RALEIGH-The Kudzu Ramblers, a bluegrass and gospel music group that includes a Creston native, won the 2016 Bascom Lamar Lunsford Trophy at this year’s North Carolina State Fair.
The award is presented annually as part of the Folk Festival competition at the State Fair. It is given in honor of Lunsford, who was the founder of the Folk Festival. It is awarded to the group or individual whose musical performance best exemplifies the historical and entertainment purposes of the Folk Festival.
The Kudzu Ramblers have been playing together as a group for sixteen years. The members of the band are Jan and Theresa Blue Johansson, Julie Elkins, Carla Osborne, Tom Langdon, Chuck Johnson, Sid Comer and Lennie Green. All of the members of the Kudzu Ramblers contribute to the group’s singing, creating a variety of lead vocal and harmony singing styles.
Carla Osborne and her siblings, Rachel and David, grew up in the Creston community. She is the daughter of Carl Osborne and the late Joyce Mae Hash Osborne, who was a fixture at the Riverview Community Center. Osborne is a 1987 graduate of Northwest Ashe High School, and graduated from Appalachian State University in 1991. She teaches graphic design at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh. Her brother, David Osborne and his wife, Glenda, live in the Grassy Creek community. David was a member of the National Guard’s 1450th Transportation Unit, which served in Iraq. Ms. Osborne’s grandfather, the late Albert Hash, was an accomplished fiddle player and luthier, and was one of the founding members of the White Top Mountain Band.
Jan Johansson formed the Kudzu Ramblers in 2000. Jan is a renowned acoustic musician, songwriter and music teacher. He is a native of Skelleftea, Sweden. He moved to the United States in 1986 to play bluegrass and traditional music. Jan was one of the musicians instrumental in the formation of the New Vintage Bluegrass Band, a group that charted several hit songs and had a wide following in the 1990s.
Julie Elkins is another important mentor to the band. Elkins is a talented banjo player, singer and songwriter. She is a native of Three Forks, Montana. She moved to North Carolina to play the banjo and sing with New Vintage. Elkins has contributed to numerous recording projects for New Vintage, the John Lowell Band and other groups. She also teaches banjo, guitar and vocals at her home in Raleigh.
An Asheville resident, Bascom Lamar Lunsford was an attorney, fiddle player, festival organizer and historian. Lunsford organized the first Folk Festival at the State Fair in 1948. The Festival runs for the full ten days of the Fair, during which hundreds of musicians and dancers compete in 50 categories of traditional music and dance. At the close of the Fair, a panel of judges chooses the winners in each category, and also presents several special awards.
In addition to being a musician and festival organizer, Lunsford collected photos, recordings and other documents relating to traditional music and dance in the Appalachian region. He also composed the song “Good Old Mountain Dew.” Much of his work is now a part of the North Carolina Folklore Collection, as well as the Archive of Folksongs in the Library of Congress.
The Kudzu Ramblers’ Folk Festival performance included their original song “State Fair Day,” which was written by Green and Elkins. You can listen to “State Fair Day,” and obtain additional information about the band at their web site www.kudzuramblers.com