postcard.

The album designer used a horizontally formatted “green wallet” DVD-sized fold-open case and it is very effective. Of course it’s also greatly oversized so it won’t fit in any CD holder I know of. But, in an era when CD sales are plummeting as streaming music and downloads from CD Baby and I-Tunes soar, any strategy to perk up physical product sales is welcome.

Marketing aside, the content has to match the cover. In this case there is a near perfect marriage of marketing and music. “Welcome to Our Vermont” is a 12-track album of Western swing with a very Vermont theme. While eight of the tracks have appeared on previous Ramblers albums, nearly all have a local subject matter.

I’m not sure the state and its Department of Tourism and Marketing wants to get into music sales promotion, but the concept here is so kitsch that it just might work. If New York has its “I Love New York” tourist marketing campaign, why not a “Welcome to Our Vermont” campaign?

This might just catch on, and with it give more value to Rick Norcross and his band. They are icons in the Vermont music scene, while he has become one of our venerable musical personalities.

Vermonters don’t often perform Western swing music. It’s not as “country” as country music and holds a relatively small niche in the music marketplace. That said, this band under Norcross’ guidance and tutelage has developed several excellent vocalists.

Along with Norcross, we have the jazz and standards singer Taryn Noelle, Josie Ritter and the very young Julia Shannon-Grillo. The band includes Charlie MacFadyen, Dono Schabner, Doug Reid, Dave Rowell and Brett Hoffman, and they play with authenticity. Apparently they are so good that the Academy of Western Artists, located in Oklahoma, nominated the Ramblers for its 18th -annual Will Rogers Award for “Best Western Swing Band.” While the Ramblers didn’t win, the recognition lends gravitas to the work they have done for several decades.

The music here comes mostly from previous albums, and as such is as much a band retrospective as a new release. It’s a really good way to familiarize yourself with Rambler music. The playing is lively, sung with conviction and written with a sense that even though the music is based on a jazz motif run through southwestern sensibilities, the words are very Vermont-centric and easily identifiable in terms of how we operate in New England.

The opening track, “Welcome to Our Vermont,” and track 10, “Hardwick 1961,” are especially welcome as new additions to the Ramblers’ musical catalog.

On the album are cuts such as the ode to famed Vermont folk artist Woody Jackson, “Paint It Like a Cow.” There are three “road” songs, “You’re In Heaven (Cruising Up Route 7),” “A Grill, a Bumper, Four Headlights and a $50 Bill” (as heard on National Public Radio’s Car Talk) and “I Heard the Highway,” the only non-Norcross tune. It was written by Vermonter and 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 Lake Champlain Steamboat Ticonderoga, moved two miles overland to the Shelburne Museum in 1955.

Norcross’ most requested song, “You Can’t Make It Up,” 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.

Norcross won a Times Argus-Rutland Herald Tammie Award last year for his contributions to the Vermont music catalog and as a music mentor to the state. This latest album, primarily a retrospective, contains many of his best tunes, several new songs, and a dandy cover. It seems to me that it would make a great gift to mail to former Vermonters stuck somewhere else, or to family and friends who live in less desirable places on the planet.
... Art Edelstein, Arts Correspondent, The Times Argus

Rick & The Ramblers, “Riding My Guitar”

In typical, gently swinging fashion, Norcross takes us from his humble beginnings in East Hardwick in 1963 to his time in Europe paling around with Paul Simon to his stint as a coffee house owner and rock photographer in Florida and back again to the Green Mountains. And here he’s become something of a local legend.

The album as a whole represents an absorbing and charming look at the life and times of one of Vermont’s musical treasures. And make no mistake, this is great music. Whether crooning in his warm, unadorned baritone or ceding vocal duries to the likes of Taryn Noelle and Dave Rowell, Norcross’ songs exude a winsome charm and sage modesty that makes his music not only likable and comfortingly familiar, but timeless.
.... Dan Bolles, Seven Days, “Review This” column

Rick Norcross Celebrates 50 Years As Vermont’s Country Star

Fifty years ago, Rick Norcross from East Hardwick, took his first baby steps as a professional musician. To celebrate this momentous professional achievement, Vermont’s gregarious Western Swing bandleader has released “Riding My Guitar” with his band, The Ramblers. It solidifies his place in Vermont’s pantheon of musical stars in the singing, playing, songwriting and production categories. Norcross, who contributes vocals, sharing the stage with Taryn Noelle and Dave Rowell, continues to lead a band that is as smooth as a frozen pond in January. With “Riding,”

