The Saga of The Ramsons
The Ramson brothers
grew up on a little farmstead outside
Rovaniemi, Finland, just six kilometers from the Arctic Circle.
The boys literally absorbed music with their mother’s milk, as Ma Ramson,
who was a four-time champion fiddle player, used to practice scales while
breast-feeding the lads. Pa Ramson, for his part, owned fourteen harmonicas
and could play two at once, while banging his head on a tambourine to keep
time. Pa’s prized possession was an extremely rare silver-plated harmonica
from the 14th century that was tuned to a mixolydian scale; sadly, this precious
family heirloom has been lost. The boys learned to square dance, line dance and
circle dance to their parents’ music during the long dark evenings of the long
dark Lappish winter, and the older boys were already showing great musical
aptitude on a variety of instruments.
However, this idyllic period in the boys’ childhood came to an abrupt end one
dark and lonely evening. As Ma and Pa were returning from a village in
northern Lapland, where they had performed at a local folk dance, their
sleigh was attacked by a pack of wolves. Despite a heroic struggle, both Ma
and Pa succumbed to their wounds and were devoured by the hungry wolves.
No trace of their bodies has ever been found.
The Ramson brothers,
still young, were sent to live with
various aunts and uncles
and cousins, each more cruel and uncaring than the one before, and the boys’
musical instincts lay dormant for many years as they were forced to empty
the slop buckets and wash the floorboards on their hands and knees with
toothbrushes. Nevertheless, they grew up, as boys will, and went their
separate ways, each of them finding true love, getting married and working
as a travelling salesman, the musical dreams that shaped their youth all but
forgotten. With the boys dispersed in the great wide world, each leading his
own life, the old homestead sadly fell into disrepair.
However, just as it took one tragedy to break up the family, it took another one
to bring the Ramson brothers back together, when all four of their wives were
killed simultaneously by a mudslide in the uranium mine where they were working.
Meeting at the joint funeral for the first time in many years, the Ramsons realized
they were meant to do more in life than sell chest ointment and viper-skin slippers
and they all moved back together to the old homestead. Armed with hammers,
saws, screwdrivers and adzes, they fixed the place up in a jiffy.
Then, swearing off a
life of carnal pleasure and other earthly delights, they
themselves to music and began practicing 17 hours a day. Despite these Herculean
efforts, their first show was not a success. Accompanied by his three brothers on
treble, tenor and bass kazoo, the oldest brother yodeled classic folk songs of
Småland, Sweden as well as a few tunes he had picked up while on a business
trip in the Pomor region of Russia. After the gig, wiping the rotten tomato juice
off their rhinestone vests, the boys thought long and hard about the future direction
their music should take. Realizing that they needed to modernize their sound
and diversify their sets, they set about learning to play contemporary instruments.
Mickey Ramson took classical singing lessons and learned to croon Mozart arias so
beautifully that women who were long past menopause felt the breast milk
stirring in their chests again. He also learned to accompany himself on the acoustic
guitar, though certain chords continued to give him difficulties despite all his calluses
and bleeding fingers. Sam Ramson, the next oldest, gave up the bass kazoo
(though he still plays a soulful tune each night before drifting off to sleep) and
took up the drums; his thundering rhythms and artful ride patterns soon became
the envy of all the other drummers and percussionists in the Barents Region.
Howie Ramson, next in line, became a multi-instrumental virtuoso, plucking anything
with strings – including acoustic guitars, mandolins, bass guitars and banjos -
like nobody’s business. When the band decided to learn some zydeco-style songs,
he spent a few minutes practicing and soon could play the accordion as if he’d learned
it while still inside his mother’s womb. Baby brother Mark Ramson initially wanted
to play the trombone, but, persuaded by his older siblings that a trombone would
not fit the new country direction the band’s music was taking, he picked up a Stratocaster
knock-off and within three weeks he had learned every lick that had ever been played
in Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and Tampere, not to mention every pub, bar and
grill within a fifty-kilometer radius of those legendary towns.
The band’s next outing was a resounding success, as the crowd refused to let them
leave the stage till they had done fourteen encores and played every song in their
repertoire three times. Moving from strength to strength, the Ramsons honed their skills
and practiced their scales, becoming the well-oiled, consummately professional band
you can hear today: coming soon to a pub, square dance or reindeer roundup near you!
Turbulent Times in Ramsonville
Winter and spring 2013 were a difficult time for The Ramsons.
Lead singer Mickey
was sick for a couple of months and was unable to sing or rehearse, and for the first
time in ages, no music was heard in the hills and valleys around the Ramson farm.
Then one day Brother Sam decided that he had to leave the band in order to devote
more time to his prize flock of silk-wool sheep. Global warming had brought more
and more predators into the hills where he put his beloved flock out to pasture, and
after one of his favorites, a doe-eyed lamb named Bertha with wool so soft that Sam
had been saving it to knit a pair of socks to offer the Queen of Sweden on her birthday,
was savaged by a pair of rapacious wolverines, Sam came to his brothers with tears in
his eyes, begging them to take the drumsticks from his hands and free him to return to
his duties as a shepherd and father to his flock. With sad hearts, the other brothers agreed
to Sam’s request, and the great but light-handed metronomic beat which had ticked with
clockwork perfection through so many waltzes, foxtrots, shuffles and even tangos fell silent.
