Frailin’ with Folk Legend Obrah Ramsey

Here’s a cool YouTube documentary on a banjo player named Obray Ramsey.

Obray Ramsey was a total boss on the banjo and a major player in the world of folk music. Born in North Carolina in 1926, he started playing the banjo at a young age and quickly developed a unique style that mixed traditional and contemporary elements. He spent his whole life playing and promoting the traditional music of the southern Appalachians, and his contributions to the genre were truly epic.

One of the coolest things about Ramsey’s playing is his use of the “frailing” technique. This technique, also known as “clawhammer” or “drop thumb” style, is characterized by the use of the back of the fingers and the thumb to strike the strings in a rhythmic pattern. Ramsey was a master of this technique and his playing was often described as powerful and dynamic.

Another key aspect of Ramsey’s playing was his use of dissonant tuning. Unlike many banjoists of his time who used traditional tuning, Ramsey often used alternative tunings that gave his music a unique and experimental sound. This technique was inspired by the music of the early 20th century banjo players such as Uncle Dave Macon and Dock Boggs, and it was one of the reasons why Ramsey’s music stood out from the rest.

Ramsey’s music was also deeply rooted in the traditional music of the southern Appalachians. He was a student of the old-time music and he was often seen playing alongside some of the most respected musicians of his time. He was also a passionate advocate for the preservation of traditional music, and he spent much of his life working to promote the music and culture of the southern Appalachians.

In the video, Ramsey is performing a tune called “John Brown’s Dream.” This tune is a traditional tune and Ramsey put his own spin on it. The tune is characterized by its driving rhythm and Ramsey’s masterful use of the frailing technique. It’s a great example of the unique sound that Ramsey was able to create with his playing.

Obray Ramsey passed away in 1992, but his music and legacy continue to live on. He was an important figure in the world of folk music and his contributions to the genre will be remembered for many years to come. He was a masterful musician and an important advocate for the preservation of traditional music. If you’re a fan of folk music, or just looking for something new to listen to, we highly recommend checking out Obray Ramsey’s work.

Two ways I can help you level up your fiddling

  1. Sign up for the FiddleHed newsletter below.
  2. Sign up for the Free Two-week Trial. You’ll get full access to all courses and group lessons. Plus, I’ll send you some free lessons tailored to your current skill level.

Thanks for being here 🙏


Read this post by guest blogger Jim Guinn: There’s No Time Like Old-time

Learn to play the opening tune: Groundhog – basic and Groundhog – Round Peak Variation

Check out more films about mountain music by David Hoffman.

Leave a Reply