Rick and The Ramblers continue a series of well recorded albums. The title track will fill you in on the highlights of Norcross’ surprisingly interesting life. Some music needs to be seen as well as heard and this band, with Norcross as a well-traveled and much admired leader, is one of the best. On record, it’s easy to see what makes the Ramblers a success. The instrumentation is right for the genre, the musicians play flawlessly and loosely and the singers each deliver their leads as if they hadn’t a care in the world. We don’t hear a lot of Western Swing music in Vermont. Rick Norcross and The Ramblers continue to define the New England take on this unique style of band music.
... Art Edelstein, Arts Correspondent, The Barre Times Argus

See the Times Argus Tammie Awards ().

“I have had the pleasure of promoting Rick Norcross and his music for twenty-five years. Rick & The Ramblers have performed with the WOKO banner behind them at Vermont State Parks, Block Parties, and a variety of Festivals including six times at the WOKO Country Club Music Festival, an event that regularly drew over 10,000 fans. Never has Rick disappointed a crowd! His unique brand of witty Vermont humor & Western Swing music keeps the audience smiling and asking for more. If you are looking for a showman and a tight band, look no further than Rick & The Ramblers!”
... Dan Dubonnet, Senior Vice President & General Manager, WOKO/WKOL/WBTZ/WIZN/WJOY (802)658-1230

“I’ve hired the talented Rick & The Ramblers to appear on numerous occasions on the Church Street Marketplace. With warm good humor, and much original as well as familiar music, Rick and his Ramblers are a ticket to a good time and a great performance. You’ll have a hard time staying in your seat when the music begins as it begs audience participation. The sound is a terrific blend of great harmonies, creative musicianship and amazing showmanship. When I hire this band I try to be sure to be in the audience myself for the whole performance. You’ll never meet a more accommodating or friendly guy than the leader of the band, Rick Norcross. Enjoy! I do!”
... Becky Cassidy, Marketing Consultant, The Church Street Marketplace (802)865-7253

“I am especially proud of your commitment to promoting the music of Vermonters. Like the Ticonderoga, it is very important to the culture and history of our state”
... Patrick Leahy, (VT-D) U.S. Senator, Washington, D.C.

“From the moment I heard the first notes of the fiddle and accordion, I liked Rick & The Ramblers new CD 'I Rode The Ti.' ...'I Rode The Ti' has become my new favorite CD to listen to on my way to work”
... Dawn Gustafson, The Hardwick Gazette

“...every song sounds like a classic... brilliantly produced... narratives that celebrate Vermont culture and history”
... John Pritchard, Seven Days

“This homey CD just screams 'Made in Vermont' thanks to songs celebrating the old Lake Champlain steamboat Ticonderoga and driving the entire length of the state on U.S. 7. Rick Norcross' weather-worn voice and vocalist Taryn Noelle's sweet sounds make for a nice opposites-attract pairing”
... Brent Hallenbeck, The Burlington Free Press

What The Papers Say About Rick & The Ramblers

You can download our reviews in pdf format ():

Rick's Poster & Review Archives ()

Cassette Album Covers

Visit our Cassette Album Cover Gallery

Rick's Pix

From 1969 to 1974, Rick covered the music scene for The Tampa Times, a Media General afternoon daily newspaper with a circulation of 80,000. Though he was hired as a reviewer and critic, he found that he needed to take his own photographs of the concerts he was covering to get the images necessary to accompany his stories. Here are some of the photographs he shot during those years. (Rick has many thousands of negatives from the hundreds of shows and festivals he covered over the five year period. We will scan and add more photos on a regular basis so check back often.

Visit Rick's Pix Gallery

Rick & The Ramblers launched a fund drive in July of 2008 with a “Homecoming Concert” in East Hardwick to raise funds to replace the crumbling Hardwick Town House Front Steps. The fund drive raised over $10,000 in less than six months. See the following stories, reviews and posters recounting that initiative:

You can download our reviews in pdf format ():

Click here to view the letter Rick received by the Governor.

