by Kenneth Goldstein (from notes to “Obray Ramsey – Blue Ridge Banjo,” Washington LP [WLP 707])
Obray Ramsey was born on the banks of the three Laurels at the edge of the Smokey Mountains in western North Carolina. His father’s people came from the highlands of Scotland, and his mother’s ancestors were Cherokee Indians. Most of his songs were learned from his mother and grandmother, both fine singers with extensive repertoires.
For most of his life he has sung his songs unaccompanied, though he had learned to play the guitar when still a young boy. After he married and settled down as a successful farmer near Marshall, North Carolina, he met Bascom Lamar Lunsford, folksinger, collector, and organizer of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival held annually in Asheville, North Carolina.
Lunsford recognized his fine singing talents and encouraged him to take up the 5-string banjo, which he believed would be perfectly suited to Obray’s style of singing. To show his faith in this belief, Lunsford gave Ramsey his first banjo in 1953. Now, Obray Ramsey is one of the finest banjo-pickers in the Southern Mountains. His style is a perfect compromise between old picking styles and currently popular modern styles.