New Lost City Ramblers

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New Lost City Ramblers
OriginNew York City, New York, United States
GenresOld-time, folk
Years active1958–present
Past membersMike Seeger
John Cohen
Tom Paley
Tracy Schwarz

The New Lost City Ramblers, or NLCR, is a contemporary old-time string band that formed in New York City in 1958 during the Folk Revival. Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley were its founding members. Tracy Schwarz replaced Paley, who left the group in 1962. [1] Seeger died of cancer in 2009,[2] and Paley died in 2017. NLCR participated in the old-time music revival, and continued to directly influence many later musicians.


The Ramblers distinguished themselves by focusing on the traditional playing styles they heard on old 78rpm records of musicians recorded during the 1920s and 1930s, many of whom had earlier appeared on the Anthology of American Folk Music. The New Lost City Ramblers refused to "sanitize" these southern sounds as did other folk groups of the time, such as the Weavers or Kingston Trio. Instead, the Ramblers have always strived for an authentic sound.[3] However, the Ramblers did not merely copy the old recordings that inspired them. Rather, they would use the various old-time styles they encountered while at the same time not becoming slaves to imitation.

On Songs From the Depression, the New Lost City Ramblers performed a variety of popular political songs from the New Deal days, all but one of them taken from commercially issued 78s, and that one is "Keep Moving," identified in the album notes only as "from Tony Schwartz's collection — singer unidentified" [4] when actually it is by Agnes "Sis" Cunningham, the full title being "How Can You Keep On Moving (Unless You Migrate Too)." The omission later caused Ry Cooder, who listened to the Ramblers album, to record the song as Traditional on the first edition of his Into the Purple Valley album, an omission he gladly corrected when informed of it. Cooder also covered another song from the same New Lost City Ramblers album, which he may have heard on a poorly labeled cassette copy: "Taxes on the Farmer Feeds Us All" which the New Lost City Ramblers credit to Fiddling John Carson but which the Cooder notes still list as "traditional."[5] The same is true of the track "Boomer's Story," covered by the Ramblers—Cooder credits it as "traditional," but the song was written by Carson Robison and first recorded by him in 1929 under the title "The Railroad Boomer."

The group drifted apart during the latter half of the 60s. Schwarz and Seeger performed with different musicians and together formed the short lived Strange Creek Singers.[6]

The New Lost City Ramblers' extensive recordings for the Folkways label became, after the death of Moe Asch, part of the Smithsonian Institution, which reissues Folkways titles on CD.

John Cohen is said to have inspired the titular John of the Grateful Dead's 1970 album and song, "Uncle John's Band.[7]


  • The New Lost City Ramblers (1958) (Folkways Records)
  • The New Lost City Ramblers Vol. II (1959) (Folkways)
  • Songs From the Depression (1959): see [2] (Folkways)
  • Old-Timey Songs For Children (1959) (Folkways)
  • The New Lost City Ramblers Vol. III (1961) (Folkways)
  • Tom Paley, John Cohen, Mike Seeger Sing Songs of The New Lost City Ramblers (1961)
  • The New Lost City Ramblers (1961)
  • Earth Is Earth Sung by The New Lost City Bang Boys (1961) (Folkways)
  • The New Lost City Ramblers Vol. 4 (1962) (Folkways)
  • American Moonshine & Prohibition (1962) (Folkways)
  • The New Lost City Ramblers Vol. 5 (1963) (Folkways)
  • Gone to the Country (1963)
  • Radio Special # 1 (1963)
  • The New New Lost City Ramblers with Tracy Schwarz: Gone to the Country (1963) (Folkways)
  • String Band Instrumentals (1964) (Folkways)
  • Old Timey Music (1964)
  • Rural Delivery No. 1 (1965) (Folkways)
  • Remembrance of Things to Come (1966) (Folkways)
  • Modern Times (1968) (Folkways)
  • The New Lost City Ramblers with Cousin Emmy (1968) (Folkways)
  • On the Great Divide (1973) (Folkways)
  • 20th Anniversary Concert (1978)
  • 20 Years-Concert Performances (1978)
  • Tom Paley, John Cohen, and Mike Seeger Sing Songs of the New Lost City Ramblers (1978) (Folkways)
  • Old Time Music (1994)
  • The Early Years, 1958-1962 (1991) (Folkways)
  • Out Standing In Their Field-Vol. II, 1963-1973 (1993) (Smithsonian Folkways)
  • There Ain't No Way Out (1997) (Folkways)
  • 40 Years of Concert Performances (2001)
  • 50 Years: Where Do You Come From? Where Do You Go? (2009) (Smithsonian Folkways)


  1. ^ The Guinness Who's Who of Folk Music, 1993, ISBN 0-85112-741-X
  2. ^ "New Lost City Ramblers Look Back at 50 Years."
  3. ^ The Guinness Who's Who of Folk Music, 1993, p. 208, ISBN 0-85112-741-X, Rather than ape their immediate predecessors who popularized the style, the trio preferred to invoke the music's original proponents, including Gid Tanner And His Skillet Lickers and the Carolina Tar Heels.
  4. ^ FW05264 liner notes, also may be read at the Smithsonian site
  5. ^ Compare Smithsonian Folkways notes to "Into the Purple Valley"
  6. ^ The Guinness Who's Who of Folk Music, 1993, ISBN 0-85112-741-X
  7. ^ "Bob Dylan’s ‘Da Vinci Code’" by Chris Francescani. The Daily Beast, May 18, 2014[1]

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