Comments From The e-Mailbag

“Hi Rick, First, I want to say that you, in particular, have never sounded better than tonight. We loved all the music and your whole group. Taryn is so smooth and easy to listen to as was Dave and Julia. The sound in the House Chamber could not have been better. We really had intended to go down to say hi to Ken, Dave and all, but our representative, Diane Lanpher, wanted to show us around the statehouse so off we went. When we finished, you were packed up. Thanks for letting us know about this performance. It was GREAT! Please share our congratulations with the whole crew.”
... Larry & Connie Simino, Longtime Ramblers Followers, Addison, VT at the Vermont State House

“Hey Rick Great CD! Great song writing. Great singing. Great band. Your best yet! Nice work!!”
... Mark Struhsacer, longtime Vermont recording artist and guitar master flatpicker

“Hey Rick, Happy New Year to you my friend! I wanted to thank you for sending me your book and the CD. I haven’t had a chance to start reading it yet, but can’t wait to. I also wanted you to know how much I appreciate you and what you do. You are an inspiration to me to keep traveling the road I have chosen for my life. Thanks for just being who you are... A rare and special individual. Until the next time.....Peace and good wishes to you!”
... Jamie Lee Thurston, successful Nashville recording artist, songwriter & former Vermonter

“Dear Rick, I want to thank you for the great package of Rick & The Ramblers material you sent that we have been enjoying. Congratulations on 50 years of music and I hope the tour has been great. I am glad I got a glimpse of it on Church Street. PS - I am a huge fan of your accompanyist Julia!”
... Warmly, Miro Weinberger, Mayor of Burlington

“Damn, man! Your new album sounds great. Now THAT’S a Western Swing band, in a way that we were never able to achieve back in the day. Production, instrumentation, vocals, all on the money. Congratulations, and thanks for your kind words...I think we both have come a long way!”
... Best, Chip Wilson Nola, New Orleans Musician, Formerly of Burlington & The Ramblers (1989)

“Rick! Love the CD - like that’s a surprise! Attached is this week’s playlist (376th show - “The Way We’ve Always Done It”). Judging from the emails I get, I estimate that about half of our listeners are outside the U.S., so every time you’re on my playlist, you’re getting four plays a week worldwide! You guys are so good! If it turns up I wind up in Vermont, I’d sure like to see y’all live. I have no idea when this might happen, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye on your website to see what you’re up to. Big hugs!”
... Rowena Muldavin “All Things Country” Agoura, CA

“Hey, friends. Be warned this is an ad (sort of). My long-ago Tampa Times colleague and good friend Rick Norcross has a new album. Most of my journalism colleagues write books. Some even win Pulitizer prizes. (A nod to my seat-quadrant mates Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo). But few record music. Especially country. Rick’s songs are easy to listen to and funny. Rick produced one of the all-time-great scoops for the Tampa Times. When stories circulated that Paul McCartney was dead, Rick, made a few calls (to London) and wrote that Paul was alive. We were the first out with the story!!”
... Tom Raum, Associated Press, Washington, DC Bureau

“Your CD is Magnificent! Thank you very much. This Friday October 25, When The Cowboy Sings: Special - Best Songs Of Western Swing 2013 - Set List: Rick & The Ramblers - “The Best Things In Life Are Free”
... Miguel Angel Diaz Gonzalez “Rockin’ Therapy Radio” Madrid, Argentina and Austin, TX

“Hi Rick , I wanted to thank you for those nice compliments and thank you for such a great show! You got a great band there and you all sound soo good together. At least two people came up to me and said this was better than the main stage. Cool! Oh, when Taryn sings, I melt into a little puddle...what a nice sweet voice. If you get a bigger gig where you need the gear, please feel free to contact me as I would like to work with Ken and you all again.”
... Ezra J. Mulheron, MSR Pro Audio, Sound Engineer on Vermont Day at the “Big E”

“Rick & The Ramblers helped make the 103rd Chamber Annual Dinner a huge success. It was the first time the Chamber had a live band play during the cocktail reception and the feedback was fantastic. Folks liked the up-tempo music, the ability to dance if they wanted to and the general sense of fun and camaraderie that a Rick & The Ramblers show brings with it. The show was a “grand experiment” and I can say without any hesitation: “Mission Accomplished.”
... Tom Torti, President, Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce

Riding My Guitar: The Rick Norcross Story (June 14, 2013) Format: Paperback Amazon Verified Purchase

“I knew Rick Norcross in the 1960’s when he owned and ran The Eighteenth String Coffee House & Music Emporium. Chapter Seven of this book titled “Welcome to Tampa” is the best description of those days (the days of the troubadours) I have ever read. This chapter captures everything just as it was. It was a “Portion of Tyme” that will never happen again and we were all so fortunate to have been part of it. I agree with Panama Red who says, “Rick Norcross was a pivotal character in my life...” If you are at all interested in the life of someone who encouraged and nourished singers and musicians in the 60’s who is still doing that now, you will enjoy this book. He really likes getting to know and performing with all kinds of musicians and singers. His mind works constantly to make things go well for the audience and the people he performs with. Rick is still making musical opportunities available with an open mind and heart.
As someone who performed at The Eighteenth String in Tampa on an ongoing basis, I thought I knew Rick Norcross fairly well. The more I read “Riding My Guitar,” I discovered I really didn’t know much about him at all. After completing the book I now appreciate Rick more than I ever did. He personifies the description of the struggling musician. Life wasn’t easy for him during that period of time but he worked hard and made an impression on many people. I really love the whole book but the chapters about the time period in 1960’s Florida are my favorite part.
If you’re from Vermont you’ll enjoy the history and feeling of the book too. I think anyone who loves the music of a troubadour will really love this book. All I can say is a good time was had by all and you’ll have a good time reading “Riding My Guitar - The Rick Norcross Story.”

... Kathleen L. Gill, Melbourne, Florida

“I was browsing at Phoenix Bookstore with my granddaughter this past weekend and came upon your book. I’m having to deliberately hold back on reading as fast as I usually do. It is such fun, I want to make it last as long as I can. This is such a fantastic book, that even if I didn’t know you, I would love it. Your story is so funny, real and downright amazing that I can’t believe it myself. Stephen did a wonderful job....it is so well written...and, in a way that narrates your life with just the right voice and tenor. I love it, love it, love it! The car stories are unbelievable and I can’t wait to read a few of them to Bob. He loves those old cars. All I can say is that this is a fitting tribute to you at this time in your life and career. And I am delighted to have had my moment in the sun of your life.”
... Holly Miller, Burlington, VT

“Wonderful Story About A Fascinating Man” (August 24, 2013) Format: Kindle Edition Amazon Verified Purchase

“Rick Norcross may not be as famous a songwriter/performer as (say) Bob Dylan, but he is just as enduring. Stephen Russell Payne captures this fascinating man in a very well written and fun-to-read way. Norcross is a great example of someone who succeeds no matter what, always finding a way to keep going no matter what the adversity. A must read for anybody interested in folk / country / western music, anybody from or interested in Vermont or anybody who wants to learn the toughness and imagination it takes to pick a career and stick to it because you love it, no matter how many bumps in the road.”
... Bob H, Burlington, VT

“Hi Rick! I did something which I hope you will not mind. I hated the way your Pete Seeger experience ended, so I sent him a copy of your book with that story page noted and a note explaining that you didn’t know I was writing him; but that if he read the story he might see that there was a misunderstanding and assumption which left you feeling horrible, and that a conciliatory word from him might be well received by you. I thought he or his handlers would look you up on the internet, but he replied to me in the accompanying post card (attachment). He apologizes to you, and appears to remember the incident. I hope you’re well. I’m quite enjoying your album. You haven’t lost your ability to write clever songs at all!”
... Take Care, Rob

Seegar Postcard

A Quote From The Pages Of “Riding My Guitar - The Rick Norcross Story”

“I’m a songwriter, pride myself on it and do it well. But I’m like tunnel vision, compared to Rick, who always has a sense of the bigger picture. He can do it all - he plays, performs, produces and writes great material. Especially his old Vermont-type songs. He could write with anybody in Nashville - he’s that good. And he has encyclopedic knowledge of Vermont history which he blends into everything he does.”
... LeRoy Preston, Founding Member of Asleep At The Wheel and Rick’s All-time Favorite Songwriter