The brothers’ first choice for Sam’s replacement was a
stickman named Jorge Valdez.
A little-known fact for fans of Ramsons trivia is that Jorge had, in fact, been The Ramson
brothers’ original choice for a drummer when they were first forming the group, since
Sam was out in the pasture with his flock night and day and didn’t think he could commit
himself to a life as a country-music star. But as Jorge was driving to his first rehearsal,
a freak accident occurred when a meteorite flew through the roof of his jeep, setting
the steering wheel on fire and singeing Jorge’s moustache. Jorge was so shocked that he
accidentally jammed his mobile phone into his ear (he had been chatting with his mother,
telling her how proud he was to have gotten the call to be The Ramsons’ stickman).
The combination of the mobile phone that had to be removed from his ear by
(the best brain surgeon in Scandinavia was flown in to perform the operation) and the
shame of having lost his moustache meant that Jorge was unable to join The Ramsons
as planned, and brother Sam stepped in, giving up quality time with his flock in order
to help his brothers out.
After Sam announced his plans to retire, the boys contacted
Jorge, who eagerly
agreed to audition for the part of drummer again. However, in one of those
incredible, unexpected twists that only seem to happen to The Ramsons and the
people around them, Fate intervened once again. As Jorge was driving to the
first rehearsal, one of the tires on his jeep blew out, and when he stopped to
change it – according to forensic evidence later released by the police –
a carload of gun-runners and dancing girls stopped and either kidnapped
or enticed the hapless Jorge into getting into the car, which then sped away.
Jorge was never heard from again, though one day Brother Howie spotted a
photograph in the newspaper that showed someone resembling Jorge who
had been shot down by customs officers in Paraguay while flying a twin-engine
airplane chartered by a gang of smugglers. Sadly, it appeared that Jorge had
given up music for a life of crime.
The Ramson brothers auditioned several drummers, but no one
had quite the
right sense of rhythm, the special touch needed to give the proper beat to their
lilting melodies and thunderous chord progressions and thus propel them to even
greater musical heights. Then, one day, a young man with the bluest eyes ever
seen in Lapland came knocking at the door of the Ramson homestead. It turned out
that the patriarch of the Ramson family, who had sired the four boys who later
formed The Ramsons, had – while touring the hinterlands of the Russian steppes on
his own during one of Ma Ramson’s maternity leaves – engaged in an indiscreet
liaison with a young woman in one of the villages along the way. This woman, endowed
with a sense of honor befitting the highest nobility rather than the lowly kitchen
wench she was, had kept silent for years, but after contracting double pneumonia
following a spring flood in her village, she called her only son to her bedside and,
with her dying breath, revealed the truth of his paternity. The lad could not rest
till he had journeyed to Lapland to meet his only surviving relatives. And so he
arrived on the porch of the Ramson home one spring evening, his cowboy hat in
his hands and his blue eyes shining with the light of the setting sun. Of course, the
Ramson brothers welcomed their half-brother with open arms, and when – throwing
a further twist into the chain of improbable events that led him to their door – it
turned out that he was an accomplished drummer, having worked for several
years as percussionist for a prog-folk group on the Kola Peninsula, he was elevated
to the throne recently vacated by Sam; and thus The Ramsons had found
their new drummer, and Josiah Ramson had finally found his true home.
When Po’ Boy Mark announced that he would be unable to attend
that had been booked for the summer of 2014, The Ramsons were once again in
a pretty pickle. Then Brother Howie remembered Maybeline Sunram, their
second cousin twice removed on the side of their late beloved mother. The last time
the brothers had seen her, Maybeline had been so small she could barely stretch
her fingers to play a chord on the piano, but in the intervening years she had grown
into a woman, and her hands had grown with her, becoming the hands of a woman,
and her voice had acquired a mature, full-throated sweetness that could be heard
in the gospel quartet in which she sang at fund-raisers organized by the Salvation
Army. Other bands had tried to tempt her away from her charity work, but not
until Brother Howie offered her a chance to play with The Ramsons did she agree
to take a break from her work on behalf of the poor and outcast and take over
bass guitar duties – for along with her singing voice and her skill on the keyboard,
she had developed her bass-playing skills as well, her slender womanly fingers
dancing over the bass strings as lightly as you please – in order to help her
courins through a difficult patch.
And so The
Ramsons took whatever Fate threw at them and a bit more,
coming out on top with a song in their hearts, their fingers on the strings and
their lips to the mics. And the unique brand of country music they had created,
born of the depths of human despair and the heights of jubilation, kept on
rolling through the hills and valleys of Lapland.
Country music from the Heart of Lapland!