The New Lost City Ramblers


The New Lost City Ramblers are an old-time string band, originally formed in New York City by John Cohen (left), Mike Seeger (right), and Tom Paley (center) in 1958.


However, Paley left the band in 1962 and was replaced by Tracy Schwarz (left).


Nevertheless, the group proved to be extremely influential during the folk and old-time revivals.  Folkways Records released five of their albums in the early ’60s and their high degree of popularity led to their performing at countless colleges, as well as many folk festivals and various other venues.

The NLCR strove to stay true to the traditional, old-time styles of the 1920s and 1930s.  However, listeners discovered that while the NLCR were guided by the styles and techniques of past old-time and folk music, they also made the songs their own and could captivate wide audiences.  People say that they really brought the old 78RPM records back to life.


The NLCR’s cover of “Stackerlee,” originally named “Stagger Lee” and written by Lloyd Price and Harold Logan:

The New Lost City Ramblers’ influence can also be seen indirectly through their impact on musicians who followed in their footsteps…

“I listened to The New Lost City Ramblers. Everything about them appealed to me — their style, their singing, their sound. I liked the way they looked, the way they dressed and especially I liked their name. Their songs ran the gamut in styles, everything from from mountain ballads to fiddle tunes and railroad blues. All their songs vibrated with some dizzy, portentous truth. I’d stay with The Ramblers for days. At the time, I didn’t know that they were replicating everything they did off old 78 records, but what would it have mattered anyway? It wouldn’t have mattered at all. For me, they had originality in spades, were men of mystery on all counts. I couldn’t listen to them enough.”–Bob Dylan from “Chronicles”


The following video is a must-watch and is amazing in conveying the group’s influence on Bob Dylan, even into his later career.  It is even a little amusing!

3 thoughts on “The New Lost City Ramblers”

  1. Great post! It is interesting to see an old-time group that arrived after bluegrass and see how audiences categorized their music. I listened to a few of their songs on Spotify, and definitely picked up on a faster rhythm, which I would normally associate with bluegrass, but at the same time, their sound is pretty distinctly old-time.

    I liked the Dylan quote, too. Lots of insight into the type of music he pulled from for his work. I can imagine that an old-time group that was at their peak closer to the folk revival would have a pretty direct influence on the music of the time (and after). Keeping the old-time tradition alive amid the new emerging sound!

    I’d love to see the videos, (especially the “must-watch”). Can you post them again?

    1. Thanks a lot, Sam! and I’ll just paste the links in this comment to insure that you’ll be able to get to them. It’s disappointing that the videos aren’t consistently reliable… thanks for your interest 🙂 Bob Dylan is one of my absolute favorites, so I enjoyed hearing this one (the “must-watch” one):

      I also thought their version of “Stackerlee” is really pretty:

  2. I’ve listened to the New Lost City Ramblers before, but I never knew they had so much influence on decades of musicians, especially Bob Dylan. I hope we can look into their other influences in class.

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