I used our chat as an opportunity to listen to “I Rode the Ti”, which I did yesterday. I loved it, I think the “I Rode the Ti” song was a particularly wonderful piece but really all of it was just terrific, not just the lyrics but the quality of the music. I am sure we will want to carry some of these here in our store.
... Best regards, Arthur B. Cohn, Executive Director, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

I do an Americana show on Saturday nights from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm on WRUW FM 91.1 Cleveland. Last Saturday night, I discovered and played your wonderful song “You're Gonna Get Hurt” on an Oasis Country CD. Can you send me a copy of your CD “I Rode the Ti”? I'll be sure to give you more airplay. Thanks so much -
... Art Hanson, www.radioartonline.com

I'm trying to obtain a copy of your “I Rode The Ti” cd for review - can you help? I'm currently editing, and regularly contributing to Leicester Bangs zine, and supplying the occasional review for Bucketfull Of Brains (one of the longest established UK zines, founded in 1979, I think).
... Thank you, Rob Forbes, www.leicesterbangs.co.uk

The postman delivered the CD this afternoon and I gave it a listen. I've enjoyed all of it, and I'm going to write nice reviews later this afternoon but don't expect a publication before Spring, for some of the mags I contribute to aren't monthly (one is, another is bi-monthly, three are quarterly), and as the editors must keep a balance between their contributors (I sent more than 85 reviews in 2005, more than 300 in 2006, 293 in 2007, more than 290 last year). I'll e-mail copies of the reviews upon receiving the mags, don't worry about that.
... Bernard Boyat, Bourg-en-Bresse, France

Thanks for all your great music! ps. I love the photos!
... Best, Jackie Sauter, Director, North Country Public Radio

I'm a French speaking from Québec, Canada. The last summer, during the Fourth of July in Montpelier, my wife and me have passed a very pleasant moment with your band, on the grass, under the rain... Poetic! I love your music and can I command a CD (I will pay in cash). So, how much with the shipping fees to Alma, Québec, Canada? Thanks, God Bless!
... Marc Fournier

Say Rick, Forgive me for taking so long to write and say that I really enjoyed your latest musical milestone, “I Rode The Ti”, and thank you for sending it to me. I really enjoyed the music, and never fail to be impressed with the way you use words. From lyrics to promotion, you're a master wordsmith my friend. It's a real toe tapper for sure.
... Frank Ross, former Executive Director, The Florida State Fair

Hi, Rick! It's Johanna Prince. I just loved your new CD, I Rode the Ti, and would like to know how I could purchase two more for friends that I know will love it too. I could mail you a check or whatever. Please let me know. Thank you, and take care...

Hey Rambler; Thought you might be interested in knowing that North Country Public Radio just played my favorite song today at 4:40 PM!! “I Rode The Ti” and It sounded great!
... Steven Frederick, Vice President, Clinton Community College

Hi Rick, Was away for a few days and upon return found your CD waiting. Really enjoyed listening to your latest songs . Although your material and style has changed over the many years I've known you - your voice is still the same - warm with the lovely mellow vibrato and unmistakably YOU. Surrounded by some super musicians and very well recorded, your CD should market well.
... Love and best wishes Derek Sarjeant, singer and folk club organizer, England

Hi Rick, I received your new “I Rode The TI” CD today and listened to it immediately. Now I must admit that I am not a big country or western fan, but I really did enjoy it! You have a new fan in Albany NY. I'll be sharing it with my friends and co-workers down here and hopefully helping to sell some for you. It had special meaning for me of course being from VT and Hardwick. I also spent 6 years in Middlebury driving on Route 7. I definitely understood and feel the same about VT. I like Albany, NY and am making a good living down here, but Hardwick, VT will always be home. Most people would not understand being raised in a small town and small state, but I truly believe we are better people as a result. I want to thank you for remembering me and sending me this (CD). This is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Friends doing things for each other because they can and want to. I will check out your website and schedule as I hope to attend some of your concerts.
... Thank you again, John Bellavance

My kids and I love your CD! Thank you for sharing. I would love to see your group play live sometime.
... Karyn Vogel, Director of Development, Snelling Center for Government

Hi Rick: Received the final copy of the CD, many thanx. We have enjoyed playing the demo since we first heard your group back in June. I especially like the booklet enclosed with the CD with the lyrics to the songs. Best of luck in the future.
... Regards, Ray Laverty, Collectors Association, Mount Joy, PA