The Red Stick Ramblers were formed in Baton Rouge ("Red Stick," en français) in 1999. It was there in Louisiana's capital that the six original members met as they were variously living, working and attending school at and around Louisiana State University. They decided to form a band in the tradition of Louisiana's western swing string bands such as the Hackberry Ramblers and to play a danceable and exciting combination of Cajun music, Western Swing, and 1930's gypsy jazz. It was agreed that the band's look should match the band's sound, thus the decision was made to wear suits and ties; their sharp attire pays visual homage to their musical forbears.
Their music (and look) proved immediately popular and inevitably spread from Baton Rouge to Lafayette and beyond. The Red Stick Ramblers would record their self-titled first album with Grammy award-winning studio engineer Tony Daigle in 2002. After garnering rave reviews and touring extensively, the band was signed by Memphis International Records. Their first release on the label, 2003's "Bring it on Down", brought their audience to an international level. They've been featured performers at Festivals Acadiens and Festival International de Louisiane as well as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Apart from festivals, they toured extensively playing concerts and clubs in the American South, the East Coast, Midwest, in France, French Canada.
In the year following the release of Bring it on Down, several changes were made to the band's lineup. Bass player Ricky Rees left to pursue his rockabilly dreams, and was replaced by Eric Frey of Clay, Alabama. Fiddler Joel Savoy moved to Canada with his spot going to Cajun, swing and jazz fiddle player Kevin Wimmer of Breaux Bridge, LA. Josh Caffery, the band's original mandolin player, left for the business world, and the band slimmed continued on as a five-piece.
The Red Stick's current configuration has allowed for musical exploration and experimentation beyond anything they have done before. Without abandoning the core Rambler sounds of Cajun music and Western Swing, the band has now embraced all genres of Louisiana roots music including blues, jazz, New Orleans-style swing, honky-tonk and zydeco.
In December of 2004, the band went into the studio to try to capture this new sound and approach. They recorded with producer Dirk Powell in St. Martinville, Louisiana. Powell added not only his insight and production skills, but also a few piano licks; his keyboard prowess is also heard on Loretta Lynn's Grammy-Award winning Van Lear Rose. Wilson Savoy, brother of Joel, the band's original fiddler, also added his piano skills to several songs on the project. The resulting album is Right Key, Wrong Keyhole, their second release for Memphis International.
Right Key, Wrong Keyhole is incredibly broad in scope, yet cohesive in sound. It features four Rambler originals: Fiddler and lead vocalist Linzay Young contributed the Cajun waltz "La Valse de Chaoui", an elegant and poetic song destined to become a classic within the Cajun genre. "The Racoon Waltz" (en anglais) was inspired by a real life incident when the band's larder was robbed by a roving raccoon as they were camping in New England. Guitarist Chas Justus contributed three songs: the prison ballad "It's Too Late", the classic-country styled "Closing Time Blues" and "Sentimental," an auteur-style swing number.
The album includes the traditional Cajun two-step "Grand Texas", the song that is the origin of the melody that Hank Williams, Sr. appropriated for the melody of "Jambalaya" and also features songs from such diverse sources as zydeco legend Clifton Chenier ("Hard to Love Someone"), classic New Orleans band leader Fats Waller ("Sweet and Slow") and of course, the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills ("That's What I Like About the South"). Staying true to the Rambler style, the album is cleverly woven together by danceable rhythms and strong, elegant melodies. Each song, whether a band original or a reinterpretation of an older song is unmistakably identifiable as the Red Sticks' own, a marriage of musicality and mirth that sets them apart from so some many of the arrivistes found in the roots scene today. First and foremost, The Red Stick Ramblers consider themselves a dance band so get out of that chair and get with their out there and turn the "Key."
A guide to today's Red Stick Ramblers:
LINZAY YOUNG: (Lead Vocals, Fiddle) Linzay grew up in the countryside near Eunice, Louisiana, listening to Cajun music, Blues, Country and Rock. He began playing fiddle at the age of 12, and from then on could frequently be seen jamming around the area with his friend Joel Savoy. He is a singer of wide range and great skill, who is as comfortable singing in French as he is in English and can sing a delicate Cajun waltz as easily as a rough blues tune. In his spare time, Linzay enjoys hunting, fishing and other rural exploits on his country farm in Eunice, LA. "What Do I Do?," a song Linzay wrote for "Bring It Down" is heard on the soundtrack of the 2005 Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize winner Forty Shades of Blue.
KEVIN WIMMER: (Fiddle) The newest Red Stick Rambler, Kevin grew up in Manhattan and began his fiddle career at the age of 3 under the tutelage of his mother, a world-renowned classical violinist and teacher. Kevin first met Cajun fiddle legend Dewey Balfa in the mid-80's and went on to become a close friend of the Balfa family and a torchbearer of the Balfa fiddle style after Dewey's death. He moved to Louisiana in the early '90's to help found the popular Cajun band Balfa Toujours, along with Dewey's daughter, Christine Balfa, and her husband, Dirk Powell, co-producer, with the band, of Right Key, Wrong Keyhole. In addition to playing Cajun music, Kevin is also a master of a number of other musical styles, including jazz, blues, swing, bluegrass and old-time. Kevin can be seen and heard playing diddle in the current season of the hit HBO series Deadwood.
CHAS JUSTUS: (Guitar) He's a Memphis native with voracious musical appetites; Chas' versatility can be attributed to his varied musical influences, than include the likes of the Allman Brothers, BB King, and T-Bone Walker. Chas picked up the guitar in high school and soon after moved to Baton Rouge he was introduced to the stylings of the great gypsy jazz guitarists and fiery bluegrass flat-picking that, combined with his blues roots, make his style so unique. Chas and his faithful 1938 Roy Smeck Recording King electric arch-top guitar call Breaux Bridge home.
ERIC FREY: (Bass) Eric was raised in Birmingham, AL on bluegrass music, attending numerous and diverse festivals with his parents throughout his childhood. Eric's Cajun gypsy swing dreams came true after both his band and the Ramblers played at the Acoustic Café bluegrass festival in Hayden, AL in 2003. He is an Eagle Scout and aspires one day to be a fluent and diverse jazz musician. For now, his top priority is being the best Rambler he can be. Eric currently also resides in Breaux Bridge where he and his roommate, Chas Justus, hold some of the best front-porch jams in town.
GLENN FIELDS: (Drums) A Veteran of the Baton Rouge music scene, Glenn's reputation as a tasteful, solid drummer has earned him work with many successful groups, including Racines, the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band and the Blue Runners. His vast music collection includes not only jazz and blues, but punk and rock as well. Don't let Glenn's seemingly docile manner fool you, though, as his hobbies include road rage and heckling "sub-par" bands at their performances in the Lafayette area, where he currently lives.